Thursday, November 13, 2008

The weight of St. John's alone...

Among the books I read on assignment in high school was Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I hated it. I read the book again just recently out of a sense of both decency and morbid curiosity, and while I did not love it - it is not a tale that admits of being loved - I did, and do, respect it. Hatred of any book, especially a work of fiction, is for me a very rare thing, and as I look back now through the haze of too much time passed I am pretty sure I must chalk it up to 'not getting' the book. I think I better understand it now. Introductions that explain what the book is about are very helpful in this regard; sort of like putting who Pip's benefactor is on the dust jacket of Great Expectations. Honestly, does not the very idea of an 'Introduction' suggest supplying the preliminaries, with the intention of allowing intimacy to take its natural course? But I digress. I would've appreciated the book better even had I not reminded myself of all pertinent plot points, and the way to understand them, before turning to page one. I always knew that other people might have to reread books later in their life in order to derive more meaning from their contents, but I never quite believed it must apply to me as well until this moment. It seems unlikely that there is one age after which one may with justice say "Oho, all the mysteries of the universe are now open to me and my understanding is complete." The logical consequence is that, with any work that pretends to be more than a popular taste of the times, one must pay it due attention in each stage of life, if the true value is to be grasped.

Well, that's a relief. And here I was worried because I'd already read all books the first time. Especially after I finished all the videogames.

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