December 7th, 2004. That is the date of my first 43 Things entry on “reading the Baroque Cycle in it’s entirety,” a goal that was first added to this system by me and has since attracted 112 pursuers (33 who have done it, 79 who want to do it). This goal actually goes back further, to the pre-43 Things era, something that I think was called “Twinkler” if memory serves.
It’s not very often that I take on and complete the reading of a 2,557 page novel. I did it in bursts taking long breaks, sometimes months long, to regroup and flex my mind with other books and magazines. Last night I finished Volume Three, The System of the World, and laid to rest an incredible epic of historical fiction. I feel a touch sad that it is over.
I cannot attempt to critique this work. It is too vast and my skills are too mediocre. Suffice to say that after spending as much time as I did with the characters of Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe, The Duchess Eliza, countless others, and the imagined characters of Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, I feel changed. Thank you, Neal Stephenson.
The softcover of The System of the World is now in my possession. It is time to get on with it and finish the cycle. Do I sound less than thrilled? Perhaps I am dreading it a bit, knowing that the first 300 pages will be nothing but preliminary chit-chat and set up (as was the case with Quicksilver and The Confusion.) But, dammit, I made this a goal of mine something like ten months ago and I’m going to see it through.
Finished The Confusion last night. What a slog. While it was often enjoyable, it could have benefited from a bit of editing. At this point, I can’t quite fathom reading another 800+ page volume with this same storyline.
And since there’s no possible way I could do justice to such an epic here in this little text area, I will sum up my thoughts with four short words: I need a rest.
The “Big A” has The Confusion paperback available. I just placed my order. To make it worthwhile, I threw in Getting Things Done and Four Tet’s latest Everything Ecstatic.
Why are music CDs still so expensive? (That’s a rhetorical question.)
The trade paperback edition of The Confusion is due to be published on June 1, 2005, just 18 days away. It will be mine.
I’m looking forward to discovering such “statistically improbably phrases” as watered steel, silver pigs, and livres tournoises.
I finished Quicksilver last night, finally. Since I only have an hour or two a day for pleasure reading, it took almost two months to finish this 900 pound gorilla. Was it worth it? Most definitely. I’ve never so thoroughly enjoyed a novel of its size and breadth. Stephenson’s style is fluid and breezy. He occassionally lapsed into gratuitous explanations of geeky subjects, such as cryptography, and arcana, such as warfare stragies and technology of the 17th century, but I enjoyed these digressions despite their awkwardness. I’m looking forward to the paperback release of The Confusion.
While I wait, I will have to catch up on the mountain of periodicals that have accumulated on my bedside table over the last two months.
I’m about 200 pages into Quicksilver and so far I’d call it a good yarn. It’s got polymaths, plague, and pirates! What more could you ask for? Ok, maybe one woman character, at least, who isn’t a scullery maid or a whore would be nice. And what’s with all the italicizing, Mr Stephenson?
Thanks to a generous gift certificate from my mother-in-law, the trade paperback edition of Quicksilver has been ordered and is shipping today to my house.
I’ve had the hardback version of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver in my “to read” pile for over a year now and I just can’t seem to start in on it. It just looks heavy, and boy does it feel heavy. Makes me think that it is heavy and I’m just not up for it. But I loved Cryptonomicon, Snow Crash, and, most of all, The Diamond Age.
The other day I saw the trade paperback version of Quicksilver at a book store and nearly bought it because it seemed so much more accessible. I did a quick calculation on the possibility of selling my “mint” hardback on eBay. Ha!
Has anyone actually read the entire Baroque Cycle in its entirety and in hardback? Anyone interested in purchasing a mint condition hardback of Quicksilver?