This past year, I spent more time studying and playing music than I did reading books from start to finish. That said, here’s the list of books I read or reread in 2018:
- Bhavana Vandana (Bhante Henepola Gunaratana)
- White Gold Wielder (Stephen R. Donaldson)
- Life of a Lay Buddhist: Meditation=Awareness (Ven. Dr. M. Vajiragnana)
- The Runes of the Earth (Stephen R. Donaldson)
- Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four’s Instruments, from Stage to Studio – The Ultimate Edition (Andy Babiuk)
Here’s hoping for more reading time in 2019!
I doubt I’ll have time this year to finish the next book I intend to read, so I’ve decided to go ahead and post this list of books I read or reread in 2017:
- A Briefer History of Time (Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow)
- Lord Foul’s Bane (Stephen R. Donaldson)
- Loving-Kindness in Plain English: The Practice of Metta (Bhante Henepola Gunaratana)
- The Illearth War (Stephen R. Donaldson)
- The Power That Preserves (Stephen R. Donaldson)
- The Wounded Land (Stephen R. Donaldson)
- The One Tree (Stephen R. Donaldson)
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (Mark Manson)
I didn’t expect to be reading any fantasy fiction in 2017, but when my brother told me that Stephen Donaldson had written seven more Thomas Covenant books after the three I’d read long ago, I went for it, starting from the first book. Expect a few more by Mr. Donaldson on next year’s list.
When I finish reading Beatles Gear and Stephen Donaldson’s The Power That Preserves, I’ll have to read two of these titles I bought recently at City Newsstand:
I’d already read the issue of Tape Op, as I’m a subscriber and read/save every issue, but my May/June issue was mauled in the mail and I wanted a clean copy. I look forward to reading the other two soon!
“Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don’t believe anything because it sounds wise and pious and some holy man said it. See for yourself. That does not mean that you should be cynical, impudent, or irreverent. It means you should be empirical. Subject all statements to the actual test of your own experience, and let the results be your guide to truth. Insight meditation evolves out of an inner longing to wake up to what is real and to gain liberating insight into the true structure of existence. The entire practice hinges upon this desire to wake to the truth. Without it, the practice is superficial.”
From Mindfulness in Plain English (Bhante Gunaratana)
On this day in 347, St. Jerome was born, and while I’m no longer a Catholic, I fondly recall taking Jerome as my confirmation name when I was a boy (that was already my baptismal name). I thought it was cool that he translated the Bible into Latin, as that seemed to me such an impossible task. As a young adult, I learned the story of Jerome ‘s taming a lion by removing a thorn from his paw when Jerome appeared with a lion on the cover of Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights.
In the painting of Jerome shown above, “the admonition that Jerome has fixed to the wall, ‘Cogita Mori’ (Think upon death), is made explicit by the skull. His Bible is open to an image of the Last Judgment, while the hourglass and candle, objects often found on a desk, are further reminders of the passage of time and the imminence of death” (Wikipedia).
I finally finished reading the Visuddhimaga by Buddhaghosa (translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Nyanamoli). The Visuddhimaga (“Path of Purification”) is a comprehensive summary/analysis of the Theravada understanding of the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Written in the fifth century, this 900-page book can make reading Proust seem like a walk in the part, but the little gems tucked away in the text make it worthwhile, like the verse in the section dealing with anapanasati:
“So let a man, if he is wise,
Untiringly devote his days
To mindfulness of breathing, which
Rewards him always in these ways.”
Or the lines on aging:
“With leadenness in every limb,
With every faculty declining,
With vanishing of youthfulness,
With memory and wit grown dim,
With strength now drained by undermining,
With growing unattractiveness
To wife and family and then
With dotage coming on, what pain
Alike of body and of mind
A mortal must expect to find!
Since aging all of this will bring,
Aging is well named suffering.”
I’d already read sections of this book over the years, but it was nice to read and view the work as a whole for the first time. That said, I prefer practical Buddhism and don’t like to waste time on such ideas as rebirth-linking, supernormal abilities, etc. I’m glad I read this book. To be honest, though, I’m up for a little light reading.
Here are the last words spoken by some famous authors:
“How gratifying!” ~ Robert Browning
“The damned doctors have drenched me so that I can scarcely stand. I want to sleep now.” ~ Lord Byron
[As he jumped overboard:]: “Goodbye, everybody!” ~ Hart Crane
“A dying man can do nothing easy.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
“More light!” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Well, I must arrange my pillows for another weary night! When will this end?” ~ Washington Irving
“Sister, you’re trying to keep me alive as an old curiosity, but I’m done, I’m finished, I’m going to die.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
“I am dying as I’ve lived: beyond my means; this wallpaper is killing me; one of us has got to go.” ~ Oscar Wilde
From Strouf, Judie LH: Literature Lover’s Book of Lists: Serious Trivia for the Bibliophile; Prentice Hall; 1998.
With Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe introduced me to the Künstlerroman (German for “artist novel”), and I have been a huge fan of the genre ever since. Some of my favorite novels (eg, The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister, The Way of All Flesh, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) are of the Künstlerroman variety, and I even wrote one of my own.
The Künstlerroman is actually a subgenre of the Bildungsroman. A Bildungsroman is a coming-of-age story, that is, the story’s focus is on the psychological and moral growth of the main character from childhood to adulthood, with maturation as the goal. According to Wikipedia, “The genre often features a main conflict between the main character and society. Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the protagonist and he is ultimately accepted into society.”
When the Bildungsroman’s main character is an artist, the work is a Künstlerroman (Goethe’s The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister is considered to be the first of its type). In other words, every Künstlerroman is a Bildungsroman, but not every Bildungsroman is a Künstlerroman.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between a Bildungsroman and a Künstlerroman, as illustrated by the list that currently appears on Wikipedia’s Künstlerroman page, but that confusion disappears when you consider the fact that the “artist novel” is a sub-genre of the “coming-of-age novel” and not a separate genre altogether.
Sylvie Vartan reading, 1964
In 1984, I visited a number of literary sites in New York City, one of those being the building at 149 W. 21st Street, where Lucien Carr lived from 1950-1951. Credited with introducing Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs to each other, Carr was a key member of the original circle of the Beat Generation. After Kerouac finished the first draft of On the Road in April 1951, he moved briefly into Carr’s apartment, where he wrote a second draft on a roll of United Press teleprinter paper before transferring it to individual pages. That scroll still exists—all but the end, eaten by Carr’s dog, Patchkee.