George Eliot Went To Thailand

Observatory, Reading & Writing


Actually, she went twice.
Charlotte Bronte went to Barbados.
Laurence Sterne spent a couple of weeks in Majorca.
And I spent a wet weekend with Alan Hollinghurst in Brighton, but he ended up in the dustbin.
They’re all authors I’ve dragged away with me on holiday (purely in book form, you understand) who have come back virgins, their pages unruffled, their innocence intact. Every year there are dozens of books I buy which I promise myself I will read. They go up on the shelf, then down into the suitcase, only to return from vacation undefiled. What is it about certain books that refuse to allow readers entry? I’m about to go travelling again and after contemplating the bookshelf, I’ve cut out the middle-man as it were and haven’t even bothered to pull Middlemarch down.
I want to read it.
I’m sure I’ll like it.
But something – just – stops me.
Popular literature is called that because it’s, well, popular. So here’s my Top Five Still-Unread-After-At-Least-Five-Years-On-The-Shelf Books…
Middlemarch
Tristram Shandy
Vanity Fair
We Have To Talk About Kevin
Wuthering Heights
Just to balance this, The Quincunx, which looks like the most unreadable book of all time has been read twice by me (so far).
Life is short. Books are long, and there are too many to get through in a lifetime, especially when you’re a slow reader, as I am. So this year I’ve decided to concentrate on all the books I’ve neglected. But it means I have to be tough on the books I’m sent ‘to say something nice about’. 2010; raised reading standards, more demanding authors – the way forward.

6 comments on “George Eliot Went To Thailand”

  1. Shuku says:

    I thought -I- was the only insane person who read the Quincunx! And found it very interesting, I might add. My reasons for not reading Vanity Fair again might have been due to the fact that I was eight when I first went through it – Becky Sharpe, that’s all I remember. I’d have to say that the most unreadable book of all time for me has to be Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. I love the premise. I love the plot. But I just. Can’t. READ it. The style of writing, for me, is exactly like a dissertation on the finer points of Obscure Law. Which makes me sad because damn it, I -want- to read it but the first five pages made me CRY (there are at least 200 pages over in that thing. More like 300 if I remember correctly, it’s very thick.)

  2. Helen Martin says:

    I was handed Kafka’s The Castle the other night and I’m wondering if I want to try Kafka in January. War and Peace, read it twice. Anna Karenina, the first couple of chapters and the last (I knew it would turn out badly). A Clockwork Orange faces me as I write – force myself?

  3. Steve says:

    Um, at the risk of having rotten tomatoes thrown at my head, I need to admit that I had a lot of trouble slogging through The Lord of the Rings many years ago. The author is overly descriptive, e.g. spending 8 pages describing someone scratching his nose. Ok, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but it conveys the gist. As a reader, I like to have something left to the imagination. After all, I DO have one. Imagination, that is.

  4. Underworld by Don DeLillo has gone away on holiday with me at least three times. It’s practically a talisman against running out of things to read… I know I never will, because I’ll deliberately take everything else slowly in case going too fast means I have to start Underworld again.

  5. Evelyn Sawyer says:

    I never made it very far into the Quincunx, but Vanity Fair is a personal favourite and I re-read it every few years or so. Wuthering Heights I’ve never re-read but Jane Eyre also gets a regular outing. We Need To Talk About Kevin is really good, thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve always wanted to read Moby Dick but never get past the first chapter. Ever.

  6. I.A.M. says:

    I have on the shelf at the moment 4′ 1.5″ of books I’m to read. This includes some I bought when I travelled to the UK the first time, which was in September of 2007. Some pre-date that by six months or more. Many are supposed to be quite good, and some are even by The Resident Author (only just got five back-catalogue titles of his delivered a couple of weeks ago).

    Books which I’ve not read yet, but am supposed to, and which are on the shelf:
    * William Gibson “Spook County”
    * 6 issues of the anthology “Postscripts , one of which is well over an inch thick
    * 6 different titles all by Tim Lebbon
    * Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid”, which is a bloody novella, so what’s the hold-up?
    * 2 collections, a novella, plus the novel “Into the Woods” by Ramsey Campbell
    * Joe Hill’s debut novel “Heart-Shaped Box” which has won every award it can, seemingly some of them twice
    * an incalculable number of books all written by people I have at least passingly acquainted with, many of them at least two titles each

    So what do I do? Why I create more books for people to buy and not read, naturally!

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