Check It Off — Lord Jim

Back-to-back classics. I just read Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim for the first time. It’s been sitting on the shelf lo these many years, reputedly one of John’s favorite books, and I finally took it down to read.

I wonder if it’s as frequently assigned in high school as it used to be. It’s quite a difficult book, I think, and I would not relish trying to teach it to today’s high-school students. The long, convoluted sentences; exotic geography; densely figurative language; and, most of all, the complex narration, would put many students off, I would think. I myself had to keep checking the quotation marks to see if Marlow was talking or if he was quoting someone else.

I admired most the character of Marlow, familiar to me from Heart of Darkness. It’s cool to use him in more than one book. He’s a perfect, ironic foil for the “excessively romantic” Jim (who reminded me of Billy Budd). Marlow made me think of the frustrated narrator of Bartleby the Scrivener, forced to deal with a naif whom he both admires and disdains.

I enjoyed it and am glad I read it, but it’s largely a boy’s book. Adventure and honor and ambition and violence. All that stuff. And, since you’re probably wondering, no connection with BPD whatsoever.

Did you read it in high school? Did you like it? Have you revisited it?

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