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There is a constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world.

William Carlos Williams

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Friday, January 29th, 2010

🦋 Reading difficult books

At The Millions, Garth Hallberg discusses Nabokov's Ada, or Ardor -- the "Difficult Book par excellence"; in the course of this discussion he describes the experience of reading difficult books with marvelous concision: "A willingness to let things wash over you can be the difference between sublimity and seasickness." Yes! I love this; I am adding it to my list of epigraphs for the site.

(via Conversational Reading.)

posted evening of January 29th, 2010: Respond
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Monday, February 16th, 2009

🦋 A book that would lend itself to being read aloud

...his favorite purple passage remained the one concerning the name "Guermantes," with whose hue his adjacent ultramarine merged in the prism of his mind, pleasantly teasing Van's artistic vanity.

Hue or who? Awkward. Reword! (marginal note in Ada Veen's late hand).

AWB (in the course of an amusing story about the film rights to Ada) calls it "the least filmable story in the history of fiction" -- she is probably right; but I am thinking it would work really well as a reader's theater. The sentences have such a vibrant energy, such rhythm, it would be a treat to hear them read aloud, with feeling. It seems like pacing is a crucial element of this story -- like wandering off in thought will detract from the reading.

posted afternoon of February 16th, 2009: Respond
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🦋 Ardor

A White Bear's post on re-reading Ada has got me sufficiently intrigued, I just pulled my copy off the shelf, thinking "I'm between books right now, why not take a look?" (I had been thinking of reading The Counterlife, but the opening pages turned me off sufficiently, I don't think I'm up for it.) A beautiful volume, I'm thinking as I open it. Folded inside the front cover is a family tree of characters from Anna Karenina -- in my hand, though I have no memory of creating it.* It was originally given as a birthday present from one person with a Russian name to another person with a Russian name, with a wish on the inside cover that the recipient might "someday find your Ada", which seems a little perverse given the incest angle. (I bought it used in NYC, I would say in about 1990.) The bookmark is a Foreign Exchange receipt from Bank of Jamaica, in the name of the person to whom the birthday wishes are addressed. These are nice details for drawing me in, before I've even begun to read.

* This is a little strange, honestly -- Ada makes plenty of reference to Karenina to be sure; but if memory serves, I read Karenina much later, in at least the mid-90's.

posted afternoon of February 16th, 2009: Respond

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