12 April, 2007

Thinking and reading

I'm reaching the point in the year where I become a grumpy hermit and do nothing but study: I've an essay on Adorno & Horkheimer and an essay on Candide due in by the end of April, and then I'll have to start revising for my exams at the end of May.

I'm finding giving up the threads a really positive thing; I think not being able to ramble on about trivialities almost constantly on chatty threads is giving me a lot more space to think more and to be more creative. During the first few days of giving up I noticed how I have got into the habit of automatically externalising every trivial thought: my reaction to anything noteworthy in my life at all was to frame it as a post on the threads. I'm slowly starting to lose that habit and am having more interesting thoughts as a consequence. This is helped because I still have lots of time at work to spend on the internet, so instead of posting I have been reading lots of articles and blogs (as well as the cricket over-by-over reports, admittedly) which is more stimulating than about 80% of the Guardian talkboards. I could happily live my life without ever seeing another debate on whether feminism means that council swimming pools should not have women-only sessions, or another debate on poverty that descends into a lengthy diatribe by someone who has never wanted for anything in their life on how poor people aren't really poor because they live in houses and not under Waterloo Bridge or in sub-Saharan Africa.

The dialectic of enlightenment is so difficult but is making me think a lot: interestingly, a lot of the stuff about instrumental reason chimes with the excellent documentary (documentary? Perhaps polemical TV essay would be a better description) about liberty called The trap that was on TV recently. The more I think I understand Adorno the less sure I am whether I agree with him or not, though; perhaps I'll have come to a conclusion when I finish my essay. [21]

I've also been reading a fair bit of poetry: I've now finished The Penguin book of Spanish Civil War verse and both of the Oasis collections of poetry about the Second World War. These were utterly fascinating; the intersecting point where literature meets history is one of my favourite things about reading (by the way Phil, if you are reading this, how are you getting on with Life and fate?). I think when I go to Barcelona later this year I'll read Homage to Catalonia, I'm currently finding the Spanish Civil War so fascinating.[22] [23] [24]


Phil Marsden said...

Didn't read Life and Fate, I read Ulysses instead! In 4 days, although admittedly I speed-read a lot of it, with no guilt at all. Having done that, I now feel I can tackle all the biggies on my shelves, so I've dug them out and I have a row that includes Life and Fate, Gravity's Rainbow, The Man Without Qualities, Bleak House, Beckett's Trilogy, Life A User's Manual and Middlemarch. Will be taking Middlemarch and Pickwick Papers on a big trip next month.

phil said...

I can see that giving up the boards frees your mind up, but I do it instead of working, and giving up reading newspapers and watching tv (apart from sport and some news) has liberated my mind to read far more than anything else.

phil said...

I bought a copy of Buddenbrooks secondhand, btw, because you raved about it on here, then discovered I had a copy already. I'll do Mann later this year I think - may do a German theme, tying in Musil and Broch.

woodscolt said...

Beckett's trilogy, Life: a user's manual and Life and fate are all on my list to read soonish (or indeed finish, in the case of Life and Fate). Although having been studying the 18th century at college I might go for Clarissa this summer instead.

I think I was in the habit of posting a bit more than you, which makes a difference when you give up. I agree about not reading newspapers, definitely; I read bits of the Guardian online but much less than I would do if I bought the paper, and having to read the paper every day is such an oppressive burden.

phil said...

I only read the Graun on Saturday, for the Sport and Review sections, and Bad Science, plus the Economist and Private Eye. I get all my news from radio, TV and BBC online.

Not sure that you posted more than me...our paths only crossed in Books, I'm all over Footie and Films all the time.