Sunday, August 21, 2005

Books I should have read but haven't.

I like to think that I am reasonably well read; but unfortunately I'm not as well read as I'd like to be.
There's a bit of the autodidact in me, and I feel a bit guilty that I haven't read all of the world's classic literature. Of course it's an unrealistic aspiration; there are so many great novels published each year worth reading that it would be impossible to keep up. Surely, however, it should be possible for me to read all the classic novels up to say, 1945.
Sadly, it never happens. I set myself a target to get through three or four literary novels over the course of the winter. These are usually Penguin classics, written in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries.
Last year I thought I'd give Joyce's 'Ulysees' and Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' a go. I struggled through the first hundred or so pages of each and then gave up.
I've now resigned myself to the fact that I am incapable of reading anything that I don't find enjoyable. There is surely no point in forcing myself to plough through something that, although an acknowledged classic, strikes me as being turgid and unintelligible. I'm probably just a bit thick and, anyway, life's too short. The time would be better devoted to finishing Half Life 2, or building a replica of Westminster Abbey from matchsticks.
This year I'm planning to have a go at Proust's 'Remembrance of Things Past'. I'm not overly optimistic that I'll get very far with it, but you never know. Even if I don't read it, it will look good on my bookshelf when visitors call. At the time of purchase, I will also buy a couple of books for light relaxation: an Ian Rankin 'Rebus' perhaps, a racy thriller by the likes of Robert Harris, maybe a bit of mindless sci fi. Now those books, I know, WILL GET READ.
Some of them might even get read twice; which reminds me, it's been a few years since I last read 'The Lord of the Rings'. That ought to keep me occupied for a few weeks when the nights draw in.

13 comments:

Wyndham said...

Don't do this to yourself. Certainly stay away from the Proust, it's just not worth it. he wrote most of it propped up in bed which I think says it all. The worst for me was Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I'd stick with that novelisation of Half Life 2. What? Oh.

garfer said...

Yeah, I remember reading the first chapter of Gravity's Rainbow and thinking....nah.
As a sci fi man, you might like Lanark by Alisdair Gray. A very weird book some of which is quite hard going, but definitely worth the effort.

Sniffy said...

Reading has two purposes: education and enjoyment. If you're getting neither from the activity, put whatever you're reading away and try something else.

I need to get back into my books. I think blogging activity results in me being too tired to pick up a book at bedtime these days.

I've never read any of the classics, and I don't think I ever will. Unless I can put something into a context with which I can relate, then I can see me losing interest. Saying that though, I do enjoy "fantasy" type books, but these are so far removed from reality that I don't need to try to relate to them and can just enjoy the story.

I've no idea what I meant by that.

garfer said...

I think a lot of people get put off the classics through having them crammed down their throats at school. Ditto Shakespeare.
If you want a readable classic try 'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins; the first ackowledged masterpiece of crime fiction. It's unputdownable.

Wyndham said...

The Moonstone is brilliant, and I'm also a big fan of Bleak House.

garfer said...

'The Woman in White' is ggod too,if a bit melodramatic.

Rowan said...

My husband reads all the classics, then updates me and then if I think it's something I'd be interested in reading, I'll read it. He couldn't get through Pride and Prejudice, though he tried, God love him. If he couldn't, I'd say it really was a dry book.

Last classic I read would have to either be Great Expectations for the millionth time or Wuthering Heights, oh and I read Little Women not too long back, but not sure if children's classics count.

Rowan said...

Currently reading:The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. So far so good! Is it old enough yet to be considered classic? Doubt it.

garfer said...

I had to study Great Expectations at school. I didn't like it much then, but I've since read it with enjoyment. There's a great film version directed by David Lean.

MHN for short said...

'The Woman in White'? Did they make a movie about that one? If so, was it about a woman who's daughter was killed by a serial killer in the 40-60's? If it is, I'd love to read that one. i've watched the movie & have been searching for a copy for years to no avail.

I enjoyed "Pride and Prejudice". it was one of my favourite Jane Austen books, that and "Northanger Abbey". I've read all her books just prior to me starting to blog.
Still haven't finished the Chronicles of Narnia. I'm on the "Last Battle" and I don't like the Ape, so it's going slow.

As soon as I'm done it's off to the "Land of the Vampires" and Anne Rice's last Chronicle "Blood Canticle". I've been missing Lestat, Michael, Rowan & Mona.

Faltanus said...

have you discovered China Mieville? He is writing extremely literate sci fi and i highly recommend him. "Perdito Street Station" and "The Scar" read like epic pieces of literature. i like him, because while he is a great read, and very entertaining, reading one of his books feels like an accomplishment rather than a waste of time.

garfer said...

Mhn
'The Woman in White' is a nineteenth century novel. Wilkie Collins was a contemporary of Charles Dickens.
Faltanas
I'll check out this China Mieville. Literate sci fi is quite rare.

Stewart Paterson said...

Jesus - Ulysses, overated or what. Touted as the greatest ever novel, James Joyce's genius etc etc. My copy's first hundred pages are well thumbed from the 5 or 6 times I've given this thing a go. The rest of the book is virgin.

Now Moby Dick by Herman Melville - there's a thing. A good story and a fascinating insight on a time in history when there was an entire industry and way of life based around whale oil. "Call me Ishmael" cracking opening line