Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


The Bookshelf of Good Intentions

David Lodge is best known for the parlor game Humiliation (in Changing Places), wherein English faculty players score highest for admissions of not having read the most essential literary works. But this is a sport for pros, or those who profess to be, and I'm unabashed by my (lack of) standing, which is the sole confessional aspect to all this; I've never aspired to be scholar, critic, or reviewer; and writer, while more a game for amateurs, was but a faint calling, subordinate to being a reader, as one of the ways of playing along. As such, it is not a competition with other readers, nor with the author, apart from a problematic sense that Nabokov described (as I've elaborated on).

So why take inventory of what I have yet to read? In part to place a marker for what I set out to do, which I'm looking forward to looking back upon, not nearly as much as I anticipate the pleasure of the reading itself. In part to encourage myself (don't need any one else's, thx) and not Look on thine works, ye mighty, and despair! In part to excuse in advance the paucity of postings (but there are other excuses reasons for that) and to provide fodder for one (what better to write about at length but long works long deferred?). Nothing to do with making up excuses; it's more the case that stochastic processes aren't just be about traversing the space by rolling the dice, but may involve calculating waiting times for determined moves. Also not a New Year's resolution, rather an ongoing one, not to be achieved in a mere year's time, nor pre-empting the rest of the literature stacked on the shelf (though not quite so heavily) or its continuing accretion, or for that matter other heavy reading in philosophy, maths, etc. So here's a score or so, tallied up:

Works in progress, which have permitted being taken piecemeal, between other reading:
Cao Xueqin, The Story of the Stone: Halfway through the middle volume; C-R rates this most high, but so too with Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, which I found to be among the causes (and so, in nonprogress, though someday ...), and in this case is a milder overstatement. I'm hoping that the final volumes, compiled by Gao E, do not fall off in quality. 9.1.09 Done: comments here.
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: Through Groups A, B1, D of the A.C. Cawley edition. I'd previously managed not to encounter any of it despite its being standard secondary school fare.

Works demanding more complete attention, and soon:
Vladimir Nabokov, Eugene Onegin: I've been through the first volume, Pushkin's poem, but not in tandem with the annotations, which are the point (and pointed). Spurred on by the recently released Verses and Versions, and not merely in the spirit of completeness; it's not to learn Russian, but to learn Pushkin, and Nabokov, and poetry, and translation, and language, and method. Also, to be read in parallel, Charles Johnston's translation, which claims to take VN's take into account.
Robert Graves, The White Goddess: Still unread, despite many prods (thx johnr). A personal universalist mythology of greater interest to me than that of Freud/Jung/Lacan/et ilk.
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past: The latest addition weighing heavily on the shelf, though not the latest edition, as the title rendering makes clear.

Others, more patiently waiting their turn:
Carlos Fuentes, Terra Nostra
Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales
James Merrill, The Changing Light at Sandover: The longest resident on the shelf (except possibly for Finnegans Wake), joined recently by Collected Poems
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur
E.T.A. Hoffman, The Best Tales of Hoffman
W.H. Auden, The English Auden
Ezra Pound, The Cantos of Ezra Pound
Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet
Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed: A long engagement ...
I.A. Goncharov, Oblomov: Somehow putting this off indefinitely seems to be in keeping with the spirit of things.

Rereads (all first read 20 years ago and more):
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita without bits missing
Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Homer, Iliad & Odyssey Fagles' translation

Not yet procured but intended to be on the shelf:
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji

Best of the season to all!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can sneak in Chaucer's poem "Parlement of Fowles", you will get the low-down on St. Valentine's Day just in time.

R. Mueller

7/1/09 03:18  

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