Thursday, May 8, 2014

The long and short of it...

Since I fell pregnant with my son nearly two years ago (isn't that figure of speech just wild?), I have hardly written a thing. But, I have read. In fact, just the other night I finished reading this:

George Eliot's Middlemarch - a novel that has been on my TBR list for years, but didn't make it into my hands until I heard a rave review of it on NPR: the reviewer literally called Middlemarch "the best novel ever written."

I'm not certain if I concur with this assessment; but, after reading all 800 plus pages of Eliot's novel, I must say it was well worth my time. It was a novel that took a while to get into: there is quite a bit of exposition in the beginning chapters, as well as references to the political climate of the time (which I had to Google to understand). However, once I got into the story, I was fully absorbed into the lives of all the residents of Middlemarch - the kind of immersion that can only occur in a sprawling, lengthy novel.  Although some of the political and cultural references are outdated, Eliot's humor is still incredibly current. This is one of those novel's that you are better for having read - the kind you need to read with a highlighter in hand, so you won't lose all the gems enclosed. The main protagonist Dorothea is beautifully drawn; and she is granted such lovely lines of dialogue, such as: "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?"

Aside from Middlemarch, I have also read these:

 Until this past year, I have never, aside from compulsory reading for school, read a short story collection. If you haven't either, do yourself a favor and check one of the above books out. Short stories are so sophisticated, concise, surprising, and powerful. In fact, reading short stories was the thing that made me want to start writing again. After working on a short story for the past few months, I am nearly convinced that it takes more skill to write a short story than a novel. Unless, of course, that novel is Middlemarch.

What have you read lately?


  1. I like reading short stories too. Often they tend not to be as good because I'm scouring the free self published ones. But you're right, it does take a lot of skill.

    I have an online/writer friend who did A to Z Challenge on flash fiction. Most of her stories were 1-2 paragraphs and they were amazing. She really makes every word count.

  2. Suzi! It's been so long! Great to hear from you.

    I agree - there is a range. But the best short stories are so compact and pack so much character detail into such a small space - I think it's fantastic.

  3. Every time I see the Saunders collection in a bookshop, I think of you because you recommended it to me. :)

    It takes a lot of patience and determination to unearth the true goodies of a sprawling novel. Well done.

  4. Did you read Saunders, Suze? Did you enjoy it?
    BJ Novak's short story collection is hilarious, if you're up for a laugh.
    And I just checked out Giffin's Where we belong... will let you know what I think :)

  5. I read Middlemarch in college, and like you, had a hard time getting into it initially, but once I did, I enjoyed the heck out of it. Part of it had to do with a terrific professor who brought the novel to life for us. I'm not sure I'm a sophisticated enough reader to attempt reading Middlemarch without being compelled to, so kudos to you. It is an ambitious read, to say the least.

    Also, I agree with your sentiment regarding short stories. They are wonderful. And thanks to you, George Saunders is now atop my list as the best short story writer writing today. I loved loved loved Tenth of December. Escape from Spiderhead is probably the best short story I've ever read. I realize that's subjective, but I thought it was terrific.

    1. Curtis!! Of course you've read Middlemarch :) You've read everything. I could have used a professor to help me navigate the novel, that's for sure.
      And so glad you liked George Saunders. Have you read any of his other work?
      I named my baby boy George, and right after he was born read Tenth of December, and figured I hadn't done too bad of a job with my name choice :)

  6. I've never read Middlemarch, but it sounds good. And isn't there a movie version on Netflix? :) Thanks for recommending!

    1. I will definitely have to check out Netflix! Thanks :)