Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Long Books

There is nothing I like better than a long book these days.  Don't you?  I am currently immersed in Robertson Davies's The Deptford Trilogy.  Davies is (was--alas, he died in 1995) witty, cultured, ironic, tender and smart, and, bless him, he wrote in trilogies (Salterton, Deptford ,Cornish, and Toronto), which ensures for me many hours in his company.  Elizabeth's loan of the Salterton got me through the third-snowiest-recorded winter in these parts.  Now Deptford  is getting me through those hours when I am too weary to pull another weed, but it's still light outside and I cannot go to bed.

When I find a book I like, I immediately look for more from that author.  Often, as I wander in a daze through the stacks of a local library (nothing puts me in a daze like wandering through library stacks--I can never think of a writer or a title to look for) I use as a criterion, in addition to New Yorker reviews, whether there is more than one book by that author on the shelf. My hermit-like existence prompts me to look for sustained company wherever I find it.

In my long-ago grad studies in French Lit, there were only a couple of women on the reading lists.  Since then, I have read lots and lots of women writers.  Unfortunately, in sheer output they do not compare to the men.  Why didn't Jane Austen write sixty novels, instead of six?  Because she was  busy making blancmange puddings for her father, which I hope he enjoyed.

As I await for the female equivalent of Dickens (whom I can't stand--such namby-pamby women characters), I revel in the likes of Trollope, Proust, P.G. Wodehouse, Robertson Davies.  And now that I'm grown up, I intend to give Balzac another try.

This need for a long-term immersion in another mind means that, try as I might, I cannot really get into contemporary media.  I hate magazines that make you hunt pages ahead for the ending to the (inevitably short) article you're reading.  I miss the almost-book-length essays in the old black-and-white New Yorker.  I detest "side bars," and advertisements that take up text space.  I'll leave you to imagine how I feel about web pages with pop-up adds, not to mention Facebook, even-less-to-mention Twitter (though I have accounts in both).

Fortunately, books--big, fat, full-of-print ones with no advertisements--remain.  I'm due for another trip to the library soon.  What do you recommend?

3 comments :

  1. Hello Eulalia, I've been following your blog for a bit now ('lurking' as they call it). But I'll let myself be drawn out by your last post. If it's trilogies you're after, then I do think you would enjoy the Border Triology (McArthy)if you have not already. Camus and Faulkner seldom disapoint. My favorite author is Saramago. If you have not already read him (I would imagine someone as well read as you has) then you are truely missing out. Finally, for those long winter-time books, you just can't beat the Russian, so stock up on some Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.
    I wonder though why a female blogger laments the lack of female authors? It seems that the answer is obvious. Your writing is hypnotic and all that you create is beautiful. So take up your pen and write.
    Let us know what you find at the library and please keep blogging.

    -Paul

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  2. Welcome, Paul. I must confess that I have had Saramago's books in my hand in the past, but have always reshelved them. It's because I'd rather read them in Portuguese, which I don't know. That is of course an insane reason to keep from reading such a major literary figure...Saramago is now at the top of my list.

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  3. OH, my list won't be quite as literary as what you and Paul mentioned, but I think "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" is destined to be an american classic, and I really enjoyed the poetic feel of Gil Adamson's "Outlander" and then I found out she was a poet! I resisted "The Help" for the longest time and found myself laughing out loud and also in tears at times. Schiff's "Cleopatra, a life" was also wonderful.

    In non fiction there is "The big burn" and "The Worst Hard Time" and "The Children's Blizzard" all captivating. Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City" was also good, and I am embarking on his "River of Doubt" starting last night. I love Krakauer's books: Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven - I did not read the latest one though.

    For a very light read with some classical elements "Gods Behaving Badly" was very entertaining, as the classical gods are now living in a broke down victorian house in London as no one believes in them anymore. They get into a lot of mischief!

    I read "The Reliable Wife" when it first came out long before it hit the best seller list, and felt like I was reading an Edward Gorey cartoon in word form!

    Anything my Malcolm Gladwell is always educating and interesting.

    I am on a Kindle now, but still have a copy of The Worst Hard Time in paper back and would be happy to lend it to you.

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