Insights from Reading

There are many things that give me great pleasure in reading.  First among them is innovative and interesting use of the language--not language designed to be obsure or obscurantist, but designed to be read and to do something new--it can be difficult and challenging, just not to the point of lunacy.  In this realm both Ulysses and A Clockwork Orange spring to mind as particularly successful experiments in a kind of joie de langue which is found all too seldom.  Second to this are sharp insights into the nature of things as they are.  While I haven't decided about the first criterion, on the second Hilary Mantel delivers powerfully, again and again.

from Wolf Hall
Hilary Mantel

Why are we so attached to the severities of the past? Why are we so proud of ourselves for having endured our fathers and our mothers, the fireless days and the meatless days, the cold winters and the sharp tongues? It's not as if we had a choice. Even Liz, once when they were young, when she'd seen him early in the morning putting Gregory's shirts to warm before the fire, even Liz had said shaprly, don't do that, he'll expect it every day.

If we think back on it, it seems sometimes our fondest memories and the bludgeon we use on those around us is tha hardship we endured.  How many times have I heard about the hardship of the Great Depression and rationing during the war?  I think these stories fascinating and interesting and insightful, and yet we cobble out of them some sort of trans-human mettle for having merely lived through the time.  And we use these experiences to decry the "softness" of the day.  But in this matter I guess I'm squarely in the corner of St. Thérèse of Lisieux who noted that each day is filled with mortifications enough, we don't need to go out of our ways to multiply our bodily penances.


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