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the simple life

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Forget Great Expectations

In the Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby, being a big fan of Great Expectations, recommends the novel to his friend.

But he struggles to remember why he likes it so much.

"But when I tried to recall anything about it other than its excellence, I falied. Maybe there was something about a peculiar stepfather? Or was that This Boy's Life? And I realized that, as this is true just about every book I consumed between the ages of say, fifteen and forty, I haven't even read the books I think I've read. I can't tell you how depressing this is. What's the fucking point?"

Indeed, what's the point of reading something when we forget so easily?

Hornby, in another entry, compares Dickens with Coetzee.

"You can’t read a review of, say, a Coetzee book without coming across the word “spare,” used invariably with approval; I just Googled “J. M. Coetzee + spare” and got 907 hits, almost all of them different. “Coetzee’s spare but multi-layered language,” “detached in tone and spare in style,” “layer upon layer of spare, exquisite sentences,” “Coetzee’s great gift—and it is a gift he extends to us—is in his spare and yet beautiful language,” “spare and powerful language,” “a chilling, spare book,” “paradoxically both spare and richly textured,” “spare, steely beauty.” Get it? Spare is good. "

As for Dickens, you will know how elaborate his novels are; Hornby says he is believed to have created 13,000 characters.


In a year when I am reading Russian literature, I will, for the love of life and everything sane, lean towards Coetzee.


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