So I decided to make a beginning with Reading Roulette. My scheme for this is, as I have mentioned, to select a novel at random from those in my wish list published between 1751 and 1930, inclusive. They are arranged chronologically and numbered, so I can enter those numerical cutoffs into a random number generator and have my book chosen for me.
(Obsessive? Who, me?)
And using this approach, my first random book has been selected – and in terms of an investigation of obscure, forgotten 18th and 19th century novels, I could hardly have hit upon a better example:
Agatha; or, A Narrative Of Recent Events (1796) – Elizabeth Jervis
The joke here is that had I done this only a few months ago, this novel would have been obscure and forgotten to the point of being unobtainable. By a wonderful coincidence, it has been made available by the efforts of John Goss, a M. Litt. student who stumbled across the identity of the author of this anonymously published novel while researching Robert Bage* for his thesis. Learning that less than twenty libraries in the world held a copy of Agatha, Goss initiated a subscription process to fund the editing and reissuing of the novel (I wish I’d known about that at the time) – a second edition 214 years after the first. A limited run of the novel was released earlier this year…and has, apparently, already been pirated by those print-on-demand outfits. Charming.
Anyway – the story being what it is, I’ve decided to order a copy of Agatha (an authorised one, I hasten to add). The first game of Reading Roulette will have to wait just a little longer.
(*Robert Bage! Now, there’s someone I haven’t read for a year or two. I remember enjoying his novels.)