Holiday Reading

Byatt, from the Guardian

I’m embarrassed to say that I read about two non-Victorian novels a year, and that even those novels are often related to the Victorian novel stylistically or thematically.  A perennial favourite of mine is the contemporary realist novelist Margaret Drabble, especially The Peppered Moth (whose Darwinian themes are related to The Mill on the Floss).

This year it’s even worse–one of my favourite reads was A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, which slipped by me when it was first published in the fall of 2009 but which I was happy to pick up in paperback when I needed a break in November.  Byatt’s neo-Victorian novel stretches from the 1880s to WW1, and centers around several sprawling families involved with the Arts and Crafts movement and the Fabian society, and is certainly engrossing as well as rather disturbing. Continue reading

The Challenge of Writing About George Eliot’s Writing

As Tedra Osell has noted at Crooked Timber, Ta-Nehisi Coates has been posting sporadically about his experience reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch for the first time. (Osell also helpfully provides links to Coates’s posts on Middlemarch).

I have enjoyed reading Coates’s attempts to wrestle with what it is about Eliot’s prose that makes it so, well, wonderful, I suppose. For instance, in his post “Greedy of Clutch,” Coates explains that he believes it is his lack of grammatical knowledge that renders him only able to appreciate “the beauty of this sort of writing on a rather unspeakable emotional and spiritual level.” Continue reading