Monday, October 16, 2017
The Education of Hesperado...
I've read many books in my time; but, of course, far more remain unread. And -- forgive me father for I have sinned -- I am continually remiss in rectifying that habit of sloth and divertissement...
At various times in my life, I've tried to turn the tide on this. I recall fondly in my early 20s, resolving one summer to "read the classics" -- which at the time turned out to be three books: Madame Bovary, by Gustav Flaubert; Crime and Punishment, by Dostoevsky; and The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Over the years since then, my autodidactic life has been fitful; at times investing enormous energy (as when I hired native French speakers to tutor me in French to prepare me for reading Salammbô, by the aforementioned Flaubert, which I proceeded to do, three times; or when I climbed that daunting mountain of reading the entire corpus of Shakespeare -- all his plays, the Histories, the Comedies, and the Tragedies -- and did so, again, thrice; or when one romantic collegiate day, I simply stayed up all night, and did not sleep, getting drunk on the poetry of Dante's Divine Comedy); at times letting months, even years go by unread.
The last 20 years or so has been a rather fallow period, in terms of reading the works of others (spending most of my time writing my own fiction as well as this blog, when I haven't been binge-watching Netflix shows or chatting on Paltalk...). About two years ago, I finally resolved to plow through Flaubert's Sentimental Education (using the English translation as my guide, periodically dipping into the French for reference & interest). More episodes of perpendicular learning I leave uncounted (such as, for example, the delightful diversion of discovering Stephen Crane's slender, and unappreciated, novel, The Third Violet, which was recommended to me by a parenthetical allusion made by one of my top five favorite authors, H.E. Bates; not to mention my devoration over the decades of the oeuvres of two of the remaining four -- Donald Barthelme and Kurt Vonnegut -- leaving the aforementioned Shakespeare and Flaubert reverently aside).
At any rate, on a sublime whim, I have lately embarked upon a reading of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.
Right near the very beginning, in Canto 1, my ever-attuned Modar picked up a possible reference to the perennial enemy of the West, as the narrator begins to describe a mysterious, fair maiden riding on a "lowly ass" alongside the main character (a knight), and her august lineage of a royalty of apparently former glory:
And by descent from royal lineage came
Of ancient kings and queens, that had of yore
Their scepters stretched from east to western shore,
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernal fiend with foul uproar
Forwasted all their land and them expelled;
Whom to avenge she had this knight from far compelled.