Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Before and After (I): Before

To record for posterity: What do I want from this book before starting it?

I joined the World's Least Popular Book Club knowing pretty much nothing about MM,MD. I had seen it in bookstores and always thought it was by Marguerite Yourcenar -- the existence of another Marguerite You-x never quite registered.

By now, having bought v.1 today (but resisted opening it until writing this post!), I have gathered that it's a "stream-of-consciousness" possibly-masterpiece; Norman Mailer admired it and called Young a "Hercules in high heels"; and it apparently has no beginning, middle, or end. 1,198 pages of small-print middle might beg to differ.

Which, for the quantitatively minded, puts it right in the first of the two big gaps in the bar chart below, along with Infinite Jest (1,079 pages) and The Tale of Genji (1,090):

Launching into this book, while also deciding tomorrow whether to run the Center for Fiction's Proust reading group for a year (3,000 pages), I'm looking forward less to the consciousness than to the streaming. That term always means so many different things -- Woolf and Bernhard have almost nothing in common. What will MM,MD mean by it?

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