Saturday, June 21, 2008


A student asked me recently: "What's the first lengthy novel you ever read?" Then said student went out and bought me a copy and had some other students sign it -- a very cool end-of-the-semester gesture.

Sure enough, I bulldozed through Shōgun by James Clavell soon after it first came out in 1975. I remembered it being about 800 pages long, but the version the students got me is actually 1152 pages! "All proud" having read it then, it's still the longest single volume modern novel I've read from cover to cover. The longest "set" even beats that -- Marcel Proust's seven-volume mega-novel, In Search of Lost Time / Remembrance of Things Past / À la recherche du temps perdu, taken on in the 90s and early 2000s. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings set would have to count, too, read as a kid in the 70s. Kind of makes sense that I became a librarian and history/English instructor, too -- at least in hindsight.

Shōgun has it all, from exotic setting (Japan ca. 1600 C.E.), culture clashes, religious and philosophical diversity, and a labyrinthine power struggle. Who could ask for more? It pretty much makes sense of this crazy world, this crazy life. And it's plain fun to read.

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.


Charles Gramlich said...

Is Shogun longer than Moby Dick? I really enjoyed Shogun. I remember it was probably 78/79 when I read it but it went quickly.

Erik Donald France said...

Hey Charles, Moby Dick comes in at about 700 pages or so.

I also remember the 1980 Shogun Mini-series. That was interesting, certainly.

Another one that comes to mind -- Marco Polo.

the walking man said...

That damn book cost me $5000!

If it had not been for that particular piece of writing my son would not have become enamored of Japanese culture, would not had taught himself kanji, would not have flown off to Japan to work in an auto parts plant, would not have switched to a lower paying job while there, teaching english to Chinese and Koreans, would not have wound up owing the auto parts magnate 16 months worth of rent, which I paid before he was allowed to exit the country.

Damn book ha ha ha ha ha hahah ha hah a hahah a