Monday, July 19, 2004
First of all, Mr. Wood, it would be well if every one of us did read Njal's Saga.
More seriously: after reading this piece, I thought to myself, "well, at least I'm not part of the problem. I read lots of serious literature." At which point I tried to list, mentally, the books I'd read recently. And found myself . . . at a loss. Not that I hadn't read anything, but that, bare weeks and months after reading, I could not recall what I had read, nor, when I recalled what, when I had read it.
I'm now in the middle of two books - Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton and Paul Johnson's survey of the world history of Art. I'm enjoying each immensely. Before that, I read Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, and The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann, the former of which I enjoyed and the latter of which I can say affected me more profoundly, though I'm not sure I would describe the sensation of reading it as precisely pleasurable. Before that, I believe, I read Homer's Odyssey, in the translation by Robert Fagles, which was revelatory in many ways but, in the end, I thought markedly inferior to the less-readable but more profound Iliad, which I read last summer in the stern Richard Lattimore translation. Earlier in the year, I re-read Joyce's Ulysses, finishing it for the first time. But then I start to falter, though I know I've read a number of other books this year - many of them unmemorable, true, many of them unliterary. But I should at least remember that I read them!