most years there is one book that slows down my reading progress. usually because it is a great book, and i read it too carefully with a pen in my hand for writing in the spines. usually it is more than 60 years old and it is a little too big to hold comfortably, a little too stuffy to understand sentences on first pass. sometimes there are too many passages about flowers and i find i am picking up magazines instead.
when i am not reading this sort of book, i will reward myself with the entire catalog of jonathan ames or haruki murakami. i did both of those last year, and it's like eating good cookies.
2 years ago the slow monster was lolita, which is thoroughly thrilling, i think it was the writing in the spines that made it last so long, and a bit of hesitance on my part to allow the book to be over, i wish i was still reading that book in fact. in venus magazine this month there is a nice question and answer with mary gaitskill about lolita that is worth reading.
i was probably reading that magazine because i am also dealing with reading jean santeuil by proust and i needed a respite. though i have a feeling jean might turn out to be the book that a year from now i will be saying is my favorite book of all time (only to take the torch from proust's remembrance of things past). but i have been in the 100s pages for at least a month. there are passages that have me breathless and pained ("whenever she spoke to him - as she spoke to all the others - he hopped from side to side of the path in an ecstasy of joy, feeling that he was loved. but he noticed, with sadness, that her kindness to him had nothing in common with his devotion to her, and that she never felt any reluctance about saying: if it rains tomorrow, i shan't be here, see you again the day after.") there are also very long passages about a cherry blossom and about a salamander and about a lamp.
for a year i read all of the books of w somerset maugham because it seemed the closest thing to proust without the difficulty of language or the meandering lengths. of human bondage is quite similar to remembrance of things past in the particular sufferings it explores, and while it is about 700 pages it is still only a small fraction as long as the proust. but then because it does not cause the reader suffering in it length and weight, it does not have the same effect.
for a book like lemon, survivor, or iceland, which i excitedly tore through, i can recall a few sittings, but mostly i just remember the plot. but in remembering remembrance of things past, there are at least 100 sittings in my memory - on a ferryboat to victoria island, in a coffee shop in newport beach (where i finished it), sitting on the top of a hill in la jolla with a panoramic view of the ocean, before going on stage to sing in an LA club called the lava lounge or lava something and lighting the pages with a dim candle. being in the process of reading that book was part of my life for years. then i gave myself a break for a few years. and now it is jean santeuil, his only other book (and considered an early version of the same story), which will take up most of my 2007. i am only in the 100s pages, but it already has a worn cover. i have already taken it all around seattle with me. it even came with me to a joanna newsom show this week, where i read by a dim candle again while i was waiting for the show to start.
this is the first time i have written on here in the book blog, so i will name a few of my favorite recent reads, though i mentioned most of my all-times above. you should read: krusoe's iceland, goethe's sorrows of young werther, unger's the maimed, yates' revolutionary road.
i will write more about my progress with jean, if there is any.