The Sunday Salon - Fearless Reading

The Sunday
Hello bloggers and bloggees! Happy Sunday, and Happy Valentine's Day.

I've been thinking about books that have intimidated me, partly because I'm in the midst of one right now -- A. S. Byatt's Possession. It has seemed such an erudite tome and has many references to - gasp! - poetry, which is not my bailiwick. But I'm determined to read some Booker Prize winners this year - five winners to be exact - and this one has been on my list for some time. Now that I'm a couple of hundred pages into it, it's not so scary after all! Sure, there are references and allusions I'm missing, but the story is interesting and the writing is gorgeous:
Blackadder, in bad moods, thought of her as one of those puffed white spiders, bleached by the dark, feeling along the threads of her trap from her central lair. The feminists who had from time to time sought access to the Journal saw her as some kind of guardian octopus, an ocean Fafnir, curled torpidly round her hoard, putting up opaque screens of ink or watery smoke to obscure her whereabouts.
Of course, one good thing about reading challenging books is that I learn quite a bit, with Wikis and dictionaries at hand. I hadn't known what or who Fafnir was.

Most of the books I find intimidating (and that I should read) are classics - Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Henry James. The density of the language is problematic; do I want to work that hard to read a book? Sometimes, yes. I did, after all, conquer War and Peace and Anna Karenina a couple of winters ago and enjoyed them immensely, Russian names and all!

The next Booker Prize winner I feel a bit anxious about is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I've heard rave reviews about this historical novel about Cromwell and Henry VIII - a period in history about which I know very little. This 600 page tome daily taunts me from the shelf with its bright red spine and bold black letters. And for starters, there are 8 pages of the cast of characters, and these trees:

But I'm not worried. I can do this. I have Wikipedia.

A quick update on my January reading, since I missed the last couple of Salons: I read 8 books, all of them 4 stars and above. And I've reviewed all of them! You can see the list on the sidebar and click on the LibraryThing reviews (which are essentially the same text as the reviews here on the blog). February is going well too (half way through the month already!) - 3 1/2 books so far and all of them 4+ stars as well! So the bar is set pretty high for 2010. I feel sorry for that first clunker - it's really going to fall flat.

Enjoy your Valentine's Day, don't eat too much chocolate (is that possible?). And happy reading!


Anonymous said...

Terri, I am the same way about dense prose and intimidating, allusionary language. Good luck as you finish Possession. I have Wolf Hall on my shelf too!

=) Jill

LT Julie said...

Good for you for sticking with Possession. I started it a few years ago and put it down well before 100 pages. Wolf Hall is on my list for this year too. Possibly within the next month. Perhaps a tandem read??

Dani in NC said...

I'm with LT Julie: I didn't make it through "Possession". I felt bad about it for a while because it was suggested in a forum that people who couldn't handle that book were too lazy to challenge themselves. I eventually shook off the gloom and got back to reading!

Terri said...

Dani - what an ineffective way to get people to read something! Guilt them into it! Sheesh. Glad you got over it!