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Finished. Again. Annabel.

April 30, 2011

I’m finished Annabel. It is too early to say that I have been changed by it, but I think it is not too early to say that I have been challenged by it. Many of its themes were so closely tied to things that I have been thinking about for the past several weeks that the last couple hundred pages just wrapped me in words and gently set me down on a bed of Caribou Moss.

I will write about it soon. This is a book that deserves a good amount of reading. Though I am going to have to read the epilogue again between now and then. I am not sure that I liked it much…

I started reading a new book this evening. Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy – one of the books I purchased today even though I have plenty of other books to read. It is his second published novel, dating back to 1968, and the voice of the author is so drastically different than that of Kathleen Winter in Annabel that I have found myself racing through the text without comprehending it.

Clearly I had forgotten that you cannot do this with a Cormac McCarthy book.

I have had to go back and read paragraphs and pages, and remind myself to slow down in my reading. It isn’t a race, Neal – it is a measure of comprehension and impact. That is why I read. Not to see my ‘finished’ bookshelves expand, but to be moved.

I had the same problem when I started reading Annabel, whose voice is different still from that of Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil (have you started this book yet, by the way – it is beyond fantastic). It is difficult to switch between author’s in the same day – this is my fourth in less than two weeks. Fifth and sixth if you include War and Peace and An Irish Heart. I need to slow down my reading, apparently.

On a side note, if this novel is as enjoyable as both The Road and No Country For Old Men were I will be prepared to exalt McCarthy to an internal list of some of the greatest writers I know of. I suppose I will keep you informed as to how this goes. I don’t expect this novel to last more than the weekend – and then I don’t know what to pick up afterwards. Faulkner? Atwood?

Isn’t this why I am reading War and Peace too?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie Cockrill permalink
    May 4, 2011 1:51 am

    I came across a quote that you might like, Neal… “Literature doesn’t make walking possible, but it makes breathing possible.” –Roland Barthes

    Reading slowly has its benefits. I often read a page multiple times before moving on, quoting and writing about it in my journal. However, the fact that you blog reinforces for me that you take your reading experiences seriously. Even though you have yet to master your reading strategy, I am nonetheless intrigued by what you write.

    Indeed I do not know where I would be without the works of art which make up the world of literature. I hunger for expression, and finding something which resonates with me works as if I had written it myself. The reality that art has been created and exists outside of me is deeply satisfying. It seems that you feel the same way – as you read “to be moved”, in your terms.

  2. canadianhumility permalink
    May 9, 2011 4:19 am

    Katie – what a great comment. I love the quote – thank you for it! Reading does add so much to my quality of life – it has, somehow, made me an individual. I am so much more comfortable in my own skin ever since having discovered books. I don't think that is a coincidence. It really does make life a rich experience, and it does force you to encounter ideas and thoughts on somebody else's terms. I cannot tell you how many times I was frustrated by Ayn Rand with Atlus Shrugged – but I powered through it and it really affected me. I don't agree with her entirely, but I'll be damned if I don't understand and respect her ideas a helluva lot better as a result. Breathing indeed.

    Once again, I am honoured to hear that you enjoy what it is that I am writing on this blog. It is so rare that I get to have a real conversation about a novel with anybody but myself – perhaps one day, if there is ever a collection of people here, we can have a book or two of simultaneous reading and have a real dialogue for a moment or two about the same novel.

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