Read and Cold

There is a near infinite list of writers that I will never read. There are some few writers who compel me to read everything that I can get my hands on.

A dispiriting, small group of writers are those I would like to read, and have attempted, but somehow their work has failed to engage me. These include Henry James, Iris Murdoch, Thomas Pynchon, John McGahern and Patrick White. With the exception of James, I have read at least one book of the others on the list. Though I appreciate the quality of the writing, the book left me cold.
If you love any of those writers, I would appreciate a suggestion of where to begin.

16 thoughts on “Read and Cold

  1. >Murdoch: The Sea, The Sea. McGahern: Amongst Women. Pynchon: I love Rainbow, but maybe Mason and Dixon.I can't read James either. A friend urged White's Voss on me about six months ago, but….

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  2. >I'm with you on Pynchon, although I will give him a second try at some point. Murdoch is a curious one, I'm reading all of her work at the moment, slowly, from start to finish. I enjoyed her first novel, Under the Net, it wasn't anything like the others I'd tried before (before I started my project). What of hers did you read, by the way?

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  3. >Colleen: That's an inspiring idea; I've never thought of James as a short story writer. That'll be a good place to begin. Thanks.BDR: Thank you for the suggestions. I've read The Sea, The Sea: beautiful but it left me cold, two days later I could not tell you what I had read. I will try Amongst Women. I'm not sure I am ready to give Rainbow another try yet, perhaps …Daniel-Halifax: I watched the Murdoch biog film recently, and I'm tempted to try her fiction again, though I was unable to engage with her writing when I last tried.Jen: Thank you. I knew you'd come though with a White suggestion, and it looks like a good one.Michelle: I've read Under the Net, The Bell, The Sea, The Sea and The Black Prince. I read each one quite happily but they left me cold. In no case can I recall much about either book after the event.

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  4. >I'd say you've read enough Murdoch to know she's not for you. Reading is so personal, there must be something about her style that keeps you a bit outside her text universe, so that while you can appreciate it while you're reading, it doesn't settle for good.

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  5. >That is logical, Michelle, and I agree intellectually but instinctively I feel urged toward Murdoch. It was watching the biopic that relit an old fuse. Perhaps I should try her non-fiction: have you read 'Metaphysics'?

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  6. >As with learning to enjoy a food or warm toward a relation, it's not so much a matter of "where" as "when." It took about 15 years of occasional bounced attempts before I found myself suddenly enthralled by James's work, and unpredictably my entree was the "difficult" period rather than the "accessible" one.Best, I think, not to stubbornly knock one's sconce against the same unyielding surface without respite — the resulting grudge can become embedded in one's sense of self, to no one's final benefit.

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