It seems worthy of a time stamp: I just now finished John Crowley’s Endless Things, a book I’d been waiting twenty years to read.
I could have finished it months ago. It was published back in April, and I snagged the first copy I laid eyes on, happy as a kid on Christmas morning. But having gotten the book home and read the first few chapters, I set it aside, not out of any disappointment at its quality—from the start, it’s very very good—but rather out of that ambivalence you feel when approaching a particular kind of milestone. The list of things you’ve been waiting most of your adult life for is never a very long one, and beyond a certain point—a point I hope I haven’t quite reached yet, but which can’t be far off—the list can only get shorter. And while you do definitely want to get to everything on the list eventually, except of course for that last item, you’re not really in a hurry.
But then my publicist emailed me before Thanksgiving to tell me I was one of several Harper authors who’d been invited to write a short essay or review of my favorite book of the year, and I knew that, barring an almost unimaginable lapse of authorial judgment on John’s part (e.g., Lazarus Long appears in the final chapter, reveals that the entire Ægypt Cycle is actually set in the Heinleinverse, and invites Pierce Moffett and Rosie Rasmussen back to his place for a threeway), Endless Things would be that book. So this weekend I finally sat down with it again, and I’ve been savoring it, making it last as long as I can.
And now it’s over, and I’m satisfied, and happy to have made it to the end, but also feeling weirdly bereft not to have it to look forward to anymore. And it strikes me that writing that essay’s going to be a challenge, because unless you have waited two decades for a book, and thus felt yourself, however peripherally, to be a part of its history, reading it won’t be nearly the same experience for you.