I have decided to take this blog in a particular direction, instead of continuing with the meandering brain dumps of the past. I have a full-time job now and, for the first time in my life, I’m faced with the reality of having to choose my passions, given the limited free time I have. It has been simultaneously simple and excruciating to do this, but I’ve made my choice; damn the torpedoes and all that jazz.
I choose, of course, literature. I wish to turn this blog into the intertubal hub for my literary studies. I will realize this in a few principle ways.
I read a lot. And I read fast, to a fault. I fly through books and I’m a good enough reader to get enough out of them to have a conversation about major themes and characterization, but I feel I miss quite a bit by not taking a breath or two in-between chapters. So that’s just what I plan to do. One of my strengths, in my … rarely humble opinion, is an ability to catalog a great number of details, even if I’m not sure how to string them together properly. So one of my methods will be close readings of books that I will share with you, thereby forcing myself to slow down, if only to explain where a particular author has taken me. And sometimes that’s all it takes, talking about where I’ve been taken. But mostly it just takes time. I recently finished Infinite Jest (to use a recent example), and my appreciation of that book only deepens with time. It took 24 hours before I really felt the end of that novel, in all its significance. It hit me in the kitchen, and it stopped me in my tracks, and I had to sit down and say, “Holy shit.” I then blabbered at poor Christina through dinner, breathlessly, in what amounted to an extended and quite a bit more Latinate version of “Holy shit.”
I want to have more of those moments; I want to feel the books I read. And I want to share them with you, if you’ll join me. That will mean different things for different books. I just finished a book called The Brother’s War, a novel set in the multiverse of Magic: the Gathering, trashy mind-candy at best. I’ll write a simple review of that one, but there’s no reason to dwell on it for any extended period of time. Others, such as Lit, a memoir by Mary Karr I just started, have precious gems waiting to be mined, and I plan to take the time to dig them out.
It is to my great shame that I started a thread on this blog about heroism over a year ago, and since then have only written one post about it and that being a quasi-review of the movie Black Swan. Heroes remain a keen fascination of mine and I reaffirm my commitment to their study.
I will do this by going to their source: the literature that gave rise to them. I will conduct close readings of these classic works in order to dive into the topic of heroism. What gave rise to these heroes? What do their actions and beliefs teach us about the world? What exactly makes them heroic anyway?
Works that are on my immediate To Do list include (in order of preference): Le Morte d’Arthur (by Sir Thomas Malory), the Iliad, and the Odyssey (both attributed, of course, to Homer). My approach will be similar to my close readings of any book, but I will take a particular focus on the characters of the respective sagas, trying to dig out their heroic attributes and also those attributes that fall short of heroic ideals. I plan to start with those three tomes, and then we’ll see where we go from there.
I am, believe it or not, a writer myself, though I’ve yet to have published anything of consequence. I want to change that. I have not decided the extent to which I will showcase my own writing on this blog, but I plan to at least share my many thoughts on the craft of writing, my methods and others, and what goes in to making a book a work of literature as opposed to pretentious drivel. I have varied and passionate opinions about these topics, and remain ever open for a spirited discussion about them.
And who knows what I might come up with in the future. A sneak preview of an extended project I plan for myself is a year with selected works by William Shakespeare. One play a month for 12 months. In addition to reading the works, I’ll watch different adaptations of them, and maybe get a little cultured along the way. Well … maybe.
But literature is my passion, and it’s study is my aim. I can only hope to learn a thing or two while I’m at it. I heartily invite you to join me, because I have no doubt that we can help each other along the way. And, at this point, I’ll accept any help that I can get.