So I stayed up waaaaaay late finishing Roderick Hudson last night; it was an enjoyable book and I wanted to know how it would end. I didn’t much care for Roderick, of course, and some events – especially at the end of the novel – seemed a bit contrived (though I can see why Henry James wanted the events to unfold the way they did). But overall it’s a thought-provoking read, and even as I feel frustrated with Rowland for allowing Roderick the liberties he does, and annoyed with Roderick for taking as a given (correctly, unfortunately) that those around him will tolerate and even encourage his self-obsessed behavior, I know that the two characters represent different sides of the same person and I see myself very much reflected in both. One take-away is to figure out how to incorporate the good qualities of these characters and avoid the bad.
As I was updating my Books read – 2008 page I thought about another book that I started, and made it 230/396 through, earlier this year: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Even though I generally love literature that others might find depressing (Villette, The Remains of the Day), this book is just too much for me at the moment. The horrors and poverty and violence and filth and inhumanity and desperation are relentless; even more affecting is the idea that similar conditions exist today while I forge ahead with my sometimes frivolous existence. I do OK with heartbroken upper- or middle-class Europeans who nurse their emotional wounds in well-ordered and tidy manor houses; it seems I don’t do as well with people faced with questions of actual survival in less-than-picturesque circumstances.