Friday, October 04, 2013
Cromulent Imprecations. On Reading.
Or a Friday-Fun post. Because of the swine flu (in a snake!!), I've had that flu fatigue which made me re-read old books, the more difficult the better. You may have had that experience with illness. The emotional centers must be shut off or they are dead but you still need brain food.
So I read through the Canterbury Tales again (Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote) and then Virginia Woolf's The Waves.
That latter is one of the hardest books I've read that is worthwhile, and it's also a book I need to read with a dictionary (imprecations! %&@!). A book which requires several readings (I hated it the first time around.)
She tries to achieve an extremely difficult thing in that book: to capture the rhythm of life/consciousness and the three-dimensionality of life/consciousness in writing which can only be organized as words after words. I think she partially succeeds but only with tremendous work from the reader. Whether a complete success in something like that is even feasible is an interesting question. Or desirable?
I also re-read some Jane Austen, just to piss some people off. She has been called the writers' writer, and I finally felt that, as opposed to just knowing about it. Because her genius is in the writing (how every sentence is necessary, how every sentence carries several burdens), she reads terribly in bad translations. And because her genius is mostly in the writing, the plot and topics of her books are ultimately irrelevant (though not completely as she is a social critic). But if you turn this upside down and see Austen as the creator of the chick-lit genre you miss the whole point of her.
Yes, I know that books might be dead or dying, which is too bad for future generations. They are not just an imperfect way of picturing reality or dreams. They are a different way of doing that from movies, a way which allows you to set the pace, you to decide on the colors and scents and sounds, and the speed with which events unfold, and you are the ultimate ruler of that imaginary world. This gives more degrees of freedom to the possible interpretations.
I also read lots of Terry Pratchett's Diskworld while recuperating. Recommended as escape literature.