The OF Blog: Alternating between eight books and not to the halfway point of any yet

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Alternating between eight books and not to the halfway point of any yet

While most people on other blogs and fora I think had some sort of resolution to read more books this year, mine was to read more books that require contemplation for fullest effect. To that end, I have been reading a variety of works this week, most of them classics of some sort, that have slowed my reading down considerably. Here are the eight books, my current place in each of them, and a little something more about them:

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (French). Currently on p. 105 of 564 in this paperback edition, or Ch. 7 of the first part. Reading about 1-3 chapters a day, dwelling on Flaubert's use of French and trying my best not to utilize a dictionary. "Sonorous" is perhaps the best adjective to describe my experience so far.

Plato, The Republic (translation). Currently on p. 120 of 622 in the Easton Press edition. Beginning of the synopsis for Book Three out of Ten. Reading 1 synopsis/book in the morning and one in the evening (about to read book 3 after reading only one part yesterday evening). Much to think about in regards to the questions of justice and injustice that have been raised so far.

Robert Browning, The Poems of Robert Browning. Currently on p. 138 of 299 in the Easton Press edition. Reading roughly 50-70 pages of poetry a night (have already read the planned daily reading for tonight). Browning is quieter, less emotional than Keats. Still getting a feel for his use of rhyme. Motifs less appealing to me than Keats, but far from poor.

C.F. Ramuz, Jean-Luc persécuté (French). Currently on p. 95 of 233 in the paperback edition I own, or the beginning of Ch. 5. This story is beautifully told. Losing myself in how well everything fits together. Plot is not as strong as the prose, however. Aim to finish this in the next couple of days.

Rubén Darío, Azul.../Cantos de vida y esperanza (Spanish). Currently on p. 92 of 259 in the paperback edition I own. This is my first re-read of Darío in over two years. His short stories are good, but am anticipating the re-reading of his poetry, as Darío is one of my two or three favorite Spanish-language poets. Aim to finish this in the next day or two.

Miguel Cervantes, Don Quijote (Spanish). Currently on p. 99 of 766 in this hardcover edition, or the beginning of Ch. 16 of the First Part. First time re-reading Cervantes since 2007 and the first re-read in Spanish. After having read more of the romances that Cervantes skewers here, this is brilliant satire.

Cervantes, Don Quixote (translation). Currently on p. 120 of 682 in the Easton Press edition. See above for commentary, as I'm reading the translation alongside the original to see how well this was translated for the Easton Press edition. So far, the 19th century translation provided here does an excellent job not just with the satirical elements, but also with providing concise but informative notes on elements that would have been known to early 17th century readers but lost on contemporary readers.

Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (translation). Currently on p. 90 of 235 in the Easton Press edition. First re-read of Turgenev since my early 20s. Will review this one later in the week or next week (as I hope to review the others listed above before the month is over), but so far, this is a good story. Reading it at around 5-10 chapters a day, currently on Ch. 16.

So far, none of these works is hindering my enjoyment of them all. By reading these slowly (or rather, not spending more than 30 minutes at a time on any one), the rhythm is established but not to the point where I might lull myself into missing a subtle change of discussion or theme. Having read all but the Browning, Plato (well, in collected form, that is for each) or Ramuz, it is akin to revisiting old friends, seeing how they are and how I have changed in relation to the text I am re-encountering now after the passage of time and many labors won and lost. Might not be for everyone, but I certainly would recommend others trying to re-read works after suitably long intervals of time and experience gained. Well, for good works, as I highly doubt Goodkind improves with age.


Eric said...

What you're not reading Plato in the original Greek and Father and Sons in the original Russian!

Hélène said...

It's a pity Flaubert only wrote about stupid characters. I prefer Sentimental Education to Bovary (the structure of the novel is astounding - more so for the 19th century) : my urge to slap Emma always marred my appreciation of the prose. So much for my litterary critic !
As a matter of fact, the only book of Flaubert I actually liked was Salammbo : not in the same category of masterpiece but I could read it without getting irritated with the characters.

Larry said...

Give me time! I do have several books which I might use shortly to restart my learning of Attic Greek. As for the Russian, that comes after I master Serbian, so maybe 1-2 years from now? :P

Speaking of Flaubert's characters, Emma certainly reminds me unfavorably of bovine qualities as I'm re-reading this. I haven't read Salammbo and it's been at least 13 years since I read Sentimental Education (although I have a copy of it in French now as well), but I think my favorite Flaubert is The Temptation of St. Anthony, which I reviewed a couple of years ago on this blog.

Jason said...

I absolutely love Browning. I was personally won over by "Caliban Upon Setebos", and the super-creepy but -romantic "Evelyn Hope". Do read at least some of "The Ring and the Book". Have fun!

Gabriele C. said...

Hey, you should first polish up your German. *grin*

Here are some suggestions:

Thomas Mann, Die Buddenbrooks
Theodor Storm, Der Schimmelreiter
Siegfried Lenz, Die Deutschstunde
Peter Bamm, Die unsichtbare Flagge
Joachim Fernau, Rosen für Apoll
Günter Grass, Im Krebsgang

Except maybe for Die Buddenbrooks (which is still Thomas Mann's easiest to read novel), they should prove not too difficult - esp. compared to the Schiller you recently bought.

Larry said...

The German will be for later in the year, I think. I do have a Serbian review I need to do, since there's this one author I'd like to review in depth in the next couple of months, probably March or April (as I'm leaning toward February being Twain Month here at this blog). But I'll certainly consider those, since I'm a fan on Mann's work in translation.

Anonymous said...

Pat would have finished all these books ages ago. He's a reading BEAST. He could read your ass under the table, Harry.

Larry said...

Good thing my name is Larry.

marco said...

Some further suggestions:


Adalbert Stifter - Bunte Steine

(a collection of six short stories named after different types of rock, my favorite is the "darker" one, Tormalin)

Georg Büchner - Lenz

(a novella about the descent into schizophrenia of minor poet/playwright Jakob Lenz, anticipated aspects of Expressionism and Modernism and inspired Thomas Bernhard)

Theodor Fontane - Effi Briest

(a story of adultery that usually gets compared to Madame Bovary, but approach and thematic concerns are very different)


Dominique Vivant, Point de Lendemain

(several bloggers praised to high heavens "No Tomorrow", the NYRB English translation, so I looked up the original novella and found the online version on Wikisource.Fr. Very elegant erotic story somewhat reminiscent of Les Liasons Dangereuses)


Tommaso Landolfi - La pietra lunare, Il mar delle blatte e altre storie, Cancroregina

Landolfi was already "New Weird" in the 30s-50s.
Goes from the "heightened real" (in which slanted perception gives a grotesque quality to ordinary happenings) to the outright surreal and nightmarish.
To give you some coordinates, he read and admired Poe and the French symbolists and translated Gogol and Von Hoffmansthal.

Carlo Emilio Gadda - Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana

Perhaps the greatest modern Italian novel, and the effortless way in which Gadda alternates between dialects, registers and varieties of speech without compromising the overall intelligibility makes it one of the most impressive feats of liguistic virtuosity in any language.

Giorgio Manganelli - Centuria

A hundred condensed, one-page novels from the major exponent of the Italian Avant-Garde of the 60s-70s. Somewhere between Calvino, Borges and American postmodernists like Barth, Coover or Barthelme.

Larry said...


Thanks! :D

Anonymoose said...

I have word from credible sources that your name really is Harry or, shall I say, Hairy. Larry is just your code name, given to you by the shadow council of a secret society of violent-minded squirrels. Admit it!

You are little more than an acorn, thrown upon the playing board... small, insignificant, and ignored by the real players. You bide your time as they move to and fro, unaware that you are secretly laying down roots, an insidious foundation, for their eventual fall.

Your furry masters watch on, nodding in approval. They salivate, thirsty for the taste of human blood, craving nuts and flesh, and the collapse of all humanity. The shadow council sits in the dark, growing fat off the human babies their minions steal from the crib as a delicacy, and they laugh... they laugh high and loud... for all the things they have done and all the things they have planned.

And you, Hairy, you... you are their creature and a traitor to your people. You would help them to achieve their goals, to bring atrocity upon us.

Admit it... admit it!

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