• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,082,264 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,710 other followers

The Extra Mile

In keeping with the sentiment of yesterday’s post about being well-read vs. well-rounded reader, I want to give an example in which I went out of the nutshell to read about historical background in order to understand a novel. Three novels on my radar are set in Restoration England. When I read An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears last year I was totally in the cloud as to why Cromwell had to control England and how some manuscript—a few scraps of goatskin scribbled with a mixture of lampblack and vegetable gum—could possibly be valuable enough for someone to kill for. It’s an intellectual puzzle that revolves around a bundle of documents that could revenge one’s death. Unlike generic mystery, which usually revolves around a crime, peeling off the fog, unfolding evidence, getting around a red herring or two, and coming toward resolution, the mysteries in question owe their sensation to historical intrigue. Whereas An Instance of the Fingerpost concerns with the contention between the Commonwealth and the Royalists in 17th century England, Ross King’s Ex-Libris unearths the turmoil of Europe in 17th century, especially the religious persecution and the bloody contention between Protestants and Catholics. I have to dig through the history book on this period in order to understand the book, of which, the intrigue is more than the story itself. I do not mind the extra labor, as long as it helps enhance the whole reading experience. The history lesson does open my eyes to the overwhelming power of religion that continues to play a part in our lives today. Basically, the protagonist is commissioned to recover a manuscript that was crucial in the sacking of Prague Castle, when Bohemian army was defeated by Ferdinand. Not that the manuscript itself conceals a secret, but Rome is terrified of any threat to its dogma of a split that wound undermine its fight against Protestantism. As you see, a consultation of the history text is a prerequisite to understanding a novel like the one in question. By doing this, I suppose I’m one little step closer to being a well-rounded reader. What do you think?

5 Responses

  1. I’d say you are quite well-rounded and a very deep reader. Anytime you are willing to do further research to enhance your understanding of what you are reading you are the kind of reader that I want to be.

  2. I would say that yes this does make one a more well-rounded reader. I love it when one books leads to another like this. For me it happens when I read straightforward history books rather than novels because I usually do not read historical fiction. I find that one history text mentions another or the work of an other historian or sometimes a text will say something that I find hard to believe and I’m off reading another book.

  3. This very question is coming to mind daily for me now as I am reading Umberto Eco’s amazingly complex, allusion-riddled novel ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’. Somehow I had never happened to read it, but so many many many other books I have read in the past and more recently, namely Colin Wilson’s ‘The Occult’ and books concerning Kabbalah and Freemasonry have filled in what would be gaps in comprehension. For me reading is not just entertainment, and not just entering into another person’s thoughts or life, but reading is about finding yet another piece of the Giant Puzzle that is life, and how each piece gives me a great view of a Greater Whole. If that sounds overtly metaphysical or philosophical I suppose in a way it is. I love a book that makes me want to read other books (especially when I start making a list!) but this book by Eco is showing me how much I have already read and gleaned in my years of rolling my eyeballs over printed pages, and it turns out to be a fair share!

    • I meant to say “how each piece gives me a BETTER view of a Greater Whole”. What I accidentally typed doesn’t make any sense!

  4. You went to a whole lot more effort I think than I would, at least with history. And you are probably one of the most well rounded readers I know! I do love, though, how a book can inspire a reader to become interested in a topic. When I read Devil in the White City, I became obsessed with Chicago architecture. Just recently, I read Clara & Mr. Tiffany and now I’m off on lamps and windows. That is what reading should be about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: