I’ve worked three different jobs in the library: shelving magazines, newspapers and journals; checking out and shelving books, and the lowliest of the low, just plain shelving books. I’d always intended to write down the names of the books I come across that seemed interesting to me, but I never did because it soon became clear to me how overwhelming that would be: so many books, all the time, every day. The world is just flooded with books! When was this one checked out? Am I the first person to have touched this book since the seventies, honestly? My dad would like this one about the Californian Indians; I write down the call number on a little slip of paper that I promptly succeed in losing. The only reason why Belle was overwhelmed by the Beast’s library was not the sheer quantity of the books themselves, but by seeing them all in one place. This world is drowning and covered in books! How do we even have room to take a step?
That being said, even though this may sound funny coming from a literature major—I don’t feel like I read enough anymore. I certainly do read; I whipped through 250 pages of Fernando Ortiz’s Contrapunteo Cubano in the five hours or so I had free before class. And god knows I never feel as though I’m staying on top of my thesis reading, or that for any other class. However, I remember the days of coming home from high school and sitting on the couch, tucking my feet underneath a scratchy cushion and reading for pleasure. I also remember having enough free time in my life to seriously considering the goal of reading 182 books in a year, or one every other day, as well as all the books on the 100 Top Novels With Reviews (http://www.dougshaw.com/top100.html). I especially appreciate the rating system of that last website: “I liked it; I did not like it; I thought it was one of the Best Novels of All Time.” What more is there to say, truly?
Quite a bit, really… I had a conversation with my thesis advisor after class today that was definitely one of the most intense, interesting conversations I’ve had with a professor as an undergrad. It was somewhat rambling and ranting in nature (on both sides). He started out by asking me whether I thought the other students were bothered when he tried to introduce very politically slanted interpretations of texts in class. He talked about how when he was in university in Argentina, all anyone was talking about was U.S. imperialism and capitalism and how the university as an institution was to fight against them. He used that word, “fight”, not “deal with,” or “interpret,” or “discuss.” It really got me thinking: are universities more like businesses now, rather than centers of intellectual endeavor and development? Like, breeding centers for people who are really and truly going to get the fuck out there and change the world?… It bothers me that I feel so silly and idealistic for even typing those words—“change the world”!… get a grip, right? In every college catalog that I read, nobody ever bluntly stated “We are a leftist institution” or whatever… but what would be wrong with that? Why does a university such as mine, which is often cited in articles and polls as one of the most “liberal” in the nation, so blatantly shy away from taking a strong political position in its practices and instead blandly dub itself a “neutral” institution?
All this has amounted to more than a teensy-weensy digression, but anyway. I plan on keeping this blog to review books. My sister writes review of fiction published in the last two years or so. I like this idea as well. I don’t have a lot of free time anymore, but I do want to have a place to keep track of what books I read out of class.
I want to read more history… books that explain and discuss economic or political situations… I want to read fiction, too, recent fiction, that makes me think about recent events and why things are the way they are.
I want to have a stronger commitment to emphatic, inquisitive, mutual collaboration and intellectual inquiry in my life that will hopefully lead me in the direction of positive action in my day-to-day life. That doesn’t mean that I’ll actually get there. But at least it’ll be a step in the right direction. Maybe I’m getting more and more idealistic in my old age, but then again (oh, well!), I try. After all, the ideal one uses to orient one’s practices affects the failure that one ends up with.