Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Very Long Books

Yesterday I was supposed to be working on a project that I happen to loathe and abominate. Worse, I couldn't accomplish anything on it until I received a certain UPS delivery, and the UPS truck didn't arrive at my door until almost five o'clock. And I loathe and abominate this project so much that I'm incapable of working on anything else while it is hanging over my head, too paralyzed with misery and dread to focus my efforts on any other productive task.

Fortunately, I wasn't too parazlyed with misery and dread to spend the day reading a few hundred pages of Middlemarch.

In times of stress, there is nothing like being in the middle of a Very Long Book.

The night before, I couldn't sleep, and so I turned on my light and read more of Middlemarch. Today, I finally have my hideous package on this nightmarish project ready to take to Fed-Ex, so I might as well celebrate by reading some more of Middlemarch.

I have to confess that I found the first 200 pages of Middlemarch slow. This is not only a Very Long Book. It's a Very Long Book with very long paragraphs, interminable paragraphs. And at first I didn't care for any of the characters - priggish Dorothea, ghastly Mr. Casaubon, ambitious Dr. Lydgate, flighty beauty Rosamond. And all the lengthy conversations about British politics, circa 1829. And all of George Eliot's confident pronouncements on everything.

But now, at page 572, I'm hooked. I care intensely about what is going to happen next. I know every character so well; by now, they're family. And some of George Eliot's confident pronouncements are lines I want to memorize and carry with me for the rest of my life: "Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self." Were truer words ever spoken?

Most of all, I'm loving the sheer length of Middlemarch, all 838 pages of it. I could stay in its world quite happily forever. I think this may be the summer of reading Very Long Books. Next: Moby Dick, which is another classic I must confess not (yet) to have read? David Copperfield or Kristin Lavransdatter, both of which I read a good 30 years ago? Which Very Long Book should I read next?


  1. Oh lawdee, Ms. Claudie, go after that great whale of white - but wait - does it count if I didn't read it? just listened to it? unabridged?

  2. I just love that you got hooked on Middlemarch at page 572. Think of all the great Lit missed, because NOW author's have to hook the reader in the first sentence! Should we start a revolt, General Mills?

  3. Cheryl, listening to it definitely counts - wasn't that how great literature used to be experienced, read aloud in the evening by the fireside? Clara, I actually got hooked sooner - probably by page 250! But I'm all for the revolt.