This is about the time of the month where New Year’s resolutions start to tail off, right?
After struggling through the first 10 pages, or perhaps the first 10 sentences, of Finnegan’s Wake, you decide to read the cloaks and daggers and symbology of the latest Dan Brown novel instead. Your salad first turns into a chicken salad, and then into a cheeseburger.
So, here’s a fresh look at resolutions, at least reading resolutions–and perhaps a more inspiring guide than my last post on reading resolutions. This one comes from the Times, and recounts notable 2009 best seller’s take on the subject of reading goals, flagellations, and joys.
One of my favorites is Alexander McCall Smith (“The Lost Art of Gratitude”), who has carried Vikram Seth’s 1,400-page novel A Suitable Boy with him through airports for years. It’s like that resolution to lose five pounds each year. You might as well just enjoy your cupcakes. But I love his intention (my equivalent is Hermann Broch’s Sleepwalkers–it will be such a shame if I die before completing the heavy slab).
On the opposite end of wrangling with the tomes of our times is a resolution much more do-able, and perhaps more meaningful. Doug Stanton, the author of Horse Soldiers, aims to “reread side by side the last lines of Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ and the last lines of the first paragraph in Cormac McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses. They both end by repeating a last line, and it’s in the white space, or pause, between these lines that art is made. They are like an eerily silent magic trick.”
What a beautiful resolution. To return to white space where art is made. If I can achieve that, then who cares about the five pounds–or Hermann Broch’s Sleepwalkers.
But I’ll keep trudging around with Sleepwalkers. For what would the joy of reading be without lugging around such strivings. To think that my last words might be, “I wish I would have read Sleepwalkers.”