In the introduction to the book Aspects of the Novel, the author E. M. Forster says that his subject is to analyze the literary works written in English. He asks himself: can he ignore the prose written in other languages? He states, “as unpleasant and unpatriotic it sounds, the truth has to be faced. No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy – he has given a complete picture of man’s life, both on its domestic and heroic side. No English novelist has explored man’s soul as deeply as Dostoevsky. And no novelist anywhere has analyzed the modern consciousness as successfully as Marcel Proust.”
Does it mean it is enough to read ONLY these three authors? Probably, yes. I mean, it should be your starting point before you’d read anything else. Let me remind you that Nabokov read War and Peace at the age of 14.
Damn, you can do it too! 💪
You are older, wiser, and there’s a lockdown…
Let’s say hello to the best classics?!
I am just kidding. I don’t want you to read ONLY classics. I want you to read anything – random books you see in the bookshops or spotting online. By the way, have you heard about bookshop.org, which unites over 130 indie shops? It was created in contradiction to Amazon. Let me know your thoughts about it.
If you feel worried or troubled by not reading enough or too little (because, hey! who’ve got time for this? 😂) – relax, many famous “bestselling authors” never read War and Peace or Brothers Karamazov.
The TLS magazine (Times Literary Supplement, the November issue) posted an article called “Shame Games.” Over the past few years, they ran a series of short interviews on their website. Writers were asked this question: What’s the most famous book you haven’t read?
Around 250 authors are replied (such as Carol Ann Duffy, Andre Aciman, Tessa Hadley, Pat Barker, Olga Tokarczuk, Naomi Klein, Sebastian Barry, Edmund White, David Sedaris, and others). Of 250 authors, 19 had never read In Search of Lost Time, 11 – never read Moby Dick, 10 – never read War and Peace, 9 – fail to see Ulysses‘ charms, 8 – have been locked out of Bleak House. Not far behind are the books like Don Quixote, Middlemarch, The Brothers Karamazov. Also, do not bother asking some of the famous authors about 1984 or Brave New World either… Hm, they said they heard of it. It means they know “what they’re like anyway, by cultural osmosis.”
Of course, it is crucial to save time for living… we can’t read everything. So, please, do not feel ashamed!
Let’s get back to Nabokov. On the question of what he is usually reading, he said, “anything – commercial, classics, modern, poetry… whatever comes my way.” And when someone asked him, “what had he learned from reading Joyce,” he answered, “nothing.”
A very strong opinion!
But if shame will come to you (for not reading enough), remember Emily Berry’s words: “It’s important to save time for staring into space.”
In the end, I would like to remind you, whatever you read you shouldn’t categorize authors; the only category is originality and talent.
In the Christmas mood or… lacking any mood?
Check this blog, filled with advent-spirit of December – LibrePaley Blog
Next post – The brilliance of D. H. Lawrence: a pornographer or a genius? (15/12)