Tuesday, April 08, 2008

His dark familiar

I have been keeping quality company during my unpleasantly long work trips these last few days: a selection of Orwell's essays and journalism preceded by Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Reading Orwell's heavenly prose is not only a huge pleasure but somewhat challenging too - any personal writing seems especially wooden and clumsy in that particular comparison. There really are few things in the world to compare with good writing, nor many skills that I would rate higher. (Come to think, I can't name one.) Slaughterhouse-Five is one of those books that I have first encountered too early: I think I must have read it when I was 13 or 14. These added years have added scope and it is strange to find completely new echoes and meanings in that classic text. I don't really know any wider scope than fiction, it is the widest scope, widest, most serious view that I have encountered. Perhaps philosophy would be a contender if someone hadn't absolutely forbidden philosophers to write about the nature and structure of the immediate human experience in meaningful language. (Of course some have luckily disobeyed, like poor Friedrich, for instance.) So, even in the midst of these busy days with their scattered busy trivia I have been able to keep contact with essential matters, the long views - not a bad achievement as they go, as much as one would hope for a much more relevant, essential professional life to accompany a most relevant, essential private life.

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