Reading notes

  • Is there any better feeling than finishing a book and starting a new one? I just read Danielle’s post about the excitement of finishing Don Quixote, and I’m looking forward to experiencing that feeling myself — I should finish DQ by next weekend or the following one at the latest. I’ve enjoyed reading the book, but still I’m looking forward to finishing. I’m about to finish Proust too, which means in another week or so my reading world will look very different. I feel sometimes that I shouldn’t be so eager to finish books, that I should savor them while they last, but the pleasure of moving on to something new usually wins out.
  • I’m experiencing that happy-to-be-finished feeling right now, actually, as I just finished Susan Ferrier’s Marriage. I’ll write a post on that book shortly.
  • Along with the pleasure of finishing a book, I’m experiencing the pleasure of beginning a new one: Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. I didn’t know it was quite so long! It’s about 900 pages, but I’m guessing it will read fast. It looks like it will be fun — an absorbing story about a prostitute in Victorian London.
  • Hobgoblin suggested that I might like to read The Crimson Petal quite a while ago after he read and liked it. As usual, I didn’t listen to his suggestion. Instead, I waited until I got recommendations from other people, and then I got excited about it and decided to pick it up. Hobgoblin seems to understand this and doesn’t take offense, for which I am grateful.
  • Imani has proposed a couple of reading challenges, one of which, the Outmoded Authors challenge I’m considering signing up for. She’s currently compiling a list of authors — a list I contributed a couple of names to. If you know anything about my reading tastes, you might be able to guess which ones!
  • The whole idea of outmoded authors is quite interesting, I think — the way authors come in and out of fashion, the way they sometimes are popular in their day and then forgotten and then revived again. I love reading stories about how the reputations of authors rise and fall and the factors that play into those changes. A writer like John Steinbeck is an interesting case — I don’t know if we can call him outmoded, as he still gets read and probably assigned in high schools, but I don’t think he’s been a favorite amongst academic critics, unless there’s been a revolution in thinking that I don’t know about. A guy I knew in grad school wanted to write his dissertation on Steinbeck, but wasn’t sure if that was wise — it might be the case that critical work on an unfashionable author would be valuable because no one else is working on him and the work would seem fresh, or it might be the case that no one would be interested in the work at all.


Filed under Books, Reading

10 responses to “Reading notes

  1. An amusing way to check the modishness of authors is through the Google book search. For example, Steinbeck has been mentioned in 861 books published since 1980. That’s more than William Saroyan (679) or Philip Dick (631) but far behind Jack London (2,528) and two of the outmoded authors, D. H. Lawrence (2,944) and Walter Scott (5,282). Shakespeare, incidentally, shows up in 1,070,168 books, which hardly seems possible.


  2. LK

    My July reading this year was about Neglected Authors. In my mind, that meant authors who aren’t widely read but who deserve to be.

    Now, outmoded authors — equally interesting — seems to me to be about authors who were once prominent and now considered “outdated.” Is that right?


  3. Don — what a good suggestion! It would be fun to run that search on all our outmoded authors.

    LK — that’s exactly the distinction I’d make — authors who used to be fashionable and popular but now, for whatever reason, aren’t. Maybe what the Outmoded Authors blog should do is think about why these authors are outmoded — why did they fall out of fashion?


  4. Finishing books and starting books is always great fun. My husband liked Crimson Petal too but the book is so chunky I’ve been reluctant to pick it up.


  5. I hope you like The Crimson Petal Dorothy! When I was nearing the end I brought it with me to my sister’s house (I can’t remember which holiday it was) and her mother in law was there as well as my family. I was so completely engrossed in the book that I totally ignored everyone. It was nothing personal, but if you are a reader you understand this. I don’t think my sister’s MIL approved. She said that must sure be a good book…Oh well, I figured, it’s not my MIL so I don’t have to worry! 🙂 I will have to look into the outmoded authors challenge. I had no idea Steinbeck was considered outmoded. Is he controversial? I have read very little of his work–and none of his major books, but I have always intended to.


  6. hepzibah

    yes- there is no greater feeling than finishing a novel! Although, sometimes it also leaves me feeling kind of sad, that the adventure has finally come to an end…


  7. Stefanie — I’m finding that it reads very fast, if you are ever tempted … Danielle, I can see why you would get caught up in this book! About Steinbeck, I think he is outmoded among academics, not necessarily among general readers. He’s writing is too emotionally-driven, too preachy for a lot of academic types. I like what I’ve read of him though. Hepzibah, I agree; there is that sadness too, although re-reading is always a possibility! 🙂


  8. I loved The Crimson Petal…! I hope you enjoy it, I found it a wonderfully absorbing read.


  9. That’s interesting about Steinbeck. I had no idea choosing a dissertation topic like that might be so political. I really do need to read his bigger works.


  10. Tara — thank you! I am enjoying it quite a lot.

    Danielle — oh, yes, it’s highly political — you want to impress future hiring committees, and also you want to be able to publish your dissertation as a book, so it should be something that university presses think it interesting and timely.


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