What I'm reading - March 2021
The Fire Next Time - James Baldwin
I'm hesistant to write about this book, it covers serious topics and I don't feel good enough at writing to say anything worthy of its gravity.
I'll just pull a quote that I really appreciated: "They're celebrating 100 years of freedom 100 years too early"
Annotated Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
I'd read Lolita about 10 years ago, and enjoyed it enough to call it one of my favourite books. On re-reading I realised that I'd forgotten almost everything about it. And thanks to this being the annotated edition, I also realised that I had missed a lot during my first reading. I hadn't, for example, realised that Quilty is constantly alluded to throughout the book. I think generally Nabokov rewards re-reading, and grows with your knowledge.
Obviously this book is incredible. The best.
Trip - Tao Lin
In Trip Tao Lin gives an account of getting into psychedelic drugs whilst in the middle of a severe depressive episode. Doing so seems to improve his life in various ways, and gives him the chance to write a fun book!
Along the way he talks in great depth about his history of drug use, and gives a general overview of global culture, pesticides, plant drawing classes etc. The books is beautifully written, and hilarious.
His getting into psychedelics, and this whole book, seems to have been prompted by his spending a week watching videos of talks by Terence McKenna on youtube. TM seems to be a holder of some sensible and some astonishingly wacky views. This book joins the tradition of wacky psychedlic writing, so we here some quite extreme claims that I want to learn more about. For example, Tao says that the reason we need to have our wisdom teeth removed is not an accident of evolution, but rather due to our mouths being incorreclty formed due to degenerate western diets.
Despite this book being primarily about psychedelics, the discovery that really improves Tao's life is when he realises that eating a healthy diet and taking exercise makes him feel better. This is common knowledge, but it seems to be something that every person needs to discover for themselves, and maybe for some people getting smashed on mushrooms is the best way to facilitate said discovery.
Hamlet - Shakespeare
We've been reading a few scenes from Hamlet every night. Somehow I've never read it, never seen a film adaption, and had no idea of the plot. Reading it then has been a minor revelation. Half the lines in this play I already knew, because they've been stolen by other works. The 'What a piece of work is a man' soliloquy I knew almost word for word from rewatching Withnail and I a few too many times.
I was most struck by how funny the play is. Polonius is our favourite character, and I treasure every scene where he appears. His 'breivty is the soul of wit' monologue is the funniest thing I've heard all year.
It turns out that Shakespeare is quite good, and I feel silly for never having read him before now. Oops!
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