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Loose, baggy monsters

The novelist Henry James used the term “loose, baggy monsters” to describe the sprawling novels of the nineteenth century, like Tolstoy’s behemoth War and Peace.

Which monsters are sleeping next to your bed right now?

As someone with a chronic compulsion to buy books faster than I can possibly read them, I have often looked longingly at my overstuffed shelves, and wondered: what would have to happen in life for me to actually have time to read some of the bigger beasts hibernating there?

Welcome to April 2020. I know we’re in the midst of a global crisis of gargantuan proportions, and that Everything Is Terrible. But allow me to confess one of my silver linings: it’s taken me 6 months to read the first 700 pages of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. But I’m now racing through the last 500.

Last weekend, my Dad announced on our family Zoom chat, much to our surprise, that he’s been reading through the Bible – start to finish. Most people who do it that way get bogged down around Exodus; he was at Ezekiel and, since self-isolation began especially, going strong.

The four-day Easter weekend, with nowhere to go and nobody to see, is the perfect time to stop putting off that Big Read – and the perfect moment for the Bible to be your loose, baggy monster of choice. I’d suggest starting in the New Testament (try Luke) rather than page 1, but hey, you do you.

If you’re an essential worker, or you’re tearing out your hair with littlies at home – you have my deepest respect (and sympathy). But if you’re finding that there’s only so much Tiger King you can binge on Netflix, I recommend some not-at-all-light reading.

So … what big books are you hoping to tackle during lockdown?