Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Lifetime Reading Habit: A Strategy For Reading

Reading plans are very popular among devoted readers. For that special breed of nutcase wanting to delve deeply into the classics they are practically a necessity.

There are many ready-made reading plans available on the internet with most of them requiring several years to complete and taking the reader, working chronologically, from antiquity to present day. Unfortunately, I think these plans share several limitations.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Western Canon: Why have it? Why read it?

We possess the Canon because we are mortal and also rather belated. There is only so much time, and time must have a stop, while there is more to read than there ever was before. From the Yahwist and Homer to Freud, Kafka, and Beckett is a journey of nearly three millennia. Since that voyage goes past harbors as infinite as Dante, Chaucer, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy, all of whom amply compensate a lifetime’s rereadings, we are in the pragmatic dilemma of excluding something else each time we read or reread extensively. One ancient test for the canonical remains fiercely valid: unless it demands rereading, the work does not qualify. The inevitable analogue is the erotic one. If you are Don Giovanni and Leporello keeps the list, one brief encounter will suffice.1

  1. Bloom, Harold. The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. New York: Riverhead Books, 1995. 29. Print. ↩

Friday, September 3, 2010

Circling the Western Canon


Build a foundation in Western classics through reading focused in order of importance on literature, philosophy, and history.


Read the Western Canon in a series of widening passes over the material, beginning with Shakespeare. Each pass will delve deeper into the canon, building on the readings from previous passes, and including re-readings where desireable.

The reading plan will remain secondary to inspiration and enthusiasm. When interests wane, the structure is there to maintain focused movement.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Gravestone of Rafael Ávila

Found in Werner Herzog’s book, Conquest of the Useless:

Las vanidades del mundo

Las grandezas del imperio

Se encierran en el profundo

Silencio del cementerio

The vanities of the world

The greatness of the empire

Withdraw into the deep

Silence of the cemetery