I was so disciplined just a month ago. If this thread had come up a month ago I could have told you all about the new Kafka translations and how the new version of Amerika
is wonderful and removes all the weird Judeo-Christian allusions and brings back Kafka's trademark humor. I could have talked about how finally reading through a good translation of his diaries has opened my eyes to how much one of my favorite writers was influenced by his friends, and the notion of Kafka as a creepy loner is rooted in shitty teachers who don't know what they're talking about. If you only teach "The Metamorphosis," (and have only read it) of course you're going to have the wrong impression. There's a reason he hid away so much of his work. Kafka was funny. He liked telling stories to his friends while they were out at the pub together. Picture this, you're hanging out with your writer friend Franz, and after knocking back a few ales he unloads "The Hunger Artist" on you. You listen to his every word about a society that devalues true artistry and suffering for ones art. How the true artists who push boundaries are seen as outsiders and the sellouts who are out to make a quick buck get revered as geniuses. As you realize you're also getting an allegory about the artist's place in society you notice he has a huge grin on his face the entire time and takes periodic breaks to smile even bigger and laugh. You finish your drink and order another.
Oh, sure, a month ago you would have gotten Kafka hour with Calin.
But, that was sooooo last month.
So now you're stuck with Calin the omnivorous who can't quite settle on any one thing and has instead been reading everything. The Kafka train keeps a rolling with a new translation of The Castle
, but I've read it a couple of times before. I don't have as much to say about it.
Of recent note, however, I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire again. I read Game of Thrones
back in 2009 or 2010, and I liked it well enough. It was alright. This time, though, after waiting each week for a new episode I'm finding it more rewarding. The first time I read the book I was drawing house maps and lineages and stuff, and it felt like a lot of work. Now that I'm familiar with familial relationship and characters through the show I can just sit back and let the story unfold. It feels less like unrewarding homework and more like leisure time. I have been picking this one up a lot when it's late and am having trouble sleeping. It's perfect for just reading a chapter or two before I try to sleep.
I also picked up The Professor and the Madman
, which is a story about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, a subject that is near and dear to my heart as a lit person and a wannabe linguist. Towards the end of my grad studies I fell in love with linguistics and ended up taking all of my English elective courses in that department. During an intro to grad linguistics class I had one of those epiphany moments in which I realized that everything I had learned about grammar and structure was either wrong or mean-spirited garbage. Needless to say, I was hooked, and I did everything I could to learn about English linguistics. (It also helps that I discovered U Penn's Language Log around the same time: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/
.) Anyway, the OED is an amazing text for anyone who is interested in the development of English from a historical perspective and isn't just looking for poorly chosen synonyms to throw into a paper that your teacher will later remark is incoherent. I know. I've read papers by these students...
The history of the OED, however, was not something I was familiar with and to learn that it's a sordid tale of murder and insanity is something I'm interested in seeing play out. I'm not far in the book (just about 20 pages), but I can't wait to get to the parts where the OED is being worked on.
Now, that said, the writing is not my cup of tea. I feel as if it inhabits this weird space between well-researched facts and posturing narrative. For example, this is a sentence I read this evening that put me in a bit of a bad mood: "Whether the Merretts missed the fields and the cider and the skylarks, or whether they imagined that that ideal had ever truly been the world they had left, we shall never know." Okay, so you're writing non-fiction why? This sentence is here because why? If you can get past some of the more cringeworthy moments (or if you straight up don't find that type of thing cringeworthy) then I would recommend it as a curiosity. If nothing else, it should make for entertaining talk at a dinner party. If you're the type of person who interacts with other humans. I'm not. All of my friends just want to see me drink a lot and go to metal shows.