The Books of My Numberless Dreams

[Catchy bookish post title here]

Posted on: May 23, 2007

Is there any terrestrial paradise where, amidst the whispering of the olive-leaves, people can be with whom they like and have what they like, and take their ease in shadows and in coolness? Or are all men’s lives like the lives of us good people — like the lives of the Ashburnhams, of the Dowells, of the Ruffords — broken, tumultuous, agonised, and unromantic, lives, periods punctuated by screams, by imbecilities, by deaths, by agonies? Who the devil knows?

From “The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion” by Ford Madox Ford

Good heavens. This book is depressing. I wanted to read it because the titular character of Sam Savage’s Firmin described the classic’s first line as being one of the best. The book also has that mysterious quality that makes it a compelling read — a force I resisted, consciously taking breaks in order to read other books, until I was within the last 100 pages; I stayed up until 3:00 am to finish it.

The Broadview edition has a host of auxiliary material including two essays by Ford: “On Impressionism” and “Techniques”. I’ll read those as they’ll provide insight into his writing philosophy without, I hope, going into too many (if any) specifics on The Good Soldier. There is also an excerpt from his Henry James: A Critical Study, as well as a looong poem entitled “On Heaven” — I don’t think I’ll read it as the description sounds lame, something about Ford turning Provence into an earthly paradise and him and Hunt flying off in some red vehicle (barf) — and a selection of reviews on The Good Soldier that were written on its release.

I must say that I found a great deal of the footnotes to be superfluous. Among the helpful explanatory notes on horse racing terms, historical figures etc. a significant number was devoted to pointing out any places in the book that Ford and Violet Hunt, his second wife, had visited. I didn’t understand why I should care. I suppose enterprising scholars have already mapped all the physical locations in the book on to the various travels on Ford’s life and shown how they give each castle and casino a particular importance, but we don’t need that sort of laborious hinting in footnotes. Made me feel like I was reading some damn cockamamie “literary” travel guide.

To switch gears I bought Murakami Haruki’s latest. Is it just me or does there seem to be a strange lack of hype around this release? When Kafka on the Shore was out I could hardly read a blog or pass a link to an equivocal review that wasn’t about it. After Dark, on the other hand, wasn’t even given a prime spot on the “New Fiction” display in store, whereas books released 6 months ago were still there.

Incidentally I wonder if anyone will buy Hosseini’s new book thinking that it’s Kite Runner? The publisher, in its wisdom, has the actual title of the book in a dark green that tends to blend into the lighter green of the background, while “Kite Runner” is printed in bright red block letters. You can almost smell the desperation: remember Kite Runner, huh, huh, huh, and how much you loved it (Kite Runner)? Same author (Kite Runner) new fantastic release (Kite Runner), title somewhere at the top (Kite Runner) but never mind that he wrote Kite Runner (Kite Runner)! Even the covers are intentionally similar, although Canadian readers who bought the UK edition may have dodged that bit of subliminal marketing.

I should have a TLS post up some time today, or tomorrow.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that if you’re looking for books that aren’t the latest Hosseini or Murakami stop by Soft Skull Press which is currently having a 40% off “virtually” everything sale. You get almost half off any number of excellent reads, each for under ten US dollars. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

6 Responses to "[Catchy bookish post title here]"

You stayed up to 3 am? Wow. I’ve been forcing myself to read the book in small chunks too, I wonder if I will reach a point where I won’t be able to put it down? I do like the first sentec of the book very much, a great opener.

I’m nearing the last 100 pages. I’m not sure how exactly I am feeling about the book. I need to let it sink in. The sentence is quite famous, isn’t it. It is a sad story, but I am wondering if there is going to be some sort of wallop at the end that will really make it sad.

Must, must get on with The Good Soldier – you’re making me really keen about it here. And I do agree about footnotes – I often rush eagerly to the back only to find some nonsense I didn’t really need to know.

Stefanie I didn’t have to wake up early today so I took advantage. I’m a night owl at heart, it’s too bad I’m not suited for the sort of jobs that are usually executed at that time of day.

Danielle yes, it is something of an odd duck isn’t it? I’m trying to think of books I’ve had similar reactions to and can’t come up with any. And not that I want to spoil it for you but well…brace yourself for the ending.

litlove I joined the “Slaves of Golconda” reading group when I saw they had The Good Soldier up because, although I did want to read it, I knew I wouldn’t get to it for ages if I didn’t have some kind of deadline.

I had that same footnote experience with a Penguins classics edition of Jane Eyre oddly enough, a lot of nonsense footnotes, some of them taking on the task of explaining facets of the book more suitable to a critique IMO. Ah well.

Yay for Soft Skull Press! Estella’s Revenge received a bunch of stuff from them recently and I’m excited to read the reviews on it. Hawthorne Books is another good one I can recommend.

I’ll check Hawthorne out Andi, thanks. I’ve never heard of them before. Looking forward to the SS Press book reviews!

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