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I decided to re-read the novel my now ex-sister-in-law wrote that was published in 2004 and is a satire on the private school admissions race.There's a whole subplot about an affair which reads very differently 7 years after she and my brother split up.

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Les Miserables should keep me occupied until mid-June. I have started it in the past, but never got far into it. The plot, of course, is thoroughly familiar from all the adaptations, musical or otherwise.

I've read a good deal of Zola since I last picked this up, so the first couple of hundred pages had me thinking about the differences. Zola brings massive, documentary knowledge of his topic, and expresses it through his story and characters. Hugo, with a similar ideological commitment to realism, brings massive knowledge of his topic, and all kinds of peripherally related topics, and delivers it in his own authorial voice. Hugo basically tells you the story. He also tells you many stories about essentially minor characters. He assumes -- probably correctly -- that his readers have plenty of time.

Example, chapter on the Year of 1817. He doesn't just sketch the background, he takes you through history, politics, and culture, right down to clothing fashions among children. There's a cascade of names, which his French readers of 1862 might have recognized, but which will be largely meaningless even to French readers today. I consider myself fairly well versed in French culture, and I know who Chateuabriand, Charles Nodier and Grimod de la Reyniere were, but that's the tip of the iceberg. One is almost compelled to skim.

 

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It's melodramatic, of course, but the stretches where Hugo advances the narrative do make you the turn the page. Enjoying it.

The seventy-odd pages of his opinions on the battle of Waterloo, while not advancing the narrative, do illuminate his influence on Tolstoy.  Also reminded me of visiting his house of exile on Guernsey, preserved as a museum. He was so important to himself, he has his initials on wall tiles. The whole thing is worth a look: Hauteville House.

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Re-reading the Maximus poems.

With tentative re-opening starting today, and work getting busier, the days of voluminous reading may be drawing to a close. For now, anyway.   

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Gabriel Marcel, Metaphysical Journal. Really getting down to books I never thought I’d have time for.

My library is seeking permission to open for curbside drop off and pick up (if it’s good enough for retail). I have already submitted my book order.

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Cockton, Valentine Vox, Ventriloquist

Dickens, Pickwick Papers and Edwin Drood

Gautier, the novels which aren't Mlle de Maupin

Grass, Dog Years

Kafka, The Castle

Sinclair Lewis, Ann Vickers

Pushkin, huge anthology

Sir Walter Scott, various

Mark Twain, the collected works and I certainly haven't read all of them

The list is reducing. I'd like to follow Les Mis with something shorter and less encyclopedic. Most of the volumes above are, if not longer than Les Mis, not much shorter either.  I'd be happy to dip into Mark Twain, but I own his works in two volumes, each of which is at least as heavy to hold as Les Mis.

Maybe Sinclair Lewis. I know I could buy books online, but what I really need is for my library to open.

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So I'm staring at Day of the Locust, and thinking -- are you sure you've read it? I looked, I hadn't, so I did. It's good.  Then I found Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan on my non-fiction shelves, but it works as a novel, so now reading that. 

Will finish The Maximus Poems this week. 

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In good news, my library is starting curbside drop-off and pick-up next week, so I will be able to stop whining to myself about what to read next.

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I just re-read On the Road,  a book I first opened aged 17, and have re-read since -- but not recently.

The prose is not as experimental as I remembered. I think Kerouac leans more towards the improvisatory, free assocation style in the later novels. But there is some very good writing here.

Some of the attitudes have certainly dated, but it's worth remembering that it's really a novel of the 1940s, a post-war novel, which just couldn't find a publisher since 1957. Given that it was written and re-written between 1948 and 1951, it's a remarkable harbinger of the cultural changes of the '50s and even more so the '60s.

There are famous passages of course, but I enjoyed finding the sentences and remarks which just stuck in my own memory over many years. Like how apple pie and ice cream is nutritious, as well as delicious of course.

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Did you happen to read The Original Scroll version?  If so, any comments or comparisons?

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It seems there's a published version.  It probably overrides some of Malcolm Cowley's edits.

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