August 30, 2010

Big books

They spent hours each morning reading aloud. “We would take on a big book,” Hazzard says, “Proust, or some nineteenth-century novel, or War and Peace, which is inexhaustively marvelous. We used to say to each other, if all copies of this book disappeared, we could re-create it—we would be able to remember.”
--Shirley Hazzard, in an interview with Narrative
Shirley Hazzard and husband sound like they were such a sweet old married couple. It's been a long time since I read a long, intensely satisfying book — and by book, I mean what Hazzard calls a "big book" (none of that novella nonsense), or at least a mini-tome. And big not just in size, but also in ideas. It's gotten so bad that I even re-read Mrs. Dalloway last week because I knew that, at least, wouldn't be a disappointment. It's not a "big book," but it does lay claim to one of my favorite first lines..."Mrs. Dalloway said that she would buy the flowers herself." Don't ask me why I like it.
It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. It was unsatisfactory, they agreed, how little one knew people.
--Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

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