Sunday, November 6, 2011

So I said in a rash moment that I read all of Victor Hugo. Au contraire. After an extensive search on wikipedia and I've come to the conclusion that it was a combination of Balzac, Hugo and Dickens I read, but not all of any.

I see a set of about 10 volumes and I'm thinking it must have been Balzac. I was 16 when we moved to Stockton, in June, right after school got out for the summer. I knew no one and my mother and I spent many hours and sometimes days in used bookstores and at my aunt Mildred's house which was close to downtown. I suspect my aunt had sets of Balzac and Dickens (people had them back in those days--this would have been in 1956) and I read them. I definitely remember reading Les Mis and The Hunchback of Notre Dame but sure as hell don't remember any of the rest. However, I do remember many Balzac and Dickens titles.

What's interesting to me is that I read so many books between ages 14 and 25 that I cannot force myself to read now and it's mainly being too impatient to spend the time wading through the dense description. Of Cabbages and Kings by O. Henry is one I remember fondly from about age 14. I just ordered it to see if it holds up at all. East of Eden held up and Hemingway's work, so far.

When I go to Bisbee I invariably end up reading something from my youth and somehow there, I can do it. In 2008 I reread Frances Parkinson Keyes. Marvelous novels and the descriptions go on for pages. Somehow, on vacation it's possible. I would say it's Hemingway who ruined me for Balzac and Dickens but I was reading him alongside B & D.

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