Yoshida Kenkō's book, the Tsurezuregusa, presents the paradox of a man urgently recommending idleness as the best response to mortality. Why?
I had a friend in graduate school who sickened and died before he could complete his degree. He was frail and congenitally ill; an early death was always in the cards. But there was a period of about two years when he gradually suspended his activities as a student, at first on the assumption that he … Continue reading Far from his desk, he was still at work
In Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook the narrator castigates novels which amount to no more than “journalism,” when they should be “philosophical statements about life.” This has stuck with me because I profoundly disagree with it. Reading A Manual for Cleaning Ladies, a collection of Lucia Berlin’s short stories, I found myself rehashing Lessing’s idea … Continue reading The Compassion of Irreverence
Former poet laureate Donald Hall wrote the collection published as Essays After Eighty for what might seem, at first glance, a pretty tragic reason: “New poems no longer come to me, with their prodigies of metaphor and assonance. Prose endures.” You see, he’s very old. As of this writing he’s 87. I would say he’s … Continue reading Art Takes Naps
The light in my bathroom, where every day I read for a while in the bath, recently broke. So I read Thomas Bernhard’s Gargoyles by candle-light. Bernhard was notoriously antagonistic to plot, which isn’t to say that nothing happens in his books. In Gargoyles The voice of the narrator is that of a young man … Continue reading Gargoyles, by Thomas Bernhard