May 10th, 2006

baby

(no subject)

For a writer with something of a reputation for erudition, there are vast and embarrassing holes in my reading, particularly in fiction. Many of you know that wicked game invented by (or maybe only observed and written about by) David Lodge, in which academics and literati, late and night and possibly lit up, will admit to not having read a standard tome. This always begins with the laying down of a low card -- "Well I've never read Witold Gombrowicz," or "I never finished De rerum naturae," after which another player will top that with a work a little more surprising for the well read not to have read -- "Ha! Well I've never read past Volume One of Gibbon", or "Hmp -- I've never read The Spanish Tragedy." You see how this plays out -- competition gets more intense until someone gets so caught up they yell out "Hey! Guess what! I've never read DON QUIXOTE!" At which point his fellow academics look on him with pity or horror and he realizes he's destroyed his bona fides.

All this on the occasion of my having bought the new(ish) translation of The Red and the Black. Never read it. Or Charterhouse of Parma either. So there. But I'm already ten pages into R&B and loving it. Well six pages. Next -- who knows? "Smoke" by Turgenev? "The Recognitions" by Gaddis? Is life long enough?