Friday, January 10, 2014
With All the Best Intentions...
I began my reading this year with the best of intentions, I would choose randomly from my stacks, read carefully (and slowly), savour the language on each page and take my time to digest what the author is saying to me. Taking my time meant thinking more about each individual book, and having more time to do extra research rather than just counting on Wikipedia for most of my information (not that I am dissing the website in any way...it is still my first choice for fast facts).
With these ideas in mind I set out read my very first Goethe. I wanted to read Faust of course, but I have always been really anal about how I start a new author, and preferably it will be with their first works and then progressing on to read the rest (this modus operandi of mine is currently getting a re-evaluation). So I began to read Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther.
One other firmly established habit of mine is to ignore introductions in books. I do this for a few reasons, it is hard to understand the references made because I have not read the book yet (why is this at the beginning of a book?), sometimes they can be extremely boring (not everyone is as funny as Charles Dickens or Mark Twain) and last, but not least, they might contain spoilers. Quite by accident, I briefly scanned the first page of the introduction in this book, and right there, right on the very first page, in two little sentences, the whole plot was revealed.
I have always been a fan of the epistolary novel, but knowing what I already did, or possibly because I had to go back to work this week after Christmas holidays, or perhaps because the moon is getting fuller, or even maybe it was just because it is January and the weather is dull and grey (post holiday blues?), but I was not inclined to like this story.
Werther impressed me from the beginning as self indulgent. On top of that he is a very artsy, whiney, flowery, wordy, (I discovered a new hatred for the word effulgent) correspondent which had me rolling my eyes almost from the first page. Add to that his obsessive behaviour which really brought back to me those feelings I experienced when I was reading Nabokov's Lolita . So going in, I was miffed, already spoilt, mildly grossed out, and I think too biased to give Sorrows a fair chance. There are other writings in the book, which I didn't even look at because by the time I forced myself through Sorrows (rapidly I might add, no savouring these words), I was not interested in looking further, I knew that it had been a bad idea, and that Goethe deserves a better effort from me.
I have since read that this first book of Goethe's was kind of a bad boy for it's day. Inciting some protest about it's content, it was also an influence for the upcoming Romantic literary movement.
For now, I will put this aside for another time when I have forgot these preconcieved notions, and recommend to you (whoever you are who read my blog posts), to be careful of your books...they might contain introductions that could ruin everything!