January 1st, 2012

There are many goals I would like to surpass this year, but I’m making only a single resolution: To read deeply instead of reading widely. I take my inspiration here from Henry David Thoreau who encourages me to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.

Over the next 12 months I will not buy, borrow from the library or obtain in any other manner any new books. I ordered yesterday a copy of the Library of America’s Moby Dick from Mac’s Backs and that will be my only fiction reading for the year. I chose Moby Dick for a number of reasons. First, because my friend, poet and fellow writer Sherry Chandler recommended it last month when I asked my friends to suggest a single title that I could spend all year reading and rereading. Sherry wrote:

I’ve been thinking about this question, off and on, since you made the post. Beyond the obvious — but still legitimate answers (Shakespeare, Chaucer) — I think that I could spend a year reading Moby Dick. Harold Bloom says it’s not a novel but a prose epic

Second, because it is an iconic novel that I have not really read (I skimmed Melville’s work in college and listened to his words as an audio book) and I feel diminished for not having done so.

Third, I’m struggling to write a 19th century novel and reading one of the best of that genre will help me to root my prose.

Fourth, and finally, Moby Dick has to have the best known opening line and one of the best opening paragraphs in all literature.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago–never mind how long precisely–having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

I went to sea once myself and over the next 366 days, 2012 is a leap year, I will sit myself down after dinner each evening with a good mug of tea and digest both my meal and Melville’s words for a pleasant hour.

One Response to “HAPPY NEW YEAR…!”

  1. […] Earlier this year I promised myself that I would buy no new books or take any books out of the library until I had finished reading a short list. I’m holding to that pledge (mostly, more on that elsewhere in the near future) and so I’m not going to be reading these book in 2012, but maybe next year. […]

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