In times of tyranny, famine, plague, divine reprisal, the people live in fear. In betwixt these events however, the people live in fear of other things — Warts, Acne, Flatulence, Scurvy, Dispepsia, Videogame Addiction, Dead pixels, Mono-Sodium Glutamate in their chinese food, and whether Rhino-therapy would be cheaper in Korea or Thailand (and whether it would be a better idea altogether to forego beauty altogether and go in for religion…). Oh yes, and leaving stuff with their ex’s.
Here’s a list of books I left and my feeble attempts to remember their content. (Is an obsession with lists another mono-mania?)
1. Marcel Proust — By way of Swann’s
The first book of Proust’s 6 volume modernist opus A la recherche du temps perdu or In Search of Lost Time; in which the author recalls the moments of his childhood in ever more lucid detail, seeking to bring to us the hidden beauty of life. The pleasure in not receiving what one wants, the pleasures that can be taken in the defects of friends, the pleasures of art, the pleasures of dissatisfaction.
All the moments in her company are Proustian, they are eternal in time and in my memory. That I cannot reprise my role in them, Proust would say, only heightens their value. If I were to have them, I would no longer value them. This contradiction is captured perfectly in the example of a courtesan who has no power over man, because she cannot withhold exactly what he wants.
2. Milan Kundera — The book of laughter and forgetting
A series of inter-connected tales of love under a totalitarian regime. Humourous and written with sharp verve. We can forget anything, even the harshest injustice, if we let go, laugh and laugh and laugh and forget about it.
So let us laugh and laugh at the absurdity. This won’t happen again; in a world without eternal recurrence, where events can happen only once, events cannot have any significance. Hence we can laugh, and we can forget (about him/her)
I’m Bobby Fisher (the chess champion who played two games at the same time)! (You shout this over and over when your menage a tois with your wife and your lover is stumbled upon by your wife’s blind mother.)
3. Marcus Aurelius — Meditations
The Roman Emperor wrote this manual to his beliefs in stoicism. Some lines I recall (heavily paraphrased)… ‘A puff of breath and a drop of will, that is all I am’ ; ‘before you do anything, ask yourself, how will this make me a better person?’; ‘Everyone despises the friendship of the wolf’.
According to a stoic it is not better to have lost than to never have loved all. Rather, it is neither better or worse either way. The stoic doesn’t care what befalls him/her, whatever happens, a good stoic is ready for the worst! So no matter what happens, whether you fall in love, or fortunately don’t fall in love, keep your equanimity… keep your equanimity…
She dropped the book into a cup of water, or something. (keep equanimity, keep equanimity, keep….)
4. Friedrich Nietzsche — Human, All too Human
Along with other Nietzsche books I read for kicks but don’t really understand. This one was my favourite, a bunch of epigrams sympathetic to my plight of being an Under-Mensch! Of course, the Ubermensch (superman) is probably not even mentioned in this early work, which predates ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra).
I never got to finish this, nor even make it half way. Human, all too human… My weakness and her’s — because she probably didn’t finish it either. Thus, I can unlike her by dwelling on her faults; and speak nothing of mine.
5. Mao, a history — ?
I read this on a trip to China. A biography of Mao. It was not until 2 years ago that it finally struck me how awful his regime was and how much better things would have been had Mao never existed, and how awful the world would have been if he were to exist over and over again. He wasn’t even original! Burning history and memory and culture wasn’t even his idea!
It was mine. Hahaha…
6. Alain De Botton — The Consolations of Philosophy
I liked this book. Now I have to read it at the bookstore. How can I possibly buy two copies of the same book? Or even a copy of a book I’ve already read? Things can only happen once, to have them happen a second time would be a farce! (But what if you get back together a third time? Isn’t that just the biggest farce!!!)
Keep your equanimity, keep your equanimity, keep your equanimity.
This was harmless, wasn’t it?