Leisurely reading habits

A sense of something missed appears during the reading lull of the New Yorker double issues, for they don’t take two weeks to read. This far west, practically in the water, it’s not unusual for the posts to run late, and sometimes not at all, which brings on another sense, of not knowing what day it is, let alone what day to reasonably expect the next issue. And the missing of the weekly post brings an additional reminder of the amicable anticipations that used to accompany the now extinct, longer, serialized stories and articles that used to span several weeks. But it must be admitted, forced to read every page or go hungry, certain valuable discoveries appear, opera reviews, for example. Not that opera has supplanted jazz, but there was no way of knowing how enjoyable “Sing Faster: The Stagehands’ Ring Cycle” was going to be, or that it would lead, improbably, to “Schultze gets the blues.”

Bereft, then, of fresh cartoons and talks, having wandered and watered the salsa garden, following a spell in the morning shade with a bowl of fresh blueberries and raspberries with a bit of shredded wheat, washed down with a cup of French pressed Roast, we find the musty shelves now press, and out comes, of all things, The Rise of Silas Lapham, which originally appeared, we are reminded by George Arms in his introduction to the Rinehart Edition (intro. copyrighted 1949; the paperback edition n.d.), “serially in the Century Magazine, where, in keeping with the leisurely reading habits of the time, it came out in ten monthly installments (November, 1884, to August, 1885).” Arms said William Dean Howells’s novel was popular on the installment plan, but it apparently lost favor with the critics once published in book form – then, as now, apparently, critics having little affinity for realism. One wonders, though, what it was like to read in that “leisurely reading” time, when, Arms said, “The Bostonians and parts of Huckleberry Finn were serialized in the Century at the same time as The Rise of Silas Lapham.”

Some clues are given, and some similarities between the times grow apparent: “Well,” said Corey, “you architects and the musicians are the true and only artistic creators” (p. 206). And then there’s the matter of the library. “If we have a library, we have got to have books in it. Pen says it’s perfectly ridiculous having one. But papa thinks whatever the architect says is right” (p. 121). 

Our list for today does include a trip to the local library. We’ll probably stop by the new edition of Nick’s after the library. Hopefully, the new New Yorker will come before we head out.

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