Literary Relativity

My book list this term is hideously long. It’s so long the far side of it lives in Manitoba. Here is a sample of said list:

  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  • Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne
  • About a Boy, Nick Hornby
  • Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes
  • Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
  • Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Love in Excess, Eliza Haywood
  • Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
  • The Frence Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles

This is just a sampling, of course, but it should be noted that while several of the works (Flaubert’s Parrot, Waiting for Godot) are quite short, many of them are quite long. I cannot, at this point, fathom how I will manage to read all of these books (including, of course, the bulk of my texts, which are not listed above) between now and early April. But I will.

I’ve already read Waiting for Godot, which I commented on below, and I have just recently begun Love in Excess, A Tale of Two Cities, and The French Lieutentant’s Woman.

Love in Excess is terrible. I can say that with very little doubt, and with a perfectly serene face. The work reminds me most notably of Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, not for its content so much as for its dry, expository style. The characters are flat and barely human, the emotions so extreme as to be completely unbelievable—were this to be written and published today I have no doubt that it would be dismissed as supermarket fiction, and rightly so.

Dickens is quite another story. I was discussing A Tale of Two Cities with Professor Draper today, and he told me that he envied me a bit, since this is my first encounter with Dickens. What a wonderful thing to have before me! he exclaimed, and over one hundred pages in, I am inclined to agree with him. To borrow more phrases from Prof. Draper, Dickens’ prose crackles, and it is obvious that he loves language, and that he has a deep, sensuous knowledge of humanity. Caricatures or no, his people are real in ways that the people who sit beside me on the bus are not, and could never be. I can’t wait to go on later to Great Expectations. Of the three books I am reading now, this one is by far my favourite.

I am not far enough into The French Lieutenant’s Woman to give an accurate picture of either the novel, or my opinions on it. What I will say is that the ten pages of this novel that I have read are infinitely preferable to the eighty-one pages I have read of Love in Excess.

I also noticed today that I need very badly to learn how to spell.


Writer. Editor. Critic.

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