Thursday, September 15, 2016
How the ipad connects us with Victorian fiction
If you're looking up blog posts on Trollope you may note some of my earlier posts on him, particularly posts on one of his Palliser novels, Can You Forgive Her? - I think I'd tried reading Trollope before, but that was the first I'd tried in recent years, and I abandoned it a couple of hundred pages (that is, probably about 1/10th) of the way. You can see in those posts my frustration w/ Trollope, a complete inability to engage in his narratives, confusion, lost at sea. You can also see that about 2 years ago, urged on by friend and fellow writer AF, to try again - and I did, and really liked Dr. Thorne, the first T novel I'd ever finished reading, and now I'm on the 3rd Barchester novels (read a bit out of sequence). So what happened? It's not that the Barchesters are better than the Pallisers - I think they're pretty similar - and I don't think it's that I have changed. Strangely, I think in part it's a matter of mode: I've read the last 3 T novels on my iPad, and I find that to be a perfect mode for reading Trollope (or actually any of the Victorian novelists). First, the novels are public domain and therefore available at no cost - although admittedly they're poorly edited. Also, much lighter and easier to navigate - esp with the "search" feature - hugely valuable in any long novel but especially for Trollope, who does kind of overwhelm us with a deluge of characters at the outset and with very clipped intros to many of them, some of whom become important, others not - it's hard to tell at first. What I can do when reading on the ipad is make a fairly large # of notes (can't do that at all w/ library books, obviously) and many highlights as well: even highlighting the name of each character when introduced helps me to track what's going on in the early pages and build a better foundation for understanding ans the sinuous plots develop. In other words, the Victorian novels require more engagement - somewhat ironic that the older novels demand this more than the unconventional narratives of the Modernists, which are actually much easier to follow qua plot. Ipad reading for some may feel sterile and removed - and I too at times romanticize the heft of a book and the feel of paper, and of course the cover art, with us throughout the reading experience - but tablets, esp if you use notes and highlights - make us engage much more actively with the text; they enable us to reach across a full century and engage with once-obscure novels the size of paving stones.