There are a lot of ‘second timers’ on my February reading list – i.e. works of writers whom I’ve only read once before. I always dread these sorts of experiences. Earlier this year – or was it late last year? – I was very impressed by Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and it’s invariably affecting my reading of When We Were Orphans. Unconsciously, I draw connections and make comparisons, and I’m afraid the same will happen when I read The Waves and Tender is the Night.
In fact, with Woolf, it has happened before. After falling in love with Mrs Dalloway and Behind the Acts, I picked up To the Lighthouse with enthusiasm, only to return it to the library after reading the first ten or so pages. The characters appeared two-dimensional; the plot contrived, the writing stilted. And while I was at the bookstore, I peeked at the opening paragraphs of Tender is the Night. There was nothing repulsive; I just wasn’t as excited as I was when I first read Gatsby. Then again, I found the first chapter of Gatsby incredibly dull, and still think it’s a rather weak opening for such a powerful and restrained book.
So yes. I am currently ploughing through When We Were Orphans, and I’m thinking of reading either Orwell’s Essays, or The Waves afterwards. I would have liked to read Metamorphoses, but I only just ordered a copy of Mandelbaum’s translation from The Book Depository – thank you once again, JRSM, for introducing me to FREE DELIVERY WORLDWIDE! (except for those poor, poor things in Denmark) – and I think I have to wait a week for it to come from the UK. The Book Depository is the solution to all my book-related problems. I don’t think I’ll even be going to the bookstore, since books in the UK appear to be much cheaper than in Australia. Even if there were shipping fees, I would be saving money. I think.
The only other book I’m missing from the list is Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, which I might borrow from the library.