Somehow I found dailylit.com, where they have online versions of many of the classics, and when you sign up, they will send you, via email, a 5 or 10 minute piece of the book every day to read. Out of curiosity, I browsed the list which went from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, (13 emails total) all the way to Les Miserables which will top your email box off at 679 emails (about two years of daily reading!) In a way, that is how Les Mis should be read, since it was originally a serial published in a newspaper…
I subscribed to two books I knew I would never read normally so as not to ruin any ones I though I might really read if it turned out to be a strange way of reading books. They were Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Call of the Wild by Jack London, which, inexplicably, I have tried reading numerous times but have never been able to get into, not being much for dog stories.
What happened next is facsinating. I realized that Call of the Wild was actually interesting and even transcendent. Somehow, this email format got me into the book and once I was into it, I couldn’t stop. Luckily you can click to receive the next fragment immediately, so I did that over and over again and promptly finished the book. I was a Jack London junkie. I am still thinking about it and it was a great way to read it. I went out and picked up an actual Jack London book to read in real life and now that I know his style of writing I can completely enjoy his work. I don’t feel any worse for having read Call of the Wild on a computer either.
As far as Notes from the Underground, a different thing happened. I realized right away that this was a book that I could only take in five minute increments. I couldn’t stand to read it on the computer so I found the book itself, which came with another of his stories, The Double. Then, I began to read it in increments of much more than five minutes and I loved reading it on paper (maybe because he talks about the paper in the book). I also felt like I needed to know a little more about someone who would write this crazy book so I researched his life history and studied the history of Russia so I would know where he was coming from. I found it totally fabulous! I am really into the book, freaky as it is, and am looking forward to reading The Double. In fact, I have high aspirations to read Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamozov, and then move on to Tolstoy. We’ll see what really happens.
Another thing I realized from this strange episode, is that I have read so many women authors in my life, and I really ignored many of the men authors since I wasn’t interested in them, and now I need to go back and check them out more in depth.
These two men are a weird contrast and I think reading their work together is intriguing. Both struggled in life mentally and describe the inner world in their own very different ways. Both are very place-based. They write about what they know intensely and only that. Of course, London was based right here so his life echos are layered in with mine in the landscape. Dostoevsky lived during turbulent times, and his work reflects a broken culture, but nevertheless, he too is still very grounded in his landscape. He was pro-Russia, defending it often, in times when the “cultured” were pro-Europe and disdainful of Russia.
At any rate, I think dailylit.com is a (somewhat strange) success and recommend it.