Sunday, March 2, 2014

Great literature-II

The next monster on the agenda was War and Peace which is included in this list of 10 greatest books ever written. (It is also the next great book that Dawkins wanted to read some months ago.) But when I looked it up, it turned out to be not just a monster but  the mother of monsters at over 1400 pages. I had heard a documentary about Nabokov in which he said that War and Peace is a great novel but a bit too long. At the time, I did not appreciate the import of the word 'bit'. Apart from being 'a bit too long', it will also not fit into my book stand.

So the next monster on the agenda is Anna Karenina which is also included in that list of great books. I don't know when I will finally read it. I decided to mention it here so that this will put pressure on me to finally read it. But first I have to get through Middlemarch by Gorge Elliot which I have already received. I didn't expect it to be so thick. (Apparently, it contains what might be the most celebrated use of an em-dash in the history of fiction.)

In that link about great books, one of the books mentioned is The Great Gatsby which I have read. I don't know why it is included in that list. I was not so impressed. I must have missed something because it is often included in lists of this nature. Here is another blogger who seems to have read a lot more fiction than me) who is not impressed with the book.

I had written that my eyeballs regained movement after my stroke following some exercises. But this movement has not been perfect. If one eyeball is at the centre of the eye, the other is a bit off-centre. So the images formed by the two eyes don't coincide. Probably because of this, I see images of objects close to the book on the book. These images appear like holograms and are a cause of distraction. The strange thing is that these holograms appear only when I wear glasses.If I keep the book close to my eyes and read without glasses, I don't see the holograms.

Books like The Brothers Karamazov, The Trial and One hundred Years of solitude have interminable paragraphs often 3-4 pages in length. At the best of times, such paragraphs are difficult to read. In my case, this difficulty is amplified by the holograms. I keep missing the lines and take longer to pick the correct line when I turn away from the book and turn back.  The ease of reading a book will also depend on its binding, page colour and font size. I will  know these things only after the book is kept on the stand. I often skim through long paragraphs when I feel that nothing is happening if the readability of the book is not good due to these factors.

From this interview with Christopher Hitchens about his cancer, I came across the Latin word acedia which means  boredom. (I am a big fan of Hitchens not only because of his forthright views on religion but also because of the way he faced death. As Malcolm said in  Macbeth,  nothing in his life became him like the leaving it. If  I can summon half the courage when it is time for me to shuffle off this mortal coil,I would have done well.) Reading great literature is a good way to stave off accedia.

I remember reading that some people know more and more about less and less while some others know less and less about more and more. I belong to the latter category as I cannot dwell forever on a particular topic. So I don't know how long my interest in reading great literature will last before something else catches my attention.

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