There is a stack of unread books in my room, in the Timekeeper's house, and an entire folder in my laptop filled with ebooks from Gutenberg.
My unread books and ebooks are the kind that critics and parents would approve of. I know I'm going to enjoy Pamuk and Márquez as much as I have enjoyed Wilde and Tolstoy. But to enjoy Joyce and Kundera? Or Faulkner and Beckett?
Have you ever dipped your eyes into a bucket of Nietzsche? Wicked. OmArie said that if you can understand Nietzsche's ramblings, you probably can understand anything else remotely philosophical. A word of warning though, don't go too far with Nietzsche; if you start agreeing him, you might contract some of his diseases. I read that Nietzsche caught the wise man's fever and lost his mind two years into his death. It might have been just a bad migraine. Or a brain tumor.
Anyway, back to that stack of books in my room and laptop folder. It's the difficult ones that I want to put my attention to. The ones I've been trying to read since I heard of them years ago. Alas, the lack of time and abundance of excuses distracted me for years. Starting with the aforementioned, merely the weight of Nietzsche's Spake started a migraine in my nose. The fonts in Xingjian's Soul worried me of Communists. And just the thought of Mrs. Dalloway gave me shudders; because just as much as she loved her creator, Mrs. Dalloway certainly could not talk Mrs. Woolf into floating.
But, no, this time I won't cower. As worrisome as they may seem, the demons plastered in these cryptic pages won't thwart my quest in conquering them one page, one paragraph at a time. And I won't stop at reading. I don't want to just read these books, I also want to enjoy them, as much as I enjoyed Voltaire's Candide and Tolstoy's Karenina. I want to hear the magic. I want to have phrases ringing in my head like Roy's "Tu. Morrow." I want to dream the imagery, losing myself in their space and time, instead of feeling stuck and stupified because of them.
Then again, why should one bother reading the classics at all? Aren't they, the contemporary writers, good enough? Didn't I enjoy Potter's company as much as everybody else? Isn't Coelho more uplifting and enjoyable? The Lords of The Bestselling Pop Novels sure did well in garnering mass attention for a while, and the masses concurred anonymously. So why bother with Joyce's dastardly impossible stream of thoughts?
Simply because they're classic. There is a timeless column, by Tamim Ansary that started my attempts in digging deeper into the ancient vaults of classic literature. Something he said ringed in my head every time I start with a new book:
Now for someone with ADHD, that rang a lot of bells. Good books, that stand the test of time and are still read by millions through generations, can definitely keep the average reader's attention for at least more than a chapter (and sometimes for years to come); because it can touch the imagination in more concrete ways than pulp fiction.
Another "cooler-than-thou" article I found simply stated that Einstein read the classics too, and attributed some of his intellect to such habits. Sure, John Wesley can be a bit condescending in his arguments about why people should read classic books, and that was just fine by me. Besides, who in the world would consider themselves intellectual if they don't wonder how Einstein got there in the first place, genetics aside? You DO want to keep learning for the rest of your life, don't you?
So, yeah, maybe you're not going to pick up a classic novel today, like I might not going to go straight to Joyce's Ulysses until I finish Keats' Endymion first. But I'm getting there. For sure.