Hard to believe that the witty, erudite, and knowledgeable people who post to this site aren't doing that much reading. Keep us informed, please.
Lord, how can one resist an invitation like that.
It got me to thinking about the patterns we follow when it comes to choosing reading topics and materials.
Sometimes I seek out books I've read about and have piqued a sudden interest. (This often happens with ballet books referred to on Ballet Talk.)
A varient of this for me is when I come across a reference that reminds me of an old interest, leads me to a specific book, which then pushes me onward and outward to a series of related books. One leads to another. You can become immersed in a different cultural world. In my case, this tends to happen more with past events than with what is going on today. It also happens to involve RE-reading almost as much as reading unfamiliar material. (This may just be a function of growing older.)
The process began again recently when I came across a review of a new edition of selections from the Goncourt Journals. (Edmond and Jule de Goncourt were brothers and literary partners. Their vast and obsessive journalizing in the Paris literary scene from 1851 to 1896 (Jules died in 1870) -- includes intimate views of Flaubert, Zola, Theophile Gautier, Degas, and just about every major and minor cultural figure in France during that time. (Pages from the Goncourt Journals, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, NY Review Books Classics). For those who might be intimidated by the big namess, there's lots of fascinating, bitchy gossip, back-biting, and ... sex. Not to mention syphillis, which effected just about everyone and which actually killed Jules de Goncourt.)
This led me to an old copy of Victor Hugo's History of a Crime, his outraged account of President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'etat which transformed him into Emperor Napoleon III. (And which led to Hugo's exile untl 1970, when "Napoleon le Petit" in turn was overthrown as a result of disasters in the Prussian War.) It's a great story (with Hugo, who took part in the events, as the hero). You can appreciate the gargantuan narrative talent that have made Les Miserables and other Hugo novels so powerful even today.
Then ... onward to a few bios of Napoleon III and Victor Hugo's (Graham Robb's recent one is large, thoughtful and brilliant), and a plan to revisit some Flaubert (Sentimental Education) and Zola (Nana, because I just saw a ballet based on the Camille storyo, Le Debacle, because it takes place duirng the disastrous Franco-Prussian War, and Ladies' Paradise, beccause it's fun and takes place in one of the new department stores that were invented in Paris in the 19th century). And to try one more time to figure out why so many people consider Hugo to be the greatest lyric poet in any language. And to try a second time to get through Les Miserables -- a long, thick book, and a little old-fashioned to our taste. Robb has convinced me that it's worth the effort. (We have an Impressionist exhibit at our local museum -- a travelling show from the Clarke Museum in Williamstown -- so that covers some of the art.)
I may never get through it all on this voyage. But there's always next time.
Unfortunately, this bout of time-travelling has pushed aside a small pile of books on the current religion-v-science disputes. They gather dust (only figuratively, of course
) and wait patiently until I get the need to roll around in French history out of my system.
P.S. I'd like to thank the public library system in our county for continuing to by serious books when media hype sometimes suggests that 20,000 copies of Oprah Winfrey or Dan Brown might be sufficient. And ... Amazon, for sponsoring Ballet Talk and providing that convenient link at the top of each page so we can go on adding to our shopping carts.