I must confess that I feel a little nervous (though excited) about the last group. I barely read a novel a year--what possessed me to say I wanted a series of 12 novels split into four fat volumes? I know what: like Laura, I was entranced by the University of Chicago edition when it came out a little over a decade ago, though I didn't buy it then. I remember wandering the aisles of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, a heady enough experience, seeing the poster with the title painting on the wall and thinking that this was it, the thing to do was to read and study with François Furet and throw oneself into works of literature of Proustian range. I did the former, but not the latter, and now those four big books sit before me, offering their challenge. It's not so much the length--I've read the Decline and Fall more than once, after all, and these are no longer than that (and, truth be told, for all of Gibbon's great stuff, there's a lot of interminable parts about monks and various heresies in his book, not to mention the long slog through the later Byzantine empire--it's not easy.) It's the whole novel thing--I tend to resist, and sometimes resent, narratives. I'm hoping that the range of the works will put me in a mind like I get from reading Balzac, where the sheer scope of ambition in rendering an entire society carries me along. What I really can't decide, though, is whether to read my other, shorter, new acquisitions before diving in. I don't want to put them off--I'm eager to read them all, and they promise to be far easier commitments to keep that the novels. But each time I think of starting one of them, I feel like I'm keeping my eyes from the elephant in the room--and that the elephant is mocking me. Oh well; I think the problem calls for another helping of leftover trifle, and perhaps some chocolate. Regular posting to resume soon.