We should read to give our souls a chance to luxuriate.
THE ARGENTINE WRITER Jorge Luis Borges, who is also a hedonistic reader, has “always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” (In his short story “The Library of Babel,” Borges conceives the universe as an infinite Library.)
According to Henry Miller, an expatriate American writer whose libertine spirit broke literary conventions, “a book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation… When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a Russian novelist immortalized for his unflinching analysis of the human psyche, “[viewed reading as] an important occupation.”
For someone like me who doesn’t own an “infinite library” and who has been unfortunately traumatized after listing the unreturned books my friends borrowed for too long a time that it’s almost a Herculean task to borrow them back, the idea of “my books spending leisure time with [other people]” has become repulsive. Well, that’s an obvious exaggeration; however, it gets my point across clearly.
So in lieu of my neurosis and contempt for the business of lending books, I figured that the occupation of writing succinct book reviews and recommendations suffices as a practice of constant book circulation:
Borges’s Ficciones (1962) is an erudite collection of short fictions written by gargantuan hands of imagination: a literal endless labyrinth of books, an obscure group of geniuses conceiving a whole universe, an author who attempts to “rewrite” Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote word for word, a dreamer who was dreamt in return, a paraplegic whose perfect memory was a “long metaphor for insomnia,” an imaginary argument posing that history imitates literature, a scholarly commentary on an nonexistent book, and more stories that blur the distinction between fact and fiction.
Tropic of Cancer (1934), Miller’s notorious autobiographical novel, was banned for thirty years following its publication due to its explicit language and themes—thus immediately emerging as a cult figure. Miller, a penniless and starving young writer, recounts the joy, freedom, and misery of his Bohemian life in the seedy depths of Paris. His surrealistic prose sketches, existential reflections, social criticisms, and unrestrained stream of digressions and free associations introduced a new form of genre where memoir and fiction were intertwined into one rope. Miller fought against censorship and defended the freedom to read. Tropic of Cancer is one of the books responsible for the “free speech that we now take for granted in literature.”
Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866)—a masterpiece and antecedent of psychologically driven novels—is about a delirious, intelligent young man whose logic concluded into the cold-blooded murder of an old, abusive landlady, with him vindicating that he is obligated and permitted to transgress from human laws for the greater good.
(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page: January 3, 2016)