One critic compared it to the extended discussion of sucking stones in Beckett's Molloy. (I think it's Molloy. It's in the Three Novels trilogy, anyway.) I read that when I was in my twenties. When I was young, I had an appetite for modernist fiction that stripped away all (or most) of the conventions of the 19th-century novel that make the best of them (like Middlemarch) so enjoyable today. As I age, I have much less patience. Obviously, I am not tearing through the latest Stephen King (or whatever), but I do find it difficult to read something that does not engage me. Nevertheless, it's pretty brief, so I shall continue on.
By the way, you, Joffe, identified If on a Winter's Night as your favorite. I enjoyed it in a way as well, but it also irritated me. He demonstrated in that work that he could write a really good story if he chose. Many of the first chapters were intriguing and made me wish to read the whole "novel." Teasing me like that seemed downright cruel. What was the point? It basically seemed like showing off to me, but then, he is an Italian, after all. (I'm joking, of course, although I do think that his interests are not that far from Beckett's, but they are disguised by Italian brio compared to the approach of the dour, and sometimes dourly funny, Irishman.) I also read Cosmicomics and, I think, a few other things long ago. (I'm almost certain that I started reading Invisible Cities, but set it down after a few pages when I realized what is game was.) It's interesting that you compared IC to prose poems. That is exactly how I have been thinking of Mr Palomar. If thought of as an anthology of prose poems rather than a novel, the lack of narrative is less annoying. I know that there is a "character," but he seems less vivid to me than J. Alfred Prufrock (which might be my favorite poem of all--not very impressive praise from someone who mostly dislikes poetry).
Guillermo, I thought that Middlemarch was a deeply impressive novel when I read it quite some time ago. (The edition on my shelf was published in 1985.) As I recall, I thought it actually more carefully structured and possibly even better written than Dickens. It seems to me that I thought it lacked his expansiveness, humor, and vitality. But it's not "baggy," the way many of Dickens' lesser novels are. Middlemarch should, I suppose, be compared to the very best of Dickens, e.g., Bleak House. Dickens still wins by a bit to my taste. I really can't imagine Eliot killing off a character by spontaneous combustion!
: I'm done with Middlemarch. It really is a mangificent
: novel, a grandiose fresco of provincial society in an
: age of change (the Industrial Revolution, the Reform
: Bill of 1832 which expanded the electoral franchise
: and redesigned electoral districts). The characters
: are truly complex and three-dimensional, and Eliot's
: style is worth comparing with her contemporary,
: I will begin today with "Mr. Palomar".
: --Previous Message--
: I've read Mr. Palomar and enjoyed it well enough.
: There are some quite funny passages.
: This is the third Calvino novel I've read. The other
: two are Invisible Cities and If on a winter's night a
: traveller. If on a winter's night... was probably the
: most entertaining for me. Invisible Cities seems more
: like a book of prose poems and it seems to me that
: liking or disliking the book or one of the cities
: depends on your enjoying the concept of that city. Of
: course, If on a winter's night... is a bunch of first
: chapters. Mr. Palomar is a series of vignettes about
: one character, so it seems somewhat more focused than
: the other two.
: I think I chose this because of some comments of James
: Wood. I'll try to find time to look for them and post
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