Though I think Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon is one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, I somehow never got around to reading his next, Against the Day — but Dale Peck makes me think I should. I could blog my way through it right here. . . .
Carlin Romano worries, intelligently, about whether professors will retain the strength of will to assign whole books, given shortening attention spans. This here professor will, but that’s just one data point. Reading tough books can be challenging in a fun way.
More than a year ago Matthew Battles warned us against un-historical invocations of Gutenberg.
C. W. Anderson has a really cool annotated syllabus for Print Culture 101.
I think Heart of Darkness is a really bad choice for a graphic novel retelling — too much of its power lies in the magnificent narrative voice, e.g.:
I looked at him, lost in astonishment. There he was before me, in motley, as though he had absconded from a troupe of mimes, enthusiastic, fabulous. His very existence was improbable, inexplicable, and altogether bewildering. He was an insoluble problem. It was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had succeeded in getting so far, how he had managed to remain -- why he did not instantly disappear. 'I went a little farther,' he said, 'then still a little farther -- till I had gone so far that I don't know how I'll ever get back. Never mind. Plenty time. I can manage. You take Kurtz away quick -- quick -- I tell you.' The glamour of youth enveloped his parti-coloured rags, his destitution, his loneliness, the essential desolation of his futile wanderings. For months -- for years -- his life hadn't been worth a day's purchase; and there he was gallantly, thoughtlessly alive, to all appearances indestructible solely by the virtue of his few years and of his unreflecting audacity. I was seduced into something like admiration -- like envy. Glamour urged him on, glamour kept him unscathed. He surely wanted nothing from the wilderness but space to breathe in and to push on through. His need was to exist, and to move onwards at the greatest possible risk, and with a maximum of privation. If the absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of adventure had ever ruled a human being, it ruled this bepatched youth. I almost envied him the possession of this modest and clear flame. It seemed to have consumed all thought of self so completely, that even while he was talking to you, you forgot that it was he -- the man before your eyes -- who had gone through these things. I did not envy him his devotion to Kurtz, though. He had not meditated over it. It came to him, and he accepted it with a sort of eager fatalism. I must say that to me it appeared about the most dangerous thing in every way he had come upon so far.
This can't be represented graphically any more than a Picasso can be represented textually.