Current Reading: Diary, 8/18 to 8/22/21

Dreams; Microsoft woes; DVDs everywhere and nothing to watch; Harold Bloom dissed; Herbert Read; Walter Kaufmann’s Tragedy and Philosophy; Cleese’s book; best autobiographies; inheriting Pablo’s cat.

Copyright (text only) 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Walter Kaufmann, philosopher & translator

{8/18/21}  Weight 214.4 at 5:20 am.

Odd dream this morning:  watching a pile of five cats and dogs, sleeping, I see the large cat wake up and apparently attack a small cat.  They leave the pile, squared off.  Something changes between them, I don’t understand what, then the big cat returns to lie on top of the pile and the small cat brings the large cat a cup and saucer!  Then I woke up.

Microsoft Word gives me grief again.  It seems that there are “two desktops” available through the File Manager, and “which place” a document is stored is of some importance.  “One desktop” is stored under “This PC” and “the other desktop” is stored under “OneDrive”—a giant misnomer, it seems, because it is really a sorta-second drive.  If you open the “wrong file,” you find that it’s three months old and not the file you saved yesterday.  If you try to use file compare, you find that one file overwrites the other—today, the old file overwrote the new, so the changes I made to the file today are LOST.  And so, half an hour’s work is lost.  Worse yet, the file I now have is from April; so any other changes made since then are also lost, but for those changes, I have no idea what they were.  [Further whining deleted, available on request.]

{8/19/21}  Weight 214.4 at 6:55 am.

Found a number of quotes in the diary, but nothing close to “forty pages.”  Too bad.  It’s just conceivable some of the missing quotes may be found in separate files, but I don’t expect anything.  So it goes.  I’m glad to recover the extensive quotes from Graves & Hodge:  The Reader Over Your Shoulder, at least.

{8/20/21}  Weight 214.4 at 5:50 am.

{8/21/21}  Weight 216.8 at 5:30 am.  Wow.

Having hundreds of DVDs, but nothing I wanted to watch yesterday, I’ve gone and bought almost a dozen from Hamilton Booksellers.  And I spent much of last night reading.

Harold Bloom, as a writer and critic, seems to me virtually useless.  Last night I read his Introduction to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:  Modern Critical Interpretations, Chelsea House Publishers, New York, 1987, and got absolutely nothing out of it except that he says this about Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa Harlowe: “perhaps still the longest novel in the language, seems to me also still the greatest” and that Elizabeth Bennett and other more recent heroines are Clarissa’s “direct descendants,” but “not proportioned to her more sublime scale.”  Most of the time I couldn’t tell what the eff he was saying, which undoubtedly is why he has such a great reputation.

The two other essays I read in the book were of some interest but, aside from remembering that in P&P, a character’s attention to propriety (i.e., manners) is a direct indicator of their morals, they made no particular impression.

Later I picked up Herbert Read:  To Hell with Culture, but didn’t get far and remember nothing of the little I read.  In looking just now at the Preface, which talks about the effects of Communism (Soviet-style) on culture, I rather wish I had started reading there.

It will all subside in the memory hole (i.e., my failing memory) in due course anyway.

I am about 250 pages into Walter Kaufmann’s fascinating Tragedy and Philosophy, but I’m wondering:  why am I reading endlessly about these Greek plays that I remember so little and, in many cases, haven’t read at all?  Shouldn’t I be reading the Greeks themselves?  The answer is, I think, “Yes”; but the only edition I have is the volume from the first edition of the Britannica Great Books of the Western World (which I normally abbreviate to “GBWW”), and so the translations are quite old.

Kaufmann argues that Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, and Nietzsche all got it wrong, wrong, wrong regarding the Greek tragedies, mostly because of mistranslations of important words—words that we know as “hubris,” “pity,” and “terror” (the latter emphasized by Aristotle).  Whether he’s right, I can’t say, though he is persuasive.

Last night I also read considerably in John Cleese’s So Anyway…, which is, predictably, amusing.  He rather crows about his triumphs in cricket, but he also laments his failures in school plays, so I guess it evens out.  Less fascinating than one might hope, but eventually he’ll get around to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which is why I’m reading this at all.  Most autobiographies, the few I’ve tried anyway, have been bores; Agnes DeMille’s half dozen, however, made compelling reading, especially the earliest and latest (Dance to the Piper and Reprieve).  I read these thirty years or more ago, but now they’re quite unavailable through the usual outlets.  I’d say, try your library system, except that mine has zilch.

I suppose I should mention (again) Judith Moore’s stunning Fat Girl and Fritz Perls’s amusing and fascinating In and Out the Garbage Pail.  Okay, I withdraw the comment about “bores.”  Sometimes, they’re the most useful and momentous kind of reading.  Malcolm X, anyone?  Black Elk Speaks and Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions are great, too, but one’s skepticism gets in the way.

{8/22/21}  Weight 216.8 at 4:30 am.  Still wow.

This morning’s dream:  I am playing cards with a guy, a game I just learned and don’t understand.  During the course of play, he has laid down four queens; I also have laid down four cards in a column.  Then he plays a card face-down and says, “Count to ten.”  As he counts off the seconds, I wonder what the hell is going on.  Then he says he has won.  I push my cards across the table and say, “That’s it,” or something else dismissive.  I look at my watch and see that it’s 4:00 am, no buses running so there’s no way to go home.  I pick  up the deck and start dealing.  That was it.

Thirty or forty years ago I abandoned a cat.  Now I seem to have inherited another, unwillingly.  This could be called karma, I suppose.

The story is that Pablo, of the recent stroke, is going home to mother.  So not only am I losing my “best friend,” I am gaining an unwanted responsibility.  Pablo is leaving his cat to be unloved, and tormented (as he was) by bedbugs, as well as leaving his junkpile of a house to be dealt with by fate, or me, or his sister, or who knows what.

I wouldn’t be doing this whining except that it takes two hours every morning to go over there, feed the animal, and come home.  Actually, it’s two hours on weekends; during the week it’s quicker.  And that “two hours” is probably more accurately ninety minutes.  But it plays hell with “my work.”

Copyright (text only) 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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