Wednesday, February 23, 2011

victorian reading list

As sad as I am to see that three Pittsburgh area Borders stores will be closing within a few weeks as part of the bookstore franchise's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the 20% to 40% discounts being offered on all merchandise have been too good for me to resist. My boyfriend and I made a trip to our local Borders this past weekend.  He bought three books.  I picked up a dozen, but only left with seven after forcing myself to put some back on the shelves.

Not to my surprise, I found that most of the books I picked up and subsequently bought were Victorian novels or short stories:

  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  • Dubliners by James Jocye
  • A Portrait of a Young Lady by Henry James
  • The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James (combined into one book)
 I also bought East, West, a collection of short stories by Salman Rushdie, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck, and Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.

The books I forced myself to put back included:

  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (not Victorian, but as a parody of the Gothic novel I think it would be fun to read)
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (which I've already read)
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  • We Are the Living by Ayn Rand
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Now I just need to find a suitable bookcase to hold them.  Currently I am using four old milk crates for that purpose, but they're starting to bow from the weight of the books they hold, and there's just no more room for any books.

I already have a notable amount of Victorian literature in my bookcase, as well as numerous history books on various aspects of the Victorian era- all part of research I have been conducting, on and off, to help me write my Victorian historical fiction novel.  I'll never get the thing done if I keep reading so many books to "learn more."

That is precisely why John Steinbeck gave up on finishing  The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, his attempt at a modern-language retelling of the King Arthur legends that remained true to the stories as told in the 14th and 15th centuries.  He eventually gave up because the project seemed too big for him.  I just hope that doesn't end up happening to me- where the research gets in the way of the writing. Maybe that's why I bought The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights- as a reminder of the dangers I may be in of shelving a project to which I've dedicated years of work due to letting the research hinder the progress of my writing.


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