Thursday, December 20, 2007

My year in books

Number of books read: 85 or so. This is right in line with other people who write book blogs. Sociologists take note.

Longest book: Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon

Most time with one author: Balzac. Before ths year, I had read 2 of the 91 works in the Comédie Humaine. Now I've read 27. After Balzac, Thomas Carlyle, God help me.

Most pleasant surprise: Eugénie Grandet. I expected Balzac to be a clumsy first-drafter. Often, too often, I was right (see, or don't, The Chouans). Eugénie Grandet is a lovely exception, the greatest Balzac novel I've encountered, by which I mean the best written. See the first description of the Grandet parlor for an example. But also, the most complete story, rich characters, a ending that reaches for the sublime and may achieve it.

Most pleasant non-surprises: The grisly, magnificent, and insane Death's Jest-Book, by Thomas Lovell-Beddoes. The grisly, magnificent, and somewhat less insane Notre Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo. Both examples of 19th century writers wrestling with the ideas and styles of earlier times, and achieving something new.


  1. 27! That's magnificent. Oddly enough, while I do admit that Eugenie Grandet is excellently written, I much preferred Pere Goriot (sp?) because it had a more raffish, gallivanting air.

  2. I will not argue the merits of "Pere Goriot" vs "Eugenie Grandet",at least not right now. Both show Balzac at his best.

    To run up your score on the "Comedie Humaine", be sure to read a number, or a lot, of Balzac's short stories.