Stack to the Future

Most of you who comment here are avid fiction readers. To misquote an Oscar-accepting Sally Field, “You like novels; you really, really like novels!” As do I. 🙂

But even literature lovers don’t have enough hours in their busy lives to read more than a modest percentage of excellent authors, dead or living. “So many books, so little time,” as Frank Zappa observed. In the back of our brains, we’re nagged by the thoughts of writers unread. Getting to their novels is among our New Year’s resolutions for 2016, 2017, the year 2525*, and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine year of 802,701 — when the last new episode of The Simpsons finally aired. (*Old pop song reference.)

Heck, I’ve annually read 50 or so novels during much of my adult life, yet there are still countless authors I’ve never had a chance to try. I’m sure most of you have a similar lament.

But with the help of your recommendations, I’ve made a dent in my author no-shows since I began blogging about books in 2011 (and I’ve also read a higher percentage of 20th- and 21st-century writers after years of often focusing on 19th-century ones). Writers I finally experienced for the first time included — among others — Isabel Allende, Paul Auster, Geraldine Brooks, Rite Mae Brown, A.S. Byatt, Eleanor Catton, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James Fenimore Cooper, Don DeLillo, Junot Diaz, Harriet Doerr, Margaret Drabble, Jeffrey Eugenides, Fannie Flagg, Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nikolai Gogol, Nadine Gordimer, Graham Greene, John Grisham, Khaled Hosseini, James Joyce, Anne Lamott, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Stieg Larsson, Billie Letts, H.P. Lovecraft, Alistair MacLean, Robin McKinley, Elsa Morante, V.S. Naipaul, Patrick O’Brian, Walker Percy, Arundhati Roy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Lisa Scottoline, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Zadie Smith, Wole Soyinka, Colm Toibin, John Kennedy Toole, William Trevor, John Updike, Mario Vargas Lllosa, Robert Walser, and P.G. Wodehouse. (So many names listed, so little time to read a bloated paragraph like this one. 🙂 )

Trying to end the gaps in one’s reading can mean not having the time to reread many of our favorite books and authors — so there’s some downside to ringing in the new. (As in not Lord-of-the-Ringing in the old; I’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien’s terrific trilogy several times.) Also, we may feel pulled to read mostly shorter novels, but I still include medium-long and long-long books in the mix. And we may feel the impulse to read just one novel by an author before moving on to another author, rather than explore a specific writer’s canon for a while. (Okay, okay, I can’t stop reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books!)

Authors on my future read-for-the-first-time list? Anne Rice is one; I’m about to start The Witching Hour. I’ll also hopefully get to — among others — Thomas Berger, Octavia Butler, Paulo Coelho, Joan Didion, Stanley Elkin, John Fowles, John Green, Hermann Hesse, Tony Hillerman, P.D. James, John D. MacDonald, Thomas Mann, James Michener, Liane Moriarty, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Terry Pratchett, Ayn Rand (for morbid curiosity reasons), Donna Tartt, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, George Sand, Alexander McCall Smith, and Laura Ingalls Wilder (who should have also written Little Library on the Prairie 🙂 ).

There’s one aforementioned author I’ve read so far only in short-story form: James Joyce and his memorable near-novella “The Dead.” Which means I really ought to try one of his full-length fiction works (Ulysses?). Then again, if I’m not up for that challenge, surely there must be a novelization of TV’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

Which authors are you eager to try for the first time?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

144 thoughts on “Stack to the Future

  1. John Grisham is one of my favourites. If you’ve read his usual court/crime stories and liked them, his 2001 novel, A Painted House, is very different but just as good. It was made into a television film in 2003. I’m reading Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ at the moment and when finished I’ll be tackling Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ as I’ve never read any of his books.

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    • John Grisham’s work is excellent, Jean! I’ve read several of his novels, including “The Firm” and “The Client,” and hope to read “A Painted House” one of these days.

      As for “Dubliners,” I’ve just read “The Dead” — which is fantastic. Hope the other stories in that collection are great, too.

      I envy you reading “Crime and Punishment” for the first time. What a knockout of a book — absolutely riveting.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I’m late to the party again and, while I read some of the comments above, I didn’t go through all of them, wanting to go ahead and post my comment. I will say, regarding Nabokov and Dostoevsky, that Nabokov also trashed Shakespeare (a habit he shared with Tolstoy). I guess those fellows didn’t think anyone quite measured up to them. Incidentally, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky did appear to greatly admire each other’s work and, while they almost met once or twice, they never did and never pursued it. However, they both regarded the other as gigantic peaks in the literary landscape. I think Tolstoy was pretty shaken when he heard of Dostoevksy’s death. Anyway, back to Nabokov: while I do love ‘Lolita’ and I admire him greatly as an author, he seems a bit emotionally cold compared to firebrands like Dostoevsky. I liken Dostoevsky to an intense, red wine–strong but intense. Intense being the operative word.

    Back to my reading list, and speaking of Dostoevsky, I’m currently re-reading ‘The Idiot’ although it’s my first reading of the translation by the premier current Russian translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Although it doesn’t hold together quite as well as ‘Crime and Punishment’ or ‘Brothers Karamazov’, it’s quite compelling and, of course, it’s full of those trademark Dostoevskian highly strung, emotional characters living their lives at a fever pitch. I’ll say more in my review after I finish reading it.

    Here is my tentative list of books I’d like to read after ‘The Idiot’ (of course, my lists are always subject to change but this is the best projection I can make.

    The Possessed – Elif Batuman *
    Peter the Great – Robert K. Massie
    Comic (and Column) Confessional – Dave Astor *?
    Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris (it was a freebie at a recent book discussion so I figured what the hell? Why not?) *
    Germinal – Emile Zola
    Sentimental Education – Gustave Flaubert
    Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
    The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver *
    Bastard Out of Carolina – Dorothy Allison *
    Crazy in Alabama – Mark Childress
    Bringing Out the Dead – Joe Connelly *
    The Liar’s Club – Mary Karr *
    Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt
    Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs *
    Brooklyn – Colm Toibin
    Three Roads to the Alamo – William C. Davis *
    The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander *
    Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution – Diane McWhorter *
    Nostromo – Joseph Conrad
    The Secret Agent – Joseph Conrad
    The Wild Ass’s Skin – Honore de Balzac
    Cousin Bette – Honore de Balzac

    Of course, the list could easily go on and on. There are so many other books I want to reread or read for the first time by great authors – Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls’, Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain’, Kafka’s ‘The Castle’ and so on.

    Incidentally, the asterisks are beside books by authors I haven’t read yet. Using this as a sample, that’s 11 out of 23, almost half, so not too bad a percentage. Also incidentally, the question mark beside the asterisk beside ‘Comic (and Column’ Confessional’ by this fellow Dave Astor signifies that I HAVE read dozens of great columns by this guy but have yet to read a book by him. So I’m curious to see how he pulls off a full-length book. Based on what I’ve read by him so far, I have great faith in him.

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    • Daunting, this list, though with so many books on earth it shouldn’t be– but of all listed, I’ve read but a measly one.

      Will look out for the Russian translators’ works, as you praise them highly. I keep the Constance Garnett translation of A Sportsman’s Sketches because it was the way most English-speaking readers got their first taste, but…

      Nabakov spent much time pinning fragile, beautiful things to a board– seems significant to me, as I always detect a bit of cruelty fluttering above the page…

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    • Brian, Nabokov definitely seemed to have quite an ego — and to not have been the nicest guy. (Though, to his credit, there’s a certain amount of self-deprecation in some of his work.) Nabokov’s writing was often brilliant, but dissing Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare (two of his writing superiors) is a bit much! And you’re right that Nabokov seemed a bit emotionally cold; “Pale Fire,” as stupendous an achievement as it was, was certainly not warm-and-fuzzy. Glad Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy were more decent toward each other, and that they basically acknowledged that two literary giants could coexist.

      Thanks so much for including me in your august to-read list! I’m very flattered — and feel like a minor-leaguer getting a one-time “cup of coffee” in the majors. I greatly appreciate the kind words!

      I’ve read about 10 books on your list, and there wasn’t a dud among them. Brief comments on some: “Alias Grace” might be my second favorite of Margaret Atwood’s many excellent novels — and her only work of historical fiction, I think. “The Poisonwood Bible” is a masterpiece, as is “Germinal.” Kingsolver’s and Zola’s best novels, I believe. “Brooklyn” is a lovely novel — and of course it was turned into the new movie. “The New Jim Crow” is a real eye-opener — one of the most important nonfiction books of recent years.

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      • Reportedly, Dostoevsky was not a very agreeable person either. Of course, he had a deck stacked against him pretty early–prison term in Siberia, the mock execution terror, the epileptic fits. Of course, most of his demons were internal–compulsive gambling, self-pity alternating with victimization, jealousy, intolerance, anti-Semitism, etc. I have said before that I can’t imagine him ever smiling. On the other hand, I recall reading the third (?) volume of Joseph Frank’s five-volume biography in which he’s on some land (after the prison term) doing what is essentially yard work. Imagine that: one of our unassailable literary heroes doing something as mundane as yard work. And, I imagine, he probably made out a grocery list at some point.

        Another point I just remembered. In ‘The Idiot’ as in a few of his other works, he is preoccupied with a man’s last moments before inevitable execution. I think he was reliving those horrifying moments he spent on the firing squad waiting for his extermination and his fiction was therapeutic for processing that preoccupation.

        It’s similar to Edgar Allan Poe’s fear of being buried alive. Now, to my knowledge, Edgar was never almost buried alive as Fyodor was almost executed but it fueled several nightmares and then fueled several of his stories. He seemed preoccupied with the image of ‘life in death’. He’s on my mind a bit because I did read a few of his stories on Halloween; it seemed an appropriate thing to do that day.

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        • Yes, Dostoyevsky had more — and more major — reasons for being less than agreeable. Which doesn’t excuse some of it (such as the anti-Semitism) but excuses a lot of it.

          When I think of Dostoyevsky doing mundane yard work (!!!), I wonder how mundane it was. Perhaps burying a body? 🙂 That could be a Poe thing, too — perhaps burying his own body (in a dream). “The Premature Burial” is certainly one of Poe’s most memorable stories, and of course death and fear of death pervade many of his other tales, too. Appropriate Halloween reading indeed!

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          • Premature burial seems to be a phobia shared by many in the 19th century–and I don’t think it all starts with Poe– but it would be a sort of perverse achievement for literature if it had. I recall seeing devices– a few– patented that allowed the buried to raise an alarm, should they wake up boxed in.

            On a semi-related note, as the departed were sometimes buried in their favorite jewelry, or with other valuables, there were also devices sold to foil grave-robbers, which included strategically-placed explosives– occasionally, to the later and injurious surprise of cemetery workers, and less often, to would-be thieves.

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            • With medicine not as sophisticated in the 19th century, perhaps there was more of a chance that someone in a temporary unconscious or comatose state might be mistaken for dead.

              Strategically place explosives — wow! I hadn’t heard about that. One of my favorite grave-opening scenes in a novel is in Darryl Brock’s time-travel/baseball book “If I Never Get Back.” If memory serves, Mark Twain asked the protagonist to do the digging!

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    • I’ve also only read one book on this list, but it’s certainly not measly. If you love Astor’s columns, then you will love his book. I’m sure I missed a lot of the humour due to geography and age (I was starting my first year of primary school when Dave started at E&P), but even still, SO funny.

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    • I must add that, concerning the unasterisked works, four of them are re-reads: ‘Angela’s Ashes’, ‘Sentimental Education,’ ‘The Wild Ass’s Skin’ and ‘Cousin Bette’, which may detract from that percentage of previously unread authors in some way as some would say I would be better off reading other works I haven’t read by those authors or by others I haven’t tried yet rather than revisit already read territory. I feel a bit differently. We listen to music more than once. We see movies more than once. We watch TV shows, especially reruns more than once. Why not re-read books? Besides, as has been said before, I won’t be the same person when I re-read them as I was when I read them the first time, in some cases over 30 years ago.

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      • Thanks, Brian! Though I reread less than I used to in order to try new (to me) authors, I still reread novels occasionally. As you note, rereading is not only enjoyable but can almost be like reading something for the first time if enough years pass from the previous read. Yes, we’re not exactly the same person — and we might have even forgotten enough of the novel to have it seem almost new to us. In an ideal world, I’d love to read and reread maybe at a ratio of 80/20. But given time constraints, it’s probably more like 98/2. 🙂

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  3. So many authors I have not read Dave and so little time…50 some books annually is a great achievement.
    Have not read Stephen King, Ana Rice, Dean Koontz ,..and thousands of others. I have a tendency to read books by the same author. Still waiting for the Grisham`s and I see a new book is out by John Irving. So I just reserved it at the Public Library..surprised to see not too many are asking for it.
    He was on NPR yesterday.
    Today is a book sale at our local branch..I am heading for that soon .
    If anything interesting i`ll let you know.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/books/review-in-john-irvings-avenue-of-mysteries-a-blur-of-aphorisms-and-magical-events.html?ref=books

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    • Good morning, bebe!

      We all have so many authors we haven’t gotten to. Thank you for helping to spur me to finally read Arundhati Roy, Stieg Larsson, John Grisham, and other great writers. 🙂

      I’m liking Anne Rice’s “The Witching Hour” a lot (long book — 965 pages). I also enjoyed the one Dean Koontz novel I tried (“Seize the Night”) and the 15 or so Stephen King books I’ve read.

      Interesting review of that new John Irving novel. Not sure if it sounds as appealing as some of his previous books. I’d like to hear your thoughts after you read it! Happy for you that it’s not a long waiting list.

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      • Went to the sale Dave..No ” The Lowland” , several Lee Child and I have read the ones they are selling. So ended up buying a CD Beethoven`s 5th,
        I needed to buy something since they gave a book book for free ” The Racketeer” last time.

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        • Sorry, bebe, that your long search for “The Lowland” still hasn’t been successful — and that there were no unread Reacher books there. 😦 (I think I’m “reaching” the end of the Reacher novels in my local library. I’ve read 14, and I see some of the other six there only sporadically. Keeping my fingers crossed for when I visit next week.) But a Beethoven CD sounds good! 🙂

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          • You have read a lot of Reacher Novels I am far behind Dave.
            This is way off topic…as we have discussed before I use Bobby Brown products ( your neighbor). not cheap. Yesterday I trotted to the mall 30 mins drive to get something that i like and to find out she has discontinued that. Today i found it in eBay , twenty dollar less and I ordered it.
            So there 🙂 i might look eBay there next time .
            If someone has 100% positive feedback i`ed look into it.

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            • Yes, bebe, Brown is a fellow Montclair resident, though I think she lives in NYC at least part of the time. My younger daughter has a close friend whose father is close friends with Brown’s husband — a local developer who is, shall we say, not very popular locally. 🙂

              Sorry that 30-minute trip was for nothing, but glad you found the product on eBay! Once in a while my wife and I have to order products (non-books) on Amazon when we can’t find a store that carries them.

              With Reacher books, if I can’t find a specific title in the hardcover fiction or paperback fiction sections of my local library, it’s sometimes in the large print section!

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      • You’re starting in the middle of the vampire fiction series that revived interest in the genre, for better or worse. Personally, I never felt Rice developed as a writer as much as she might have, except that success seemed to encourage length. But there are certainly parts of The Witching Hour I enjoyed reading– most of all, Rice’s description of New Orleans garden plantings, the result, I’m sure, of her own experience as a homeowner there

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        • Yes, I realize this is not one of Anne Rice’s earlier works. I do find “The Witching Hour” very engrossing so far (I’m on page 109 of…965 pages — yes, long!). I will mention the book again in my Nov. 15 blog post (two columns from this one) and give credit to you and two others for recommending it. Definitely plenty of New Orleans atmosphere when the novel isn’t in California!

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        • I was only sixteen or so when “Interview with the Vampire” was adapted into a movie (not even born when the book was published) but am I right in thinking that it was around mid-90s that Rice became a household name and the vampire thing took off? Maybe it was before then and I was just too young to notice / remember…

          Anyway, “The Witching Hour” is the first of a trilogy, so I don’t think you’re jumping into the middle of anything, Dave. I don’t mind the other two novels in the series, but I found “TWH” unnecessarily long and detailed. Though I agree that Rice absolutely brings New Orleans to life. And like jhNY, I’m not sure that success was a good thing for her. The most recent vampire novel is just bad. Really, really bad.

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          • Thanks, Susan, for being one of the people to recommend “The Witching Hour”! Yes, it’s lonnnggg, but so far it’s absorbing enough for me not to mind that. I like the way Anne Rice consecutively introduces characters in each chapter and then connects them with each other. And it is indeed a spooky novel.

            I haven’t read or seen “Interview with the Vampire,” but I think you’re right that the vampire thing took off (again) around that time. Then of course there was later stuff like the “Twilight” novels and movies. And way before that, the “Dracula” book (1897) and movie (1931). Perhaps all this holds up a mirror to those respective times — not that the Count can see himself in it… 🙂

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            • It’s funny how the vampire “rules” change from generation to generation. Might sound silly, but Rice makes her vampires pretty believable. They come with their own mythology and origin stories that actually make sense. And her early work is quite beautiful so that you almost expect to be bumping into vampires every time you’re out and about. If you do like “TWH”, then I recommend “Interview” as well as Rice’s other early stuff. I haven’t read much of her later novels, but what I have read seems to be kind of modernised, and she’s somehow lost the elegance and beauty that used to jump off the page.

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  4. Hi Dave, this week’s blog is so perfect for me right now, as I’ve just finished reading “Crime and Punishment” being my first Dostoyevsky. I simply have no words. But if this is a 5-star book, then “Gone with the Wind” (which was my favourite book last week) is probably now a 2. Or maybe a 1.5.

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    • So glad you loved “Crime and Punishment,” Susan! Truly one of the most riveting, deepest, psychologically complex novels ever written. When I reread it several months ago, I was totally awed with Dostoyevsky’s writing — and never bored for a second.

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      • And yet, Nabokov violently loathed the man and all his works. Not me though…but I confess I haven’t finished Crime and Punishment, though I got fairly well in some years ago. As a result, that book is always on my stack to the future (I have read other Dostoyevsky),– way down on the bottom by now.

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        • Didn’t know that Nabokov felt that way about Dostoyevsky. I guess everyone has their tastes, and Nabokov was a man of strong opinions. But I would understatedly say that Vladimir was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG about Fyodor, and THE HECK WITH HIM — and Humbert Humbert, too. 🙂

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          • I should add that the reason I got no further than I did in “Crime and Punishment” was the book’s power, which overwhelmed me at the time. I was not then (nor yet) prepared to go through the travails of the protagonist, even if there was some light at the end. Sort of the way I haven’t read more Richard Yates– the fault resides in me.

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      • Glad to hear that rereading is also pleasurable. I wondered how much of my enjoyment was not knowing what was going to happen in the story, and how much was because I went into this Russian classic (19th century Russians not known for their cheeriness) with some trepidation. But I can completely believe that Dostoyevsky’s characters could be fun to revisit even if I already know what I’m in for. Sheer brilliance.

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        • “Sheer brillance” — that’s it exactly, Susan!

          I reread “Crime and Punishment” quite a few years after first reading it, so while remembering the basic plot I had forgotten a lot of the details. But even if I had remembered most of it, I think I would have enjoyed the rereading. The novel is just so…feverish or something. Like watching a car wreck told in magnificent prose.

          While mostly deadly serious, Dostoyevsky can be humorous here and there — maybe more in “The Brothers Karamazov” than in “Crime and Punishment.” The iconic scene with the devil in “The Brothers Karamazov” is shocking and deadpan hilarious at the same time.

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          • I now can’t get to “The Brothers Karamazov” quickly enough. Heck, if Dostoyevsky had a shopping list published, I NEED to read it. Feverish is a GREAT word for “C&P”. Especially in the first half of the book, Raskolnikov would finally get a minute to himself, and I’d realise that I too desperately needed to take a deep breath as I was almost hyperventilating. A very claustrophobic book, but not in a bad way. And my vote is also with the murderer over the paedophile

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            • Ha, Susan! Yes, even a Dostoyevsky shopping list would be riveting. (I’m guessing a beard brush would be on it… 🙂 )

              I definitely hear you about needing to come up for air every once in a while while reading “Crime and Punishment.” Describing it as “claustrophobic” is so accurate — from Raskolnikov’s room to the novel’s general atmosphere. But, as you say, a claustrophobia a reader wants to experience.

              While “C&P” is very lean in its way, “The Brothers Karamazov” can ramble at times. But the good parts — and there are LOTS of them — rival “C&P,” and some consider “TBK” a better novel. I’m not one of them, but it’s still an amazing work.

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              • I can’t imagine that there’s a novel that exists that would come close to “C&P”. I don’t remember the last time that I found a story so completely enthralling, but I think I was about six or seven, and I just had to know if Lucy and her siblings found their way back to Narnia. Even something like “Pride and Prejudice” which I love dearly, is more about the characters. I will never get tired of Elizabeth and Darcy falling in love, but the story can be summed up in a few brief sentences. Not to take anything away from Austen. Her characters are so completely brought to life, that I care very much what happens to them, but at no time did I wonder if Darcy would even be alive in the last chapter, however I was very worried that poor Raskolnikov wouldn’t be around to see how it all turned out. For me, this works on every single level. And the characters are so diverse, that it has a beautiful blend of drama, and comedy, and horror, and everything in between.
                Just in case my comments have been too vague, in short, “I liked it; I really, really liked it!”

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                • Susan, terrific comment — including the very funny “I liked it; I really, really liked it!” conclusion referencing my column’s opening paragraph 🙂

                  I’m also a big fan of Jane Austen’s work, but her wonderful novels are indeed not intense, edge-of-the-seat “page-turners” like “Crime and Punishment.”

                  Hard to think of any authors that quite compare with Dostoyevsky. Emile Zola to some degree — he never hesitated to show the sordid, depressing side of life. But Zola, as much as I love his work, is not in Dostoyevsky’s league as a writer.

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                  • I was actually a little reminded of Maugham as I was reading (I’ve not yet read Zola) for much the same reasons. Should I be concerned that I get so much enjoyment out of reading about other people’s poverty? Maybe it’s just because it’s such a foreign idea in the “first world” countries of the 21st century.

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                    • Yes, there’s a bit of Dostoyevsky in Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage.”

                      I’m not sure we enjoy reading about other people’s poverty (and other troubles). But it IS fascinating and poignant and more to see that in literature. Not sure about Australia, but poverty is unfortunately very real in some of the first world country known as the U.S. of A. 😦 Not the poverty of the third world, but pretty darn bad.

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          • ‘Crime and Punishment’ was my ‘gateway’ Dostoevsky novel when I’d heard some friends in college raving about it and then took a ‘Russian Masterpieces in English Translation’ class as an elective before I graduated (original B.A. English, 30 years before I went to library school. I consider it his ‘Hamlet’ wheras ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ is his ‘King Lear’. ‘C&P’ like ‘Hamlet’ is preoccupied with one tormented protagonist wrestling with his conscience. ‘Brothers Karamazov’ deals with neglectful parents and sibling rivalry and is more of a family affair. Like those two twin peaks of Shakespeare’s career, it is hard for me to choose one as being greater than the other. I suppose ‘Brothers Karamazov’ edges out ‘Crime and Punishment’ slightly because it covers so much thematic territory and has ‘something for everyone’ in a sense.

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            • bobess48, thanks for the terrific thoughts on — and comparison of — “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov”! I like “C&P” a bit better, but agree that “TBK” covers more territory and is an even more ambitious work than the incredible “C&P.”

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            • I loved when the tormented protagonist was on his own. Those monologues were chock full of crazy and fear and arrogance and sometimes even love. I really can’t imagine getting as much out of a novel as I did with “C&P” but if “TBK” comes even close, then I’m sure I’ll love that too. But before that will be my first Steinbeck as I will be starting “The Grapes of Wrath” in the next week or so. I fear that any book is going to be a serious letdown after Dostoyevsky’s brilliance.

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              • Great comment, Susan! Those monologues WERE
                something, weren’t they? Mesmerizing.

                As I mentioned, parts of the longer “The Brothers Karamazov” drag a bit — a problem “Crime and Punishment” never has. But overall “TBK” is another tour de force from Fyodor D.

                “The Grapes of Wrath” is one of my favorite novels. So humane and compelling. Steinbeck couldn’t write like Dostoyevsky, but “Grapes” is still unforgettable. Please let me know what you think of it!

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    • Dave, will reply a little out of sequence as it’s becoming difficult to read. Sorry, sometimes I ramble…

      Re poverty, I guess it depends on your definition. I definitely feel that I live in the “lucky country” and am aware that we take a lot for granted (such as our health system) which other countries lack. And people would say that we have poverty here, but I disagree. We have people doing it tough, we have people without homes. But we also have a pretty good government that ensures all people are safe, and have enough to eat. People might choose lifestyles that compromise that, but we don’t go hungry sim[ply because there’s not enough work. A few years back I read George Orwell’s non fiction “Down and out in Paris and London”. It was such an eye opener for me about what no money really looks like. Truly horrific in places, though also very, very, funny. Not sure how Orwell made it work, but he certainly did.

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      • Yes, there’s poverty and then there’s POVERTY. More enlightened countries such as Australia, with a fairly good safety net, can ameliorate the worst of poverty. Unfortunately, the safety net in the U.S. is not as good. For instance, so many homeless in NYC and other major cities (even a few in my wealthy suburb). And America’s Republicans constantly trying to slash the safety net even more, so millionaires and billionaires can have their taxes made even lower than the low level they are now. Drives me crazy.

        I’ve heard about that Orwell book, but have never read it. I should. From what I’ve heard, Orwell’s nonfiction is every bit as powerful as his fiction.

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        • Yes, if there’s anything majorly wrong with our ‘enlightened government’ it’s the inequality. I think governing our country is an important job, and politicians should be well paid, I think creating and running big business is good for employment and the economy, and people who do it should be rewarded. I also think our health, safety, and education are incredibly important, and it would be nice to see our teachers, nurses, police force, and defence force ‘rewarded’ in the same way.

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  5. Dave, I must say I am really hoping to actually read Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” next year. I don’t know how I’ve failed to get it done so far but I have.

    I would like to read Hemingway at least once, I didn’t have to do that for school so he’s kind of been on the edge of my reading lists.

    For my obsession authors I would like to get three more Terry Pratchett books read next year. I only managed two. I also want to complete the “Miss Marple” series from Agatha Christie as I haven’t read the final novel yet.

    These goals are hopefully realistic with my new schedule.

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    • “Frankenstein” is a great book, GL, as is Mary Shelley’s “The Last Man” — an apocalyptic 1826 novel set in the 2090s, and featuring characters who are thinly veiled versions of the author (in a male role), Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron.

      I’m not a huge Hemingway fan, but do like some of his work — especially “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

      As I mentioned in my post, I hope to get to Terry Pratchett for the first time. Thanks for recommending him, as you recommended Neil Gaiman and James Fenimore Cooper. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sometimes new intentions, if not obligations crawl into your hand when you’re not looking.

    Went down to the laundry room for the usual reason, and there, unusually, were a few books free for the taking: I now have “The Monk” to read, a Yeats collection and a novel I’d never heard of that looks compelling: “Replay” by Ken Grimwood.

    Pretty sure I picked up that last one in part because earlier today I’d been reading Algernon Blackwood. Iceberg Goldberg, I guess.

    The stack to the future is a growth industry unto itself, faster than I can read by far. Anybody know where a fellow might buy a buttress? Flying optional.

    Gotta love NYC. Books from all over wash up to its teeming shores, and we denizens, like beachcombers, pluck the gloss from the dross.

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    • jhNY, I read “Replay” when I was going through a time-travel-book phase a few years ago! An excellent novel in that genre.

      Great that your laundry room has books for the taking! The laundry room in my apartment building has…lint. (Lint-erature?) NYC is indeed a book city.

      I know what you mean about our to-read lists outpacing our ability to keep up with them. I think I read one novel for every 5-10 I add to my list. 😦

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      • Yes I have– bought a collection Harry Lauder (a humorous Scots singer who my [Mexican] grandfather loved) 78’s from a homeless man who was selling them on a blanket. Found the last commercial 78’s Jelly Roll Morton ever recorded in the Salvation Army. Found a rare pressing of Bing Crosby being a bit less than PG (no label), and an acetate of Spike Jones there also. Also a Kol Nidre on a 14″ 78 sung for the victims of the Titanic.

        Took around 50 gospel 78’s from the 1930’s as payment for helping a lady move in the late 1970’s. Bought my first 50 blues 78’s in 1971 from another lady who’d married a preacher and thus could only play gospel in her home– she was the mother of a co-worker….Walter Davis, Kokomo Arnold, Lonnie Johnson– a trove!

        Then there’s the 1947 Martin 00-18 a homeless man gave me a while back in return for all the money I’d given him over the years– for which I gave him hundreds more, by the way (he came out ahead, believe me).

        So, yes.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very nice:) And it’s nice to have another Jelly Roll Morton fan on here.

          If your travels ever bring you to the West Coast, Pat’s Pub in downtown Vancouver might interest you. Jelly Roll was a member of the house band. He also lived in the adjoining hotel (The Patricia Hotel) during the 2 years he lived/played/worked in Vancouver.

          Pat’s Pub has lots of old photos of jazz legends on the wall, and I’ve always heard that the wood floor in the pub is the original floor from the 20s. Jelly Roll’s Canadian history is not well-known. His career in Vancouver was not as successful as it was in Chicago or New Orleans, so maybe that’s why his time in British Columbia is mostly forgotten.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Did not know of his spell in Canada! But, in a way, I’m not surprised. I have a book about him (somewhere around here) that contains a photograph of him and his wife outside their business establishment in Las Vegas NV– around 1910, at which time the place was nothing but a widening in the dusty road, lined for a block or so by storefronts. The man really got around.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Also, when I was tape librarian for a major record label, I found a number of ‘lost’ items– Sam and Dave, Bobby Darin, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Ray Charles, Cream, many more. I even got mentioned in the credits and liner notes of a few when they were released on cd.

              But as I was operating then on salary, and performing assigned tasks,I did not include these finds in my recounting yesterday

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  7. Hi Dave, not to brag about it, but I was in AP English in High School, and when I went to Drake University as a freshman, we had to write an essay on our first day in class. I can’t remember what it was about, but I apparently did well enough to pass out of Freshman English altogether and start taking Sophomore classes during my Freshman year. However, when I finally started school as a Junior at the University of Texas at Austen, they refused to honor that, so I had to take Freshman English before I could graduate. At this point, I switched my major to History, which has fewer hours needed to graduate. I love both of these disciplines, so it wasn’t a difficult decision.

    Liked by 1 person

        • Ha! Too funny, you guys! As you know, Dave, Jane Austen is my favorite author, and Austin, Texas, is one of my favorite cities. I sometimes wish I’d stayed there after graduation. If you’re going to live in Texas, Austin is the best place to be.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I agree about Austin, Kat Lib! Great city (one of my sisters-in-law lives there) and the place to be if one has to live in a state that’s so conservative in many ways. San Antonio is kind of appealing, too. As for Austen, if she were somehow alive today and visited the U.S., I imagine Texas might be her last choice for a state destination. Too much pride and prejudice there… 🙂

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            • Too true! Many of the people I knew there considered Texas as if it were its own country rather than a state (pride) and talked about “Mescans,” rather than “Mexicans” (prejudice).:) A few of my highlights were seeing Judy Collins in concert, as well as Poco at The Armadillo and the second half of Janis Joplin’s concert on campus (we snuck in, or should I say we were allowed to enter at the halfway point), and seeing “Giant” on the big screen.. I had a few friends that lived in San Antonio, and I did enjoy my visits there.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Well said, Kat Lib! This past weekend, I read the Jack Reacher novel “Echo Burning,” and Lee Child nailed the prejudice many white Texans have against people of Mexican descent.

                Austin in general (whether on campus or off) has a great music scene. Those were some memorable shows (or half shows 🙂 ) you saw!

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    • Kat Lib, a shame that your deserved pass out of Freshman English wasn’t honored and you had to take that class after all. Sometimes, colleges (and other entities) are too rigid with their rules. I majored in English myself, but wouldn’t have minded majoring in History — which is another kind of interesting to go along with literature being interesting. 🙂

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      • I’m not even sure why I mentioned this, other than all my mini-reunions with friends and family the last three weeks have me thinking about the past. This can be fun, except when one also thinks about the injustices as well. However, if this was one of the main injustices of my life, I have no reason to complain about anything! Overall, life has been very good to me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • No problem, Kat Lib! Memories can be strong, and it’s totally understandable for them to be stirred up by your recent mini-reunions. College was long ago for me, too, yet it’s such a vivid and transformative time that I also remember tons of things — good things and injustices alike.

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  8. Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, and Primo Levi have been on my list since…forever. I keep getting sidetracked. I’m reading Canadian literature now. There is no timeline for when I return to my “new author/to-read” list.

    Honestly though, I’m trying to break the habit of organising my reading. I read for pleasure and don’t care for how I tend to micromanage this activity. If I don’t get to Plath, Vonnegut, or Levi before the end of this year, that’s fine. Whatever direction my reading takes me, that’s where I’ll go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ana!

      I hear you about not being too organized about reading. That makes it more fun. Though I’m conscious of wanting to try authors I’ve never read before, I’m very open to (often haphazardly) reading many different writers — including those with whom I was previously “acquainted.”

      I was very late to Kurt Vonnegut myself — not reading him until about two years ago. I read Sylvia Plath long ago, and have never tried Primo Levi.

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      • BTW, I forgot to give you props for adding Octavia Butler to your list. She was the first sci-fi writer I ever read who worked anthropology, spiritualism, sociology, natural history, science, psychology, and (to some extent) religion into time travel. Time travel normally deals with the “what ifs” and alternate history, but Butler went beyond that. “Kindred” just blew my mind. Very unique concept that stayed with me long after I read the book.

        Her final years were not kind. She wasn’t struggling financially, but did suffer from writer’s block and depression. She died at her home which is about 13 miles north of here.

        Octavia Butler is/was well-known across the Northwest. My husband has all of her novels. His Butler collection looks like my Steinbeck collection.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ana, Octavia Butler has been very prominent on my to-read list since you described “Kindred” so enthusiastically. I looked for that book during my last library trip, and it wasn’t there but will look again. It sounds like a novel that crosses all kinds of genres and subjects. Can’t wait to read it!

          Great that Butler was from your neck of the woods, and that your husband is also a big fan.

          But sorry to hear about her difficult final years. I also see from Wikipedia that she died relatively young — at 58. 😦 (Same age as Charles Dickens, for whatever that’s worth.)

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          • She was working on book 3 of the Parable series at the time of her death, but it wasn’t coming together successfully. I hope the person(s) in charge of her estate would consider turning her home into a literary house, a workshop site for sci-fi authors, or an extension of the sci-fi museum in Seattle. Octavia Butler should be honoured in some way. It would be a shame for her beautiful home to just sit there and deteriorate.

            If you get a chance, you should check out her fan page on FB. Lots of good content on there.

            Have a good day, Dave.

            (Travels With Rudolph though…still chuckling at that)

            Liked by 1 person

            • It would be great if Octavia Butler’s home were used for one or more of the purposes you mentioned, Ana. Places like that should endure; it was so horrible a year or two ago when some rich guy tore down Ray Bradbury’s longtime home in Los Angeles.

              Have a good day, too! (And thanks for still chuckling at that quip. 🙂 )

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              • I didn’t know that about Ray Bradbury’s home. How sad. Developers, the wealthy, and their paid-off politicians don’t care about preserving literary history, or any type of history.

                There was a lot of back and forth regarding the fishing boat that John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts sailed on during the Sea of Cortez period. Local historians wanted to keep it here in Washington state since it was built in Tacoma and is currently in a boat yard on the Olympic Peninsula. Some rich guy wanted to completely destroy the boat and use the wood to build a bar. Then at some point, another rich guy wanted to destroy the boat, have the pieces shipped to California, then rebuilt and used as a tourist attraction/restaurant. I should really go over there and take some pictures of it in its original condition before…whatever happens to it happens.

                Anything to make a buck, I guess…

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                • So true and sad about various bigwigs having no interest in preserving history when they want to make lots of money on development or when they want to build a bigger/garish home to house their egotistic/entitled selves.

                  Some rich guy wanted to destroy the Steinbeck/Ricketts boat to use the wood for a bar? Disgusting. Lots of money but few morals. 😦

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                  • It was a ridiculous concept. The bar was supposed to be built in a Monterey Bay restaurant so that tourists and customers could be connected to Steinbeck in some way. I somewhat get that, but using the wood from his boat to build the actual bar didn’t make any sense.

                    I’m anticipating an announcement about a joint public-private investment into restoring and repurposing the boat. Translation: Mr. Developer will seek (and get) public money to build a new toy, so if the venture fails, he is off the hook financially, but the taxpayers are not.

                    Or maybe you can buy the boat with profits from your Travels With Rudolph book:) Have a good weekend, Dave.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • I don’t like that bar concept, either, Ana. Ridiculous is the word.

                      As for your second paragraph, so typical of developers (and other corporate types) to privatize the gain and socialize the loss. Hate it. 😦

                      “Or maybe you can buy the boat with profits from your Travels With Rudolph book” — hilarious!!!

                      Have a great weekend, too!

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    • Thanks, Michele! I remember that Salman Rushdie work being recommended. I’ve heard Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” is also excellent. All I’ve read of that author is his “The Satanic Verses,” which of course evoked as much controversy as a book could evoke.

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  9. “Which authors are you eager to try for the first time?”

    I took a slightly different route. I only read new fiction. I check the publication date and only buy it if it is less than a year old. Of course, being retired, I am buying fewer books but the NEW FICTION shelf at our local library is a constant delight.

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    • Thanks, Almost Iowa! It’s so interesting the different ways people approach fiction reading. I tend not to read brand-new fiction, usually waiting at least a year or two before getting to a current novel. (I did make an exception with the “Harry Potter” books. 🙂 ) One reason is that my local library lends out new releases for only two weeks rather than a month (and those new releases are often checked out, with long waiting lists).

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    • “…No single story would they find/
      Of an unbroken happy mind,/
      A finish worthy of the start./
      Young men know nothing of this sort,/
      Observant old men know it well;/
      And when they know what old books tell,/
      And that no better can be had,/
      Know why an old man should be mad.”
      WB Yeats

      (already my find today of a Yeats collection in the laundry room is yielding dividends)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great essay as always Dave, I wonder were you inspired by that silly question from the CSNBC debate ,something like what are your weakest qualities as a reader. While there being only so many hours in a day may be true I can not in good faith plead a shortage of time for my failure to read In Search of Lost Time. Tried many times over many years and shall darn well try again. Years ago I had a friend who asked me to guide him thru a list of classics he’d missed that I thought he might be able to enjoy. We’d been on a run of some great successes ( Hardy, Gogol & Cormac among others) when I presented him with my well thumbed copy of Moby Dick. Didn’t go so well , whenever the topic of the novel came up his response was ” I haven’t gotten past call me ” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Donny! Glad you liked the post! 🙂

      I haven’t watched any of the Republican debates, so I missed that question you referred to. (I HAVE read lots of coverage of the debates, and, like many other people, have been appalled and fascinated with how godawful the candidates are.)

      I also tried “In Search of Lost Time” (got through some of the “Swann’s Way” section) and was full of admiration for Proust’s writing yet bored almost silly at the same time. That’s great perseverance on your part to intend to try again.

      Gogol, Thomas Hardy, and Cormac McCarthy are SO worth reading.

      Your friend’s “Moby-Dick” response is hilarious! I had mixed feelings about “M-D” when I first read it as a teen, but I reread it about a decade ago and was blown away (must have been something about the Pequod’s sails… 🙂 ).

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  11. Dave, 50 novels a year…wow. I’ve always got a book going but I read maybe half that over the course of a year. Thought I’d have more time to read when I retired. Not quite working out that way.

    My tastes are pretty eclectic: literary fiction, but I don’t mind the occasional diversion with Stephen King or science fiction (recently finished The Martian). In my latter years I gravitated to more non-fiction (social/historical/cultural stuff). The occasional odd biography (usually about alcoholic actors, writers for some reason). In fiction I prefer novels to short stories. Prefer to watch plays as rather than read them.

    I’ve always regretted not getting more into Russian literature. I am ashamed to admit I started Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Idiot and could not finish. However, his Notes from the Underground is good. I’d be afraid to touch Tolstoy. Turgenev has a really good short novel, Fathers and Sons. I’ve read and seen Checkov’s plays.

    In graduate school, my concentration was 19th century American. So, over time I’ve read Moby-Dick and Adventures of Huck Finn 3-4 times each. During one semester the reading load was so heavy that I had to read The House of the Seven Gables in one day.

    In recent years my concentration and energy aren’t what they used to be and time spent reading is in short bursts.

    What’s probably never going to happen: War and Peace, Finnegan’s Wake, Gravity’s Rainbow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your wide-ranging comment, Joe!

      I know of people who (say they) read 75, 100, 150 novels a year, and I don’t know how they do it. I can pull off an average of a book a week if I squeeze in reading every spare moment: while I’m eating (if I’m alone), while exercising on a stationary bike, while waiting on line somewhere, etc.

      Like you, I enjoy toggling between literary fiction and popular fiction (and love Stephen King’s work, too. 🙂 ) What did you think of “The Martian”? I’ve wanted to read it, though I imagine there’s a long waiting list for it at my local library now that the movie is out.

      Nineteenth-century Russian lit does have some amazing works. “Fathers and Sons” is indeed one of the shorter ones, and a very good novel. I reread “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov” during the past year or two and give the first an A++ and the second an A+. I read “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” decades ago, and loved them but don’t think I can bring myself to reread them.

      And 19th-century American lit definitely has some gems worth reading multiple times. You referred to what many consider the big three: Melville, Twain, and Hawthorne. I’ve also found well worth reading Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, James Fenimore Cooper, Stephen Crane, Walt Whitman…

      As for your last paragraph, I don’t think I’ll read the last two books you mentioned, either. 🙂

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    • Howdy, Joseph Domino!

      — What’s probably never going to happen: War and Peace, Finnegan’s Wake, Gravity’s Rainbow. —

      Although I am a big fan of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” I completely share your (and Dave’s) opinion about James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” and Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”: One page of the former and about 50 pages of the latter convinced me life is too short for this kind of self-abuse. Buzz bombs away, dream babies riverrun.

      J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

      Liked by 1 person

      • “…life is too short for this kind of self-abuse” — well said, J.J.! I like challenging novels, but the reputation of some novels seems to cross the border from challenging to headache-inducing. Brave of you to try those two books in question.

        Now I will step aside and wait for Joe’s reply to you. 🙂

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        • — Brave of you to try those two books in question. —

          Because of my channeling of Pan Zagloba in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s scintillant “With Fire and Sword” in recent weeks, I may have exaggerated this bravery in the case of “Finnegans Wake”: It was more like one-half — OK, one-third — of a page than a full page: Bababad to the bone . . .

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        • They say there’s lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake– but they lie.

          I always figured, if Ulysses was hard going, (and it was) Finnegan and I would never spend much time together. So far, I’m right.

          Have read the other two though… and learned, among other things, that Borodino is not a town in Italy, and that V2’s did the darnedest things, possibly in response to prurient reasons. Also– patronymics are confusing, especially many, especially as many might apply to one.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ha, jhNY! If the “Finnegans Wake” novel was placed in a coffin, THAT might be a fun wake. 🙂

            And thanks for using the word “patronymics.” I didn’t know it, I looked it up, and now I’ve learned a new word!

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      • Interesting column, Dave. I may not be as voracious a reader of novels as you are, because I also like to read history, biography, philosophy etc. I just pick new or old books based on instinct or association and go from there. There are so many talented writers today it’s hard to choose. I think I’ve read most of the “great books” by now but of course I don’t remember them! I keep trying and failing to like certain authors, e.g. Thackeray and Trollope. I also keep trying and failing to like science fiction and fantasy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the excellent comment, Jean! I used to also read a lot of nonfiction books (mostly biographies) but got away from that the past few years as I focused on fiction. And I think it’s great to choose by “instinct or association” from among the massive amount of books out there! I often do that as well, even as I try to make sure that some of the books I choose are by authors I’ve never read before.

          I liked but didn’t love “Vanity Fair” (the only Thackeray novel I’ve read) and also wasn’t that enamored with the couple of Trollope books I tried. Sci-fi and fantasy? I’ve found some of it to be terrific and some to be tedious. Which I suppose one can also say for general fiction. 🙂

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  12. Hi Dave, there are so many authors, but as far as classics go, I’d like to read someday: W. Somerset Maugham, Fyordor Dostoyesfsky, Robert Penn Warren, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Makepeace Thackery. I have books in my home by three of them, so I’m not sure what is holding me back from reading their books, other than most of them are very long. Somehow the older I get, the less time I want to spend on one book. As to more modern writers, there is Andy Weir, Rachel Joyce, Junot Diaz, Donna Tartt, Jojo Moyes, just to name a few. I’m sure I’ve left off half the authors I’d like to read someday Oh, unless I forget, Lee Child. I was with my brother several times this past week, and I chided him for not sending me a Reacher novel (I guess I’m on own here). It was funny to hear my sister-in-law talk about how my brother spent at least two weeks complaining about Tom Cruise being cast in the role of Reacher, yet he still had to go see the movie. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kat Lib, you named some GREAT authors you’d like to read.

      To address just a few of them: I finished Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage” last week, and it’s long (700 pages) but SO good. I found Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” to be riveting and “The Brothers Karamazov” more challenging than “C&P” but ultimately almost as good. Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men” is one of the best political/political corruption novels ever.

      I hear you about hesitating to read long books. I do that here and there, but I keep thinking that I could be reading three other novels instead during the same period of time. 🙂

      Loved your engaging paragraph about the Reacher books! Given how addicting that series is, I can see people wanting to see the movie even though Tom Cruise is so wrong for the part. This weekend I read the Reacher novel “Echo Burning” — another impressive Lee Child title, with the added bonus of it dealing very skillfully with onerous anti-Hispanic prejudice.

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      • Junot Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is an amazing novel (with great footnotes, too 🙂 ). I guess Diaz is in the Donna Tartt/Jonathan Franzen/Jeffrey Eugenides “School of Not Putting Out New Stuff That Often.”

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        • Aren’t those footnotes incredible?! They could easily be published as a separate piece, like a collection of short stories. Too many footnotes are usually very distracting for me, but Diaz nailed it.

          Waiting on a new Junot Diaz novel is like waiting on a new Rush album. No matter how much fans beg and beg for new releases, it doesn’t happen.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I agree, Ana, that those footnotes are incredible, welcome, informative, historical, funny, and more. They could definitely stand alone.

            Junot Diaz might have had a new collection of stories in the past year or two, but his novel efforts are indeed scarce. “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is his only one so far, according to Wikipedia. Rush is more productive — and they have “foot notes” when Geddy and Alex press those pedals. 🙂

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              • Just checked — “This Is How You Lose Her” came out in 2012. You were a lot closer than I was! Somehow I had thought it was more recent. I’ve never read any of Junot Diaz’s short stories. Have you? If you’ve read “Drown,” how was it?

                Wikipedia lists a possible future Diaz novel called “Monstro.” Intriguing title…

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                • Drown is pretty good. In a collection of short stories, there’s usually one (maybe two) that I don’t care for. That’s not the case here. All ten are impressive. I can see where some of the characters and themes in Oscar Wao were taken from Drown. One of the stories is like a teaching guide on how to attract/date girls from different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. I literally laughed out loud. Very funny stuff.

                  Liked by 1 person

  13. If I have ever read a novel or short story by William Faulkner, for the life of me, I have no memory of it. I can’t imagine that I got through high school and college without some assigned reading by Faulkner, but I must have. Where would you recommend that I start, Dave? Or WOULD you recommend that I start?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, lulabelle! Well said!

      There are definitely some regular commenters here who’ve read a LOT more Faulkner than I have. I’ve tried “The Sound and the Fury” twice, and couldn’t get past the first few dozen pages each time. I also read (and finished!) “Light in August,” which I thought was excellent. When I read Faulkner again, it’ll probably be “As I Lay Dying,” which several commenters here have recommended.

      I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy, who’s obviously influenced quite a bit by Faulkner.

      Liked by 1 person

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