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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Monday, May 11, 2015

Drowning in Trollope

You really need the patience of a saint so to speak or a lot of time on your hands to get into reading Trollope. Sorry, not me. Taking on the Pallisser series looked to be much more than I'd bargained for - even the first volume, Can You Forgive Her?, would be about all I'd be reading for the next month of so. Life is short, time is finite, Trollope is long. Any reader of this blog knows that I'm eager to take on some pretty massive reading excursions, but with Trollope I just found that the story was a series of incidents, without obvious conflict or complexity - Alice rejects the worthy suitor and is destined it would seem to get back together with the "wild" cousin and caught up in his political ambitions - but it's taken about 250 pages for anything much to happen. The style is easy, free, colloquial, but ultimately pretty dull. I know Dickens is very low-brow and melodramatic and full of caricature but he's also full of wit, surprise, and daily life. Comparing Trollope to some of the great multi-volume authors - even fellow English authors - FM Ford, Powell, St. Aubyn, to name three very distinct 20th-century practitioners - he comes up short. One can't help or at least I couldn't help he was spinning his wheels, paid by the page or by the word, and unwilling therefore to move things along. Yet at the same time we don't enjoy the advantages of leisurely and introspective development of incident - Proust being the highest standard here, or among contemporaries how about Knausgaard? - in that Trollope is rarely introspective or analytic. Scene by scene, sure, some excellent moments - the fox hunt scene that I read yesterday was very strong, if that's of any interest to you - but 250 pages in (with about 1000 to go - in volume 1!) I'm at sea and swimming toward the shore.

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