Literary Masterpieces You've Often Attempted, But Never Finished

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This thread premise could be viewed as admissions of secret shame for those who consider themselves widely read, but it isn't. No one ticks all the boxes unless they are doggedly determined to plow ahead in a book they would love to jettison, simply for the sake of adding a title to their life list. In some cases it is lack of sympathy, in others you reach a surfeit of the author before the author's chosen end arrives. Sometimes the form just oppresses you, or you tire out short of the summit. It happens. As the internet loves to say, your mileage may vary.

For example, like many, I've read the Inferno, but always get bogged down in the Purgatorio. When I try skipping ahead to the Paradiso, it's not much better for me. I've come to accept my fate. Something similar happens when I attempt Paradise Lost, but quicker.

I've enjoyed Cervantes Exemplary Tales and have charged into Don Quixote numerous times, but eventually I droop and fall by the wayside. It's just that way. I can't help it. I finally sold my copy to avoid its accusatory stare.

With Edward Gibbon's massive Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the story is one of surfeit. I love his style. I find great interest in his subject matter. But i don't have the stamina to complete it at a dead run, nor the organization to tackle it systematically over a longer period. So I dip in and out and now can't say what parts I've skipped or read. I don't mind. I just can't claim completion.

I could go on, but those three are enough confession for now. You may cite your own multiple wrestling matches with masterpieces that constantly end up pinning you. Or not, just as you choose. But don't feel shame over your failures. There's always another masterpiece a bit further down the shelf.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 00:05 (two months ago) link

I've tried to read James Joyce's Ulysses multiple times but have failed. I recently went to a really good exhibit about him and his work at the Morgan Library, and have since downloaded an audiobook (among the many available) with narration that I think I can get through

Dan S, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 01:30 (two months ago) link

I have made it through Ulysses twice, but I cannot get past the first few pages of Finnegans Wake.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 01:32 (two months ago) link

God, so many. The Iliad, The Bible, the second volume of Don Quixote, Clarissa, Tale of Genji.

jmm, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 01:38 (two months ago) link

I did manage to read Under the Volcano on the third or fourth try, and maybe the same with Ulysses. Otherwise, I'm too slow a reader with too particular tastes to feel obligated to finish books I'm not enjoying page-by-page.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 01:41 (two months ago) link

Likewise many, including several already mentioned - Dante, Cervantes, Ulysses. Have started Swann's Way at least twice and am determined to get to tackle Proust again one of these days, maybe on holiday - those long sentences require a bit too much concentration for my usual 20 minute read in bed at night - longtemps je me suis couche de bonne heure indeed.

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 01:48 (two months ago) link

I have been taking an extended break from Proust since finishing Sodom and Gomorrah. The endless descriptions of society dinners get to be a bit much. I do want to return to and finish the series, though.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 01:50 (two months ago) link

Loved Lydia Davis's translation of Swann's Way, though I hear that the following volumes in that series (which she edited) are not as well translated as previous versions. Dunno, but I blamed any dry spells on Proust, whose narrator needs new friends (to replace those society drones and some wannabees)

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:00 (two months ago) link

The thing is, all of that Faubourg St. Germain blah blah blah aside (and, admittedly, it's a significant part of the book), there are moments where his prose, even in translation, absolutely sings, and those moments are worth it imho.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:03 (two months ago) link

Yeah, that came across too, although maybe it came across better in Moncrieff, Kilmartin, and/or Enright? Anyway, it's there.

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:07 (two months ago) link

I read Swann's Way at 18 and finally finished the series in my 30s. Now I'm on a third reading of the full series, and plan to basically never stop rereading it.

I struggle with it for a bit every time I pick it up again, but after a while you get into the rhythm of the sentences, and it's the best reading experience there is.

jmm, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:07 (two months ago) link

Yeah, I hope to re-read it. And I'm always looking for Charlus to show up, at a swank party or wherever.

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:09 (two months ago) link

i was reading the penguin retranslations of in search of lost time and thought the first three were lovely but couldn't make it through sodom & gomorrah, the sentences were too knotted and not in a good proustian way imo

i should try again lol what else am i doing

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:09 (two months ago) link

I'm most of the way through The Guermantes Way, though I'm a little concerned that subsequent volumes of the William C. Carter annotated edition are going to be hardcover only, or not published at all. Along with the elaborate sentence structure, I feel I'm losing a lot because I can't recognize characters who made their previous brief appearance 700 pages and three years of reading ago.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:11 (two months ago) link

Oh, and my aunt recently got into Proust's Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siecle Paris, by Caroline Weber, about some of his real-life inspirations.

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:12 (two months ago) link

Richard Meltzer's The Aesthetics of Rock.

clemenza, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:14 (two months ago) link

I can't recognize characters who made their previous brief appearance 700 pages and three years of reading ago.
Same here, even though I read all volumes in maybe 6, at most 8 months, with breaks (too quickly?)

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:14 (two months ago) link

Meltzer's book is very stimulating, but really fanciful, whimsical at times, as music crit per se, anyway. I believe acknowledgements incl. his sister's diet pills, v. plausibly if so.

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:17 (two months ago) link

Some of his reflexive hipster shit dated really quickly, like in the Creem columns.

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:20 (two months ago) link

Proust's Duchess is quite good, yeah. It digresses a lot into the lives of a bunch of people around the real-life Faubourg Saint-Germain, but great for setting the wider scene. William Carter's biography is also very worth reading.

I just started a new book by Christopher Prendergast, Living and Dying with Marcel Proust, which is is very good so far, though he seems a bit grouchy when it comes to people who are too swoony in their admiration of Proust (which is probably me lol.)

jmm, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:21 (two months ago) link

What a title---is he doing a critical crawl through the whole body of work, or what? Might be worth a look, hey---

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:26 (two months ago) link

Has the recent documentary about the Argentines who read and reread Proust been mentioned yet?

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:27 (two months ago) link

What a title---is he doing a critical crawl through the whole body of work, or what? Might be worth a look, hey---

He doesn't seem to be going through the book systematically. It's more like a series of discussions on connected themes around 'living' and 'dying'. The first chapter has some funny stories about people the author has met who have tried to use Proust therapeutically in some kind of self-medicating way, including one person who claimed to be a Proust addict. He doesn't mention Alain de Botton by name but I think he's lurking in the background.

Had no idea of that documentary! I will have to see it.

jmm, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:39 (two months ago) link

I’ve tried 100 Years of Solitude three times and I have given up. I find the first part very engaging but when it starts jumping forward in time I lose interest.

Cow_Art, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 02:40 (two months ago) link

The Man Without Qualities

Guayaquil (eephus!), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 03:18 (two months ago) link

Got through Ulysses but can't make it past Tom Bombadil in LOTR, 3 attempts so far.

link.exposing.politically (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 06:39 (two months ago) link

i've read up to ~200 pages into sodom and gomorrah three times, sigh

happen to be halfway thru gibbon rn (again)-- maybe this is it

wheel of time lol

difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 08:01 (two months ago) link

augie march!

difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 08:07 (two months ago) link

(out of fashion? the prose is excellent but it's never had any steam, for me, tbh. got all the way to the falconry stuff as a teenager, still failed.)

difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 08:09 (two months ago) link

I've read 2/3 of Proust, didn't like it, have never really started on the third volume ie: last third.

I read a few Cantos (is that the word?) of Dante's Inferno, decided I disliked most things about it and I should stop.

Most of the other big long difficult books, I haven't even seriously started yet. If I seriously started them I might finish them. DON QUIXOTE a possibility. I made it through GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by sheer persistence and hated it.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 08:21 (two months ago) link

I had three books like this:

- Makioka Sisters by Tanizaki.
- Independent People by Laxness.
- Life and Fate by Grossman.

I did make it a point to return to them and they are all read now (well nearly done with Laxness).

Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries is what remains.

The only other thing that is relevant and staring at me is my copy of a translation of the complete Zibaldone (Leopardi). Haven't started and I have never been a dipping in and out of books person either but given the demands of adulthood (rent payment) I will have no choice.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:23 (two months ago) link

i've finished the aesthetics of rock more than once (even if meltzer never did lol)

i've never got very far in ulysses which is why i voted tory in 2017 obv but my reasons for distraction at point of exit are emotionally impeccable (nothing to do wiith joyce)

mark s, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:31 (two months ago) link

The shadow q of the thread is when are you really finished with books and in that sort of vein I can see that different translators are picking up parts of Proust (think copyright has run out).

I picked up Smollett's translation of Cervantes and want to re-read it in that.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:32 (two months ago) link

I just got Proust in 2 volumes translated by C.K. Scott Montrieff a couple of weeks ago after meaning to read him for years. Now will see when i get a chance to get to them.

I think I have started Crime & Punishment by different translators a couple of times and not finished it. Also was getting into Gunter Grass's Tin Drum when at the time I was interailing in my late teens and it got lost en route. I have meant to read it ever since and bought it a couple of times to do so. Still not got beyo0nd half way point.

I think I have more books that have been bought and not started than books i have really started several times. & still I am getting through a number of books a year with this last one having been particularly good. Not sure if that will continue beyond this weekend. Full time course starting might throw that off.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:33 (two months ago) link

tbftm these books are all p long-ass and i'm an easily distracted gemini ♊️

what's the shortest mastepiece you started but never finished

mark s, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:34 (two months ago) link

I have made it through Ulysses twice, but I cannot get past the first few pages of Finnegans Wake.

― immodesty blaise (jimbeaux),

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:34 (two months ago) link

everyone always fingerwags me when i fwakesplain but by its own structural diktat it is not a book you "finish"

nor is it IMO a book you need to read "in order" (so-called)

mark s, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:41 (two months ago) link

That's how I regard Ulysses.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:42 (two months ago) link

🚀

mark s, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 09:51 (two months ago) link

what's the shortest mastepiece you started but never finished

I don't know if it's a masterpiece but it's respected round here and pretty slim - Ann Quin's Berg.

ledge, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 10:08 (two months ago) link

I've got about 2/3 through The Golden Bough twice - as Aimless said about Decline and Fall it's a stamina thing, I put it down for a little break which becomes a long break which becomes oh there's no point going back.

ledge, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 10:10 (two months ago) link

i bought the golden bough bcz of m.r.james and doubled down when i discovered that two of its chapter titles (legendary RockFact klaxon) form a couplet in a doors song: "not to touch the earth! not to see the sun!"

but while i imagine i read those chapters i'm not sure i ever read any of the rest of it (♊️)

mark s, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 10:24 (two months ago) link

As for the shortest - Heart of Darkness? I think I did actually get through it on the second or third attempt but it's a bit of a slog, given its slimness

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 10:34 (two months ago) link

I recently put Herzog to the side, not helped by the fact that the plant sitting above it had just been overwatered. The unilateral whining of the sophisticated solitary poor chump of a professor dwelling all despondent and new wave style at having had a beautiful wife and kid and mistress... that stuff just enrages me.

In similar fashion, Hopscotch, but the jury is still out. Maybe I'll focus on the core story and get this at least done.

I've powered through many books that I felt like abandoning. Melmoth the Wanderer, Absalom Absalom, The man without quality, The Golden Notebook, Gravity's Rainbow, Perdido Street Station, Doctor Faustus, The book of Dave, An Orchestra of Minorities (Obioma).

Two that I did abandon were Wizard of the Crow (Nguni Thiongo) and Abyssinian Chronicles (Isegawa), both written in a very similar half-slapstick half-dramatic satiric style and both in dire need of editing.

Nabozo, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 12:01 (two months ago) link

I need to read some Ngugi , my Dad taught at Nairobi University at the same time as him in the late 60s. I remember my Dad took my elder brother to meet him once when we were in Kenya I don't remember if I was taken along too.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 12:11 (two months ago) link

I've finished 5 other Pynchon books but have given up on Gravity's Rainbow twice.

I didn't give up on Swann's Way so much as I just kind of detested the narrator and stopped.

Chris L, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 12:12 (two months ago) link

The shortest "masterpiece" I've never finished is The Crying Of Lot 49, and I've made several attempts at Gravity's Rainbow without getting too far. Pynchon is just not for me I guess. I was a decade ago gifted a copy of Against The Day and I've never even opened it

Finnegan's Wake I've read a couple times, and go back and read sections of it. The pleasure for me is reading it aloud to myself and enjoying the sound of it and the syntaxian jokes rather than trying to be in decipher-mode

A book series I bought based on ILX recommendations was the Gene Wolfe series but I stopped, about 2/3rd through the first volume. Something about his plot structuring makes me lose interest? I should try again everybody loves this guy

land of nope and sorry (flamboyant goon tie included), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 12:59 (two months ago) link

what's the shortest mastepiece you started but never finished

― mark s, Wednesday, September 28, 2022 2:34 AM (three hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

this came up in one of the reading threads recently but: the turn of the screw!

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 13:11 (two months ago) link

can't make it past Tom Bombadil in LOTR, 3 attempts so far.

I like the idea of the hobbits getting as far as Tom Bombadil and deciding "This sucks, let's go back"

jmm, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 13:37 (two months ago) link

I still haven’t read any of it. Dare I bring up the which translation question again?

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 17:09 (two months ago) link

try reading it in welsh

mark s, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 17:10 (two months ago) link

The only upside to having covid recently was that I was stuck somewhere with no reading material whatsoever except for a a copy of Paradise Lost that I'd recently purchased, originally assuming I would just feel guilty about it for the next 20 years and maybe get around to it in retirement. But having no other choice I went through it cover to cover, probably the only circumstance where I could have stuck it out, so thank you covid for helping me check that one off the list. All the Satan and hell stuff in the first half was extra fun bc that was when I was most feverish and spaced out.

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 17:13 (two months ago) link

try reading it in welsh

Diolch yn fawr!

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 17:15 (two months ago) link

Agree that xxxpost Proust is worth sticking with, despite the sloggiest areas---think I might do a remix when I get back to it, red-pencilling/Sharpie-ing the parts I can't digest----

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 17:38 (two months ago) link

I feel like Beckett’s novels are not essential (they’re early work and still kind of Joyce prolix) and that his plays are the thing.

Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable? Don't think so! Molloy isn't that difficult to read btw.

Narada Michael Fagan (Tom D.), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 17:39 (two months ago) link

I still haven’t read any of it. Dare I bring up the which translation question again?

I've read parts of the Scott Moncrieff, and parts of the Scott Moncrieff/Kilmartin revision, and I'd go with the first. I don't think either of them is exactly true to the... idk, high spirits? joy in writing?... that you get in the French, but Scott Moncrieff's Swann's Way is what got me started. And it's sometimes talked about as a masterpiece of English in its own right. But people say that Lydia Davis is great also.

jmm, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 17:45 (two months ago) link

Thanks. Ugh at all the Krappy Kindle Knockoffs.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:04 (two months ago) link

The Silmarillion, which embarrassingly enough my kid had read at age 8 and apparently memorized. I find it really easy to admire, it’s just real tough going. I should try again.

I got bogged down in Bleak House a couple of times. Think there was a long carriage ride conversation somewhere in there which felt like it went on for fifty pages.

Weirdly I find myself tapping out more with TV shows these days. Book are easier for me to finish. It’s not my patience, I think the format gets wearying and the feel-bad aspects of a lot of shows feel designed to stress viewers out more than enlighten them in any particular way. I’m no snob though, I’m watching all Bosch and Bosch-related shows.

omar little, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:05 (two months ago) link

Re Proust: the narrator is never giddier than when describing invert activity

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:19 (two months ago) link

yeah I can't finish long Dickens.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:20 (two months ago) link

xp The scene at the beginning of Sodom and Gomorrah where Marcel spies on Charlus and Jupien is one of the most engaging of the first five books.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:22 (two months ago) link

Proust can bore often but the novel's worth it just to get to the Princesse de Guermantes ball in S&G.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:28 (two months ago) link

And after that, the "Intermittences of the Heart" section, some of the most purely beautiful Proustian writing (in the exalted mode that everyone loves). And the final part of the volume has a wonderful extended section organized around the local train at Balbec, which serves like the Combray walks as a throughline for pages of lavish description. I don't see it talked about much in critical works, but I just love that image of the evening train on the coast.

jmm, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:36 (two months ago) link

btw I recommend Raul Ruiz's Time Regained for limning that 30-years-lived-in-one-second thing.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:42 (two months ago) link

I jumped from Middlemarch and War and Peace about a 150 pages in, despite enjoying them both. The move away from Dorothea in Middlemarch disoriented me then I couldn't get back into it. And the War seemed a lot less interesting than the Peace. And I've never cracked into Wolf Hall desptite multiple attempts.

Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 20:26 (two months ago) link

But people say that Lydia Davis is great also.
She is, as translator of Swann's Way(although I'm apparently one of the few who can't get into her own fiction, so far). And she explains there why she did it that way, though in awe of the best prev. (Moncrieff, also Kilmartin and Enright, I think)

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 20:32 (two months ago) link

I mean, if somebody didn't get any further into the story, they would be missing a lot, too much--but her version of Swann's Way is amaaazing.

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 20:35 (two months ago) link

And so far I'm pretty sure it's the most consistently well-written, inspired volume of the whole novel.

dow, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 20:38 (two months ago) link

great expectations
independent people
gravity’s rainbow
herodotus

mookieproof, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 20:52 (two months ago) link

I only tried Gravity's Rainbow the one time. It was enough to convince me not to try again.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 20:59 (two months ago) link

I tried it but did not inhale.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 21:02 (two months ago) link

I inoculated myself from Gravity's Rainbow by reading The Crying of Lot 49.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 21:07 (two months ago) link

same except just to be sure I had the lot 49 jab twice, and then had a booster shot of attempting but not finishing vineland.

(I didn't read lot 49 a second time because I enjoyed it, quite the opposite but I wanted to be really sure I couldn't see what others saw in it.)

ledge, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 21:20 (two months ago) link

Lot 49 is a hard read for an author's easiest rwead

Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 28 September 2022 21:22 (two months ago) link

I did the Lot 49--V--Gravity's Rainbow pilgrimage. The first time I tried GR I had to return it to the library mostly unread. I picked it up again and found that persistence does pay off.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 21:23 (two months ago) link

I read Anna Karenina on a train across Russia (literally nothing else to do) and both Great Expectations & David Copperfield aged 12 on a two-week holiday in France (literally nothing else to do, apart from throwing plums at the gigantic dog on the other side of a sturdy fence)

link.exposing.politically (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 21:26 (two months ago) link

You could have dropped the stones from Nelson's Pillar.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 21:30 (two months ago) link

Have tried Gravity's Rainbow 3 times; Ulysses twice. Have given up The Tale of Two Cities twice as well. I have a bookmark in Life and Fate. Glad to be in good company.

Got through Dante through sheer cussedness (on a beach in Bali - how's that for aptness/incongruity?).

Latest struggle was with Invisible Man, which I've stopped but quite don't consider abandoned just yet.

Shard-borne Beatles with their drowsy hums (Chinaski), Friday, 30 September 2022 17:20 (one month ago) link

You could have dropped the stones from Nelson's Pillar.

― immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, September 28, 2022 5:30 PM (two days ago) bookmarkflaglink

You could have put that where Jacko put the nuts.

If The Damned Are United (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 30 September 2022 17:28 (one month ago) link

one month passes...

2023 will be the year i get more than a chapter into middlemarch at the third attempt (both previous times I've been unsure what to read next, both times i chose the other option)

koogs, Sunday, 27 November 2022 08:22 (yesterday) link

Odd - I find that book very readable.

Quite glad to see people above not liking GR. Unusual.

I usually love James' patient accumulation of nuances and filigrees but I get the sensew/TTOTS he was trying to do with prose what film can do better.

― Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, September 28, 2022

At the time he wrote it, film hadn't shown itself able to do much. Understandable if he thought he'd stick to prose for the time being.

the pinefox, Sunday, 27 November 2022 09:59 (yesterday) link

happen to be halfway thru gibbon rn (again)-- maybe this is it

narrator:

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 27 November 2022 10:43 (yesterday) link

I read War & Peace this year and was utterly delighted by it -- I was howling with laughter at the last 80 or so pages, in which, spoiler alert, Tolstoy explains his philosophy of life and history quite apart from any of the action about which you've spent the last however-long reading. I assume there's a wealth of scholarly apparati on this long afterword which seemed touching to me -- he was not ready to be done. The book was done, but he wasn't done with it.

I've never even attempted Proust but the past few years I've been getting into big reading projects and this thread is severely tempting me.

J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 27 November 2022 13:33 (yesterday) link

Proust is so worth it. One nice thing about him is that you don't have to wait to get to the good stuff. The first ~180 pages ("Combray") are utterly classic, and give you everything amazing about Proust right from the go.

jmm, Sunday, 27 November 2022 13:44 (yesterday) link

iirc Proust was meant to be just a couple of volumes and then as he got into the project he kept writing further and more. I want to re-read the first and last book (with maybe 'The Prisoner' in between).

Anyway, it is a big book, but it isn't that either.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 27 November 2022 14:31 (yesterday) link

Ulysses started life as a short story allegedly

this display name blocked by FIFA (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 27 November 2022 14:34 (yesterday) link

The textual history is super complicated, and I'm a bit fuzzy on it right now, but yeah, iirc, it was originally meant to be a three-volume work. I think that the earliest material completed was the basics of Swann's Way, In the Shadows..., and the second half of Time Regained. Then, as time went on, and the publications were delayed by the war and Proust's own obsessive revisions, the middle sections sprawled, and the Albertine story grew like a blight. And I think that there's controversy too over how much of that should be in the final book, since the last draft before Proust's death seems to show him crossing out an enormous amount of La Fugitive.

I remember one critic (Shattuck, I think) characterizing it as if the novel had to keep growing until it had totally spent itself, in order to justify the transformative effect of the ending.

jmm, Sunday, 27 November 2022 15:05 (yesterday) link

I found the first, third, and fourth books the funniest and sharpest.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 27 November 2022 15:42 (yesterday) link

My answer is Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.

glumdalclitch, Sunday, 27 November 2022 15:49 (yesterday) link

ooh that one's on my list too and I have a really lovely ancient hardback of it

J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 27 November 2022 16:25 (yesterday) link

I have a fear that I'm done with big books: I just don't have the, I don't know, gumption, wherewithal, desire to tackle them. Even something like *A Place of Greater Safety* glares at me from the shelf. Hoping it's a phase.

Shard-borne Beatles with their drowsy hums (Chinaski), Sunday, 27 November 2022 16:42 (yesterday) link

I need a separate thread for 'Literary masterpieces you have lying about the place that you're sure you're beyond attempting'.

Shard-borne Beatles with their drowsy hums (Chinaski), Sunday, 27 November 2022 16:44 (yesterday) link

I've just bought the mirror and the light, all 900 pages of it, and I want to re-read the first two first but idk man it's a lot.

ledge, Sunday, 27 November 2022 16:47 (yesterday) link

Nowadays I try to read a literary classic every few months, and spend the rest of my time on fantasy/horror/sci-fi.

jmm, Sunday, 27 November 2022 19:07 (yesterday) link

Basically my exact reading habits at age 15.

jmm, Sunday, 27 November 2022 19:11 (yesterday) link

The Golden Age of ILB iirc

The Dark End of the Tweet (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 November 2022 19:12 (yesterday) link

My answer is Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.

― glumdalclitch, Sunday, 27 November 2022 bookmarkflaglink

ooh that one's on my list too and I have a really lovely ancient hardback of it

― J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 27 November 2022 bookmarkflaglink

I read it all the way two years ago after thinking I would just dip in and out of it as its not a narrative. It's probably best as a dipping in book.

Penguin are reissuing it as a paperback next year.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 27 November 2022 20:07 (yesterday) link

Was wondering last night about difference between "sadness" and "melancholy" (also between sadness and melancholy, re words/actual experience). And thinking that Burton's book drew from connotations of his time, like with humours---what say yall about any of that, book incl. or aside===?

dow, Sunday, 27 November 2022 21:04 (yesterday) link

I'd meant to maybe look it up today, but this thread appeared first.

dow, Sunday, 27 November 2022 21:05 (yesterday) link


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