Cacophony of Books
I suddenly find myself in the midst of a cacophony of books. Yes, loud calls from each of the books I have started, like the calls of the raven, all are around me.
Has this ever happened to you? You pick up one book, you start reading it, then you start another? Another time you might be at a bookstore and pick a book off a shelf, take it home, and start that one too? All that.
This has happened to me before, but not to this degree. Yes, all those voices are in my ear, all those words, thoughts and feelings pulling at me at once. They want their due. They deserve their due. All are calling to me whether I am reading them at the moment or not. Demanding, though I must say, I don’t mind at all. They are all friends, after all. There is enough time, it just has to come along.
When you look at a
book, standing in a bookstore, for instance, or a library, or in your own library,
and you look at that book and all those other books, lined up together by the hundreds, sometimes thousands, do you ever think about those who wrote those books? Who are these people? Who were these people? Those who took the hours and effort to get those books to where they are today. Each writer of those books is or was a live human being who has just so many hours to work, sleep, eat and all, as the rest of us. It is just that they spent so many hours, days, weeks, months and years with the quill. I think about those people a lot.
Before the latest pile of currently being reading books by me, I had just finished reading four or five Tony Hillerman books in a row. I love Hillerman. He teaches wisdom. Do you know that the Navaho people regard beauty and harmony above all else? A person might live in humble lodgings, but if he can step outside into beauty, where all things are in harmony, that is enough.
After putting his books aside, I realized I wanted to get back to an author I have read since I was first introduced to him back in the late 70’s. That would be Henry Miller. I picked up Sexus, with the intention of rereading that book and all the rest of his fiction material. I thought I would start with that and then get onto the rest of the trilogy, The Rosy Crucifixion, of which Sexus is the first, followed by Plexus and then Nexus. Did I say fiction? Some regard Henry Miller’s writing as one long conversation. Fine with me, it is some of the best conversation I have ever had. And, besides, I love a good chin wag. It is one of my favorite things to do.
Over the past summer I had reread his Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. What I really want to get back to is Colossus. In it he has written one of the greatest characterizations I have ever read. Here is some of it:
Partial charactization from The Colossus of Maroussi
"Here one evening on his way back to Amaroussion I met Katsimbalis. It was definitely a meeting. As far as encounters go.
"I listened spellbound, enchanted by every phrase he let drop. I saw that he was made for the monologue, like Cendrars, like Miricant the astrologer. I like the monologue even more than the duet, when it is good. It’s like watching a man write a book expressly for you: he writes it, reads it aloud, acts it, revises it, savours it, enjoys it, enjoys your enjoyment of it, and then tears it up and throws it to the winds. It’s a sublime performance,
"He was a curious mixture of things to me on that first occasion; he had the general physique of a bull, the tenacity of a vulture, the agility of a leopard, the tenderness of a lamb, and the coyness of a dove. He had a curious overgrown head which fascinated me and which, for some reason, I took to be singularly Athenian. His hands were rather small for his body, and overly delicate. He was a vital, powerful man, capable of brutal gestures and rough words, yet somehow conveying a sense of warmth which was soft and feminine. There was also a great element of the tragic in him which is adroit mimicry only enhanced. He was extremely sympathetic and at the same time ruthless as a boor. He seemed to be talking about himself all the time, but never egotistically. He talked about himself because he himself was the most interesting person he knew. I like that quality very much—I have a little of it myself.
"He could galvanize the dead with his talk. It was a sort of devouring process: when he described a place he ate into it, like a goat attacking a carpet. If he described a person he ate him alive from head to toe. If it were an event he would devour every detail, like an army of white ants."
How can anyone not love Henry's writing. From the beginning I was hooked. Not surprising.
Before I even picked up the Hillerman novel’s, I had been reading Balzac. I was on the fourth or fifth of his in a row. Did you know that Cousin Bette is considered a short story? Sure seemed novel length to me. I mean, it isn’t War and Peace, but then.
Right now I am on the Human Comedy, Volume II. Reading Balzac is like having a constant and active stream moving along in the background. With as many books as he has written, that stream will just keep moving along.
Before being in Paris two summers ago, I had not read anything by him. Sure, I was aware of him, but never did pick up any of his books. He is not exactly a household name here in the US, though he is one of the greatest writers of world literature. In fact, after a few of his obvious titles, if you want to read any more Balzac, you have to get his books by special order.
One day while visiting Montparnasse, my sons and I had our picture taken in front of Rodin's Balzac. Mike is on my right, Pete is on my left. Identical twins. Now how many sets of identical twins do you suppose Balzac has had his picture taken with?
I realized at that moment that there I was having my picture taken of
the guy, and yet I had not read any of his books. What was that about? I
knew he was an outstanding writer, but as yet I had not read a word he
had written. I decided right there that as soon as I returned to the states I would find what I could and
started reading. And I have. Whew, as I say, if he isn't one of the greatest writers
to put pen to paper, I would like to know who is.
Like many other authors I have read, when I get onto one, I like reading a lot of his or her books in a row. Did that with Twain, Maughm, Lawrence, Camus, Satre, a bunch. Glad there are so many good authors who wrote so many good books. I even read the not so great authors. I have read every single Crichton book, for example. My son, Pete, always sent me Crichton’s newest release. Too bad there won’t be anymore. He died with one last one in his computer, and I got to read that one too.
Recently while visiting someone I discovered he was reading a book that had been calling me from some distance time back to when I first read it. I had read it for a college lit class, and in college you don’t have time to chew on a book, you have race through it and find out in lecture what you missed because you were going so fast. I guess that is okay, though, at least I got the benefit of finding out what I was reading; what all those words lined up in a row were about.
That book would be The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance. And what an intriguing book. Much of it is right there with me as it was then. Not in the words so much but in the feelings and attitudes. I love philosophy, or maybe it is conversation I love. This book is both of those. Plus, sometimes I just feel the air whistling by my eye as I ride along with him on his motorcycle.
Amidst all this, while visiting a friend, I picked up, Absolute Friends, by John le Carre, off her shelf and have only so much time to read it before I return it to her. I am about half way through. Not quite as far as I am into Sexus, and I don’t know which I will finish first. I never know the answer to that. It is a question of what book catches fire and I read nonstop to the end. Or, it depends on the mood of the moment. How tired I am. How awake I am. What my mind is ready for. A bit of intrigue? A bit of philosophy? How about a strong characterization. Or something fall asleep with.
And now that the baseball season is ready to get under way, I just today picked up a baseball book a friend had loaned me a couple of years ago, Fenway, by Peter Golenback. No time limit on that, but I believe he will have it back before the season begins.
In the background of all this is the spiritual book I am reading, Shambala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. I like reading beautiful things before I go to sleep at night. That book is one of those. Actually, every book I am reading is one of those. And like the call of the raven, in every word within each book, I hear the call of magic and possibility.
Then, suddenly, an answer to which book will catch fire and which I will finish first. Son Pete published the book he wrote, An Alien Among Us. Now I know.
Do these things ever happen to you?