Gaps and Omissions

  1. Henry James (only The Turn of the Screw)
  2. George Eliot
  3. Thomas Hardy
  4. D. H. Lawrence
  5. Lawrence Durrell
  6. Michel de Montaigne
  7. Leo Tolstoy (only The Death of Ivan Ilyich)
  8. Augustine of Hippo
  9. Friedrich Schiller
  10. Anthony Trollope
  11. Charlotte Bronte

Gaps in my reading history. As is obvious from this list of omissions, I’m not particularly well-read. Clearly a list of writers one hasn’t read could extend on and on, but I feel that I ought to have read at least one major work of these writers.

30 thoughts on “Gaps and Omissions

  1. I haven’t read Trollope either, and only skimmed Montaigne and Augustine. But yes, I would recommend the others, although D. H. Lawrence and Lawrence Durrell perhaps appealed to me when I was younger.

    • Thanks, Marina. I intend to read at least one work by each writer, or in the case of Augustine and Montaigne enough of their major work to see if it is too my taste. From what little I’ve sampled, Durrell’s poetry draws me more than his prose, but I plan to read a little of both.

  2. We all have gaps, don’t we? Lawrence is one of mine, and the only Durrell I’ve read is his non fiction about the Greek islands, not his fiction works. Schiller is a name I stumbled on recently in a Pushkin biography, but it seems to be rather hard to track down his works.

  3. There’s quite a bit of Schiller I’ve noted down over the years: The Robbers; Mary Stuart; Wallenstein; Don Carlos; On the Naïve and Sentimental in Literature. Most of these are available in collections in the excellent German Library series from Bloomsbury.

  4. So many gaps, so little time. Thanks to school I got to read Silas Marner and The Mill on the Floss but remember very little of the latter. I’ve tried Henry James so often and just can’t go there. Likewise Hardy, I’m sorry to say. Montaigne’s essays are great to dip into. Did manage (and enjoyed) the Alexandria Quartet. The Black Book is on the shelf and has been for years. I liked DHLawrence in the teen years: Lady Chatterley (of course), Sons and Lovers (liked it the most) and The Rainbow (pretty good.) Of the others that I haven’t read, Augustine and Schiller tweak my interest. So many more in the world…

    • You remind me that I also read Silas Marner in school, so one less Eliot to worry about. I really ought read Middlemarch though. I’ve tried Henry James too without success, but am emboldened by his influence on Dorothy Richardson.

  5. Henry James seems an important precursor to modernism – although I’ve not yet, quite worked out why although actually reading him may help me there. Dorothy Richardson very much flagged up by my tutor at Birkbeck, but the attraction still eludes me – although I like what you say about the last one you’ve just read. The only Hardy I’ve read is Jude the Obscure: a curious, maddening novel – or, rather, a novel about curious, maddening people (from what I remember). Like you, the list of what I haven’t read (& apparently should have) is long but, I reckon, there’s still time…

    • I’ve seen Henry James referred to as an early modernist, though in my own mind think of him as a late Victorian writer. I wondered whether considering James a proto-modernist is America’s way of owning modernism in the way they try for the punk movement. As you say, reading James would be helpful in forming a view. Jude the Obscure is the Hardy that interests me, if only for its wonderful title – always intended it to be my first, and possibly only, Hardy. The ‘should have’ part of my list of gaps and omissions is purely self imposed, though it seems moderately interesting I’m better read in France, Russia and Germany’s canon than that of my adopted country.

  6. Henry James is incredibly important for American literature, and, as so frequently happens with subtle psychological authors, he’s often misunderstood. His work takes a tremendous amount of patience and a particular temperament, but those of us who love him really do. I’d recommend the Ambassadors. It contains all of his concerns and favorite tricks.
    I love Anna Karenina.
    I’ve tried with DH Lawrence, Sons and Lovers. It was fine but didn’t seem worth reading more. Certain authors connect, and some just don’t.

    • Faulkner, Henry James, Emily Dickenson, Emerson, Melville. To my untutored eye, these are the essentials of American literature. Would you add to that, Caille? Kate Chopin is wonderful, but essential? I should like James, as I enjoy difficulty in literature. I like to work for those sentences.

      • If I may chime in on this topic I would recommend the following twentieth-century essentials (in addition to Faulkner): Frank Norris, The Octopus; Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence; and Dos Passos, The USA Trilogy.

      • That’s a great list! Two I’d definitely add are Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Jean Toomer’s Cane (an absolute masterpiece that few outside of the U.S. tend to know). For writers working today, I don’t think you get more American, in the best sense, than Toni Morrison and Marilynne Robinson.

  7. That is a great list of authors worthy of adding to your resume of books read. While I’ve read much from each of those authors (with the lone exception of Durrell), Eliot and Hardy are among my favorites. I would recommend Middlemarch and Adam Bede although everything Eliot wrote is magnificent. Among Hardy’s novels The Return of the Native is my favorite but there are several that are arguably better including Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge. Two further recommendations: Jane Eyre, a novel that I have read and reread many times over the decades since I was a young boy, and War and Peace which I have read several times since my first traversal in 1990.

  8. I think you would really appreciate the later James, I find ‘The Ambassadors’ the most poignant but ‘The Wings of the Dove’ also has that subtle but devasting beauty (oxymoron by now a cliché, but James, like Fitzgerald restores it). I’m afraid Lawrence isn’t for me, though I’ve stumbled on a few poems that are luminous. I haven’t braved War and Peace but I loved Anna Karinina. I’d certainly echo the recommendations for Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss but I’d be more inclined towards James. I’m not qualified to comment on the rest as my gaps match yours save Montaigne, which I find wry and a solace, something to dip in and out of. James can be painfully funny and, I think, very moving, but writers in exile often appeal to me.

    • You and me both, Miranda. You confirm a feeling I had with James that, unusually for me, I’d prefer to read in reverse chronological order. I’ve dipped into Montaigne but I think it isn’t doing him justice and I want to explore properly some day.

  9. The thing with James is that he does bridge the Victorianism-Modernism gap and I keep meaning to re-read him in (forward) chronological order to see that more clearly (I did a chronlogical read of Hardy a few years ago and that was very rewarding). The Return of the Native is my favourite Hardy, even though I studied it in sixth form – if it can survive that, it must be good. I read Middlemarch a good three times before I tried any other Eliot – really not sure why. Daniel Deronda was the next one I read after that and I found it marvellous, but also have a fondness for dear Adam Bede.

  10. I don’t even know who Lawrence Durrell is, so you’re already one step ahead of me on this one.
    I’ve only read 6 of them and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever try Augustine but Montaigne is a huge gap for me.

    I loved Washington Square and What Maisie Knew. I thought the issues were modern, especially Maisie’s side. You could transpose them to nowadays.

    I tried The Mill on the Floss but I couldn’t get on with it, just like I’m not a fan of her French counterpart’s rural novels.

    I loved the several Thomas Hardy I’ve read and I’d recomment to start with some short stories (Life’s Little Ironies)

    The only Trollope I’ve read is Miss McKenzie. I love the feminist touches you can find in 19thC English lit, something I’ve yet to find in the French lit of that time.

    So you’ve never read Jane Eyre. I might say something shocking but I think it’s better for adolescent readers than for adults. All this outdated drama! But it’s more bearable than the one in Wuthering Heights, though…Contrary to Henry James’s books, I find it hard to relate to what the characters experience and feel in the Brontes’ novels. (except The Tenant of Whildfell Hall)

    And I really, really recommend War and Peace. (Even with skipping some long pages about war theory, after all, “skipping pages” is one of the rights of the reader) I can’t say I loved Anna Karenina, high maintenance heroins tend to get on my nerves, but that’s on me.

    • I’m not going to recommend Richardson’s Pilgrimage to you if you’re not into high-maintenance heroines, not that there is anything heroic about Miriam Henderson. Epic perhaps.

      I think I’ve missed my window for Jane Eyre and perhaps I did read it a thousand years ago. I’m more curious about Villette.

      Thanks for the comments, Emma, much appreciated.

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