Top of the Pile #27, #28: David and Goliath, The Country Doctor

I know I haven’t done one of these posts in a while now, but I’ve been busy. And sad. And busy some more. Not to mention that all of my books are packed in boxes and have been for weeks now, so they haven’t been laying around to remind me how I’ve been neglecting them lately.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve ignored reading altogether. On the contrary, I’ve managed the impossible.

Infinite Jest CoverI’ve finished Infinite Jest and lived to tell the story.

You probably think I saw it coming, and made sure I was in a public place where I could immediately start bragging about my accomplishment and have people cheering and asking for my autograph on their bare muscular chests (yes, all my imagined fans are bare chested male models who have the deepest respect for Infinite Jest survivors!).

But to be honest, finishing the book caught me completely off guard. Faced with such lengthy a novel, my lovely Kindle got so utterly confused that it never indicated the right reading progress throughout. Some days it said I’d read 85%, then days later it reconsidered and decided it was more like 73%, and this went on and on for weeks driving me completely crazy, until one day, ONE DAY, I tapped to get to the next page and there it was, the final paragraph of Infinite Jest and my most wondrous reading victory thus far.

Now, what an extraordinary book!

I was talking to a friend and fellow “Infinite Jest survivor” (yes, we’re starting a club!), and she said that the moment she finished it she turned back to the first page and started reading it a second time. Now, I really don’t think I’m in a place right now where I could possibly handle that, my brain being complete mush after all the homeless-flat-hunting insanity these days, but I totally get what my friend was about. Infinite Jest is a book to be read more than once. That may sound off putting, it being 1000+ pages of Foster Wallace often crazy lingo, but I have a feeling one reading couldn’t possibly do it justice.

And yes, it’s a complicated, difficult read. It’s most certainly not for everyone. But, throughout the long love-hate relationship I’ve developed with it, I never once could deny its brilliance. So yes, there you have it. I’m an Infinite Jest groupie. There’s a chance I’ll give it a second try some time in the future, and I’ve already bookmarked some Foster Wallace essays and short stories for when I get part of my sanity back and I’m ready to dive into reading again. So take of that what you will, and if you’d like my autograph (even if it’s not on your pecks, sigh), I’ve got six dozen rainbow coloured sharpies to pick from, after all these weeks of packing and labeling. Just say the word.

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Read Like a WriterI finished Reading Like a Writer last night, and it’s the very last book I packed for our move to God knows where. I really wanted to finish it before we left, so that I’d be left only with my Kindle during our homeless-and-certain-to-be-shelf-less phase. So this will be the last hardcover I touch in a while, and I’m glad it was this and no other, because I happened to really enjoy it.

I expected it to be about writing and how to become better writers, but it turned out to focus more on reading and how to become better readers, which is unlike any other creative writing book I’ve read. It’s full of examples of brilliant writing from authors I’ve loved all throughout my reading life, and new ones I’ve only thus discovered and added to my to read list.

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David and GoliathSo here’s a fun story.

A few weeks back V and I took a long weekend trip to Bristol, to get away from the cardboard box invasion taking over our flat, and the clouds of hopelessness and homelessness gathering on the horizon.

And during that trip, which I haven’t written about because, well, I’ve been battling lots of lovely shades of flat related despair and frustration since, well, during that lovely trip I have been super duper strong and managed NOT to buy any books, not even one.

It’s incredible what having to pack and store 300+ paperbacks in half a day does to your book shopaholic compulsions.

But anyway. Halfway through our Bristol adventure, we stopped to rest for a few minutes on a park bench, and there it was. A paperback copy of David and Goliath, slightly dogeared but in pretty good shape altogether, just waiting for someone to save it from the coming rain. V, who had previously voiced his admiration at me not buying a single book during our weekend away, threw up his hands in despair but resigned to his fate, and minutes later we were leaving the park, David and Goliath safely resting in my handbag.

Now, this isn’t the first book I’ve found on UK streets since we moved here (it’s the fourth, actually, an average of a book a year, believe it or not!), but it’s the first one I’ve actually read, and not just took home, stacked on a shelf and forgot about it. I finished David and Goliath in a couple of sittings, and it was an interesting enough little book, if a little lacking in the conclusion drawing department. Gladwell’s stories and examples are intriguing, easy reads, but to me they lacked closure, and I was left feeling that I needed to read more on the subject before I’d be able to form an opinion on it.

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The Country Doctor

And finally we reach my current reading affair, Balzac’s The Country Doctor. I wish there was an extraordinary reason behind me picking it, but I’ll be reading exclusively on Kindle until we’ve finally settled somewhere, and since I already had a few of Balzac’s novels on it, The Country Doctor being the shortest one, I just went for it. I know, talk about superficial!

Anyway, I started reading it last night and my Kindle says I’m about 10% through. To quote one of my picky reading friends, “Nothing’s happened yet. No one died..”, so there’s not much I can say about it for the time being.  I’ll definitely keep you posted though!

That’s it for now, happy reading everyone!

3 thoughts on “Top of the Pile #27, #28: David and Goliath, The Country Doctor

  1. I confess that A Country Doctor isn’t one of my favorite Balzac novels. Not much will happen either. All of The Human Comedy plus some other Balzac goodies are available free at Project Gutenberg and I’m pretty sure most now have the choice of a Kindle format. A Yahoo reading group finished a complete reading of all the Human Comedy (took about six years) and set up a blog at http://balzacbooks.wordpress.com/ You might browse through there and find something more to your taste, especially knowing that they’re all available for download.

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    • I’ve since read about The Country Doctor not being Balzac’s most impressive work (and, no, nothing’s really “happened” yet though I’m more than half way through the book! :D) But after a summer of Infinite Jest I’m a bit reluctant to embark upon another several months (years?) long reading adventure. Once I’ve recovered a bit from my David Foster Wallace withdrawal, I’ll definitely dive into La Comedie Humaine, it’s been on my list forever.

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      • The six years was at a very slow pace, only about 50 pages a week since all of us had other reading projects going on concurrently. I was totally overdosed when it ended. If you plan on reading the entire work, the blog has a suggested reading order which follows the storylines chronologically as near as possible instead of the order in which Balzac wrote them.

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