Monday, December 7, 2009

Literary Whiplash!

Now, I'm a Mockingbird who likes to read. I usually have two books going at once, with no real rhyme or reason to the choices. For example, one book might be nonfiction (maybe a collection of travel writing) while the other might be fiction (maybe the latest installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series). Often, this makes for an interesting mix, not to mention some rather fascinating dreams as the various books collide in my subconscious.

I also suffer from a near-total inability to put down a book unread, even if I don't really care for the book. Add to that my quest to read more of those Books That Are Good for Me and you can understand that it's been an intriguing time in the Nest.

It really wasn't my fault. Honestly, I was minding my own business, trying to improve my mind by reading Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. A mistake. I was sucked in by the blurb on the back of the book, which (it must be admitted) had the double whammy of being both handsome and on sale. Now, even devoted Austen fans often find this novel a bit hard to swallow. Really - just click here! But even though I thought Fanny Price was far too much of a meek mouse for me to bear, I just couldn't put the book aside unread.

In and of itself, that would have been fine. The problem occurred when I picked up my next book on the pile and read the first paragraph, just to reassure me that there was prose beyond twaddle of this sort:

"Fanny found herself obliged to yield that she might not be accused of pride or indifference, or some other littleness; and having with modest reluctance given her consent, made her selection. She looked and looked, longing to know which might be least valuable; and was determined in her choice at last, by fancying there was one necklace more frequently placed before her eyes than the rest. It was of gold prettily worked; and though Fanny would have preferred a longer and plainer chain as more adapted for her purpose, she hoped in fixing on this, to be chusing what Miss Crawford least wished to keep."

Contrast with the opening lines of The Road:

"When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world."

Switching from Jane Austen to Cormac McCarthy really should come with a warning as to the difficulty level. Sort of the literary equivalent to a reverse 3 1/2 somersault in pike position - which ain't easy, my friends. Not at all.

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