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?

10 comments:

Ella said...

You know, I was thinking "What Next?!" too. I have so enjoyed Middlemarch and Eliot and the discussion.

I don't have any titles in mind, but I really think long books lend themselves to this kind of a project...Dickens, Thackery, maybe Tolstoy?

rachel said...

Ahhhh! Ahhhh! BEST BOOK EVAR! I believe I did tell you that ;-)

Count me in on your next book, too! May I just suggest, however, that we not actually choose the book until the whole Middlemarch blog is over. Otherwise, some of us will read it ahead of time and we'll get into this weird cycle of blogging about books we read months ago...

Also, I expect some kind of "Eee eee eee!" e-mail about the ending, and its lameness, or NOT. Even I am up in the air about this, still.

Lazy cow said...

I couldn't read another book for a whole month (this has never happened before!) after finishing Middlemarch last year. I'd be interested in what you choose next for a group read.

kimbofo said...

Oh my. You finished! Unfortunately, I've been away in Australia for two-and-a-half weeks so I am WAY behind with my Middlemarch reading, but hope to plod along and catch up with the schedule very soon.

I vote for Anna Karenina or Ulysses next! ;)

Raehan said...

Ahhh....loving the book but please no one spoil it for me. I'm on schedule, but not ahead.

I would love if we would read Anna Karenina next. It's on my nightstand. I need some motivation and I know others who would like to start a group on it.

I know two literature Ph.D.s who do think it's the best book ever. Middlemarch that is.

gina c said...

One vote here for Anna Karenina. I have it in house, she's waiting... In the meantime, couldnt find my Virginian so dove into Bleak House (just finished watching the recent BBC production), hoping to find out motivations etc that seemed missing/loose/lacking in the TV production. Reading Dickens after Eliot is interesting... I found myself sort of longing for Dorothea's boudoir at Lowick, faded blue-green tapestries and the pale stag seemed cool and uncluttered after reading the introduction to the Bleak House itself (lots of claustrophobic detail but maybe thats how it Was supposed to be?) Not a big Dickens wrangler, but will try to finish BH...

piksea said...

I'm just starting book 4. I know, I am very behind, but intend on making that up. I'm in for the next book, too, whatever it may be.

Isabella said...

I will open up the question at Reading Middlemarch in the weeks to come.

I've actually read Anna Karenina, and tho' I loved it, I'm not keen on rereading it when I haven't even tried War and Peace yet. But given everybody's enthusiasm for it, I may have to reconsider.

Rachel: Have been meaning to check your archives to see what your grievances were. The ending at the time of reading seemed exactly right. We'll see how it ages over the next couple weeks...

Danielle said...

I am greatly enjoying Middlemarch, but I am one of those naughty readers who always has more than one on the go at a time (chalk it up to library due dates...). When I am reading it I want to keep reading it--I think it is definitely better to read it in chunks, and reading all the posts has been great for sorting things out. I also think longer books lend themselves well to this sort of a setup! I am also reading The Sheltering Sky right now, and this one would be a great one for discussion--I think there is so much to it that I wonder what I am missing. I haven't read Anna K--it is on my pile. I would definitely love reading another book with this group (must get caught up with Middlemarch first, though!).

Sam said...

I read Anna Karenina a couple of yeas ago and since, I've actually picked up a new translation. I would give it a go again, but I'd prefer War and Peace -- more characters, broader scope. I read it once, many years ago and loved it. Ulysses would be a real challenge and maybe a group effort would be the best thing to get this one down.