Loving books so much has put me in a quandary. The desire to read more extensively has become a dilemma. ‘What a dilemma!’ you might think, but believe me wanting to tie up the loose ends and to finish the complete oeuvre of writers long dead is no easy task. And what about rereading favorites? I’d like to visit Stendhal’s ‘The Red and the Black’ again but ‘The Charterhouse of Parma’ is still sitting unread on my shelf. Zadie Smith has recently written about George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch – a book that completely absorbed me at the time – and I know that after I finish Smith’s essay, Middlemarch will be on my list. Should I fit in another Dickens…….finish Proust and maybe even have another go at Ulysses? Determination permitting. And all the Russians…..I have to get back to them! I’m sure you’re aware that this would just be the tip of the iceberg. What about all the wonderful writers working today? I’m exhausted just thinking about all this. It kept me awake last night. Seriously.
I want to write about a particular writer or more particularly a certain book I’ve loved but this unfinished business is making me somewhat schizophrenic. I headed off to the library today with Flaubert in mind, his travels in
as I thought that having traveled there myself, it might be interesting to have
a mental chat with him about the place and perhaps write about it. I did
get the book but only after being sidetracked by an Irish writer named Sean
O’Faolain whose short stories captivated me a few years back. I came home
with two of his books, one being an autobiography which I can hardly wait to
But all this is getting away from the underlying reason why perhaps I’m feeling this need to sum up. To beat the clock as it were. I think it comes down to the value I place on reading well and the idea I have that I shouldn’t miss any of the wisdom that writers who have more than proven their worth will add to my life. Harold Bloom says ‘we read deeply for varied reasons……that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are.’ He also recommends deep reading as a difficult pleasure which may be a definition of the Sublime and says ‘there is a reader’s Sublime, and it seems the only secular transcendence we can ever attain, except for the even more precarious transcendence we call “falling in love.” I must say that I felt grateful to this man for having written about this ‘condition’, an idea that I too have entertained. It will bear thinking about further.
In the meantime……what am I to do about this desire to gobble up literature? I know I need to push myself away from the table and let digestion take place. Tomorrow I’ll revisit the menu. For now, it’s time to sidle over to Flaubert and share in the remarkable feast of this ‘sensibility on tour’.