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Posts Tagged ‘literature / books’

My reading calendar has been consciously in place longer than my music one, which is still driven only by feeling until maybe my last post, where I codified my feelings, for better or for worse.

I’m not sure how it started, but it must have been feelings like my music ones, and then a decade or so ago I looked at all the books on my shelf and decided to enjoy the carousel that was my mind, for once. Some of these monthly selections arose very naturally, long before I was conscious of anything, some came when I saw I had a mess of worthy books that were not being read. 

You might wonder where the nature books are; well they have been declared an ongoing concern, with readings in that vein taken up throughout the seasons. 

January

Russian, or Continental, fiction. This clearly arose from my working world days, taking the train to work in bitter weather and enjoying soaking up every phantasmagoric page of bedraggled, disgruntled, gauche civil servant fiction.

February

Brit hist, Vicky, Boney, Scots, &c. This started in an era of a lot of reading of the eras and lives of Napoleon and Queen Victoria, branching into general British history, including and especially the more alienated nations, plus the rest of Europe. The 19th century doesn’t loom as large as it once did, although it is still immense.

March

Presidential bios/U.S. history. Having collected two sets of presidential biographies, this seemed requisite. One president a year in at least one short book, and history related to his era.

April

International history (non-U.S., non-European). Adventures in my smattering of history books set in Asia, Africa, South America, Caribbean, Central America, the Middle East, the Pacific, the Arctic, Siberia &c.

May

Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series. In order written, as series should be read. We’ll see if I live long enough. I have a couple of translations of some of the books and have enjoyed comparing them to the originals when selecting.

June

Children’s fiction, Very Short Introductions. Summer away from school, why not read the old favorites? I have pairs of Oxford’s “Very Short Introductions” books and this an opportune time for summer study fun!

July

Thick novel. Sometimes not so thick. Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

August

Music, art. A small group of classical music books (scores, lives), plus a lot of books about 19th-centure painters, mostly. 

September

Greek, Classical World, ancient, Louis MacNeice. A return to my heady first year of college where I delightedly delved into Classics. Greek Epics, plays, and poems, maybe history and art, what have you. Other ancients have been added to the mix. I began reading my collected Louis MacNeice (born on a date near mine) poems whose publication dates matched my age. I abandoned this habit several years ago, but am rectifying that this catch-up year.

October

Poetry, ghost stories, Irving-Chew. More loving return to schooldays, and what other month could be most poetic of the year, Keats’ birth month? On his birthday I read Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” annually for a decade or so. This gave way to Ruth Chew books about witches and magic. I also read a biography of A. C. Swinburne this month a while back. I never liked his poetry, but dug his life, and decided he’d make the ideal Hallowe’en persona if I ever put a lot of effort into ever wearing a costume again. 

November

Philosophy, religion. November weather must make me think, or want to. Paving the way for celebration and change?

December

Mystery, comics, roleplaying game rules/worlds. This started with reading a volume of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books per December along with Wodehouse or something akin. Now I have some comic book collections and roleplaying game guides lying around, so might add those. We’ll see.  

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I

As I look at my lists⁠—lists of favorite books, games, favorite movies and shows, movies and shows to see, careers, what to do today, what I want to do with my life in writing, nature studies, and learning the didgeridoo⁠—I sometimes think of what has been lost, how life was long before these lists really took hold and established what seems to be a permanence.

When I was young, I didn’t think about or try to plan which way my mind would go, and accomplished seemingly all sorts of things, including a few fun lists, of course, from the World Almanac, an Estes model rocket catalogue, or whatever else was in my hands; but they were never lists that pressured me into the future. You never know, and more importantly it never seems to matter, which way the mind will go when untutored, unstudied, left to its own devices, un-self-conscious. What projects, pursuits, and pitfalls it will fall into and just as easily slip out of. If there is an inherent energy, a lot will be done, possibly even accomplished.

A couple of writers come to mind who wrote in this way⁠—Lord Byron and H.G. Wells. Byron was an endless fount of poetry for a lot of his life, and was tired by his editors, but kept composing and wasn’t given to too much polishing. Wells pursued his writing objectives, completed them, and then moved on. He did not dwell upon his novels in the aesthetic revision sense. John Keats could sit under a plum tree, scribble up an ode and leave it thrust into some books, to be scooped up by Charles Armitage Brown and later published as a masterpiece.

There is something to working randomly that the burden of age, conscience, time pressures, or simple change has robbed me of. But, contrariwise, there is something to that final polishing and publishing that takes conscientiousness and follow thru. The fine art of acting in the moment and then taking the steps to preserve what is worthwhile out of it.

II

This tidbit came to mind amidst this crisis and all of this almost lecherous turning out of doors and socializing in larger and larger groups: “I am perfectly fine with many things being put on hold. When you’re on crutches you can’t play soccer for a while⁠—do something else. I don’t know why many in our society don’t draw that same conclusion.” My married, but otherwise bordering-on-hermit friend concurred, adding a few choice words about sheep, well here they are: “Maybe I’m full of myself but I think many in our society don’t have the capacity to draw the same conclusion. People work their jobs, watch television. They aren’t critical thinkers. They aren’t learners. They’re sheep. Sitting at home all day, they don’t know what to do with themselves. When you have a narrow identity and that identity is taken away, they don’t see anything other than getting that identity back. I don’t know. It’s a theory.”

III

And then this exercise from an old junior high friend who posted the idea online: favorite songs of yours as a kid, from tenderest babe up to early junior high. I copped out a bit on this, not digging into the deeper reaches of my memory. Maybe I was a little afraid to probe into the pre- and early elementary school daze, but what I came up with was something at least. Just way too many songs passing into my brain in the 70s. I fondly remember playing the song “I Can’t Stand It” from a neighbor’s Donny Osmond album at speed 78, ca. 1977, and I know that wasn’t because we liked the song. 

So, restricting myself to early ’45s I bought that I still have and sometimes play: “Come on Eileen” Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “Rock of Ages” Def Leppard, “Cum on Feel the Noize” Quiet Riot, “Electric Avenue” Eddy Grant, “Abracadabra” Steve Miller Band, “Even the Nights Are Better” Air Supply, “One Thing Leads to Another” The Fixx, “The Safety Dance” Men Without Hats, “Keep Feelin’ Fascination” The Human League, “I Feel for You” Chaka Khan, “Stray Cat Strut” The Stray Cats, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” Taco, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” Bonnie Tyler. Not so bad, actually!

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