Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: A Re-Emergence

This is perhaps the longest stretch of time I've ever gone without writing about some of the things I've read. To be honest, I've not read all that much. Yet, I have been reading the whole summer and fall ... just not blogging it. But everything's been very scattershot and, coupled with all sorts of detours and such, it's been hard to document.

Most of my reading time since mid-August has been spent on a lot of school-related material. I've had to re-read the usual fall texts: The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter (for American Literature), The Maltese Falcon (for Film Study), and Ethan Frome (a new addition to a new class I'm teaching: Studies in American Literature). In A.P. English, we read Oedipus Rex, Lysistrata, The Inferno, and Hamlet ... but I added two new texts this year: Kafka's The Metamorphosis (which we read in a week) and Dickens's Bleak House (which we devoted all semester to, three/four chapters per week for eighteen weeks). Coupled with the selected readings, poetry, and other stuff we had to read in each of those classes, my nose has been in a book of some sort most of this semester.

Then there was the fall seminar course at the Newberry Library, where I re-read Dickens's Dombey and Son, A Christmas Carol, and three other Christmas tales: "The Cricket on the Hearth," "The Chimes," and "The Haunted Man." Additionally, there were supplemental readings for that class.

Of course, all work and no play makes Tim a dull boy ... so amid all of this I read Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker by James McManus and Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, both via my Kindle. And based on a friend's recommendation I read Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation by Edward L. Deci ... a somewhat dated text, but still relevant in its more universal scope of how to motivate groups.

So as you can see, I have indeed been reading ...

Yet it all has left me feeling inexplicably unfulfilled ...

Until about a month ago.

It was early November when I realized that I was tired. Tired of reading quickly. Tired of reading for the sake of reading over 200 pages each week for classes! I needed something slower, something to savor. So much of my life has always been consumed with reading for a classroom audience that really reading for me ... for ME ... wasn't happening much any more.

Partly inspired by a literature conference I attended at Eastern Illinois University in early November, I found myself being reacquainted with the writings of Emerson and Thoreau ... the importance of reflection ... the need to simplify one's life ... the terrifying notion that, when you come to die, you discover you have not lived. All of these sentiments came bubbling back to the surface of my consciousness, just as they had twenty-five years ago when I was studying Transcendentalism in college.

And suddenly, strangely, as I sat on my couch downstairs, waiting for the rest of my family to finish getting ready so's we could all go out to dinner on a Friday evening, I scanned my bookshelves and realized the book I am finally ready to read, given this point in my life:

A 'la recherche du temps purdu (In Search of Lost Time) by Marcel Proust!

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