Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Sins of omission

Stephen Moss in the Guardian has an amusing piece about books one has never read, after A.A. Gill confessed that he had not read Cranford, currently the BBC's Sunday tea-time serial (I've read it, nya nyah.)

Stephen's erudite list of books he has either not read or not completed is:

The Bible (I've dipped, no more)
The Koran (ditto)
Saint Augustine's City of God
Dante's Divine Comedy (more blind, braindead dipping)
Boccacio's The Decameron
Vasari's Lives of the Painters
Thomas More's Utopia
Proust (several failed attempts)
The Brothers Karamazov (several failed attempts, including one three weeks ago that ended in me almost shooting myself on about page 212).

And here is mine:
Couldn't finish
War and Peace (can't get past all the nattering in the opening chapters)
Dance to The Music of Time
Proust (about two thirds through, but I'm still alive, and I will finish one day, the problem is that as a writer if you are reading Proust you start to think like him)
London Fields
Moby Dick
Tristram Shandy

Never read
The Naked and the Dead
Finnegan's Wake
Almost all of Henry James
Cormac McCarthy

Do add your own embarrassing failures.


60goingon16 said...

Joseph Conrad - the complete works.

(Relieved to see that you didn't get through Austerlitz either. I thought it was just me.)

indigo16 said...

Love Dickens,Collins etc but never managed any of Jane Austin so when I saw the film Sense and Sensibility I cried like a baby.I was the only person I knew where the ending came as a suprise.

Natasha said...

Give War & Peace another chance and skip the chapters with Napoleon. They don't addd much to the story, similiar to the chapters about whaling in Moby Dick. Yet the main story is truly heartbreaking.
I myself find Nietzsche quite disheartening and I fell asleep on the first pages of Ulysses and stopped reading Ecos Focaults Pendulum after the never ending mathematical introduction.

gamma said...

My Have Not Read list is encyclopedic in its breadth and depth. Might I suggest a book to put at the top of your towering To Read pile?

Pierre Bayard wrote How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read, a recent release that posits the notion that one cannot possibly read all the classic literature, current releases, and books written by people you meet (he is a professor of French Lit, so for him it is an occupational hazard). The rest of the book is about how to deal with this unavoidable circumstance.

Since reading this, I feel much better about the books I haven't read.

Twistie said...

War and Peace and Tristram Shandy are among my great favorite books.

On the other hand, no power on Earth will ever get me through Moby Dick or anything written by James Joyce. And Proust has never sounded much like my cuppa, either.

Still, I figure I've read so much Austen and Trollope and Eliot (both George and TS) and Shakespeare (Yes, I've read All's Well That Ends Well and seen A Winter's Tale performed live, so I think I've done pretty well with the Bard) that I feel I've covered some darn good classic ground, and no longer need to feel ashamed that I've never actually read Plato and that I Thomas Hardy makes my brain bleed.

Thomas said...

I have tried, and failed, about 30 times to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I can't really account for it, other than to say it's a really big book.

Not a single work by Hemmingway.

htwollin said...

Thomas - Jonathan Strange is in the "I've got to keep trying" pile next to the bed. I pick it up; I read a few pages; I throw it down on the pile in annoyance. I cannot finish it either.
To add to the list of "haven't read": anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Norman Mailer or Joyce Carrol Oates. Shoot, just list it as "all 20th Century US Authors."
I managed to get through my BA/English avoiding this entire section by assiduously applying myself to the 16th through 19th centuries, theatre and taking every Shakespeare course the school had.

Sue Doc said...

I almost always struggle through with the books I've started, except for Joyce. I read about 10 pages of Ulysses and suddenly had an overwhelming, irresistable feeling that I HAD to stop reading it. I fared a little better with Portrait of the Artist but... not much.

I do love Strange & Norrel, though it doesn't get interesting until the 2nd quarter of the book, sadly.

Anonymous said...

Well I *did* finish "London Fields" but never did finish "Gravity's Rainbow". Phyllis

enc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
enc said...

The Henry James novel I read was a real eye-glazer.

I quite liked "Lolita," though.

I started Dante's "Inferno," and it's heavy going.