This year has been such a wonderful adventure thus far. Twelve books read in fifty-nine days, which might just as well have been fifty-nine years — or minutes, so superfluous seems the notion of Time. I know I’ve said it before, that we exist in a moment of infinite duration, and that our arbitrary attempts to measure it amount to little more than rude convenience — and torment, since we’re slaves to the result. We truly lose something when we fear we have something to lose — minutes, hours, years, life.
Before I list the books, I want to recount a dream I had this morning just before I rose from bed. It’s just a fragment, really — or maybe it’s the whole thing; I can’t quite remember or tell:
I was on a lower slope of a tall mountain with my second eldest son, and we were looking up at the peak. He said, “I thought it was supposed to snow.” And on hearing his words, the mountain changed its countenance from benign and rocky and green to white beyond white — apparently there had been quite a storm, and somehow we missed it, or didn’t notice it. And yet neither of us was cold. “There’s your snow,” I said. And the mountain, smiling, began to rumble. “And there,” I went on for humorous effect, “is your avalanche.” Though it was far up above us, had it continued and gathered force, we would have been directly in its path. But we feared not, because either he, or I, or both of us, knew it was a dream.
This morning, then, and moving backward from there, I finished George du Maurier’s sweetly magnificent and profound Peter Ibbetson. Prior to that, I finally did what so many over the last six centuries have done: I read The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. Next we have Six Moral Tales from Jules Laforgue. And then A.E. Housman’s posthumous More Poems, edited by his brother, Laurence Housman. The Irresponsibles: A Declaration, a volume even more slender by Archibald Macleish, preceded that. Have you read Gil Blas, by Alain René le Sage? I have, all three volumes. Delightful. Give yourself the pleasure. The translator, Henri Van Laun, also translated Molière and H.A. Taine’s History of English Literature — the latter which I have not read, although it’s waiting in the wings. Bored yet? Then why not try Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater? I did, and I wasn’t bored for a second. And finally, first but not least, I finished the last three volumes of my ten-volume set of Shakespeare, which is where I left off when I listed last year’s reading. Poems, sonnets, and all. Macbeth, King Lear, Othello — everyone is familiar with the names. But there is much more to them than their sound, as I’m happily learning now that I’m a grizzled grandfather, but one avalanche away from forever.