Friday, December 02, 2005

My first literary epiphany.

I've always loved to read. The old story is that my parents used to yell at me to stop reading and look out the window on our vacation car trips (Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, New Mexico, Arizona, etc). I just wasn't interested in the scenery.

But I've always read more in terms of quantity than quality. I read very quickly, but getting through a lot of pages comes at the expense of retention--ask me what a book was about a few months (or weeks) after I've finished it, and I'm normally at a loss. Reading quickly helps in school--I've never not finished a book (I'm going to use "book" to imply something fictional here) for a class (high school or college). Granted, this wasn't too hard, because we didn't have THAT much to read in high school, and in college I usually took only one reading-intensive class per semester, and the rest of my course slots were filled with organic chemistry and differential equations. (Seriously, those 2 semesters of differential equations were probably the biggest waste of time in terms of when-will-I-use-this-in-real-life-terms. With orgo, I can read big chemical names on processed food packages and stuff, but differential equations?)

Plus, in college I normally took courses with "fun" reading instead of classes involving a lot of literary criticism--my very first semester at school I took a class called "Literary Animals" (we read literature written from animals' perspectives), and if I remember correctly, my final project involved reading a book about this horse and then taking an oral exam where the professor asked me questions and I had to respond from the point of view of the horse. (At this point, my parents are thinking, "we paid $30,000 a year for THIS?")

What I'm trying to say is that while I love to read, I'm not one of those people who can give you a cogent, insightful criticism of a book. So imagine my surprise when I was reading Lolita (I've read it twice before, but I'm rereading it for our December book club) and I came across a number of references Nabokov makes to another famous literary work. (I'm being deliberately vague here, because we haven't had our book club meeting yet, and some of the members might read this.) I was so happy! My first literary epiphany!

And then the next morning, I googled my discovery (don't click if you're in the book club and haven't finished the book!), and I found pages and pages of text written about this. Was I upset? Hell no! I don't care if this is something every high school kid learns in class. I discovered it by myself! I'm validated by published literary criticism!

Differential equations were nowhere near this exciting.


Blogger Wicket said...

Huzzah for literary snobbiness!

I remember reading the complete unabridged Les Miserables in the seventh grade just so that I could announce how many pages it was (and oh dear I still remember: 1232). As it turned out, it became one of my favorite books.

It's delightful to "get it."

5:38 PM  
Anonymous rotorglow said...

How funny that you're reading that now. I haven't read it in a long time, but just this week I watched Kubrick's Lolita for the first time! It's fantastic. Please don't ask why it took me so long to get around to it; I have no idea. But when y'all are done with the book, you should see it if you haven't already.

8:42 PM  
Blogger BS said...

I haven't read Lolita since college, though my copy moves with me from apartment to apartment. What a nice little reminder to re-crack a spine. Thanks TK!

11:28 PM  
Blogger winnekat said...

Holy cow Wicket, that's a LOT of pages. That's an interesting question, what's the longest book I've ever read? I'd have to think about that.

I think we might see the Kubrick version as part of our book club meeting, actually! I saw the Jeremy Irons/Dominique Swain film when it came out, and I think that version is supposed to be more faithful to the book, but I really don't remember it all that much. And right, Kubrick! Worth seeing just for that factor.

BS, you HAVE to reread Lolita! I think it's entered into one of my Top 5 slots. Nabokov is great--there are a ton of plays on words (puns, anagrams, etc) that I didn't pick up until I read it for the third time. And you know how I feel about anagrams! It really holds up to repeated readings.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Wicket said...

What do you think of this opinion of Seattle bookworminess?

1:20 PM  
Anonymous rotorglow said...

Yeah, I'd say the Irons/Swain version (dir. Adrian Lyne) is more faithful to the text of the book, but that one suffers a bit from Lyne's gauzy sense of "atmosphere," and the Kubrick version is maybe a better interpretation of the parodic (is that a word?) aspects of the book. And Nabokov wrote the screenplay. James Mason and Peter Sellers (with Kubrick, of course) are geniuses, and Sue Lyon is perfect.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Captain inappropriate said...

I am REALLY impressed you did all your reading for school! My parents have a shelf of books I was supposed to read for class that I still want to get to one day.

Did you ever finish that Doestoyevsky book you brought to Europe? The Summer (or whatever her name was) story came up last night and I couldnt remember the which book it was.

10:52 AM  
Blogger paducci said...

differential equations need love too...

6:03 PM  
Blogger NH said...

i have a hard time reading books that i read too... but it makes rereading so much more fun!

7:46 PM  
Blogger winnekat said...

I heard that Seattle is the most literate city! That is very cool. (Interestingly, last year, right before I moved here, Seattle was also voted the "most fit" city [by Men's Health magazine maybe?] but I have nothing to do with that award.)

I definitely want to see the Kubrick version eventually. (PS--I just requested North by Northwest from the library, per your suggestion. I *think* I saw it on tv a looooong time ago, but definitely not at a time when I could appreciate that sort of thing.)

CI--that was Crime and Punishment. I have STILL not finished it. I am pretty ashamed of that. (Ha! Summer. That was funny. Was that her name? I might have it in my journal somewhere.)

10:50 AM  
Blogger winnekat said...

I have mad love for differential equations! They're just not my idea of a great time. Plus, my professor used the lowercase xi a lot, and I could never get the hang of writing that.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you had an entire class on books written from an animal's perspective? A friend just got me a book for my bday about cats who solve mysteries. It looks really cute.

Off the top of my head, the longest book I ever read was Pandora's Star by Peter Hamilton at 992 pages.

8:20 AM  

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