Weaver recently recounted that she'd only managed to read 350 pages of a 900 page novel. The book itself was heavy (uncomfortable to hold), and the print was small, requiring a magnifier. The book 'The Count of Monte Cristo' by Alexandre Dumas had been selected by her group 'book club'. I know exactly how she felt.
My own major problem, when reading, is with names; mostly Russian names.
I've always enjoyed the stark drama of the great Russian novels, and have attempted to read The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace, Zhivago, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, etc, but I always manage to get bogged-down by the names. I even used to make my own list of characters so that I could keep up with who was who, but even that failed. The novels I did manage to read through to the end probably skipped through many of the characters, simply because I couldn't be bothered.
Why I should be confused by Semyonov or Plotnikov, and not Rutherford or Braithwaite, I have no idea, but somewhere between my eye and my brain an uncontrollable confusion takes over.
I recently read a novel (about Russia, rather than by a Russian) which I found a total pleasure. Amor Towles uses his characters sparingly, and one can easily keep-up with who's who. I read the book almost like a book of short stories, picking it up for a few chapters at a time, and still the characters remained easily identifiable.
Having received a 'visual education', one might have thought that I would see names much like pictures, but that doesn't happen. I see Russian names as 'a confusion of letters', often with far too many consonants.
This doesn't happen with other nationality names, only with Russians.
Why do I always feel guilty when I don't finish a book? I attempted Anna Karenina but gave up.ReplyDelete
Maybe there should be a special edition for the English, with the names changed for Bill and Bob etc.Delete
I gave up on Anna Karenina because I could tired of the self-destructive characters.Delete
Now that's a very curios one for me.In my early 20s I devoured Russian novels for some reason. I could only cope with ones that had been translated using the Russian names (not in Cyrillic of course) and not had the names translated into English as happened with one or two American translations which I immediately ditched (with one exception I seem to recall). Reading a Russian novel with 'English' names just ruined it for me.ReplyDelete
Whereas I would probably have enjoyed them more. I'm OK with Japanese or Chinese names, or even Hispanic etc. It's just those Russian ones!Delete
I don't really have a problem with names, it is more too many characters and perhaps a book jumping all over the place.ReplyDelete
I think all the examples I named above, not only have difficult names, but there are also hundreds of them. It all becomes very confusing.Delete
I agree both of you, reading a good novel should be a pleasure, not an endurance test!Delete
I also read most of these books, luckily the Russian names are sometimes very similar to Jewish names, so there is no problem to remember.ReplyDelete
You're lucky, to me they all look so alien.Delete
With many foreign language names I have found it easier (sometimes) if I can conjure up a mental image to associate with each name so that, whenever that name crops up I remember who they are. I am currently reading one set in Istanbul with lots of Turkish names so that is helping.ReplyDelete
P gets frustrated by novels with a large cast of characters as he can never remember who is who.
I'm with P, it's not only the names, but the amount of them too!Delete
Strangely my Dad felt that way about the Bernard Cornwell Saxon books! Any he had read ended up with lists of names and character identifiers in the front.Delete
I can sympathise with your Dad. Better to KNOW who's who, than to pretend you do.Delete
For Zhivago my best friend's dad drew a "tree" of who was related to whom!!ReplyDelete
Even borrowing that, I got lost!!!
I seem to remember that one of my Dostoyevsky books came with a loose page, that told you who was who, but referring back to it all the time was very annoying.Delete
I refuse to read doorstop sized novels anymore and have yet to read any Russian books.ReplyDelete
I usually read with the book in my hands whilst sitting in an 'easy chair', so huge tomes do become very cumbersome, and uncomfortable.Delete
What makes the Russian names even more difficult is that the same character can be nnamed Katarina Ivanova, Katja, Katinka etc. The last 860 pages novel I gave up on was 4-3-2-1 by Paul Auster, with four differnt lifes for the main character.ReplyDelete
Do you mean "A gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles? A really great book. I had it from the library and then I bought it be
cause I think I will read it again.
Hilde in Germany
Yes, that was the book. I enjoyed it very much; beautifully written.Delete
When I read anything by Salman Rushdie, I actually have to write the names down on a card along with a brief description of their relation to the story.ReplyDelete
I have never read any Salman Rushdie, and now doubt if I ever will.Delete
The Satanic Verses had probably the most gripping opening chapter I have ever read in my life.Delete
It is even worse with the Count as the characters keep changing their names. Yes Cro I love the novels of Amor Towles especially A Gentleman in Moscow which I have read several times because I enjoy the writing so much. I have read one other but can't remember the name. I was introduced to both by our Book Group and the general opionion was brilliant.ReplyDelete
He is such a good writer; he's a pleasure to read.Delete
I have exactly the same problem, and so have never read several of the classics.ReplyDelete
I'm glad I'm not alone. There should be a name for it!Delete
...but we wouldn't be able to remember it.Delete
I have had to write a card to keep characters straight with several books.ReplyDelete
Now I have several books that I can't finish because of my right eye and how tired it gets reading. Always have read so much but now they sit on a shelve.
Keeping a card with all the names is handy, but I still find it annoying have to refer back to it so often.Delete
How timely! Mr. P declared he wanted to read 'War & Peace' just recently and I thought to read 'Anna Karenina' as the ballet is coming to Sydney this year. W&P was tossed aside on the weekend after only 140 pages - declared boring and he didn't appreciate the extensive French dialogue. I still haven't started AK and it keeps slipping down the list. Have to agree about 'A Gentleman in Moscow'; it was one of my top reads this past year!ReplyDelete
I have read Anna Karenina, but have only seen the film of War and Peace. Like Mr P, I started it but probably didn't even get to page 140.Delete
Having read Tolstoy's biography and seen.what a vile man he was I would never touch anything written by him again. Admittedly he did repent in the end and turn to God but it was too late in my eyes. I remember ripping my paperback version of War and Peace in two so I could comfortably read it in bed. However, I never finished it and I used it for lighting the fire.Delete
I suspect most copies of W & P have remained unread; but maybe not used as firewood.Delete
As I had already destroyed it by ripping it in two down the spine it was useless to anybody else so the fire was the best place for it.Delete
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