Thursday 21 August 2008

The Reading Lamp: in which gets schooled

In this installment of The Reading Lamp, it's made clear to me that if by Cicero's standards Roger is still in diapers, I'm not even a gleam in my daddy's eye. I'd say I'd try to do some catching up on my historical reading but there's a Douglas Adams novel or 4 I have to read first. I don't even have any Latin here to make up for my lowbrow tastes. Oh wait, yes I do (from C. Moore's Lamb): Semper Fido. Whatever that means.

Your name: Roger Brush

What are you reading now? I am reading two books at the same time: The 5th volume of Polybius’ history of the Punic and Macedonian wars, as well as The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, edited by Donald Preziosi, which is a collection of essays on art-historical and critical issues.

Where are you reading them? Largely on the living room couch, although if I have the energy, I will take a book to bed.

How did you discover these books? The Polybius is the latest sequential installment in my attempt to give myself an historical education. Cicero said, “Not to know what happened before one was born is to always remain a child.” Hence I am still in diapers! The book of essays I bought a couple of years ago, when Amazon was having a sale with deep discounts.

What do you think of them so far? Polybius is delightful; intelligent, reasoned and well informed. He also likes to point out critical, stylistic and temperamental flaws in the works of other historians. The essays in the Anthology were selected around various themes, such as Aesthetics and Style, and are generally lucid and approachable – sadly, a not too frequent occurrence with many theoretical works of recent publication. Notable among the heavyweights are Kant and Hegel.

What would your ideal desert island book be? Finnegans Wake. It contains a lifetime of discoveries and would probably drive you mad before despair overtook you.

What about a dessert book, a book you could read and then eat? Something in softcover; hardcovers give me gas!

Who is your literary boyfriend or girlfriend? (Could be either a character or an author, and if it’s an author, he or she need not still be alive.) Perhaps Nastasia Filipovna from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I picture her as an aristocratic Nastasia Kinski. Without the snake of course. Um, okay, keep the snake!

What writer do you think should be zapped out of history/existence and their works therefore never written? Wow, what power. Anyone who writes books along the line of 101 things to smell before you die or The 50 greatest feminine itch commercials of all time. Anything formulaic, trite and requiring an unjustified presumption of authority and expertise!

What book would you like to put into a mine shaft and blow up? Why? Not a particular book, but most newspapers, including (in Canada), The National Post and The Globe and Mail - lowest common denominator infotainment used to sell advertising. Infra dignitatum!

What's your favourite either unknown or underappreciated book? The Evolution of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes. To neuroscientists this is likely more fantastic than science fiction, but it is immensely imaginative and engaging.

How do you decide what to read next? My historical and philosophic interests are usually gratified chronologically. I read to encounter intelligence, so discovering the influences of an author one respects and admires is often a useful way to proceed.

Favourite author? Why? I suppose James Joyce. His scope, with the exception of Shakespeare, is unmatched. Microcosmic and macrocosmic.


Anonymous said...

Wow, did this guy magically kill the "101 Things to Do Before You Die" author?


Bookphilia said...

Ha! The timing is suspicious, isn't it?