For Pleasure: Winter Into Spring 2011
So being sick sent me back to sick days reading. I finished the Pynchon novel (Inherent Vice) which is not his most demanding, but after that I was up to nothing more complicated than a couple of Star Trek novels, which I normally save for airports and similar situations. They are plot driven yet thoughtful, in a story universe I know and feel comfortable in. They are the closest to audio books I can come to by actually reading, since I can hear the Star Trek characters in my head. (And I'm not big on actual audio books--I'm too sensitive to the voice of the reader. If I don't like it, the book is over.)
Actually, this spate of Star Trek did begin in the airport, on my November flight to my niece's wedding in Pennsylvania, when I read one of William Shatner's Trek novels (only to find it was Part 1--fortunately I had the second part at home, which I read upon my return.) But in my February binge I at least read one by Greg Bear, a science fiction writer I admire (and who I met--at the 40th anniversary Star Trek convention in Seattle.) Corona was a Kirk-Spock era story, so I balanced it with a Next Generation novel.
Dreaming Up Daily site, because it focuses on the issues so well. Sixty Days and Counting in particular should be required reading in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
But I did manage some other reading, apart from new books for review. I got a used copy of Margaret Atwood's latest book of essays, reviews and forewords, Writing with Intent. Very impressive in the perfect match of style and substance on each topic and occasion. I picked Jonathan Lethem's short novel, as she climbed across the table from my own shelves. It was just what I was hoping for.
The other book was a coincidence of another kind. I'd just received Harold Bloom's new and announced as final book, The Anatomy of Influence (Yale.) I've learned to mine Bloom rather than read him--he's not my kind of critic. I've never been comfortable with his "anxiety of influence" approach. He writes out of a sensibility or tradition he identifies as Jewish that isn't mine, though I recognize it. But I respect him and his work, and I admire him for doing it. I celebrate his life, which is so much a part of this book. And I expect to profit from this book, especially since we admire some of the same writers, from Shakespeare and Emerson to Joyce and Ashbery. Even though he reads so much more knowledgeably and with greater literary complexity that I possibly could. I mean, I didn't lead that life. Had I been of his generation, or lived in academia maybe, but probably I don't have quite his kind of intelligence.
But I picked up another book off that free shelf at the library, called Literate Culture: Pope's Rhetorical Art, by Ruben Quintero (U. of Delaware Press, 1992.) I don't have much interest in Pope, but I opened it, and saw that it, too was literary criticism of the old kind--still my kind--before Theory, etc. But what grabbed my heart was the inside cover, signed by the author, with a note to his "dear friend" "with fond regards." I don't know why the dear friend gave this book away--maybe he died. But I couldn't just leave it there. It obviously was going to be thrown out (I've seen this library's discarded books in the big dumpsters out back.)
So I took it home, and was rewarded almost immediately with a discussion of the Longinian approach--for the second time in a few days. This seems a gracefully written book, and informative about and beyond Pope. So now it has a home next to Bloom. I don't know what any of this means. But it seems, if not sublime, right.