|the copy I read|
Last night, I finished reading Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Reading along, I realized, very quickly, that I'd not ever read it before--except in an old Classics Illustrated comic, those books-in-comic-book form that my parents allowed in the house, especially during those years when I was reading little else but comics, the backs of cereal boxes, the sports pages (and funnies) in the Cleveland Plain Dealer--i.e., most of my junior high and high school years.
However, as I look at this Classics cover, which I just found on Google, I don't feel any surge of recognition and familiarity. Maybe I didn't read this one?
I'm going to blog a bit about Stevenson's novel (novella, really) on Sunday, but, suffice to say, it was not at all what I expected from the vast amount of Dr. J & Mr. H allusion aswirl in the popular culture.
I am continually astonished by what I have not read; I continually ask myself, How did I not read that?
About ten years ago now, when my cancer veered into one of its more serious phases (then retreated for a bit), I decided I was going to read the great books I'd never gotten around to (so, so, so foolish: such a list is endless, as I've subsequently realized). And so I read, among others ...
- Tolstoy's War and Peace
- Proust's In Search of Lost Time (aka: Remembrance of Things Past)
- Cervantes' Don Quixote
- Stendahl's The Red and the Black
- Stern's Tristram Shandy
- Turgenev's Fathers and Sons
- Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained
There were others--but I'm getting embarrassed. There were times (blush, blush), earlier in my life, when I had feigned and/or lied about my familiarity with these titles (and many, many others). But I don't think I'm alone in this mild social deception ... am I?
Since 2007--and my I'd-better-hurry-up-and-read-these fatalism (my time's-winged-chariot-hurrying-near phase)--I've read quite a few other things I'd somehow never gotten around to (and, of course, feigned/lied accordingly). Just a few ...
- Stevenson's Treasure Island
- Eliot's Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss, and others
- Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau
- Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March (and others)
Oh, there are so many more I read--but nothing like the number still remaining before me, most of which, of course, I will not live long enough to read.
But I have started a new category of books-I-read-in-bed: "Famous Books I've Lied about Having Read." Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was in that slot on my little shelf till last night; I'm not sure what will replace it.*
What I've learned about these books, so far, is they very rarely resemble what I expected--and then, only in the most superficial ways. I'll say, too, that most are far better than I expected (or feared?).
As I've aged, my pleasures have become more sedentary. I used to like exercise; I hate it now. (It's exhausting for me these days--even moderate activity.) So ... streaming films and good TV, talking with Joyce, going to a good movie, sitting in the coffee shop and reading a book, baking, writing doggerel, and reading, in my warm, warm bed, the Great Works of Literature I'd Always Lied About Having Read--these are my recent and (more or less) permanent pleasures (insofar as any human pleasure can be permanent).
*FYI: The other "slots": Famous Writers Whose Complete Works I'm Reading (right now it's Wilkie Collins), Recent "Serious" Novels, Recent Works of History, Recent Works of Science, Thrillers and Detective Novels. I read a chap or so each night in each of them--when, that is, I'm being a Good Boy. Sometimes, lethargic and lapsarian, I stream an episode of The Rockford Files, which I've now seen, in its entirety, about 732 times.