Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Salon: Petty Reading

The Sunday

I've focused on three books this past week, a small number for some of you. Yet I'd much prefer concentrating on one novel at a time and I kept hoping all week that one would grab my total attention instead of leaving me internally agitating to start one of the many library books that came into my possession over the past few days that seemed much more promising than those already in progress (more on the library books later).

Most of my time was spent on Les Miserables. I read Fantine in April, set the book aside in May since I knew I was too distracted then to make it through 50 pages of Waterloo, and am now determined to finish Cosette in the next day or two (I hope tonight); I've just "Cemeteries Take What is Given Them" to go.

I have always considered myself a great fan of literary disgressions, of authors going off on tangents. But Tristram Shandy poked a hole in that idea last summer and Hugo's doing the same this. Actually, Hugo's sewer systems defeated me years back, so I don't know why I expected things to go better this time around, in a novel even longer than the one attempted before.

All I can say at this point in Les Mis is without a bit more plot and character, I may resort to (that dread word) skimming. As Stephen Colbert would say: Les Mis, you have been put on notice.

Last weekend in the book store I spotted David Rabe's Dinosaurs on the Roof, a just-published novel of which I'd missed any previous mention. I was interested in how the writer would expand upon the opening premise--an older woman asks her best friend's daughter to take care of her animals because the Rapture's occurring that evening and she's to be taken--since it seems better suited to a short story than a novel. Instead of waiting to get it from the library, I bought a copy for the Kindle. It's okay, but so far I'm still waiting to get over the snit fit I had when Rabe claimed that the older woman watched both The Guiding Light and General Hospital--how can she when the shows are rivals? According to the acknowlegements at the end, tons of people read this book prior to publication; obviously, they all grew up in homes way too refined for the watching of soaps to have occurred, but surely it should have crossed someone's head to check a TV listing.

I have no petty complaints to make about Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. It's my exercise book, however, and I haven't been on the treadmill nearly enough this week.

I'm looking forward to starting the next book for the Slaves of Golconda, Edith Wharton's Glimpses of the Moon and I probably ought to start working out some of my readerly frustrations with Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge. I'm sure my mood will improve quickly once these books are underway.


  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    Have you noticed that library books are like buses? You can have half a dozen on order for weeks and then they all turn up together. And what do you know. You've just found six you really want on the shelves and you don't have enough tickets to take them all out!

  2. Exactly. Somehow the universe conspires to make something as simple as reading a book just as difficult as it can possibly be.

  3. Anonymous12:47 PM

    Yeah, I hate when that happens: when a book arrives unexpectedly and you're not ready for it...or you forgot that you ordered it.

    On Les Mis: I have it on my TBR shelf, but like War and Peace and books of that ilk, it probably will be there for years.

    And even I, who doesn't watch soaps regularly, know that you can't like both Guiding Light and General Hospital. Aren't they, or weren't they, on at the same time?

  4. 3 pm. I don't think the time's ever changed.

  5. What is it about library books that look so interesting in the library but turn out to be boring at home - the plus side is that I haven't bought them!

    I got as far as Waterloo in Les Mis a while back - it must be time to work my way through it - skimming does sound attractive right now.

  6. I'm looking forward to hearing about Glimpses Of The Moon.

    I picked up a free copy of Les Mis today. Wow, it's huge.

  7. I am now on p. 575 of Les Mis and am not yet to the half way point. I think I'll be reading this one on into the fall--the library books do look very interesting to me right now.

    Two chapters in to The Glimpses of the Moon and I can already say I recommend it. You could read it via Gutenberg and discuss it with the Golconda crowd, Bybee.

  8. The digressions seem to get worse in the Marius section. Say goodbye to Jean Valjean and Cosette for a while. I'm nearly finished with Marius and finally it's started to pick up again where I am actually looking forward to reading it rather than feeling a little like it's an exercise in patience and something to 'get through'. War and Peace is a action filled thriller in comparison! :) I'm looking forward to those sewers to be honest. I'll probably be reading through the fall, too, but I want to finish it before the end of summer!

  9. The sewers were in Hunchback, although for all I know, Hugo may expound on them in Les Mis at some point as well. I'm sorry to hear the digressions continue in Marius. :(

    For such a huge book, War and Peace was a surprisingly fast read. I think I read it in five-six weeks. I held back at first because a friend was supposed to be reading it with me, but once she bailed and I could set my own pace, things moved like wild fire.

  10. I'm glad to hear in the comments that you are enjoying The Glimpses of the Moon -- I'm about 100 pages in and am enjoying it a lot -- what a fun premise it has!

  11. You're joking--there are no sewers? I had the books mixed up I guess. I've been waiting for JVJ to be chased by Javert through the sewers. I'm really disappointed. Where did I get this idea, anyway? Ha, I'm reading the wrong book! :)


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