Friday, March 03, 2006

What I'm Reading (pretend like you care)

- I finished Babbitt, thoroughly depressed and discouraged. Although this novel repeatedly had me laughing out loud, it offered little hope. The author spent the first half of the book satirizing the American middle-class lifestyle, the next quarter documenting his protagonist's fumbling attempts to escape from said lifestyle, and the closing chapters revealing the utter futility of attempting to do so.

- On my return from Tropical Paradise 2, I mentioned to (person) 2 my ennui resulting from Babbitt. She ran upstairs and returned with a second-hand copy of How To Want What You Have: Discovering the Magic and Grandeur of Ordinary Existence (by Timothy Miller, PhD). As it turns out, 1, 2, & 517 bought me this book months ago as a Christmas present, but we never got around to exchanging gifts. So, that's a little creepy-- that my friends anticipated this situation before it happened. Anyway, this book's premise is that being happy with what you have takes real effort, because human nature is to want more of everything (possessions, money, power, reputation). And by "human nature", the author means serious, genetically-coded primal drives. Like, I need nicer shoes because that will ultimately help propagate my genetic material. And he makes a pretty convincing argument, which is all the more depressing. I haven't quite yet gotten to the part where he tells the reader how to overcome these reptilian urges. But it's getting a little schlocky already, so I may not finish.

- Continuing a very slow and deliberate reading of Thoreau's Journal, I have so far read 552 of rougly 3700 pages (see upcoming post, "10 Things To Do Before I Die.) The going is slow because almost every page is a gold mine. I keep a sort of distillation notebook, where I write down passages that I may want to find again. Aside from the raw vigor and wisdom of his writing, it's also fascinating to come across bits that are rough drafts to passages in his later books.

Quotation of the day: "A government which deliberately enacts injustice- and persists in it!- will become the laughing-stock of the world." (1851)


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