December 31, 2013

Ambition

A chance mention in Michelle Huneven's Isabel Archer, Great-Grandmother has at least pointed me in the direction of an ambitious (for me) project. Huneven wrote "The unexamined will of intelligent woman—so vivid and unstoppable in Isabel Archer and Dorothea Brooks, and Gwendolyn Harleth—was a fictional construct I would explore in my writing." I already knew and loved Isabel and Dorothea, but Gwendolyn was a stranger to me. It didn't take much to find that she is the central character in Daniel Deronda and that her plot has many intriguing similarities to Dorothea's. While I was rereading Middlemarch I found a copy of Daniel Deronda in a used book store and couldn't resist it. It's been beckoning to me from the top of a pile of books ever since.

Frank Bruni may have pushed me over the top with his op-ed at The New York Times, For 2014, Tweet Less, Read More, today. I'm receptive to his message of tweeting less (not that I write that much there, but I do read an awful lot) and reading more. Bruni's argument is

I buy that, and not from a vantage point of cultural snobbery or because I’m a Luddite. Trust me, I watch inexcusable amounts of television, much of it proudly lowbrow. I consume most of my newspapers and magazines online and almost all of my books on an iPad, and I depend gratefully on email and instant messaging to maintain friendships that might otherwise have fallen by the wayside.

But I’d bet big on real reading, fiction or nonfiction, as a prompt for empathy and a whole lot more: coolheadedness, maybe even open-mindedness, definitely deliberation. It doesn’t just yank you outside of yourself, making you consider other viewpoints without allowing for the incessant interjection and exaltation of your own. It slackens the pace. Forces a pause.

and I'm ready for that. The trouble is there's so much I want to read. I'm leary of getting lost in another nineteenth-century novel. They're just the thing I tend to linger over and get lost in. So here's the ambition—I'm going to try some parallel reading for the first time in years and see how it goes, Daniel Deronda alongside all the other stuff in my queue.


Seen a few hours later at Twitter