Mary's Library

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What I'm Reading

Two days ago I was re-reading The Prime Minister (1876), by Anthony Trollope, the book my online trollope group is studying at the moment. We read about five chapters a week, but I find it very difficult to stop when I’m supposed to.

Yesterday I spent much of the day reading two biographies, George Eliot: The Last Victorian (©1998), by Kathryn Hughes, and George Eliot: Voice of a Century: A Biography (©1995), by Frederick R Karl. The latter was a gift from Clint in my trollope group.

Both bios are excellent, with Hughes putting a little more emphasis on the social aspects of Eliot’s life and Karl giving us a psychological interpretation, relying on the parallels between Eliot and Maggie Tulliver in The Mill on the Floss (1860.)

I am in theory re-reading Madame Bovary (1857), by Gustave Flaubert, but I don’t like the translation in the book I own, which was done by Joan Charles. My French isn’t good enough to read Flaubert in the original – at least not without a lot of time and much concentration.

So I’m faced with a decision. I could struggle on with this inadequate translation, buy a new book with another translator, or leave Emma Bovary to get on with her dismal fate without me. I’ll probably opt for the last for now.

But I will have to buy a new copy of Flaubert’s novel someday. I can’t go through the rest of my life never re-reading Madame Bovary. Fay and Lisa have both recommended the Norton Critical Edition, with a translation by Eleanor Marx Aveling, updated by Paul de Man, and “modernized” by Margaret Cohen. Unless somebody else has a better edition to recommend I’m going to go with that.

Today I’m re-reading Beloved (©1987), by Toni Morrison, the book recently selected by authors and reviewers queried by The New York Times as the best American fiction written since 1980.

I recall the first time I began reading it, not liking what the author was saying, finding the supernatural offensive, being confused about the characters and the time line.

But Morrison is one of those writers who walks slowly backwards, crooking her finger at you, beckoning you along, with a sly smile on her face. By the time I was half through with the book I was living it and nothing could have made me stop reading. I'm going to read slowly today and savor every syllable.


At 9:43 PM PDT , Anonymous Fay said...

Mary, one blog led to another, and I ended up at this one:

This blogger is asking other book bloggers to contribute to a list of 25 American novels, a list that will be an alternative to the NYTimes list. I hope you are going to participate, because it would be wonderful to see your list.

Not that you don't have anything better to do with your block of literary time, like keeping up the steady pace of reading! This list-making sounds labor intensive, but I always enjoy reading your blog, Mary, and it would be fun to see your top 25.

Regards, Fay

At 1:25 PM PDT , Blogger Mary said...

Thanks for this reference, Fay. What fun! I'm going to go look at my data base and see what I've given top marks to over the last 25 years. md

At 2:32 PM PDT , Blogger dovegreyreader said...

Blog serendipity as I've written tomorrow's post on the subject of The PM too!
On the subject of Madame Bovary I won't dissaude from Norton Critical editions of any book as I love them. I have the Oxford World's Classics which is translated by Gerard Hopkins and used the Penguin Classics by Geoffrey Wall when I had to study it a few years ago.


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