Feeling guiltily fickle about past ‘favorites’
I read a lot. I keep finding ‘favorites’. Here are books I have read, among several others, in the last few weeks…
Cry, The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton (1948). We will discuss this book tonight at the discussion group I belong to here in Stockholm. I had often heard of it over the years and resisted reading about it mostly because of being tired of hearing about the troubles in South Africa. I didn’t know what or whom to believe. But, having the assignment, I dutifully addressed this book slowly and thoroughly. It is a poem, a song, an emanation from the Earth. I don’t know how much I can discuss it beyond these few paltry words. It is a work of art beyond man; therefore it is a revelation, a thing perfect unto itself. It cannot be improved upon or explained. It just is.
Elizabeth Costello, by J.M. Coetzee (1999). A new friend, a writer, recommended this and two others by Coetzee who is very popular here in both Swedish and English. For this reason I resisted also, until this recommendation. This book was the last of the three I read. One phrase alone has captured what I have long pondered about value of “reason” as man has discovered and developed. It’s a book I will keep, meaning I will re-read it. Here is the phrase: “… reason is simply a vast tautology.”
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. I read one or two of Irving’s earliest books years ago and lost track of him, not fully appreciating him as I do now after reading this book and, just a few months ago, Until I find You. Irving has the ability to bring me into another person’s life almost completely. I feel I know Owen Meany and his best friend, the fictional narrator of the story. They both have soulful things to say to me.
While wandering around Uppsala, a university town north of Stockholm, I found this little volume: In Defense of English Cooking, by George Orwell. It contains four essays, the named one being the least important but amusing. The other essays are: “My Country, Right or Left,” Notes on Nationalism,” and “The Prevention of Literature.” The essay on nationalism I considered so important that I emailed it to almost everyone on my mailing list. It was this mailing that put me over the edge to develop this blog so I wouldn’t pester people so much about my enthusiasms. You can read each of these essays, and others by going here.
Now to shave and shower to be presentable for the book discussion …