Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"waste book method highly recommended"

Two days and I’m off to the East Coast again for my usual autumn vacation, weirdened this year by the fact that I was just there. I do hope it’s cooled off. One of the few good things I can say about living in Germany is we don’t suffer the increasing heat as much as my part of America seems to (or that monstrous snow last winter).

I face the dumb likelihood that I’ll be carrying three books back to NJ that I just lugged over here last week. I’m reading all three. I’m in the middle of all three. I don’t want to leave one behind and pick it up again later. But I also don’t really want to keep lugging them over the Atlantic, and I like them too much to leave behind, and none would appeal enough to my mother to sway me to do so.

The first is Witold Gombrowicz’s Pornografia, an odd 1960 novel by the Polish writer who went off on an assignment to South America in the late 30’s and was stranded there because of WWII, not speaking a word of Spanish. The novel takes place, nevertheless, in wartime Poland, where two intellectuals from the city go to the countryside. The funniest thing about the book is the voice of the protagonist who, among other warped notions, imagines he knows the thoughts/motivations of his companion. This book makes me want to throw open the window and and laugh a huge laugh splash out onto the street.

The second is an anthology of Serbian poetry called The Horse Has Six Legs, edited by Charles Simic. This includes two of my favorite poets – Vasko Popa and Novica Tadic – along with more than 20 others. So far it’s excellent. Eastern European poetry in general relies more on image than language; it’s dark and peppered with totems.

The last is a book of aphorisms and observances by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, recommended by Tricia over at EICC. Called The Waste Books, it wasn’t meant to be published, but luckily was, and survives where his other forgettable writings have not. He lived in the 1700s. Here are some of my favorites:

The world offers us correction more often than consolation.

Ideas too are a life and a world.

Nothing can contribute more to the peace of soul than the lack of any opinion whatsoever.

Libraries will in the end become cities, said Leibniz.


NE said...

If you're up Boston way leaf-peeping, give a shout!

Kathleen said...

These all sound marvelous, and I love the word "weirdened." I will help you get it out there in the world by using it as often as I can.

Valerie Loveland said...

The Horse Has Six Legs is worth checking out just for the great title!

SarahJane said...

My knowledge of MA geography is bad. But I spend 4 days at Jiminy Peak. I think, however, that's it's way out MA west. Every year I go somewhere in MA that I've never been before. Because I'm really brave.

Dave said...

The Horse Has Six Legs is great, as are all of Simic's translations or Serbian poetry. Do you have the new, expanded edition? I should order that, and give the old edition away to someone who thinks all Serbs are monsters.

SarahJane said...

Hi Dave -
Yes, I do have the expanded version and I'm almost finished. I was a confirmed Popa and Tadic fan already, and have found some other poets in this book that I also like a lot. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes poetry.

Jasmine said...

I love the aphorisms you chose. Though they all seem in a way melancholy to me.
And what a lovely splash that would be- This book makes me want to throw open the window and and laugh a huge laugh splash out onto the street.

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