So I’ve wrapped up Moby-Dick, which is a fine book. Though admittedly I was a tad relieved when the epilogue came and went.
I usually like to do a “best books I read this year” kind of list around new years, but this year has been a little bit different in that I think most of my notable reads have actually been re-reads.
I did, however, read two things by Jane Austen that I was hitherto unfamiliar with. Lady Susan is a delightful, if somewhat insubstantial, romp which came onto my radar by way of its recent movie adaptation, Love and Friendship (which confusingly takes its title from a different Austen work, but which wisely chooses to adapt a work of lesser stature than an outright classic like, say, Pride and Prejudice, which it would inevitably pale in comparison to). Mansfield Park, on the other hand, leans way too far in the other direction, where it feels like the author was so preoccupied with writing something serious and edifying that she forgot to make it enjoyable.
And now, having completed my retread of Moby-Dick, I’ve decided to close the year out with a re-read of Ulysses, which is an entirely different ball game for me: if you were to ask me, one decade ago, who my favourite author was, my answer would have been James Joyce. In the ensuing years, I gradually came to distance myself from him, less as a good faith re-evaluation of his work than as part of my attempt to distance myself from that phase of my life. You know the psychological manoeuvre: a superficial yet powerful part of convincing yourself that you have changed as a person is the willingness to write off your earlier enthusiasms as an example of youthful folly.
But this often has more to do with snobbery than a genuinely critical analysis of your aesthetic tastes. So it’s time to give Joyce a fair shake, to try and understand why he was so important to the younger me, and to see what, if anything, he has to say to the contemporary me. This will, however, take some time. It’s already clear to me that, unlike the case with Moby-Dick, I have a lot of things to say about about the subject at hand. I don’t think we’re getting out of this without drafting some sort of pretentious mega-post or something. And it’s going be a James Joyce post, so we’re likely to hit new levels of pretentiousness for this blog. I’m so excited you guys.
Also, I wonder if I am thawing out of my curious difficulty when it comes to informally blogging about English language literature, despite this being one of the few subjects that I have actual qualifications for.