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Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I forgot who had this comment once, randomly on the internet, about not liking to work on poetry because it was a subject where you read a little bit, a short text or two, then spent a long time ruminating on what you've read. To work on the novel, in contrast, you get absorbed in a narrative. I'd imagine you would read the novel once just to read it, then read it a second time taking notes, then have it on hand while you work on the paper about the novel. The narrative flow of the novel helps to structure the critical paper.

Well, I don't like reading novels that much. It is not an essential part of my reading. I know I should read more, but I like the short bursts of reading followed by rumination. I like having to structure my essays around conceptual arguments, not narrative plots. I like having a poem in my head, memorized.

At one time I read Lord of the Rings every summer. My dad and I would read every novel by Philip Roth, John Updike, and Saul Bellow as they came out. Once I gave him for Christmas the same Updike novel that he gave me. I re-read The Cave by Robert Penn Warren multiple times. The same for Catch-22. I read A Dance to the Music of Time, all however many volumes of it. I read the first three series of the Episodios nacionales. At one point I plowed through all the major Boom novels.d I've read DQ about four times all the way through. I've read many novels to teach them as well. Yet I don't read novels as a form of entertainment very much any more. I'd rather reread than read.


Leslie B. said...

Did you know Lluís Monguió?

He always said this. If he had to read narrative, he preferred history, because it was stranger than fiction and funnier.

Jonathan said...

I didn't know him, but I think reality is a lot more interesting. A fiction writer has to make things believable, or spice them up with superfluous magical effects.