Beer in the Snooker Club – Waguih Ghali

“Perhaps you’re right,” he said. “Perhaps our culture is nothing but jokes.”

Told from the point of view of Ram, the scion of a Coptic family in Egypt’s elite, Beer in the Snooker Club is a window into the upper crust of Egyptian society in the wake of King Farouk’s ouster in 1952. The revolution is forcing the rich to give up much of their money, but they remain diverse–coptic, jewish, muslim–and live blindly within their clubs, ignorant of the wider world around them. Ram, short for Ramis, is disdainful of his myopic peers, and refuses to play nice with them in order to ensure his own comforts, instead preferring to leech off wealthy friends and live gambling windfall to gambling windfall. In general Ram gets by because of his charm and connections, but uses his education to mock most of his peers, and particularly his cousin Mounir to his face.

The story, with Ram as narrator, consists of two settings. The first, which comprises both the opening and the closing, is Cairo, with its gambling clubs and family residences. Sandwiched between these, however, is a partially narrated stay in England, in the immediate buildup to the Suez Crisis. Ram goes to England with his friend Font and their teacher, benefactor, and (for Ram) lover, Edna, a jewish heiress some five years their senior. The trip is significant for their relationships, including offering struggles at the consulate, with former British soldiers, with money, and with Ram’s descent to bitter flippancy, but Ram only describes the falling out with Font and Edna, not any of the potentially more significant events that transpired, including the actual outbreak of the conflict or his deportation.

Ram describes his situation as “suspended between eras of civilization.” Farouk’s monarchy has fallen, Nasser’s revolution has proven inadequate, and Egypt remains at the mercy of American fact-finders and British whims, which now cater to the new ruling elite. The old cosmopolitan ruling class is beginning to fall apart. One of the main tensions in the story is what it means to be Egyptian and whether one should consider themself as a citizen of a country or a citizen of humanity; Ram looks to the latter, but most do not.

Beer in the Snooker Club is a tight little love story centered on, as Edna once calls him, “lonely” Ram. This part of the story was fine, though I liked the women Ram liked more than I liked Ram, who was sort of a petty man who would claim he thought about the greater humanity, but really thought about immediate, simple pleasures. At least in this particularly retelling where there is a sense of both supreme ego and also self-loathing. What made it remarkable to me, however, was not the story itself, but what the story danced around. Major events, either for the characters or for the world, were not narrated, but happened offstage only to have their consequences come to bear in the personal relationships. To whit, Ram is deported from England (but has a major development while there), Edna receives a nasty scar across her face from a whip, Font goes off to fight at the Suez, and all of these events inform the action back in Cairo. Perhaps most importantly, Ram becomes involved in a scheme to publicize the brutality of the new regime. The question is will his political beliefs or his interest at immediate satisfaction win out.

I read that this book is a semi-autobiographical work by Waguih Ghali, and I suspect that another of the tensions alluded to in the text is a result of this. Beer in the Snooker Club was originally written in English and thus the (anti)hero has an English education and is somewhat dismissive of those Egyptians with their hoighty French education and describes Arabic as a language for the common Egyptians. This stood out particularly because the French-educated Albert Cossery took a similar approach to describing jokes as central to Egyptian culture and it was the Arabic-language author Naguib Mahfouz (several of whose books are on my to-read pile) who won the Nobel Prize. I prefer Cossery of those I’ve read thus far, but they tell different stories and are coming from different parts of Egyptian society.

Ghali published only the one book, having committed suicide in 1969 before finishing his second novel. There were points at which this narrative seemed to skip around, but, ultimately, Beer in the Snooker Club is a moving story about Ram’s maturation and subsequent dissolution. I may not hold with his actions, beliefs, or entire world view, but I felt for him and in this sort of story that is sufficient.

Next up, I am currently reading Ursula Le Guin’s Nebula, Locust, and Hugo award-winning novel The Dispossessed.

Social Media and an Academic Conference CAMWS 2016

Last weekend I attended the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS) annual meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is a conference I have been to before, but, for a variety of reasons, some of which are the topic of this post, I had a different interaction with it than usual. For a compilation of the tweets I sent during conference, see here.

I went into the CAMWS meeting figuring that I would be at least somewhat active on Twitter; my posts there ebb and flow depending on a number of offline factors, including an internal debate over what I want the platform to be “for.” But I am active on Twitter and figured, as is my wont, that I would post something. I was not going to make an attempt at live-tweeting sessions, knowing my attention span, but I thought I’d do some posting after the fact. This was facilitated because, for once, the venue had fast, free, widely available wifi.

Then a funny thing happened: early in the conference a debate popped up on Twitter from people who couldn’t make it to the conference asking why there was an apparent zone of silence over the conference. More and more often conferences and meetings are pushing toward digital interaction, often establishing a conference hashtag right up front and, in at least one instance that I saw (on Twitter), offering to put a member’s Twitter handle on the name tag. I think CAMWS was interested in this being a thing at the meeting, but to the extent that the information was there it was somewhat buried.

There are certainly an issue of ethics when it comes to live-tweeting a conference, and the debate on Twitter moved in that direction, including one person arguing that, if done well, this sort of publication actually protects copyright because the idea is linked to the name. For whatever reason, the media presence from this particular CAMWS meeting was limited to a small handful of people.

Partly inspired by this debate, my Twitter “agenda” changed over the course of the meeting and thus my interaction with the meeting changed. Originally I was only going to do sporadic posts, but because of the external debate, I decided to do recaps of papers I saw. A lot of these tweets were developed back in my hotel room in the evening or in the airport waiting for a flight, but I was more assiduous about taking notes while in the sessions knowing that I intended to post them online later. Even so, I found myself struggling to find a consistent format on Twitter, particularly once I was posting more than one comment per paper, and trying to find a way to link the tweets about a given paper together. This was easier once I storified the whole thing, but I wanted to find a way to link on the main feed. Yet another reason to avoid the algorithmic timeline.

I almost called this post “Two Days of Minor Internet Celebrity,” because my conference tweets were picked up by Classics twitter writ large, including Rogue Classicist. This gave me ten new followers and spiked the “impressions” from a few hundred a day to fifteen thousand in two days. Those have since subsided somewhat now that I am falling into more usual patterns of activity, but it was nonetheless an interesting experience, no doubt aided by relatively few people tweeting from the conference and a relatively large number of interested parties who couldn’t make it.

As much as this was a good experience for me, I wish I had been more organized and prepared to tweet from the outset. I did put my twitter handle on my handout, but with so few people doing anything with it, I’m not sure this made an impression. This is not to say that I won’t put my twitter handle on future handouts, but that I might want to call attention to it, either myself or in the introduction in the future. As for the conference as a whole, there could have been a more concerted effort to foreground the hashtag and other social media opportunities in the program and packet. I heard belatedly that there was this information, but I was using the online program and often found myself searching in the page for names or topics, or otherwise skipping around, rather than reading it in a linear way. Similarly, if there had been hashtags associated with particular panels (as Hamish Cameron was adding to his live-tweeting, I think), then there would have been greater awareness that the conference endorsed social media outreach. That said, the conference had the single most important thing for this sort of engagement, which was wifi.

This is the first time I offered dedicated tweets from a conference, but it won’t be the last. As long as I am going to be part of this academic world, I plan to make the most of it.

Basti – Intizar Husain

The more the turmoil increases outside, the more I sink into myself. Memories of so many times come to me. Ancient and long-ago stories, lost and scattered thoughts. Memories one after another, entangled in each other, like a forest to walk through. My memories are a forest. so where does the forest begin? No, where do I begin? And again he was in a forest…When he As he moved along in the darkness and encountered a bright patch, he paused, but again moved on, for he wanted to arrive at the moment when his consciousness had first opened its eyes. But he couldn’t grasp the moment. When he put his finger on the memory, dense crowds of other memories drifted along in its train.

Other people’s history can be read comfortably, the way a novel can be read comfortably. But my own history? I’m on the run from my own history, and catching my breath in the present. Escapist. But the merciless present pushes us back again toward our history.

Afzal, a friend of the narrator of Intizar Husain’s novel Basti, keeps a running list of virtuous men in the world inscribed on a sheet of paper. He laments that the number is small and is ever diminishing.

Basti, the title of which means “place,” is a chimerical tale that charts the creation of “modern” Pakistan and the evident dissolution of civil society. When the story opens, the earliest memories that Zakir reaches back for, his fictional hometown Rupnagar is peaceful, with Hindus and Muslims living side-by-side, the primal forest and old buildings dominating the town. South Asian mythology lives here. Zakir’s family holds a prominent position in the town, with his father a member of the religious elite. But, even before the trauma of the partition of India in 1947, there are signs of the world changing when electricity comes to Rupnagar, the wires kill monkeys. After the Partition, Zakir and his family move to Lahore.

The narrative takes place in two sequences, blended together in Zakir’s retelling. The “present” plot takes place in 1971 during the war between Pakistan and India that created an independent Bangledesh. Lahore is given over to protests and air raids that disrupt the schedule of the college where Zakir teaches history. Instead, he spends more time at cafes, which are increasingly depressing. The “past” plot are Zakir’s daydreams of Rupnagar and of earlier adventures with his friends in the heyday of Lahore’s cafe scene. The days are not perfect, but they are better—and can never be recaptured.

Basti is part of a genre that recounts the coming of modernity and upheavals within a community. Zakir is part of a younger generation that certainly makes the transition more easily than do their elders, but as one of his friends puts it, Zakir peddles a drug no less potent than the religion of their fathers:

“I’m telling you, you’re responsible for this defeat. And you, Zakir.

“How?” Zakir asked innocently.

Salamat said wrathfully, “You imperialist stooge, do you play innocent and ask how? Haven’t you thought about what you’re teaching to boys? The histories of kings. Opium pills! Yes, and your father is responsible, who every day feeds my father an opium pill of religion!…”

Zakir is a man out of time, but, interestingly, Husain implies that his backward-looking personality is a character trait rather than simply a consequence of the times he lives in. His memories, in particular, are infused with Hindu and Muslim, usually Shia, lore, for which there is a glossary in the back. However, though Salamat accuses him of teaching an overly optimistic version of history, one of the things Zakir’s daydreams make clear is that while the past might sometimes be easy to envision as a peaceful place free of responsibility, it is also filled with tragedy and suffering.

The only memories that escape this universal truth are those from his childhood and about the woman he loves. Contributing to Zakir’s pain and disillusionment, though is how his primary love interest is forcibly kept apart from him such that he goes years without knowing whether or not she is even alive. Other loves are foiled by his own naïveté, but the elusiveness of love, combined with the tenuousness of male friendships, forms a backdrop for the novel, as well as the actual human interactions between people who are powerless before faceless threats and changes.

I picked up Basti a few months ago because I like the New York Review of Books Classics editions and because the story looked interesting. It also had the advantage of being originally written in Urdu appealed to my interest in reading world literature. The book jumped to the front of my list because Husain just recently passed away (it was published in 1979, and the translation in 2012). It was one I was looking forward to reading and was not disappointed. Basti has its issues, but the prose is beautiful and there is always beauty within the desolation of the modern world. There is a simple solution to the problems, Basti implies: work hard, live simple, and be virtuous.

Three things debase a man: a woman when she is not faithful, a brother when he asks for more than is his right, knowledge when it comes without hard labor. And three things deprive the earth of peace: an ignoble man when he rises to high rank, a learned man when he begins to worship gold, a master when he becomes cruel.

Easier said than done.

Next up, I am currently reading Waguih Ghali’s 1964 novel Beer in the Snooker Club.

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dosteovsky

Life is paradise; we all live in paradise, although we don’t want to see it.

One family, two love triangles, four brothers, and a murdered father. Dostoevsky’s masterpiece is a sprawling, yet shockingly contained, meditation on faith, science, religion, love and devotion.

The Brothers Karamazov is a type of book that defies succinct synopsis, at least without gross over-simplification. It is structured as an account of the events that led up to a notorious patricide trial in rural Russia, and this arc forms the backbone of the novel. The story focuses on the dysfunctional Karamazov family, including the miserly sensualist father Fyodor, the profligate sensualist eldest son Dmitry, bitter intellectual middle son Ivan, angelic youngest son Alyosha, and the frustrated and conniving bastard (literally) Smerdyakov, who works as Fyodor’s servant. One of these young men murders his father. However, the story also draws in a wide and memorable cast of characters from the surrounding town, including Elder Zosima, the young socialist Kolya Krasotkin, Dmitry’s fiancée (and woman Ivan pursues) Katerina, and the flame of many hearts Grushenka, pursuit of whom fuels the conflict between Dmitry and his father.

This is a book that has so many themes that it is easy to imagine that one could return to it with a focus on a different character and theme each time through. What stood out to me on my virgin read were the eternal tension between reason and religion, individuals and communities (in a catholic sense, in both cases), and “modernism.” These themes are related, naturally, and the prospect of describing them at any great depth is intimidating. That said, I want to give several examples.

First, one of the recurring issues that underpins the novel, though not featuring directly into the main arc is the conflict between reason and religion. Characters may be described as pro- or anti-religion, but, for the most part, the depiction is significantly more nuanced than that. For instance, Alyosha is an acolyte in the monastery, but not a true believer, and his conflict is mirrored by his brother Ivan, who is a devotee of “modern” reason, and yet is plagued by the presence of the divine. Further dividing the categories are how characters envision the world and the place of human beings within it. Ironically, the quote that opens this post is declared by a man seen by others to be entirely mad and on his way toward death. But is he insane or actually seeing things clearly? Is the world a vicious, cruel place or is it largely so because people mistreat each other? To make matters worse, pride and shows of pride (as well as greed, avarice, lust, etc) lead the inability to reconcile people in such a way that they may all be bettered. This is particularly true of a nasty pack of young men, but certainly extends beyond their youthfully energetic pettiness.

Second, the tension between tradition and modernism appears in a number of guises in the novel. In once instance:

“If you want my true opinion about Greek and Latin—-they’re just a way to police people. That’s the only reason they’re taught…They were introduced in school curriculae to dull the students’ intelligence. It was already pretty boring before, but they felt they had to make it even more boring; it was already senseless. And so they dragged in classical languages. That is my sincere opinion and I hope I never change it….deep down in my heart I have nothing but contempt for the whole swindle.”

“Why do you call it a ‘swindle’?”

“Just think: the classics have all been translated into modern languages and so we don’t have to study Latin to read them. We study them only because it dulls our senses and makes us more susceptible to police control.”

This exchange takes place between the thirteen (almost fourteen!) year old self-described Socialist Kolya and Alyosha, in a truncated debate about education and values beside the sickbed of another boy. This novel was published in 1880, but the debate is eerily familiar, whether one thinks that arcane languages are designed to hide information or, like Kolya, to indoctrinate people. The claim is that, since there are translations it is time to move on to things bigger and better. Ironies abound, not least of which is that the debate is itself in a translated version of The Brother’s Karamazov. Even deeper, though, is that translation is itself a form of interpretation into which a mimetic aesthetic has been created—a particular challenge when the languages themselves often push a different form.

The payoff to the extended build-up in The Brothers Karamazov is an intense courtroom drama in which one man is put on trial and concerns over what actually happened one the fateful night lose all meaning. In a room where the women believe one thing, the men another, the judges a third thing altogether, Truth has no place and everyone is in it for him- or herself.

I am going to end my reflection on The Brothers Karamazov here because, like the novel, I feel myself wandering hither and thither, without really pulling my thoughts together (which is one of my main goals with these reviews). This is a bear of a book to read and certainly a commitment that reflects the values of a changing, “modernizing,” society and the intellectual movements of its days, but the payoff is entirely worthwhile.

I finished Intizar Husain’s Basti on the trip I took this weekend, and am now halfway through Waguih Ghali’s 1964 novel Beer in the Snooker Club. I really liked Basti and plan to write a review in the coming days.

2016 CAMWS Meeting: Storify

Via Storify, here my Tweets from this past weekend’s CAMWS meeting. In the next few days I will have a post working through various issues concerning social media that came up at the meeting–or, particularly the discussion that took place on Twitter with people who were following along from afar.

“To Curiosity”

A review of: Who Is the Historian?, N.A. Raab

Three things made me pick up Raab’s slim volume on the work of historians: 1) its brevity 2) a longstanding love of inspirational stories from historians 3) desire to be familiar with the genre should I ever be fortunate enough to teach a historiography course. Unlike From Herodotus to H-Net, this book is not really a book of historiography, but an essay on the doing of history in the twenty-first century, covering spaces, sources, disciplinarity, technology, and skill-sets.

Raab’s wants to give personality and humanity to historians qua historians rather than historians as professors. He offers a vision of them as an eclectic globe-trotting bunch who work in a host of different jobs in addition to teaching college courses. The overarching themes of the work are how the field has changed, expanded and become enriched in recent decades, and how historical thinking is fundamentally embedded in all walks of society.

With few exceptions, Raab avoids overwhelming the reader with specific disciplinary periods, themes, and names, which, while useful, sometimes means that the book errs on the side of general observations rather than specific developments or advice. For instance, there is specific discussion of certain open-access sites and how that has changed how historians do their job, but doesn’t suggest specific technological expertise that could be beneficial. Certainly historians do not work in a vacuum and some of the observations, such as the wide variety of viable source material, is well taken. Similarly the book is well-written, and Raab is an advocate of the written style as critical for the field, but offers no suggestions for how to get there or how to frame questions in order to best use the material.

Raab works a middle-path that didn’t work for me. On the one hand, while much of the book is reflective, to give personality to the stuffy old-fashioned vision of the tweed-clad professor, neither are most of the reflections personal. Similarly, while he includes a broad range of people in the historical fields, Raab still tends to default back to the historian as professor. On the other hand, neither does he provide skill, methodological, professional, or practical suggestions to those who might be interested in being a historian. Raab is clearly enthusiastic about history, but his audience for the book is not wholly clear. Students may appreciate the insights and some might be inspired, but the testimonials are not particularly uplifting and the defense of the humanities follows traditional paths. Who Is the Historian? has its virtues and in some ways shows a more nuanced understanding of historians in the world than did From Herodotus to H-Net, but it was still in some ways lacking. It might be the right book for an opening gambit in an undergraduate historiography class for some, I am still looking for that right one for my tastes.

Will I feed on wisdom like a dog? A parable of sorts

Modern applicability in ancient society is a dicy proposition, in my opinion. This is not to say the ancient should be ignored when it comes to understanding what it means to be human, but taking political, social, or cultural lessons usually results in mangling one or both. The cultures are vastly different, the technology is changed, and so on. This goes doubly when making a relatively superficial reference, such as the Thucydides Trap. With that caveat aside, whenever I see attacks on higher education I think of Aristophanes’ Clouds, produced in 423 BCE.

The play opens with Strepsiades, an average Joe, whose own habits and those of his son, Pheidippides, mean that he has debt that he either doesn’t want to or cannot pay.[1] To make matters worse, he has lost several court cases and now the creditors want to confiscate his property. Strepsiades is in a bind, but has heard about the power of sophistry, which appears in Aristotle as making the weaker argument stronger (Rhetoric 1402a23-5).[2] So Strepsiades says to his son “If one gives them silver, these men teach one how to be victorious with words, whether just or unjust [οὕτοι διδάσκουσ᾽, ἀργύριον ἤν τις διδῷ, λέγοντα νικᾶν καὶ δίκαια κἄδικα. 98-9]. With such power, he believes that he will be able to win the court cases and escape from debt. Pheidippides isn’t so sure, describing the scholars as pale-faced (akin to the Spartan prisoners), country-less wanderers. Nevertheless, Strepsiades makes his way to the school of Socrates, known in the play as the Thinkery:

“Open up the Thinkery! Quickly now! Show me Socrates! I want to learn! Throw open the doors!” [ἄνοιγ᾽ἄνοιγ᾽ἀνύσας τὸ φροντιστήριον, καὶ δεῖξον ὡς τάχιστά μοι τὸν Σωκράτη. μαθητιῶ γάρ, ἀλλ᾽ ἄνοιγε τὴν θύραν. 181-3].

Strepsiades is immediately appalled at the wide range of “studies” that are taking place inside, most of which have no bearing whatsoever on his current predicament. For instance, when they show him Athens on a map, he doesn’t believe them because he can’t see the juries in session.

The play goes on and includes a debate between “Unjust Argument” and “Just Argument” about who rules Athens [Unjust Argument does] and what is proper education, and Pheidippides undergoes a radical transformation, which, in turn, challenges the family structure. The vision of society in Clouds is conservative and modest, despite an exchange about whether there is any virtue in modesty or chastity with a dig at the sexual prowess of Achilles’ father Peleus. Debt remains an issue throughout the play, but it turns out that this newfangled education only resolves the issue to a point, while offering new complications.

I should note that this is very much caricature. The historical Socrates actually had a good reputation as a soldier and could hardly be counted among the pale-faced vagrants corrupting the young people, at least at this juncture, though the play shows that the reputation that would eventually cost him his life had already begun to develop.

As is frequently mentioned with reference to Aristophanes, his entire purpose is to win first prize in a theatrical competition, so the play is naturally layered with jokes ranging from the vulgar to the esoteric. Aristophanes’ plays tend to be conservative and, the war plays particularly, follow a somewhat predictable pattern: appearance of a problem (frequently: the war and its consequences), emergence of a comic hero or heroine who can resolve the problem, hijinks, party to celebrate the return to the peaceful days and old social order. Along the way there are layers of jokes, and, possibly, crowd interaction.

However, Clouds is peculiar in a couple of ways, showing a bitter, sour meanness that run contrary to most of his other plays. First, there is a famous choral scene in which the leader–often thought to be Aristophanes himself–breaks the fourth wall and directly berates the crowd for their support of Cleon and for having censured Aristophanes for mocking him in an earlier, now lost, play. Cleon, sometimes characterized as the bloodiest man in Athens, is a frequent target of Aristophanes, but not directly in Clouds, so the passage stands out.[3] The second difference is in the resolution to the play. Instead of the traditional euphoric conclusion, the disillusioned learners swarm the Thinkery with torches, determined to burn it to the ground. The conclusion, in particular, has a bitter edge to it, so it is perhaps not a surprise that the play did not win.

The core problem of Clouds is the intersection of debt and education. Aristophanes implies that a traditional education would keep one from falling into debt in the first place and is derisive of these new, weird forms of learning. Strepsiades isn’t interested in those, but is clearly willing to spend money on education, provided that there is a material gain for himself.[4] When the pursuit of knowledge doesn’t offer a monetary reward or seems to be potentially “subversive,” it is condemned as at best frivolous, at worst dangerous.[5]

[As Strepsiades sets fire to the Thinkery]
Student A: What are you doing, mister? [ἄνθρωπε, τί ποιεῖς;]

Strepsiades: What am I doing?! What else than subtly-discoursing the support beams of this house? [ὅ τι ποιῶ; τί δ᾽ ἄλλο γ᾽ἤ διαλεπτολογοῦμαι ταῖς δοκοῖς τῆς οἰκίας;]

[1] Strepsiades’ name means, roughly, Debtdodger.
[2] Technically, Aristotle is preserving the advertising slogan of an early teacher, Protagoras.
[3] What we have is actually a revised version, so it is possible that something like this passage was added later.
[4] There is a conflation of types of education in Aristophanes’ depictions, with Strepsiades thinking that he is going to get an education from Zeno, Gorgias or Isocrates, but instead stumbles into natural scientists like Anaxagoras of Clazomenae. All forms of new learning are linked under the banner of Socrates.
[5] The cost of college makes the monetary reward ever more of a pressing concern, if only for practical reasons, but that is a topic for another post.

February 2016 Reading Recap

Nearly a week of March is already past, which is unfathomable. Time particularly flies when traveling, though, and I was at a conference in Omaha for several days. While there I did get to dig through Jackson Street Booksellers, a store with one of the more eclectic collections I know of and (too-high) walls of books that can be claustrophobic. In fact, there were a couple of books I considered looking at, but they were out of reach and I gave up. Other books remained out of my sight because I was tired and didn’t feel up to fighting through piles on the floor. I did, however, find several books by Naguib Mahfouz, the 1988 Nobel Laureate, including the first book of the Cairo Trilogy, and a collection of stories by Nina Berberova about the Russian emigre community in Paris in the 1920s. In other words, I found some treasures. My (nominally-)immediate to-read pile, as opposed to my list, had already swollen from seven books to thirteen, and now sits at eighteen and had to be split into two, which is cutting into the symbolic significance of the stack.

I started this stack back in November and had actually been doing well finishing and shelving books from it and then replenishing the pile, at least through the start of February. Then I decided to give Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov another try and, simultaneously, got very, very busy. I barely opened the book during this past week and thus remain stuck at the halfway point of the novel. I am enjoying this one, more than Demons, but I am still struggling with a fundamental problem of dense literature of this length: I have a hard time really enjoying books that take this long to read. Note that this is not an issue of page-count, but one of time. In the past I thought this was a problem remembering what happened in the story, but I am not having this problem so much as just feeling it to be a slog, while the other books come calling to me. It is around the two-week point on the same book that I start feeling the weight of the burden. I am not saying that I will give up on the book again, but since reading is a particular hobby that I carve out time to enjoy, I may need to reconsider when I try to pick up books like Infinite Jest, War and Peace, and The Bleak House, lengthy tomes that remain on my list.

I am not going to do a recap of everything I finished in March because, for the second month in a row, I reviewed all five!