Yay for Virginia Woolf. Finally a woman author included in my Melville House Art of the Novella subscription. I've been waiting to see one come along. A woman writer that is. I feel like nudging her to the top of the pile, but I'm going to try and catch up on the two unread novellas I have on my pile before moving on to April's books.
I was thinking just recently about what an awful job I am doing this year of reading the 'classics'. Classics being that hazy term that can encompass so much literature, but I am thinking here of books that might fall comfortably into the Western Canon (though for me classics for me is a much broader term). Then I started thinking about my novellas, and while they are much shorter than what I might otherwise choose to read, they count too. So, in that case, I've read Herman Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, Charles Baudelaire, Leo Tolstoy, Guy de Maupassant and now am getting ready to read Machado de Assis. Not so shabby thinking about it that way. So, thank you Melville House, for broadening my horizons a bit.
For April (or whenever I actually get to them) I have Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf. I've read both writers, though only one Hardy novel and a very few novels as well as a short story and essay or two of Woolf. The Distracted Preacher sounds interesting as it is a "comic tale" (though with "trademark biting social commentary and moral import"--I would expect nothing less from Hardy!).
"When young Mr. Stockdale arrives in a small village to fill in for the Methodist minister, he finds himself pining for his comely new landlady. But she leads a mysterious life, keeping odd hours and speaking in hushed tones. As his love for her grows, he’s soon at the center of a hilarious high-stakes adventure, complete with slapstick, hijinks, and a marauding band of cross-dressers. And he’s forced to choose: follow his heart or his higher purpose?"
Conveniently the Woolf novella is the book I would likely read next if I was going to pick up a book by Virginia Woolf (if that all makes sense), Jacob's Room. They read my mind it would seem.
"It is with Jacob's Room that she made her break with her earlier, more traditionally shaped novels and launched her own radically different idea of story telling."
"The story of a young man on his way to war eschews the conventions of traditional narrative as too unrealistic. It collects, instead, observations of the central character--mostly by women--in scenes and conversations that at first seem fragmentary."
"The sum total effect, however, is a powerfully cohesive and sometimes shockingly realistic impression, even as it questions whether we can ever really know someone . . . before it is too late."
The blurb notes that for the uninitiated Woolf reader this is perhaps a very good place to start with her work. Although I've read her in the past, I am all for accessible when it comes to Woolf.
Last week the latest NYRB Classic instalment arrived, too. I am just now reading the Grossman, so have some catching up to do. Luckily the last couple of books have been fairly short, which is a good thing as this month's selection is a pretty hefty tome (both in size and content). Paul Hazard's The Crisis of the European Mind, 1680-1715 (translated from French) was originally published in 1961 by a pioneering scholar of comparative literature. I think I'm going to have my work cut out for me.
"Paul Hazard’s magisterial, widely influential, and beloved intellectual history offers an unforgettable account of the birth of the modern European mind in all its dynamic, inquiring, and uncertain glory. Beginning his story in the latter half of the seventeenth century, while also looking back to the Renaissance and forward to the future, Hazard traces the process by which new developments in the sciences, arts, philosophy, and philology came to undermine the stable foundations of the classical world, with its commitment to tradition, stability, proportion, and settled usage."
"Hazard’s range of knowledge is vast, and whether the subject is operas, excavations, or scientific experiments his brilliant style and powers of description bring to life the thinkers who thought up the modern world."
Of late I've really been spoiled for choice when it comes to good books on my night table. I think for the next few days I'm going to have to concentrate on my subscription books and see if I can make a little progress. Even though I am perpetually behind in my reading (you, too?) I must say I love getting these books by subscription (and knowing I have something new to look forward to each month), and I think I would be tempted to do more of this type of book ordering if I knew there were other publishers offering the service. Not that I don't already have plenty to read, of course. Books. Mail. Books in the mail with an element of surprise. What more could I ask for?