Reading Resolutions 2009: Barrett Hathcock

(Barrett  Hathcock is a contributing editor to The Quarterly Conversation. He most recently discussed his creative writing vis a vis his work writing as part of Issue 14’s special Writing and Work section.)

See all of TQC’s Reading Resolutions here.

Like Scott mentioned in his Reading Resolutions for 2009, my reading
tends to be haphazard, a sort of blind, intuitive groping. I’m a
schoolboy at heart, so I’m always drafting lists of authors to read,
periods and places still unexplored. But then after the list is
complete, I often skip homework and flee the classroom of myself for
whatever’s most indulgently attractive on the shelves at that precise

All that considered, I’d like to Caulk the Gaps this year—re-visit a
selection of authors I read semi-blindly or incompletely on my first
go around. I have a friend who rigorously reads the entire catalog of
certain authors, proceeding chronologically and uncompromisingly like
some sort of literary marine. I tend to drive through an author’s
oeuvre really fast, coasting through stoplights and missing almost
everything except the big land marks. And so . . .

John Cheever: I’m cheating a bit here with this one, since I’m
teaching The Stories of John Cheever in a class this spring. But I’m
hoping to use the occasion to re-educate myself—not only to revisit
stories skipped years ago but also to visit the novels I missed: The
Wapshot Scandal
, Bullet Park, and Falconer being the main locations of
interest. Plus, I’ve just finished Capote’s In Cold Blood and I’ve
been watching that show Mad Men and therefore feel primed for some
mid-century realism—a mixture of commuter trains, slowly degrading
traditional gender roles, and lots and lots of gin.

Speaking of gin, I’d also like to read Richard Yates this year. I read
an excerpt of Blake Bailey’s biography of Cheever in The Believer
recently and after being amazed at how much the guy drank—it made me
feel wonderfully healthy—I remembered that Bailey’s also written a
biography of Yates
, another famed drinker and realist. Hopefully, my
winter-spring jaunt in to the Land of Cheever can be an occasion to
read Bailey’s new biography, which comes out in March, and then use it
as an associative vehicle into Yates, in many ways Cheever’s
descendant. My main goal here is that newly movie-fied novel
Revolutionary Road, which has been so enthusiastically praised by so
many friends that to continue not reading it amounts to a kind of
insult. And this novel might hopefully lead to reading his story
collection Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, surely one of the best titles
for a collection I’ve ever heard. And maybe that will then lead to
reading Bailey’s biography of Yates, though by then I might just need
to dry out.

And to aid me in that drying out, I then plan to move onto Faulkner. Salud!

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