i am yet again at that phase of reading a ‘doorstopper’ book, when all decisions are regretted and i vow to never ever pick up a book longer than 400 pages.

this time it’s ‘ducks, newburyport’ driving me up the wall. one thousand pages of stream of consciousness. the cover blurb stated “ulysses has nothing on this”, but i’m afraid i disagree for now.

a little life by hanya yanagihara

so… one of the big points of reading books is to gain new experience indirectly and broaden emotional palette, right?

if you agree with this presumption, then “a little life” fulfils it plenty. but this is not a book i could recommend to anyone.

at all.

i can’t think of anyone whom i could say with a light heart and clear conscience “yeah, go read this book, you’ll have great time”. one reads “a little life” not for pleasure, but for poking holes in one’s peace of mind. and don’t we all have enough of that already? yanagihara’s reader gets eight hundred pages reminding them of horror humanity is capable of.

not something i needed.

ulysses by james joyce

i have had ulysses on my to-read list for so long, i can’t remember why it caught my interest in the first place.

over the last ten years i have tried to actually read it at least four times. first in translation, then in original. most of the attempts ended around page 300-350. lack of plot and hostility of the text didn’t make it easy, but determination to conquer it only grew with time.

when reading ‘infinity jest’ last year, i tracked progress every day in a spreadsheet. seeing the neat columns of numbers helped me to get over the hump to the point when ij gets actually interesting. so i used the same trick when gearing up for the fourth ulysses crusade.

don’t waste your time on this book, unless you are forced to. the novel lives up to its reputation – plotless, dense, experimental prose. at times i felt like joyce actively hated his readers, while still wanting to show off what he can do to english language.

and yet, i enjoyed it (one of my friends called it stockholm syndrome). juxtaposition of country fate themes with bloom’s haphazard, filthy thoughts and small deeds was a surprise; serves me well for not doing any research on the book (though that was intentional – didn’t want any spoilers). now i get why it was banned so widely. before reading i presumed it was for political reasons.

ulysses gave modern literature inner monologue and tangled netting of allusions. without it we would still have all that, but in a parallel universe way.

ulysses update number four

i did it!!!

Ulysses is for sure the most difficult thing i’ve ever read. War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and other Russian classics have nothing on this monster of a novel.

i now know how ultramarathoners feel after the run.

a more coherent book opinion will come later. it will take several days, if not weeks to digest everything.

infinite jest by david foster wallace

This book belongs to the doorstopper Club, along with Ulysses and Don Quixote. In hard cover, its thousand plus pages can cause serious injuries if used as a weapon.

David Foster Wallace wasn’t on my radar until this summer. I stumbled upon yet another list of greatest books, and Infinite Jest was pretty up high. The title caught my attention. It evoked memories of Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, which I read back in high school.

Considering the length, I decided to stick to a reading plan – the goal was to read the book by the end of the year, which left me with 22 weeks starting in August. I did basic calculations of number of pages to read each week, and then kept track. Turns out, it took me only 14 weeks.

The plot is both simple and multi-faceted. Two governments are looking for the mysterious Entertainment, tennis academy students are busy surviving and being obnoxiously self-involved, a group of addicts recover from their various addictions. So, don’t expect a riveting page-turner. Instead, come for the joy of abundance of beautifully crafted sentences. Wallace bends and spins English language like a Valenciennes lacemaker.

It’s no doubt that Infinite Jest deserves its place in the lists of modern American classics. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s a must-read, but it certainly adds colour to your inner world.

infinite jest

I have finished reading “Infinite Jest” on 3 November. It took me 14 weeks to read its 1079 pages, and it was totally worth it. My mental landscape feels richer now.

David Foster Wallace’s other works are now on my to-read list.