Friday, July 28, 2017

Thanks for everything - leaving the 19th century

With a deep sigh of relief, the traveler turned back to France.  There he felt safe.  (Education, Ch. XXXI)

The Education of Henry Adams (1907) would be, I thought as I was reading it, the perfect last book to write about at Wuthering Expectations.  It is more or less exactly about the disintegration of the 19th century in the 20th, a memoir of change, of obsolescence.

So I am using it this week as a source of context-free quotations that I find hilarious.  There are many more that I am not going to use.  What a great book!

Today, finishing Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905), I have completed my non-neurotic chronological reading of Western literature through 1909; Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge awaits in 1910, based on a list I made twenty years ago and have fussed with and expanded ever since.  Any such list is capricious and arbitrary, but everything I have read has been displayed in public for the past ten years, so it should be clear enough that I have not been all that capricious.  It has been a little more substantial than a push through some “100 Greatest” list.   In the sense of dragging my eyes a single time across the pages of well-known books, I have covered a lot.  I make no claim beyond that.  Real experts do not read like this.

I keep the list in a spreadsheet.  No, you cannot have it.  It is essential, for your education, that you make your own.  I mean, if you are tempted by this kind of thing.

My 19th century Humiliations, the most famous 19th century books I have not read, are now, I don’t know, The Last of the Mohicans, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, The House of the Dead, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  I should read a Maupassant novel some time, right?  We could extend this list.

As happy as I am to extend the long 19th century to November 11, 1918, if I were not going to France I would still face this problem a year from now – I am moving away from the 19th century.  My chronological drift has taken me far from the 1830s, where I happened to be back in 2007. I am, aside from the usual re-reading, more curious about what is going on in the 1910s and 1920s.  My real Humiliations are The Magic Mountain, The Age of Innocence, Sons and Lovers, and The Master and Margarita.  I want to revisit some writers I have not read for a long time, maybe decades – Kafka, Faulkner, Woolf.  Heck, I am more interested in finally trying The Tale of Genji or The Dream of the Red Chamber than reading my fifteenth Trollope novel, as much as I would enjoy it.

None of this will happen now, or for a long time.  Instead, I will go to France.  I do not want to guess how much reading I will do, much less what reading, or what I will do with it, or what I will want to read, or write, once I return.

What an adventure!

As a final note, I want to thank everyone who had the energy to leave a comment or correction, here or elsewhere.  I have learned so much from other readers.  This is my selfish, but selflessly selfish, reason for writing Wuthering Expectation.  On paper, all of my factual errors, bad arguments, and conceptual mistakes sit there uncorrected; they are repeated, magnified, and ideas shrivel.  Not on the blog. The conversation with all of you has been so helpful.  I am a better writer than I was ten years ago, and a better reader, and a lot of the credit goes to everyone who took the time, and fought Blogspot, and said something.  Thank you so much.


  1. Good luck wherever your adventures take you in France. I've enjoyed this week's posts on what you wanted to do with your blog and the teachers who influenced your reading. Wondering if you are going to leave the blog up so newer readers can explore past investigations? Bon chance!

  2. Good lord, he'd better leave it up! It never crossed my mind that he might capriciously wave his hand and make it all softly and suddenly vanish away; I hate when people do that.

    At any rate, bon voyage, voyageur! Eat all the croissants, drink all the café crème, read what you feel like reading, and pretty please report back at some point to your faithful (and prospectively bereft) readers, among whom I am not the least faithful (and prospectively bereft).

  3. Thank you for Wuthering Expectations. That says it all.

  4. Bon chance and bon voyage! And thank you for all the posts!


  5. Oh, the blog will stay up until Google sends in the bulldozers, and in that case, if I have the strength, I will load it up on a trailer and move it to another site.

    Never occurred to me to get rid of it. Who tears down his own folly house?

    Thanks again for all of the thanks!

  6. Bon voyage - that seems really all that's left to say. Except that I hope to still see you around in the comments here and there, and will be right over to visit wherever (if ever) you set up shop again. - Rohan

  7. Thanks! I will likely be commenting and so on. Perhaps more than I should, when I should be memorizing French vocabulary words or irregular verb forms or something.

  8. Thank you for the years of edifying and entertaining writings about your reading life. May you have a fine time in France. I hear there's a good chance you'll find something good to eat there, at least.

    I hope we'll hear from you again, either here or elsewhere. (Surely you'd tell us? I for one will keep my RSS-subscription going, just in case.)

  9. Good luck in France, visit Norway or the UK if you can and let me know, and don't you give up your blog.

  10. Well! Bon voyage, and enjoy the mustard! My favorite guides are the "Guides Noirs," first published by Tchou in the '60s; compiled by François Caradec, Noël Arnaud, and various 'pataphysicians, lettrists, occultists, and other curious types, they have a penchant for the literary.

    Thanks for all the blogging. Don't forget to write!

  11. This change of mine is exactly why RSS readers are the way to go, and really why I am not retiring or moving the blog. If I want to write something, and at some point I will, why not just put it here? I mean, really, why not? And whatever it is will pop up in the RSS reader - "Oh yeah, that guy."

    I have some doubts about how much outside traveling we will do, although I do want to go to Norway. I want to see the Fram. I have never been to the UK, or anywhere near it, except in books, which is some kind of error.

    Those Guide noirs are something else. I want the ones for Paris and Auvergne, just to begin. Thanks, good recommendation.

    The mustard, by the way, is what Gargantua is being copiously spooned in the Gustave Doré detail on the left. So Doug is not plucking the mustard from nowhere. The image on the right, the voyage to the moon, is from Doré's illustrations of Munchausen, which is not French, yet there are so many voyages to the moon in French art that it seems to fit, and it sure fits my mood right now.

  12. Ave atque vale, amicus meus.

    Thou readest, in thine old reading season, brother,
    Secrets and sorrows unbeheld of us:
    Fierce loves, and lovely leaf-buds poisonous,
    Bare to thy subtler eye, but for none other.

  13. Visit Norway when I'm still here then. I'm in Oslo for the summer, and then next summer. Of course Norway doesn't have a lot but it does have other things beside the Fram.
    I've seen it, btw.
    In the UK, I live in Leeds. If you visit it, you can also visit York, a lovely town, and Haworth, which is not very far away. Or Manchester, if you like. I imagine you'd like to visit Haworth.
    You can also visit Himadri. I forgot where he lives. Haha.

  14. The adapted Swinburne is thoughtful. I will try to live up to it.

    So much of Europe to see. But this trip will mostly be France, some attempt to see France as lived.

  15. Good luck with everything - seems like the only sensible thing to say - that and I've always enjoyed your posts. Enjoy France.

  16. Hi Amateur, I don't know how long you have planned to stay in Paris, but I do have this Guide du Paris mystérieux you're yearning for. Problem is: I won't be back until early september. But then, if you're still here, please shout at me, at @bpeylet or via email (you will find it on my site, linked through my name), I will be delighted to lend it to you.

  17. Ah, we go to Lyon at the end of August, where we will stay for a while - "live," even.

    But we will be back in Paris now and then - I assume we will - I hope we will. We will make something work.

  18. I didn't stop by to see this until now (I am on sabbatical and not doing much blogging myself.) I hope one day to see you blog about The Tale of Genji and the Dream of the Red Chamber! And I hope your irregular verb forms are coming along beautifully. Thank you for all this, and take care.