Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In the middle of a long book - Nicholas Nickleby

I have been keeping up a pretty good churn rate in the little "Currently Reading" box to the right. That's done for a while. Dickens, Hawthorne, Clare - none of those books are going anywhere for any time soon. The only one I'm reading with any speed is Nicholas Nickleby, and it's almost 900 pages.

Neurotic Reader finishes his books. The wisdom of letting a book go unfinished is not one which he has yet acquired. Perhaps in his maturity. For now, though, I just keep chewing away. I'll have the Dickens done in two or three weeks.

This makes it sound like a chore, when Nicholas Nickleby is, of course, a delight. Why would I want it to be shorter?* Or, much shorter - later, Dickens will have learned more about tightening up the narrative.

Nicholas Nickleby was originally serialized, not in a magazine but on its own, like a comic book. You could go to the bookseller every month and buy the next installment. There were 2o sections, although I think the last one was a "double issue". So the contemporary reader who treated it like Harry Potter and read it the instant it was published read the book over the course of 18 months.

War and Peace was published over the course of 4 or 5 years, In Search of Lost Time over 14 years, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire over 12 years. Looked at that way, a month or two (or nine, for me, with the Gibbon) with a book does not seem so long.

* Also, some of the business where Nicholas is with the theater troop could be cut. Not the part about the performing pony.


  1. For as much as I love Dickens, I've not read many of his books. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps I will make it a point to read some Dickens in 2008.

  2. At some point I'll post some tidbits from Dickens. Not just comic bits, which are legion, but real example of Dickens' art.