Posts Tagged ‘epic novels’

11th October
2009
written by Steph
The saga continues...

The saga continues...

This past week I’ve been slowly working my way through the second volume of Jane Eyre. Please don’t take my glacial progress as evidence that this second of three installments was difficult or the prototypical “middle child” of the book.  I’ve really been enjoying it A LOT, but there’s no denying I’ve been reading it slowly.  However, I can attribute this to two things: 1)   I was away at a conference for three days this week, which considerably cut into my reading time.  I got to read on planes, but other than that, I was inundated with science and group dinners the rest of the time, so Jane did languish a bit as a result 2)   This is simply a book that I’ve been having fun reading and just haven’t felt the need to rush through.  I’m enjoying the time I spend with the book, and as easy as it is to flip the pages, I feel I’m not doing so mindlessly but am instead really reveling in the time spent.  I feel like I am reading for the sake of reading, rather than for the sake of finishing the book.  Some people might not feel there is a distinction there, but for me there is!  And hey, we’re slowly embracing the “Slow Food” movement, so why not the “Slow Read” movement? (more…)
4th October
2009
written by Steph
As you can see, this wasn't actually called "Part the First", but it's more fun to call it that!

As you can see, this wasn't actually called "Part the First", but it's more fun to call it that!

Normally I don’t review or record my feelings about a book until I’ve done gone and finished the whole thing, although of course there are exceptions, such as with the 2666 read-along!  As Jane Eyre is likewise a rather epic novel, and also conveniently broken into parts (or volumes, as I believe they are actually called), I figured it might be nice to switch things up and post my interim reflections as I finish each part.  Also, this will mean you won’t have to wait three weeks (or however long it will take me to finish this sucker!) in radio silence.  Really, it’s win-win, I think!

So, Jane Eyre is a book that I was pretty sure I had read when I was maybe 11 or 12 in Grade 7 or 8.  It’s certainly one of those books about which I know the general plot, so it’s very hard for me to say whether in fact I have really read this book.  On the one hand, I kind of know what happens in it in terms of the big moments and the various twists, but on the other hand, as I embarked upon Part 1, nothing about it seemed very familiar at all!  I was surprised to find that the novel started with young Jane, as in my mind I thought the book only involved her trials and tribulations as a governess (when in fact it appears to be a fictional autobiography of sorts).  Moreover, I was even more startled to find that young Jane was so feisty and spirited!  For whatever reason, I had always thought Jane was puritanical and reserved, not the resilient young tornado who makes up the first half of this first volume.  I found myself actually quite enamored by the young Jane, and while I don’t always see that same fierce spark in the older Jane, I do think she is quite a wonderful leading lady.  I certainly am enjoying the feminist undertones that are emerging, though they do still feel quite nascent at this point in the novel. (more…)
17th August
2009
written by Steph

First, I need to start off by apologizing for being so late to the party with this section. July was an incredibly hectic month for us over here at Steph & Tony Investigate in real life, what with getting married, so I kind of let my reading slide for a while… and then when I knew I should be picking up 2666 and tackling Part Three, I kind of just didn’t have it in me. I know, I know, I’ve been a terrible co-hostess, but thank you so much to Claire for taking one for the team and rounding up all of your thoughtful and insightful reflections on “The Part About Fate”. I think as we’re about to see, you all came up with a lot more than I did with respect to this section…

So, what to say about this section? Well, as I mentioned above, I was really dragging my heels when it came to getting around to actually reading this part, and I attribute this largely to Section Two. If you recall, I found Section Two really aimless and I didn’t get a lot out of it, and I really felt like it sapped my momentum and eagerness to keep reading 2666. If it were not for the read-along, I probably would have stopped reading after Section Two, so little was my interest in continuing this massive tomb, especially if it were more in the vein of Section Two, which really felt was impenetrable.

(more…)

1st July
2009
written by Steph

Meh.  This part of the ubernovel, 2666, may have been the shortest, but I also felt it was far less rewarding and rich compared to Part One.  We delve into the world of Amalfitano, a Chilean whom the scholars in the last part met briefly, first chronicling his relationship with his wife (and her obsession with a poet who has been committed to an asylum), and then focusing on Amalfitano’s own mounting obsession with a mysterious geometry textbook (yes, you read that correctly).  At 60 some odd pages, this section lent itself to a quick read, but I didn’t feel I got much out of it. First, I didn’t feel like this second part was a natural extension or progression of part one.  It didn’t seem to further any of the plot points that occurred in The Part About the Critics, but moreover, it didn’t appear to deal with any of the same themes either.  Well, that’s not strictly true – I suppose we see the notion of pursuit highlighted once more, as Lola sets out to find the mad poet and ingratiate herself into his life, but that was about the only part that felt like an echo of earlier parts of 2666.  But even if we consider that perhaps Bolaño meant these parts to stand more on their own, I still felt this wasn’t all that successful, because it seemed to be divided into the Lola section and the Geometry Book section, and these two sections felt disparate from one another as well.  Not sure how the two reflect upon one another, but then again, I’m not entirely sure what the section regarding the geometry book was supposed to be about at all.  I admit, I like the quirky idea of hanging a book outside oneself to withstand the elements as best it can, but did I have any idea what it was meant to symbolize?  No.  I mentioned in my last wrap-up that I wasn’t confident that Part One could truly stand on its own, that it told a complete story, and that is definitely even more true for this section. (more…)
25th June
2009
written by Steph
Just wanted to remind all of you that as the month draws to a close I (and many others) will be posting a review of Part Two (The Part About Amalfitano) of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.  I just finished it yesterday and need a bit of time to sort out my thoughts, but I can't wait to hear what the rest of you think!  To those of you toying with the notion of joining us, I will say that Part Two is the shortest part in the book, coming in around 60 pages.  So even if you haven't started reading it yet, there's still time!  After all, I'm sure most of you read far more than 60 pages in a single day! Also, if you need more incentive, check out some of the insightful posts other members of the read-along posted last month on Part One.  Everyone seemed to pick up on something slightly different, and it was really edifying to apply their ideas to my own reading of the text.  This is definitely a book best shared and discussed with others!
31st May
2009
written by Steph
partaboutcritics

Let the criticism begin! 😉

Full Disclosure: I finished reading this section a few weeks ago so that I could mull over questions and thoughts to pose to fellow readers… only I didn’t really write anything down, so my impressions of this section are not as sharp and clear as they might have been a few weeks ago, when I probably should have written this post.  Oh well, if I seem tentative or like I’m futzing about, we’ll consider it an exercise in style and homage to Bolaño himself.  At least I’ll have 4 more attempts to get this right! 😉 Also, I want to emphasize that Claire and I are using this opportunity to make 2666 a more communal reading experience, but people are free to read at their own pace.  We’re reading one section per month, and ask that you try to post your thoughts on each section within each month… But of course if you fall behind, that’s completely fine and we still want to hear what you thought!  If you haven’t started but would like to join along, please feel free!  Just post a comment at the bottom of this post linking to your review of Part One, and I’ll be sure to link to it.  And for people who already said they were going to read along, if I haven’t included your review but it’s been posted (or you post after I've published this), please do the same and I’ll be sure to add you to this round-up! When I think back on this first part of 2666, the thing that sticks out to me was how much I didn’t hate it!  That sounds strange, I know, given that I elected to host this read-along with Claire, but I really feared going into the belly of the beast (or at this point, the maw… the belly is yet to come, I think!).  I worried that I would really dislike the book.  From what I had read about the book during the 2009 Tournament of Books, it did not at all sound like a book I would enjoy, since the two commentators over at The Morning News found the book bloated, boring, sexist, homophobic, and generally a mess.  I worried the book would be pretentious and unapproachable, but seeing that I already had a copy of it in my apartment, I knew I had to at least give it a shot before excising it from my life; it was only fair.  Enter Claire whose enthusiasm to read the book was almost infectious, and I decided that maybe if I had a buddy going into this read, maybe if I didn’t commit myself to exclusively reading the book non-stop until it or I was done, that would be the best way to tackle it.  And thus, a read-along was born. (more…)
14th May
2009
written by Steph
To those of you who missed the announcement a few weeks ago, Claire & I are hosting a read-along of Roberto Bolaño's mammoth masterpiece, 2666.  Don't fret if you haven't started yet - we're only reading the first part, “The Part About The Critics”, this month.  It's only 160 pages, so you still have plenty of time to join us if you would like.  Personally, I haven't even started yet, but probably will in the next few days! So far, here are the people joining us: So come on and join us!  You want to be one of the cool kids, right? 😉 In other news, sorry for the dearth of updates recently.  I was away at an academic conference (where we discovered the answer to "how many vision scientists with iPhones does it take to select a restaurant for dinner?" is in fact "3") and enjoying some serious beach time in Naples, Florida.  But I'm back in drizzly Nashville once more, and will attempt to get my reading (and updating) back on track.  I lugged along A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth for my trip - all 1400 pages of it! - but have yet to break 500 pages.  I know many of you out there have read this beast before - would you say the latter half of the book moves more swiftly than the first half?  I enjoy the parts that deal with the interpersonal relationships between the characters, specifically the bollywood-style scandals and romantic intrigues, but I must confess I'm totally bored when I wind up in sections dealing with civil uprisings, shoemaking, and Hindu/Muslim conflicts.  I generally don't tackle books that are so long, so my interest is beginning to wane; is it worth sticking with this one?