Sunday, 21 October 2007

46. Great Short Works of Stephen Crane


I finished The Lovely Bones and have decided I need to go back to reading the classics and genre fiction for awhile because contemporary literary fiction (except for David Mitchell, of course) is disappointing me quite intensely these days.

I don't know if Sebold's book got more and more horribly sentimental or if I reached my breaking point for it at some point, but as I read I got increasingly irritated. It got so bad that, frankly, I became a bit embarrassed to be carrying that damned bright blue book around; I didn't want everyone witnessing my shame and displeasure.

I decided on Stephen Crane who, if not a classic writer, is at least an old writer - he died in 1900. And it did seem promising. When Scott suggested this book to me several months ago, he convinced me to buy it by pointing out the first line of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets: you must admit that "A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honor of Rum Alley" is a pretty great start.

Unfortunately, I didn't find that Maggie delivered anything so compelling as what its opener promised; I thought it was stilted and a little boring. I've also read 4 of the 8 short stories included at the end of the volume; I thought "A Mystery of Heroism" was a pretty good story but found the other 3 fairly forgettable.

I won't be taking this volume with me to Europe so I'll have to finish it when I return. What I am taking with me, and what I can't wait to start reading, is Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. I've been aching to read a fat Victorian novel and so picked up an old ragged copy of Collins' novel for $4 - this way, I won't feel badly if I lose it or have to abandon it for weight reasons along the way.

3 comments:

arnaud said...

Hi Colleen,
I've just come across your blog post by accident (I have an alert set on David Mitchell to find out when his next novel's out!) and, based on your comments, I could not help but recommend "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" by Susanna Clarke. This book turned out to be a great surprise when I read it last summer. The style and story will bring you the satisfaction of a classic Victorian novel and it's clever, and well written, enough to reconcile you with contemporary literary fiction. I can't recommend it highly enough... Although at 1,024 pages you may want to buy it once you actually ARE in Europe if you are going to be travelling towards our side of the pond...
Happy reading...
PS: The Woman in White is great too!

DreamQueen said...

Others have recommended Jonathan Strange to me before so if I run across it while I'm away I'll pick it up - thanks!

Last I heard, Mitchell's new book was due out in 2009...I can't wait!

Where in Europe are you anyway?

arnaud said...

2009 for next Mitchell's book?!? That sounds like a long time to wait...

That book must have been a long time in the making... I met him about 3 years ago, just after Cloud Atlas was published in paperback in the UK. He was finishing writing Black Swan Green at the time and he talked about this new project about a Dutch colony on a Japanese island in the 17th century if I remember well. It sounded really good. I met him again later, after the publication of Black Swan Green, but he was a bit more reluctant to reveal anything. He was doing a lot of research for the book and it sounded like an ambitious project so I really can't wait! As far as I know, he does quite a few promo readings in North America. Try and go see him, he's a really, really nice guy and very funny!

btw, I'm writing from England. A Frenchman stranded in Yorkshire...

Have a great trip