grist

 

Monday, June 30, 2003
Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful feedback and support. The book has been so long in the pipeline that it can get difficult to talk about (One of my friend's came up and apologized for not having read it yet and was relieved to hear that it wouldn't be in bookstores for another 6 months). The steadiest advice I've been given about it is to ignore it and get on with the next and the next after that. Then, when the book is roundly ignored, you'll hardly even notice...

I've been moving slowly through Titus Groan, the first novel in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. It is a baroque amalgamation of wild character description, wry humor and absurd melodrama--it is so richly (and oddly) drawn that it really is a thing unto itself. I find myself reading and shaking my head slightly at its over-the-topness, and then I hit a line or image that is very lovely and entirely consistent to this world. Still, getting through it feels a bit like a punishment (especially after Hardy), though I take the fault for that squarely on my own shoulders.

Which brings me to the two schools of unenjoyable book-reading thought: finish, no matter what the cost, or stop when you've had enough and move on to something you like. I have long inhabited the former--and suffered through many loooong and mediocre books. But I've also weather the rough spots into some compelling reading (see Victorians, below). Lately, I've been less inclined to grind my way through--not because of some sense that the books are stacking up and I need to get through them before I knock off (though Milton was said, in his day, to have read every book there was-and he was rumored to be the last person to have done so. Many fewer books, but a worthy accomplishment nonetheless. I don't like not finishing books--I feel horribly guilty and shallow--even if the book is a potboiler (though I've learned to not even tempt the plotty doorstops like Ludlum's any more). Now, with four books drifting around my desk in varying states of inattention, I'm trying to get through the Peake to free myself up for something else (Graham Swift's Waterland? Jose Saramago's The Cave?) Onward...



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