Reader’s Guilt; Toadstools


Ask The Paris Review

I always tell people that my favorite book is Infinite Jest, and even though I haven’t gotten halfway through it, it’s still the best half of a book that I have ever read! Do you have any guilt from unread books floating around?

Hmm. You mean books I’ve started that, if the title of one should happen to come up in conversation, I’d nod, implying—without ever explicitly stating—that I’d read the whole thing? I can think of one or two. The Man Without Qualities, The Magic MountainUlyssesBlood Meridian, Molloy, Jane Eyre, Being and Nothingness, Being and Time, American Pastoral, The Recognitions, Gravity’s RainbowV.Vanity FairThe Education of Henry Adams, The Beautiful and Damned, The Satanic Verses, Underworld, The World as Will and Representation, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Hopscotch, Tristram Shandy, The Long Goodbye, The Hobbit, ShikastaContemptScaramouche, Watership Down, The Three Musketeers, and William Faulkner (pretty much opera omnia) spring to mind.

Dear Mr. Stein,

I have lately searched in vain for the right collective noun for toadstools and, in the absence of any viable candidates, have opted for sect, e.g., “a sect of toadstools.” May I in good conscience proceed? I trust your judgment. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Angus Trumble

We are not prescriptivists, here at The Paris Review. Over the years our house usage has wobbled between OK and okay, et cetera and its abbreviation—even (in the old, hot-type days) between one typeface and another … in the space of a single issue. If you want to call a bunch of fungus by your own private collective noun, who are we to say no? Go crazy with that! I only worry that the plural may cause confusion.

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