I have been struggling to read The Arabian Nights.
I enjoy it. It has a rambling fairy tale-like feel to it as the story within a story turns into yet another story and as magic alternately saves and destroys the day. Because it is from a different culture, I’m finding it fascinating to think of this as the stories of a cultural heritage. I’m glad I’m reading it.
But at the same time, it’s a story in a story in a story on to eternity; it feels repetitive; it’s long-winded; it’s just plain challenging to read. I almost gave up on it. But I did not.
I remembered that Eva mentioned a companion volume (by Robert Irwin) to The Arabian Nights in her library loot last month, so I decided to find it at my library too. Reading commentary helped when I was reading Julius Caesar last month, so I figured why not?
Apparently, I’m not alone in struggling through Arabian Nights, so now I don’t feel so odd calling in for reinforcements. Here’s what Irwin says in the introduction:
According to a superstition current in the Middle East in the late nineteenth century when Sir Richard Burton was writing, no one can read the whole text of the Arabian Nights without dying. There have indeed been times (particularly when toiling through Burton’s own distinctly unattractive translation of the Nights) when I thought that I might slit my through rather than continue with this enterprise. However, I am still alive. It may be that I have acquired some sort of literary stamina [as a child]… (page 1).
That was a relief to me to read that even the expert writing a companion guide to Arabian Nights struggled through it at times. I’ve determined to read the companion volume as I continue reading The Arabian Nights. (Thanks for the idea, Eva!) I look forward to being able to say that it helped to get the literary stamina for which ever book I next think is going to kill me. I’m going to read it! I will not die!
What book did you think was going to kill you? Did it kill you, or did you pull through?
Do you turn to commentary or companion guides as reinforcements to get you through your challenging reads?
This week, I also signed up for my summer reading program: I need to read six books (audio counts). I also signed up my 20-month-old son up for their baby program: among other things, I need to read him five new books, sing him a lullaby, and recite him some Mother Goose. I think it’s an adorable program! Are you and your children joining your library reading program?
Last week, I was very good at not getting any books from the library. This week, I succumbed to the temptation and doubled my loot. My problem is that I really, really want to read all the books I check out: then I find myself trying to read faster, which takes away the point of careful reading.
For the first time in about two months, I read more than 500 pages in one week. I’d been “good” at keeping my reading to 100-200 pages a week, but this last week I just kept reading. I made good progress on Forstye Saga, and I finished my Robinson Crusoe adaptation project.
I also finished The Alchemist for my book club, which is meeting tonight. I’m afraid to say I am probably the only one in my book club who didn’t really like the underlying theme of it, but I’ll leave you in suspense until tomorrow or whenever I can get my review up. I hope I can tone down my negativism about this book for my book club; I’m new and I’d hate to be disagreeable. Do you still go to your book club if you dislike the book and everyone else is probably going to rave about how great it is? I’m almost dreading it.
It’s nice to get things finished, but I like reading slowly too. How does one consistently read slowly and surely?
- The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (717 read of 906 pages; fiction)
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (via Dailyreader.net, about 41% finished) on hold
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (200 read of 750 pages; children’s fiction) on hold
Library Loot, Old
- The Arabian Nights translated by Husain Haddawy (160 read of 425 pages; fiction).
- The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington (146 read of 340 pages; nonfiction).
- Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts (audiobook, 6 disks, about 6 hours; nonfiction). FINISHED!
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo (167 pages; fiction). FINISHED!
Library Loot, New
- The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk (18 read of 263 pages; nonfiction)
- The Arabian Nights: A Companion by Robert Irwin (8 read of 292 pages; nonfiction)
- The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (audiobook, 9 discs, about 10.5 hours; fiction) My next audiobook
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Burrows
- Chicago: Then and Now by Elizabeth McNulty (150 pages; nonfiction/coffee table book) FINISHED!
- Lost Chicago by David Lowe (270 pages; nonfiction/coffee table book)
It doesn’t appear that I made much progress on The Clash of Civilizations; in actuality, I reread the first 100 pages. I’m hoping to focus on it this week. It’s another “challenging” book for me, for some reason, but I’m enjoying a different perspective on global politics. I’m pretty clueless! I also believe I’ll finish The Forsyte Saga this week and start watching the television series of it. I may also make some progress on The Arabian Nights. It’s actually due this week (after one renewal for a total of six weeks) so I’ll probably have to return it and check it out again.
My sister and I are going to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society together this summer. I got the book about the U.S. Constitution in honor of the Fourth of July, and I got the Chicago coffee table books because of my recent interest in Carl Sandburg’s poetry and by extension my hometown/metropolis. I have a few more on hold. Yes, out of control once again this week!