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Facing the Canon

September 18, 2010

This summer, I told myself that a total immersion in the literary canon was in order. It was time to tackle Eliot, time to brave Balzac, and time to face down Proust. Well, okay. Proust is not exactly in the canon as taught in survey courses, but the idea of actually having read all seven volumes of his infamous oevre would incite jealousy among people who have not read Proust, or at least not all of him.

How did I fare? What did I really end up reading this summer? Here is a partial list, in no particular order.

  • — David Grann’s nonfiction adventure tale, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon.
  • — A few of Michael Koryta’s mystery and suspense novels.
  • — Changes: the most recent of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels (featuring Harry Dresden, a wizard who lists himself in the Chicago Yellow Pages).
  • — Joanne Harris’s Gentlemen and Players.
  • — David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.
  • — Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
  • — Elizabeth George’s Careless in Red and This Body of Death
  • — The City of Ember, and The People of Sparks, two YA (young adult) novels by Jeanne Duprau
  • — Death Angels by Ake Edwardson
  • — Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear
  • — The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel, by David Wroblewski
  • — Gayle Trent’s Murder Takes the Cake (I am especially embarrassed by that one. It is truly awful).

As for the classics, I did read Pere Goriot (Balzac), and I did finish Eliot’s Middlemarch. I did not, however, venture within twenty miles of Proust. The prospect was just too daunting. Maybe next summer.

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