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"His writing is not about something; it is that something itself."
February 19, 2013 11:15 AM   Subscribe

In theory: the unread and the unreadable - "We measure our lives with unread books – and 'difficult' works can induce the most guilt. How should we view this challenge?"
posted by the man of twists and turns (18 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Read what you like, like what you read. That's really the only rule you need to follow.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The most beautiful and perfect book in the world," according to Ulises Carrión, "is a book with only blank pages." Such books had featured in eastern legends for centuries (echoed by the blank map in "The Hunting of the Snark" or the blank scroll in Kung Fu Panda)

Ah, those seminal Eastern authors Lewis Carroll and Dreamworks... I must admit that at times I worry that I cannot meet the challenge presented to me by the rich literary traditions of the Orient.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


We measure our lives with unread books

Um...I don't remember joining this club. I measure my life by time between cheese-eatings.
posted by threeants at 11:45 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


There was a time when a learned fellow (literally, a Renaissance man) could read all the major extant works published in the western world.

That time was noon today.

You missed it.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:02 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


1. We measure our lives with unvisited cities
2. We measure our lives with uncorked bottles of wine
3. We measure our lives with unwalked trails, unclimbed mountains, unswam lakes
4. We measure our lives with undeveloped photos
5. We measure our lives with unfinished seasons of Treme
posted by ageispolis at 12:28 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


We measure our lives with unread books

Never trust an essayist with a first-person plural.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:31 PM on February 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

See what I did there?

p.s. Pseud's Corner awaits:

The need to breathe life back into a moribund language corrupted by overuse, chimes with Stéphane Mallarmé's endeavour to "purify the words of the tribe". The French writer was very much influenced by Hegel, according to whom language negates things and beings in their singularity, replacing them with concepts. Words give us the world by taking it away.
posted by chavenet at 12:52 PM on February 19, 2013


All I know is my life got a lot more enjoyable when I realized I didn't have to finish every novel or book I started.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:55 PM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Upon hearing just a bit about Finnegans Wake from a professor, I casually mused out loud that it might be fun to try to read it. LITTLE DID I KNOW.
posted by JHarris at 1:18 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Too difficult, didn't read.
posted by Leezie at 1:18 PM on February 19, 2013


This was too meandering for me, but the two Beckett quotes made me remember why that man is so goddamn great.
posted by naju at 1:28 PM on February 19, 2013


There was a time when a learned fellow (literally, a Renaissance man) could read all the major extant works published in the western world.

The way that I heard it, Coleridge was the last person to read literally all extant Western works -- does anyone know whether there's any truth to this?
posted by mr. digits at 1:45 PM on February 19, 2013


The books that I've read have made me richer by far than the books that I haven't read, so I will continue to measure myself by those, as I measure myself by the friends I've made, the places i've been, the loves I've had and the days of joy with my son. My life's bookshelf is half full, not half empty.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:32 PM on February 19, 2013


Read what you like, like what you read. That's really the only rule you need to follow.

nah. You got to push yourself every now and then, extend your comfort zone, stick with something for a while that's maybe baffling you. I would never have discovered much of the literature, music, cinema etc that I've come to love if I just went with what I already liked, felt comfortable with. Add food to that, too. And drink. And people. Some of my favorite people, I didn't really like that much on first meeting.
posted by philip-random at 2:59 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't have to finish every novel or book I started

There's that. And then there's skipping the parts that are a boring slog, no matter how "important" the author is. If it really turns out to be so great, you can catch them the second time through. Or not.

Of course it's only carbon bits stuck to a piece of crushed bleached wood fibers. You do have to supply ALL the rest. The least the author can do is make that not unpleasant.
posted by Twang at 6:03 PM on February 19, 2013


1. We measure our lives with unvisited cities

Read Invisible Cities? Two birds with one stone.
posted by ersatz at 5:33 AM on February 20, 2013


Eloquence in the stream of consciousness: images flow in liquid succession, inspired by, but not representative in any way that the observer can decipher--no object, is what I meant. Meaning rises from warm thoughts like steam from a warm pool, and, watching the pool, you miss any patterns in the steam, and, watching the steam, meaningless ripples in the water distract you--context is everything--so the steam-pictures remain simply so much white noise. You think you saw something. You know you saw something. You want to look again, but of course that cannot happen, because time flows in reverse only in your memory: not really backward, but retro, that is, forward in the past tense, and only in little, jerky scenes, having only a hint of flavor and texture. The rest you have to provide yourself, making believe it's happening again. Or to you, instead of him.

Wait....does that mean that the more I know the more I know that I know less than I realized I knew? Know? Had known?

All right. Never mind. I analogize this: I spend the 20 years (after retirement) riding high mountain trails, the ones I couldn't visit when I worked for clients, my mules hauling their gear to their favorite or newly discovered fishing holes, honeymoon camps, hunting grounds. All those trails then. All the trails after. Now I'm boogered up, and when I sold my mules I knew I would miss the smell of them, and their silent grace, and the seasonal epiphany imparted during conversations with mountain rocks the size of many small towns. But mostly, I miss all those trails I never rode.

Books? Yeah. They show you what you missed. I guess there's a word for it, a small pinching agony when you first realize that there really is no space-warping device, and you are not John Carter. No need to rub my nose in it.

But, the perfection of the blank page? Let's just skip the frog and get to the splash, eh?
posted by mule98J at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2013


What's measured in unclicked hyperlinks then?
posted by quoquo at 9:57 PM on February 20, 2013


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