Monday, April 19, 2010

Augie and Dorrit

So anyway, The Adventures of Augie March. The kind of novel I haven't read for a while. Difficult, knotty prose, an expansive and sometimes puzzling breadth of reference, strange syntax with a foreign feel to it, and alongside that a distinct sense of exuberance, a desire to dazzle, throbbing away beneath the surface. But, but ... so far (and I'm only running up to the first 100 pages at the moment) it's one character portrait after another, Grandma Lausch, Einhorn, all about them, inside and out, and pretty engaging, but where's the narrative? Chapter 6 starts 'What did I, out of all this, want for myself?' So maybe that focus is shifting. It's great by the way, I should probably clarify. It's a holiday in a foreign land, occasionally bewildering, but exciting.

And at work, at lunch-time, after my boiled eggs or my beans on toast, and before I fall asleep on the sofa, I'm reading Little Dorrit, because the novel I'm writing is my first ever period one, set around mid-nineteenth century, but you don't need any excuse to read Little Dorrit because it's so wonderful, so utterly involving in its many-layered, richly textured, extravagantly peopled, gritty, smelly wholeness. It may be displacing Bleak House as my favourite Dickens.

How is it possible that so many intelligent men I know (mostly men) say they never read novels? How do they live?