Friday, July 1, 2011

Endless conversation

Notes on the curriculum

Express Staff Writer

The list of books I will never read is long only because life is short.

I won't bother with the uninspiring "begats" in the Holy Bible, which recount 15 generations from Abraham to Babylon, on down to baby Jesus. I read Darwin so I think know all of us belong to the same family tree.

I won't read most theology, because I've already read some philosophy. I won't read most philosophy because I've already read some Wittgenstein.

But then where would I be without Merton and de Chardin? If I need Islam, I will read Rumi.

Because I read Joseph Campbell's studies on mythology and "The Golden Bough" by Frazer, I can now read all religious scriptures as the art that they are. The more I read about modern art the more I like the humble crafts.

Some books it's just good to know are out there, like Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." Because of Gibbon and Herodotus and probably Plutarch, I can assume that no matter how screwed up the war in Afghanistan and Iraq get, I can take comfort in knowing that it has probably already happened before, like on the Peloponnesian Peninsula 200 centuries ago.

I only know who Herodotus is because of having read Michael Ondattje, by the way.

Kerouac led to Buddhism and Buddhism led me to India. I moved to Taos after reading "The Milagro Beanfield War."

If I hadn't read Milan Kundera, I may never have gone to Prague. If I hadn't gone to Prague, I would never have tried absinthe. I never would have known what absinthe was if I had never read Coleridge. Because I read of the Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey, I knew to be wary of addictions. Reading Terence McKenna is better than any drug.

I will never have to sail around the world in a smallish sloop, outrunning corsairs and fighting off natives, because Joshua Slocum already handled it on our behalf.

Some writers go together, like Henry Miller and Anais Nin, or Henry David Thoreau and his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges get along somehow, just like Jim Harrison and Thomas McGuane.

I read Larry McMurtry instead of Louis L'amour, Steven King instead of all those other scary writers. Thomas Pynchon's early work ruined me to other fiction writers because he was so amazing, just as Melville once did.

I needn't have read both Voltaire and Cervantes.

Because I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I won't have to read Isabelle Allende. Because I suffered through Honore de Balzac, I will pass on Proust. My experience of Dostoyevsky should save me from reading Tolstoy, but you never know.

I read a few Hardy Boys mysteries so I don't have to read Thomas Hardy.

I will never read Donald Trump.

Because I read "Markings" by Dag Hammarskjöld and "The Golden Book" of Marcus Aurelius, I can pass on any number of memoirs written by heads of state and their aides-de-camp, including but not limited to Napolean and Kissinger. If all roads lead to Rome, why not take the high road?

I'll read science fiction because it is about the future that is already in us, poetry because I need the truth and endless headlines and news stories about stuff just in case there is something new under the sun.

I will read book reviews and free associate within Wiki for miscellaneous information in this age that exalts randomness.

I will never read "The Velveteen Rabbit" or C.S. Lewis. Those belong to another's childhood. I learned everything I needed to know about life from "Horton Hears a Who" and "The Little Engine That Could."

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