Saturday, June 30, 2007

Back to the books

Book conversation (among other matters) with two friends led me to look at recent reading notes in the PDA, among which this:

42 (?) affection: = Epicurus’s “inclination”
45 Charyoff!
51 The problem of freedom (cf 72ff)
55, 1st paragraph!
77, sci. freedom overrides demurral (sust. vs. immediate gratification)
79, last paragraphs
79-80 prurience has > e.g. WB’s furtiveness
83, ¶ 1: “flip-flopping” : freedom requires complexity. (this > messiness. Freedom is messy; order is totalitarian.)
Pound: 33 top

94, center
96 unexplainable knowledge
98, last ¶
(Davenport, p 103)
111 critical judgment [implications of social & behavioral criticism]
113 “an expl. is a bucket, not a well.” [much art these days -- minimalist, i.e. -- is explainable.]
115 “the increase of art accounts for the increase of perception.” [so we accelerate because we know more.]

CS: I have no idea what the book was, so you see how useful it is to take reading notes...
EC: You should just publish it; it's a poem.

Now, though, on second reading—and with the help of a Google search for "an explanation is a bucket, not a well"—I see I was reading something of Wendell Berry's. And another quick search in the PDA turns it up: Life is a Miracle (Counterpoint Press, 2001). (Lots of reviews online.) But what the devil Davenport does the note refer to?

Elliott always awakens my bookishness, which sleeps far more than I like these days. In Portland I picked up two little books from Giovanna's wonderful Tower of Books to Read: Robinson, Dave, with Chris Garratt: Introducing Ethics(Totem Books, 2001, ISBN: 9781840460773). Not a serious examination of its subject, sniffs the Library Journal in a review I found on the Amazon website; but it left me with a few notes, reminding me especially that
Postmodernism has accelerated our epistemological crisis. It is difficult now to be confident about the certainty of any human knowledge, especially knowledge about human beings themselves.
And with this I was reading Beard, Mary, with John B. Henderson: Classics: a very short introduction (ISBN: 9780192853851; Oxford University Press, 2000), which closes with
The poet finds modern culture littered with classical ruins, fragments, and jumble. He knows, too, that he is programmed to find this; and he understands that the same is true for every educated person in the West who knows that it is only the backdrop of their cultural past that can provide a frame within which they can situate and recognize themselves.
I know, I know; these are hardly bold new insights. I like their chance encounter, though, by way of two little everyman's vademecums; these were the kind of books that kept the masses in touch with Ideas when I was a child, before mid-20th-century; it's nice to think there's room for such again, and that I can still profit from them, getting toward 70 years later.

And now? I've just started W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn, because there it was second-hand and Austerlitz, which Rolando says I simply MUST read, was not there. Moe's Books also provided a fine slipcased two-volume edition of The Tale of Genji in the Royall Tyler translation; I hope it is a good one; perhaps I'll compare it to the others while reading.

No comments: