I have just four more weeks, and just two more novels, before my final for the class I’m taking right now (The Novel in America Since 1914). I’ve written two papers that have not yet been graded so I’m working in a vacuum, and I'm afraid that my instructor has gotten so far behind that he’ll be forced to give our remaining assignments the most cursory evaluation, and everyone will pass with a B. Why is that a problem? Because, as always, I have worked myself into a ridiculous state of anxiety trying to do everything PERFECTLY, and to KEEP MY 4.0 at ALL COSTS. (well, at almost any cost. You know what I mean). I have a draft written for the paper that’s due shortly, and I expect to start my final paper this week. But it would be nice to have a grade, so I have some idea of how this instructor regards my work, if I’m on the right track, etc. So all of this is to say that I’m right now just sitting around waiting (and hey, Microsoft Word? I KNOW that’s a fragment, and I will NOT consider revising it. Thank you). Following this post, in which I commented on the first three novels, I’ll update you on the most recent three
The Unvanquished (William Faulkner). Loved it, love Faulkner, love his Nobel acceptance speech, which you can read here.
Jonah’s Gourd Vine (Zora Neale Hurston). Loved it. The dialogue was a little overwhelming in the first few pages, but once you’re involved in the story, the dialogue seems very natural and easy to read.
A Death in the Family (James Agee). Alfred Kazin called this the “most deeply worked out expression of human feeling” that he’d ever read. Intellectually, I can see that it’s rightly considered a great book, and Kazin was right about the insight into human character and emotion. That said, I hated every minute I spent reading this book. One never knows, does one, because having read and loved Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, I naturally expected to love anything else written by Agee. Much of my antipathy stems from the editorial decision (made after Agee’s death) to italicize very long reflective passages, to distinguish them from the narrative of the story. I hate reading italic type for more than a sentence or two, so thirty pages at a time was a trial of my limited patience. And the rest of it is just far too “deeply worked out”; I wanted too often to scream “enough!” It’s never a good sign when you check, and often, how many pages remain, and I did that at least every 15 pages.
Six down, two to go:
House Made of Dawn (N. Scott Momaday). I’d never even HEARD of this until I got the syllabus for the class, so I have absolutely no idea what I’ll think of it. (update since I started writing this post; I’m about 20 pages in and I like it very much)
The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison). I like Toni Morrison just fine, so I’m looking forward to reading this. Of course, I was also looking forward to reading A Death in the Family so who knows.
On August 9, I plan to read whatever I want, without taking notes, or citing page numbers, or considering paper topics. Suggestions will be appreciated (RCubed, I had a gift card and used it to buy Three Cups of Tea, which is in the trunk of my car so I won’t be tempted to start reading it until I’m finished this class…so it’s first on my list.)