Monday, February 20, 2017

Shorter works

While there is something particularly satisfying about checking off long novels, especially if these are ones that I have meant to read for a long time, such as Anna Karenina or Vanity Fair (and certainly Remembrance of Things Past, even though I didn't enjoy it much), there is also something to be said for shorter novels, say under 180 pages.  These can usually be knocked off in a couple of days, and it is nice to feel one is actually making some progress.

On the other hand, the temptation is great to keep sneaking them into the reading queue, and that means more distractions and possible derailments for everything else on the list.  But after all, I suppose it isn't like I have to read novels in any particular order.

As I have been looking over the Greek and Roman works, which I've largely left untackled up until now, I see that many of them are fairly short, though in several cases this is because the scrolls they were written on were lost or damaged.

I'm definitely looking into moving these up the queue
Juvenal The Satires
Horace Odes and Epodes (a big influence on Thackerey as well as Smollett)
Petronius The Satiricon

Several of Plato's Dialogues are on the short side, though collectively they add up to well over 1500 pages!  I've probably read 5 all the way through, plus snatches of The Republic.  I do plan to correct this one of these days, but not immediately.

However, I had no idea that Aristotle's Poetics, was more like a 10 page essay (see here), so I've skimmed it and will reread it more carefully later in the week.

I was also quite surprised at how short Fontane's On Tangled Paths is.  I'll likely wrap it up by tomorrow.

Many of Gide's novels are on the short side (as are Modiano's and Bove's), but if I stick to my plan, then I need to read the somewhat longer The Vatican Cellars before circling back to the much shorter Straight is the Gate and The Immoralist.  That's ok; I can wait.

Durrenmatt has several short novels that seem quite interesting, as does Sciascia. Buzzati's The Tartar Steppe was shorter than I expected it, so I pulled that one way out of order.

I recently reread Bellow's Seize the Day, and I'll also reread Dangling Man before too long.

I'm not sure whether Dinesen's Babette's Feast counts as a short novel or a novella, but I'll probably read that in a few months (actually it is just a middle-length story in Anecdotes of Destiny).  

J.L. Carr's A Month in the Country is also fairly short, though to get to it, I have to read several much longer novels.  For some reason, I plan on leaving the Carr in place, but I feel like I should move Juan Rulfo's Pedro P├íramo up quite a few slots.  (This will probably leave me wanting to move up some of the shorter works by Fuentes and/or Garcia Marquez, but I'll try to stay strong and resist.)

The one other short novel that is already sort of jumping the queue is Samuel Johnson's Rasselas.  This is one of those works that is probably more read about than actually read.  It is the legend of a prince who lived in "The Happy Valley," but he wanted to find out what life was like in the real world.  At any rate, I was inspired to read this, since it is referenced in Jane Eyre, and I thought I should be able to squeeze it in before Jane Eyre rises to the top of the reading list (realistically about 2-3 months from now...).  I don't know whether to be inspired or depressed that Johnson apparently managed to write this short novel in a week!

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