On Reading

One of the few works of fiction in my library that I have Dewey Decimalized under “best books ever written-IMO” is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Now, I will save myself the embarrassment of an in-depth book review. I mean, you could earn an entire semester of college credit by studying this one book all by itself. Suffice to say that poor Dorian learns that you can’t hide the ugly truths about yourself from yourself and that in trying to do so, you will eventually destroy yourself. That’s one lesson I believe we all spend a lifetime trying to learn but never really do. Feel free to disagree.

A large portion of my all-time favorites are technically classified as “non-fiction”. Most of them are philosophical in nature-The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy literally changed my life. Some are just funny as hell-It’s All Over But the Shoutin by Rick Bragg made me laugh my ass off. Some are freaking unbelievable-In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White was jaw dropping (who knew that there was a leprosy colony in Louisiana that was still in existence while we were all at home watching Regis Philbin host Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This book will rip your heart out).

My idea of nirvana is my sofa, strong hot coffee, my dog Greta and a book. I know that sounds nauseatingly snobbish like “oh look at me with my intellectually stimulating books and epicurean coffee” but before you go getting all judgmental, also know that I am usually covered head to toe in remnants of powdered donuts. Feel better now? Good.

Now let us refocus on me being an inspiration.

I have never been afraid to read stuff that I have absolutely no business reading. Stuff that is so complicated and hard to understand that it may as well be written in Chinese braille. If there is a “translator’s introduction” that’s 23 pages and single spaced, then clearly, if I had any damn sense, I would put the book down slowly and walk away backwards with my hands in the air. But my rationale for trying to read really hard stuff is this: what have I got to lose? Who is going to know that I had to re-read each sentence an average of five or six times and am still left scratching my head? Who is going to know? To me, it is fun to try and figure out what I am reading before I turn to the world wide web. I am astounded at how far off I can be sometimes (most of the time).

We shall have gained much for the science of aesthetics, once we perceive not merely by logical inference, but with the immediate certainty of vision, that the continuous development of art is bound up with the Apollonian and Dionysian duality—just as procreation depends on the duality of the sexes, involving perpetual strife with only periodically intervening reconciliations.

A what-a, what-a who-dee?

And so begins the first paragraph of the first book of five bound together in The Basic Writings of Nietzsche. I could have admitted defeat early on, but I was curious. What in the fuck is he talking about?

Upon closer examination I finally understood that he was talking about the duality of human nature. (The reconciling of good and evil thing.) But look, having Frederick Nietzsche explain the duality of human nature is about like having Stephen Hawking explain the origin of the cosmos. The shit gets complicated. If you opt for the latest John Grisham novel or a re-run of Kim Kardashian losing her diamond earring in the ocean (Season 6 Episode 11) then I personally would consider you the smart one.

The take-away is this, it is all entertainment. Read what moves you. Read what unshackles you. Read whatever the hell you want to read. You have nothing to lose.



30 June 2019

Greta and me

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