On reading two novels at once

I don’t recommend reading two novels at once, but it can be done if the novels are drastically different from one another, separated by what normally separates books; tone, style, setting and characters. The two novels I’m reading at the moment both feature young men on the make who commit murder, and that’s the only thing they have in common.

I’m a third done with Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma, and I’m reading a chapter a day in the morning. The Richard Howard translation is flawless, and it’s a novel I could complete over a long weekend if I wanted to–it reads easy and smartly and moves fast as a book with 200,000 words can move.

In the evening I’m reading Dreiser’s 300,000 word novel An American Tragedy, an American novel, written in a not-smooth style of the 1920s. The novel concerns the fate of young Clyde Griffiths, a child of wayward preachers who looks to get past penury and make a place for himself in the glamorous set, a set he sees up close in hotel and club rooms where he is a bellboy, an outsider. Tragedy’s prose is clunky but it’s not badly written, and I’m getting through it quickly.

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