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The quietest novels

By / May 15, 2008



You've got to like Tuesday's piece in Slate by Jessica Winter, "Procrastination Lit: Great novels on wasting time".

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Winter puts together a good list including "Bright Lights, Big City" by Jay Mcinerney and "Wonder Boys" by Michael Chabon.

Readers responded immediately with a few 19th-century examples, such as Goncharov's "Oblomov" and Mr. Micawber in "David Copperfield."

The one that first occured to me was "A Box of Matches" by Nicholson Baker in which a man rises early every morning and sits by the fire meditating on the minutiae of existence – and that's pretty much all that happens.

But of course it's also true that there's probably nothing wasted about time spent in pursuit of a higher truth, even if it looks to an observer like doing nothing.

So perhaps the question here is: What are the novels that most successfully postpone all action – and yet keep you reading?

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