Friday, April 07, 2006

Marching on

I finished reading Middlemarch, because I hate reading more than one book at a time and also I'm not very good at it. I find myself unable to focus on anything properly, too much going on, too many loose ends, and the distraction spills into my nonreading life, on top of which there's the feeling of lack of accomplishment, leaving things unfinished, delaying that peculiar sense of satisfaction in being able to cram a read book into its alphabetized position on the shelf.

So I finished reading Middlemarch, because I could, and because I couldn't help myself, schedule be damned, it's that engrossing. And I'm brimming with things to say about it, most particularly in agreement with Virginia Woolf's comment that it "is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people," but on this point I will restrain myself, because there's a schedule after all. But I'm glad I didn't read it 15 years ago, because while I'm sure it would've made some impact, served as a warning of sorts even, I most definitely was not a grown-up.

Would it be premature for me to say this may be the best book ever?! Really, it's that good. You should read it.

I'm loving reading it this way though (aside from not being able to read much of anything else alongside it), rereading sections as they come up for discussion, and again as other people's comments point me to specific passages. I could've read it in a matter of days, enjoyed it and been done with it, but now I'm absorbing it, which leads me to realize how flawed my usual reading experience can be, how much missed potential I've let drift by, which is fine, usually, but some books are worthy of more attention than I give them — the trick is to know which ones.

So I'm already wondering, what next — I mean, aside from the stuff on my nightstand — what else would be suited to this kind of group reading? Dare I say, it's more like school than a bookclub, in a good way, as discussion happens along the way, not in one sitting at the end (though, come to think of it, even at school, books were assigned and often not discussed till they were finished). Still, there are books I did read a dozen years ago from which I might benefit rereading as a grown-up (eg, The Master and Margarita, The Sheltering Sky), and there are classics that to appreciate fully one should take time and companions. But how to know which ones? So what next?
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