Friday, 12 October 2018

The Year of the Tome

So, because this has been a day, nay a week, full of lots of things that I am wholly not very good at, I'm going to tell you about something that I am wholly good at. I can read. I can read and read and read until I'm.... I'll not try a Just William pun. (The link is to a seemingly very interesting blog post on the passive aggressive in things feminist. It's there for me to come back to!) Maybe you didn't spend your childhood watching William and Violet.

This year being a very big birthday year for me, I decided that I would do some serious reading. So serious that only tomes would suffice for this weighty year. Twice hitherto had I embarked on the odyssey of Ulysses and twice had got not very far at all. Thrice now have I started it, and Reader, I am nearly there!

I bought my copy of Joyce's epic in Dublin a long, long time ago. I'd gone down with my mother for a day's shopping and sightseeing. We went by bus in those picturesque days before the motorway strode cleanly between the two cities, and you stopped in Drogheda to change buses, Northern Irish to Irish, and to race to the loo. I wasn't even married then, I think. I bought it in a bookshop in St Stephen's Green shopping centre and carried it proudly around with me and my fine literary intentions.

Years later we were all four of us on the hop on hop off tour bus round Dublin, somewhere between Dublin Zoo and the Guinness Storehouse probably, as best reflects our various interests. The garrulous tour guide was on the subject of Joyce and the tome and asked if anyone had read it. Prince Charming felt the need to tell everyone that his wife was reading it. Thankfully not that she had been reading it for nearly two decades. I can tell you that he, the husband, still tells that story. I'm sure Garrulous TG does not.

Reader, I am nearly there and you shall hear all about it. I shall be a veritable garrulous tome tour guide myself. I bet you can hardly wait.

As my pragmatic and very holy friend K recently pointed out: I've nearly finished Joyce but I'm very behind with my Bible. Back in January I also embarked on a chronological reading of the Bible. In fifty years I've read it only twice before from cover to cover- and only now do I notice that I'll have started reading both tomes in their entirety twice before this year's project.

I would highly recommend the chronological sequence. It means that you read the whole of Job shortly into Genesis. What a time that was at the start of this year. By the end I too could only put my hand over my mouth and marvel. It was a much needed read.

Let me not deflect your attention from my being very behind- maybe I'm not as good at reading as I profess. Or rather maybe I'm not as good as giving God His place as all that Outside Tea in Lent set out to achieve. But as the Message says in Matthew 11, I am trying to find the "unforced rhythms of grace", so have given myself the year of being 50 as well as 1968 2018 itself to finish this voyage. That gives me another nine months of grace!

The rule I set myself on the Joyce front was that I wasn't allowed to read any other books until Ulysses was done. There have been two short slips, but I am lining up a pile, physical and metaphorical, of books into which I intend to plunge voraciously soon, oh so tantalisingly soon. Gretchen Joanna reminded me today of Kierkegaard. He's going on the pile too. All other suggestions most gratefully, joyfully and excitedly received- but please don't let any of them be tomes!


M.K. said...

What a delight to read this post! I've never even tried Ulysses. I think it would be beyond me, but I'm very much looking forward to hearing what you think about it. That will be as close to it as I ever get! You are a dogged reader. I could never, ever set a rule prohibiting me from sliding into another book if I were bogged down in the first one. Yikes!

Well, how 'bout Middlemarch (which GJ just read) or Anna Karenina? Moby Dick (Adam's very favorite book)? Or what about a series, like the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy? War and Peace? I myself am not very prone to reading massive books :)

Lisa Richards said...

I know, I know! I keep finding interesting books and my reading is getting out of control! I've been trying to read 3 or 4 chapters from the Bible each day. Not always succeeding, but trying. I want to continue doing that. God reveals a little at a time each time we re-read something, doesn't He? It does bother me that I think it's a big deal to read 3 chapters in the Bible, and yet I'll read other books for hours. Of course, the Bible does require more meditation, but I too don't give God His rightful place as I should. We will work on that together, sister! :)

gretchenjoanna said...

I think reading the Bible through in TWO years provides for more meditative reading. I haven't done that myself, but there are people who have made such schedules one can go by.

If you start reading Kierkegaard again, let me know what writing of his you think is good to begin with. I don't know that I will get to him, but as I seem to love buying books, I might get a Kierkegaard something and look in it a little, or just put it on my new library-type book cart that I walk by many times a day.

The philosophy I love most recently is David Bentley Hart, and I haven't got halfway through his The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss. Now that I am in a book club, and a young friend asked me to read her novel in manuscript, I have the feeling I will be reading, reading and reading myself. What a life. :-)