Thursday, March 07, 2013

For remorse, there is no consolation

At the moment I find myself in the untypical situation of reading five books simultaneously: an English novel, a book of aphorisms, a fictional autobiography, a series of observations and essays by a French composer, and of course Richard Ford’s Independence Day.

The Pulitzer Remix has hijacked my time. The project has its own Facebook page and every time I check in I feel like I’m in Fahrenheit 451, charged with the care of a single book. “Hello, my name is S. Jane and I am Independence Day.” Or who/whatever. 

Though content with my choice, I do suffer book envy. I took Independence Day because I thought it would be interesting to revisit why I’d liked it so much, but it wasn’t my favorite book on the list. That would be the gorgeous and powerful The Confessions of Nat Turner

Nor is it the book that influenced my life most. That would be The Good Earth, which I read in junior HS and decided if I ever did anything I would someday live in China. There was one scene in it where I believe the mother or father of a newborn hides the child under their coat, proclaiming what a piece of crap baby it is, hardly worthy of ye gods’ attention. I identified with that very strongly and still do. The superstition against pride. 

I’m also reading the novel Old Filth, a novel I bought because of the crazy title and came to dread reading, but which is proving extremely worthwhile. And I’m reading The Complete Perfectionist, a collection of aphorisms and such by Juan Ramon JimĂ©nez. It is also a worthwhile read for writers and poets and anyone who happens to be alive. 

“The only bad part of death must be the first night.” 

“When you’re working on one thing and start to yearn for another, imagine that this thing you’re working on would be the one you yearn for if you were working on the other.”

“For remorse, there is no consolation.”


Kathleen said...

Simultaneous reading!! Somehow it does that yearning thing in the aphorism!

kenc said...

I've taken to multi-readings of late, too -- a habit I sneered at in the past. Maybe it's an age thing.

As for the aphorism about death and the first night being toughest, I've always thought the opposite. It's getting to the door and crossing the threshold that's difficult. Once you're there, death will prove easy terrain. Crowded, too.

It was so much easier when I was a kid and death was for everyone but me. Back then there was no use for such aphorisms. Does Not Apply, and all that.

I wonder if I shall ever beat Kathleen in the comments column?

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