So, the current book I'm reading is an impulse-read plucked off the shelf of the local library to read while on a trip: THE GOLDEN VOLCANO by Jules Verne --one of the books left unpublished at Verne's death in 1905 and rewritten by his son for posthumous publication. This edition goes back and strips out all his son's changes, printing the original Verne-ian version for the first time.
I was a big fan of Verne back when I was about ten to twelve, and read (and reread, repeatedly*) all the classics: TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, and, best of all, THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (which I first read way back in 1972).
In later years when I came to reread all these as a adult, I was disappointed both with the writing and with the bogus science involved (given Verne's reputation for writing fact-based extrapolation). I made a concerted effort to read the newly translated versions of THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, books which I'd heard had been greatly changed by their nineteenth century translators, only to find that I much preferred the old vintage translations over the new scrupulously corrected ones that took pains to have their books accurately represent what Verne wrote. It's a rare case in which I'd say the people who monkeyed with these stories at the time knew what they were doing and actually did improve them.
I've also in recent years sought out minor Verne titles, partly to see if there were any gems I didn't know about and partly because you can get an really good idea of someone's talent by reading their second-tier books).** Here are the ones I've read:
THE SPHINX OF THE ICE FIELD (his regrettable 'sequel' to Poe's PYM), THE BEGUM'S FORTUNE,*** THE HUNT FOR THE METEOR,*** MASTER OF THE WORLD, and now THE GOLDEN VOLCANO. ****
Given the low quality of all these, I think it's pretty clear that I can give up with a clear conscience and not worry about missing any hidden gems.
I've concluded that if you come across a book by Verne you never heard of, you're probably better off giving it a pass. And when re-reading the old classics like AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS (which I think holds up best of them all), don't bother seeking out the most recently translated one; an old Illustrated Classic will probably do just fine.
current reading: THE GOLDEN VOLCANO, by Jules Verne (verdict: don't bother)
*I also read FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON but it didn't grab me and I've never re-read it.
**for example, I'm quite fond of Woolf's NIGHT AND DAY (her attempt to write like Jane Austen), and was fascinated and disturbed by H. G. Wells' MIND AT THE END OF ITS TETHER (his final despairing pessimistic work, in which he decided he'd been wrong to think that mankind could create a better world).
***these two were gifts from my friend, the late Jim Pietrusz.
****I've been trying to remember whether I read TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN IN CHINA a few years back or simply read a little and then gave up, skimming the rest.
Tolkien Notes 14
1 week ago