Wednesday, February 19, 2003

[Sighs] Well, so much for my vow to start posting every day or two again...I just keep signing on, finding that I have nothing much to say, really, and then signing off again. I dunno. Life's pretty good, I'm doing about the same...not much exciting going on, just school stuff and lots of reading. At the moment I'm finishing up The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. Many years ago my mom passed her copy along to me, and I read it, and really quite liked it. I was only about 8 at the time, though, so...and then yesterday I found this pocket copy in a thrift store for just over a pound, so I picked it up out of nostalgia and curiosity as to what it would be like in the rereading. Still a pretty good read, though I don't remember the hero having been quite so astonishingly stupid the last time around...I do remember being frustrated at Our Heroine's frequent spinelessness, however.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Here's one of the rambles that I mentioned that I imagined having posted. It's pretty recent--from some time last week, after my jaunt to Oxford on Sunday. (Fun, but bad call on the Sunday thing--many shops were closed! I'll have to go back soon, was pretty cool.)

I keep running into more and more books on Blackwells' and Waterstone's 'Recommended Reading' lists that have blurbs on the back similar to this one:

'This book is a timely reminder that (we must hope) George Bush didn't know what he was talking about when he uttered the infamous "c" word after September 11. For the crusades were among the most disgusting blots on the human record, the men who embarked on them doing so in the name of their god, also known as the Prince of Peace; and they, too, thought they were defending the only civilisation on earth.' --Geoffrey Moorhouse, Guardian.

And this on a book about Saladin and Richard Lionheart! I mean, the crusades thing is valid, sure,, they're just tacking those things on wherever they can! I agree with them on the anti-war thing, but...I also can't help thinking, 'Wow, what a treasure-trove this will be to some future historian! Ah, the joy of back covers!' Maybe it's just because I sporadically collect blurbs from back covers, or maybe it's because I've been steeped in history lately. (Over break, I bought a book on the Cathar Heresy--for pleasure reading. I took it with me on the train to Oxford today, and could at various points be spotted scribbling furiously in the margins.) But I can't help but think that someday, to somebody, these little things will be fascinating. I mean, even if all the editorials in the world don't survive, if the cover to this book survives, people will have a big clue as to mainstream opinion on this issue. (I bought the book, partly to see if it was as irate as the reviewer's blurb sounded. --I can understand his anger, but...this is history, dude. Personal judgements are alright, but you've gotta at least make some attempt to separate them from the account you give.)
Goodlord! It really has been forever since I've posted! Like a month! I hadn't realized it'd been quite so long, because I keep typing bloggish things to myself...I guess I've just been imagining that I've posted some of them. Hmm, well, let's see, what's going on here? Well, the new teaching block has started, and I've got a couple of new classes: Writing and History, and Austrian History in Film. Both seem like they're gonna be pretty neat. I've been doing mad reading...much more for Medieval History and Writing and History than the Austrian film class (which is in German), I must acknowledge. But then there's not as much work for that class generally as the others--I have something like five to seven pages of things in German to read before my lecture tomorrow. Not too bad. In terms of other reading, at the moment I'm working on polishing off the poetry of T.S. Eliot, Dante's Inferno (moving on to the rest of the Divine Comedy after that), and various books on the Crusades.

So I'm most of the way through the Inferno, and I still don't really get it. OKOK he's on this big poetic journey with Virgil, whom he calls 'my author'; and, being an exile, he sees all these parallels between his life and the Aeneid, which in turn parallels the Odyssey. But unless I just skipped the part where it tells why all this is happening to him...I really just don't get it. Why should he be singled out for this little tour of heaven, hell, and purgatory? What makes him so special? And it all seems very convenient, doesn't it, that almost all the condemned souls he runs into were, in life, his political enemies? I dunno. I guess part of it is my own personal beliefs clashing with what he's trying to do. Like...well, apart from sort of vague feelings that 'there must be something more' I'm not sure if I believe in a life after death. Whether I believe it or not, though, I don't think it's something that it is possible to know beforehand. You can believe or not, sure. But that's a completely independent thing. Certainly you can't say, `oh, well, there are going to be pearly gates and angels dressed in white gowns with shimmering wings, and this will happen and that will happen.' Assuming that our souls do continue to exist after death, I think that at some level it is impossible for a living person to comprehend that existence. So anyway, getting back to Dante, my thoughts on the matter mean that I have serious problems suspending my own disbelief long enough to follow the story he's tellin'. It's somehow different from reading about, like, dragons and elves and things--that's easy, I don't have a problem with that. Not sure quite what the problem is, disbelief-suspension-wise. Maybe part of it's that it's far too...structured and compartmentalized. I find it pretty hard to imagine an afterlife as compartmentalized as Dante's, I guess. The whole thing reads like an account of a foreign investor's grand tour of a factory, or something. Surely people don't fit so neatly into categories! Also...well, I just don't think we can know, and I certainly don't think Dante does, so I tend to be highly suspicious of his motives in putting this sin in the second circle and that one in the eighth. Particularly when he takes every opportunity to condemn (quite literally!) his political enemies.

I dunno. I'm still trying to figure out what this thing is, like, on the metaphoric level or whatever. I mean, it's not an exploration of his psyche, because he (so far) is spending most of his time getting literary revenge on his enemies. And passing judgement! Okok, forget the question, I'm totally going off on a tangent. My blog, I'm allowed to be disorganized. Anyway, judgement. Yeah! I mean, that's totally one of the things that's been bothering me about this thing! Wow. Like...Dante says he's travelling through Hell, right? And everybody in Hell is there because God judged they should go there. But the journey is only metaphoric, Dante didn't really go there, so it's not God who has passed judgement on these people and sent them to Hell, but Dante! The whole thing is one huge judgefest! Haha, Mr. Alighieri, I have you now! --Andandand there's even one bit I just read earlier today where Virgil actually scolds Dante for feeling sorry for some of the condemned, and for doubting God's judgement in putting them there. --But God didn't! Dante did! O you crafty man! Sneaksy.

Ok, well, that still doesn't help with figuring out what he's doing on this journey in the first place. And I'm only 1/3 of the way through! I don't know if I can bear to read the rest, though...rrr. Stupid Dante. Stupid Divine Comedy. I will vanquish you!

[Sighs] But for now, alas, I must tackle other things...time for a shower, then German, then bed.