In the summer I was using this forum to compare and contrast the sucession of books that I had been reading. I did not mean to stop, and that I stopped does not mean that I stopped reading, although my progress in doing so slowed. The reason I stopped relating my reading experiences was that I started reading “The Baroque Cycle” by Neal Stephanson. Being a series of books, of course they relate to one another, and I was not about to tell you how the first one ran into the second ran into the third. Duh, I say.
About the last volume, however, I will now write about, since i have just recently (40 minutes ago) finished reading it.
The first time I read The System of the World was at Xmas time (2004) when I happened to be sick, and could therefore dedicate my entire days to reading. This last time, the second time I have read it, took perhaps a month. This means that I have had time to put it down and think about things inbetween readings. This only means that I can’t remember what happened at the beginning of this book, confusing lots with what happened in the other two. I do remember these two things:
1) That on page 200, the first words on the page, at the begining of a new paragraph even, are the words “two hundred”.
2)That this is what makes reading 2500 or so pages worth while:
“Several boxes were needed to contain the entire Hanging-Suit. By the time Jack first saw it, they’d all been gone through by the gaolers, to make sure that no shivs, pistols, saws, or Infernal Devices were wrapped up in the finery. So all was in disarray, all blotched with grimy hand-prints. And yet the inherent majesty of the Hanging-Suit was in no way diminished.
“The innermost of the Hanging-Suit’s three layers– the part that touches Jack– comprises white drawers of Egyptian cotton, white hose of Turkish silk, and a shirt made from enough fine white Irish linen to keep a company of Foot in tourniquets and bandages through a brief foreign war. And it must be understood that the adjective ‘white’ here means a true, blinding salt-white, and not the dirty beige that passes for white in poorly illuminated textile markets.
“The next layer comprises a pair of breeches, a long-skirted waistcoat, and a coat. All of these are in metallic hues. As a matter of fact, Jack’s pretty sure that they are literally made out of metal. The waistcoat seems to be cloth-of-gold. The breeches and coat are silver. All of the buttons are golden, which Jack takes to mean that, like counterfiet guineas, they are lumps of solder, cleverly jacketed in whispers of gold. But when he bites one, it bites back. Only faint impressions are left by his [false] teeth, and he can see no trace of gray in them– no evidence of base metal underlying the gold. These buttons were made by pouring molten metal into a mold, so each one bears the same imprint: a figure too tiny and involved for Jack’s eyes to make out in the dimness of his Castle apartment.
“The third layer– what comes into contact with the dirt of the world– consists of black leather shoes with silver buckles; a cape, purple on the outside, lined with fur, and hemmed and piped and bebuttoned with additional silver and gold; and a white periwig.”