He's reading Nostromo. While we were sitting around over the weekend, he was reading, and he suddenly said, "Oh, wow! I know it's Joseph Conrad, but I'm only a few pages into this book, and he's already using the "n-word."
So, after I finished my last book, I thought--well, I should pick a classic. Just randomly, I chose "Heart of Darkness" because I'd never read it and it could meet a couple of different categories of the challenge. It's (barely) a 19th Century novel (1899 counts). It's an author that's new to me (Conrad). It's a suspense/mystery (What's up with this Kurtz dude?). And it's been adapted for the big screen (Apocalypse Now, and others.)
And then, the first instance of the "n-word" appears. And, not just because David flagged it for me, I suddenly became really blocked about this book.
The opening passage of Heart of Darkness is among the most beautiful I've ever read. The description of the way water meets the sky--just a few sentences into the book, is brilliantly gorgeous.
And yet--that word that would never resonate with a reader in 1899 the way it lands with me--suddenly started getting in the way of my enjoyment of this book and the writing.
So, I read the book. It's short, so I read it pretty quickly. But I had a bit of an issue turning off my reaction to that word, and it got in the way of my full appreciation of the first half of the book. The suspense, the mystery, the writing--it all kind of got lost.
Or maybe it's not because of that word. Halfway through, the plot started to grow on me. But then again, as Marlow's attitude toward the Africans started to soften a bit--when he started to view the "cannibals" on his crew as human beings, the "n-word" became less prevalent.
And there's certainly a lot of intrigue packed into this short book. Who is Kurtz? What's going on in that fog? What? Huh? Who?
And then it ends, back in England, with a touching lie. Awww....
I kind of feel like I didn't get the whole impact of this book. There were things I liked about it. There were other things that were distasteful to me. And ultimately, I feel like I'd need to do a close reading in order to appreciate it more fully. And I'm not sure I really want to appreciate it more fully.
But I finished the book. And it counts toward the challenge. I'm going to count it as my classic that's been adapted to a film, because of, ya know, Apocalypse Now. But it could count as my 19th century classic, or my suspense and mystery classic, but...well...I'm counting it toward the easiest category.