He’s Very Well Read by Catherine Lacey
My rating: 5/5 cats
WELCOME TO DECEMBER PROJECT!
this explanation/intro will be posted before each day’s short story. scroll down to get to the story-review.
this is the SIXTH year of me doing a short story advent calendar as my december project. for those of you new to me or this endeavor, here’s the skinny: every day in december, i will be reading a short story that is 1) available free somewhere on internet, and 2) listed on goodreads as its own discrete entity. there will be links provided for those of you who like to read (or listen to) short stories for free, and also for those of you who have wildly overestimated how many books you can read in a year and are freaking out about not meeting your 2020 reading-challenge goals. i have been gathering links all year when tasty little tales have popped into my feed, but i will also accept additional suggestions, as long as they meet my aforementioned 1), 2) standards.
GR has deleted the pages for several of the stories i’ve read in previous years without warning, leaving me with a bunch of missing reviews and broken links, which makes me feel shitty. i have tried to restore the ones i could, but my to-do list is already a ball of nightmares, so that’s still a work-in-progress. however, because i don’t have a lot of time to waste, i’m not going to bother writing much in the way of reviews for these, in case GR decides to scrap ’em again.
i am doing my best.
DECEMBER 31: HE’S VERY WELL READ – CATHERINE LACEY
I heard a woman complaining to another woman.
The complaint was that this woman was involved with a man who kept giving her books, and though these books all seemed to be very good books, books that this woman wanted to read and intended to read, she simply could not keep up with the rate at which he was giving her all these books. Each time he gave her a book, the complaining woman said, the man insisted it was a very special book, a book that meant a tremendous amount to him, and regardless of its length or density, he had always read this book many times over. The complaining woman also had many loving things to say about the man who was giving her all this reading material, so I gathered that, if these books had meant a great deal to him, then they both likely hoped that all these books would mean a great deal to her, and yet how could they know if she had not yet read them?
Several times during this complaint, the complaining woman reassured the listening woman that she was immensely grateful to receive these books from this man, as she loved reading and did a great deal of it, though she read at a regrettably slow pace, a handicap she often tried to improve, though it seemed that her reading comprehension suffered when she tried to read too quickly, and what would be the point of reading if at the end of a book you couldn’t recall what you’d read? True, she did tend to forget many details of a book regardless of the rate at which she read it, but she felt sure that her memory loss was greatly exacerbated when she tried to force herself to exceed her natural pace.
The listening woman interrupted with urgency: Had this man ever accepted any books from her? Oh, yes, the complaining woman said. And he read each of them so quickly and so closely! She was running out of books to recommend, in fact, and though she was glad that the man seemed to genuinely enjoy the books she gave him, she had to admit she was mildly alarmed by how he always came back to her with some criticism about the author’s style or disposition, criticisms he delivered with such elegant judiciousness that, even though the complaining woman usually did not want to accept the intellectual blemish that the man had located in the book, she had to admit that he was correct in his analysis.
She had a particular shelf, the complaining woman said, where she was keeping all the books he’d given her. When she could find the time, she intended to read each of them so carefully, but she had her own work to attend to and various arbitrary commitments, as well as other books that he had not given to her that she wanted or needed to read for some reason or another. Often, she would take one of the books he’d given her in her hands and consider it, thoughtfully but not without a little fear, yet most of them were still on the shelf, not yet read.
i’m probably breaking one of those mattress-tag laws by printing the entire story here, but it’s gonna be a whole new year soon, whose arrival will nullify all the previous year’s sins. what, you didn’t know about that? it’s true. in any case, this seems to be the perfect story to end this particular year, this particular challenge—all the books i didn’t get a chance to read, all the pressure to read certain books at certain times, all the books that have gone unread as a result.
i know you feel me, booknerds.
thank you for being here.
or, you know, right up there ⬆️
DECEMBER 1: NIGHT STAND – DANIEL WOODRELL
DECEMBER 2: MR. DEATH – ALIX HARROW
DECEMBER 3: THE FRUIT OF MY WOMAN – HAN KANG
DECEMBER 4: THE TINDER BOX – KATE ELLIOTT
DECEMBER 5: BABYCAKES – NEIL GAIMAN
DECEMBER 6: HIS MIDDLE NAME WAS NOT JESUS – NOVIOLET BULAWAYO
DECEMBER 7: SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE – LILLI CARRÉ
DECEMBER 8: DARK TIDE – MARK LAWRENCE
DECEMBER 9: DARKER TIDE – MARK LAWRENCE
DECEMBER 10: BREAK – MISHELL BAKER
DECEMBER 11: A RUMOR OF ANGELS – DALE BAILEY
DECEMBER 12: THE ENGLISHMAN – DOUGLAS STUART
DECEMBER 13: IT CAME FROM CRUDEN FARM – MAX BARRY
DECEMBER 14: NO MOON AND FLAT CALM – ELIZABETH BEAR
DECEMBER 15: A STUDY IN SHADOWS – BENJAMIN PERCY
DECEMBER 16: ART APPRECIATION – FIONA MCFARLANE
DECEMBER 17: THE SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS – SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA
DECEMBER 18: WE HAVEN’T GOT THERE YET – HARRY TURTLEDOVE
DECEMBER 19: THE DUNE – STEPHEN KING
DECEMBER 20: THE WORTHINGTON – EMILY CARROLL
DECEMBER 21: SUNBLEACHED – NATHAN BALLINGRUD
DECEMBER 22: BLOOD DAUGHTER – MATTHEW LYONS
DECEMBER 23: THE LINE – AMOR TOWLES
DECEMBER 24: PIGEONS – NIBEDITA SEN
DECEMBER 25: WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED, WHAT WE WILL FORGET, WHAT WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FORGET – EUGENE LIM
DECEMBER 26: ONE/ZERO – KATHLEEN ANN GOONAN
DECEMBER 27: MATINÉE – ROBERT COOVER
DECEMBER 28: ACCESS – ANDY WEIR
DECEMBER 29: UNNECESSARY THINGS – TATYANA TOLSTAYA
DECEMBER 30: HOOK – DANIELLE MCLAUGHLIN
previous years’ advent calendars (what’s left of ’em):
read my book reviews on goodreads