I started reading David Foster Wallace’s epic Infinite Jest at the cottage. I set myself an (overly) ambitious target of 100 pages a day. Ambitious because it took me an hour to read 15 pages. And I could only reasonably avoid my family and read on the dock for seven hours of the day. Because reading Infinite Jest is an exercise in focus, absorption and dedication. Like the ‘entertainment’ that so bewitches characters that they cannot look away (choosing death by starvation or dehydration rather than stopping the consumption of the entertainment) the novel asks for (demands?) complete attention if the reader is to make sense of the overlapping plot lines, constantly shifting points of view, temporal and geographic locations, narrative styles and relationships among characters. Continue reading
Don’t make the mistake I did and be caught off guard by this literary sensation. Go read the first installment (and then immediately all the others because you won’t be able to resist) of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s masterful, genius autobiographical series My Struggle. You probably already did. You’re probably one of the bazillions of people who have read the book and have read the countless articles extolling its virtues, its genius. And if you are, I say to you: Why didn’t you tell me earlier? Why did you let me wander around without this book? (to be fair, the book was endorsed on the Slate Political Gabfest ages ago, and was a book recommended by the fabulous L. – thanks!)
Okay, okay, so why so great? Why so necessary? Continue reading
Gosh but Fanny Hill has A LOT of sex in it. Sex between men and women, women and women, men and men, partners of varying ages, mental and physical abilities, in different positions and in different environmental conditions. It is in short, a novel without a plot, but instead a collection of events that allow for the graphic narration of sex. So many mentions of exploits, things gorged and red, thrusts, sighs and wetness. In fact, I’ve included a word cloud so you can see just how much of the text (all of it!) is given over to narrating sex.
Yep, it’s not one to read/listen to out in public. Such blushes.
But despite the titillation and *cough* excitement of the first few chapters of Fanny Hill, I admit I quickly became bored of yet another sex scene with yet another virgin or yet another “mistaken” attempt at anal sex. Which isn’t to say that I’m a virtuous or prudish reader, rather, that 250 pages of the same plot events would be boring no matter what was being narrated! Yawn.
As for the limited character development… well, I was disappointed. Fanny is principally awesome because she isn’t at all embarrassed or ashamed of her wanton behaviour, rather she relishes pleasure and seeks it out for herself. But the conclusion of the text sees her marrying her one true love and renouncing the wanton life in favour of riches and monogamy. Yawn. Given just how scandalous the rest of the book is, I can see little reason to end it with such convention. I had rather hoped she’d die of venereal disease… Perhaps one of my 18th century scholar-friends can provide me an answer to why such a conventional and annoying ending?
So while I’ll recommend Fanny Hill if you’re looking to diversify your personal pleasure reading, I can’t recommend it well if you’re at all interested in anything approximating plot, character or thematic development.