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Friday, May 19th, 2017 01:59 pm
For the last 18 months or so I've been inhaling the western canon. It was originally a ridiculous idea I had for hiking the PCT, to use that time to listen to the Great Books series on audiobook. Those books have been staring at me from one shelf or another all my life, and it felt weird that I'd never really made an attempt to read them. I hate being a phony like that.

I still haven't hiked the PCT, but I do spend a lot of time driving/busing/doing repetitive stuff in the shop, so I've managed to make some significant progress. (40% of the volumes fully read, another 30% partially read. Based on the 1952 set, though I'm working on the extended 1990 edition as well.) My absorption certainly isn't as high as if I was reading them, but I feel it's good enough to still be worthwhile. It's not ALL I listen to, of course. I sometimes get sidetracked for months following tangents. But it's proved a pretty great framework to fall back on when nothing else catches my fancy, introducing me to some pretty great texts. They're usually considered classics for a reason, after all! And now that I've worked up to listening at a 1.5x+ playback speed, they usually go pretty quickly. So I figured I could start writing some reviews to help keep track.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
By Henry Fielding, 1749

Summary: Tom Jones, an orphan raised by a nobleman, is in an impossible love affair with Sophia, the daughter of a neighboring squire. He gets banished from the estate after being set up by his dastardly, jealous cousin. Tom is handsome, charming, recklessly good-hearted, and a bit too prone to falling into bed with just about every woman he meets. After bouncing around the countryside having adventures, he ends up caught in an increasingly complicated set of intersecting plotlines, trying to reconcile with Sophia and her overly-excitable father. Romance! Adventure! Intrigue! Heroes, rogues and villains!

This book was A+ fun. Not a deep book, maybe, but well written, absolutely stuffed full of characters you'll love to love, love to hate or just love to laugh at. It reminded me of Tristram Shandy, in that I was quite captivated without ever quite being able to say why. It still feels fresh, despite pop culture drowning in copies of copies of copies of copies. Like eating at a real continental breakfast, you realize why, exactly, this was something everyone wanted to copy in the first place. I think I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come, and few books can manage that. All that, and I didn't even see the final twist coming! Highly recommended, if you ever feel yourself in the need of 350K words of 18th-century picaresque satire.
Saturday, May 20th, 2017 02:54 am (UTC)
If I read that when I was in the Great Books reading program, I don't remember it, and based on this I'm going to revisit it.