Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A Life Less Auden-ary

A disappointing level of reading accomplished, largely because I have been spending all day proof-reading and indexing. Come the evening (when I read the most), I have for the most part been putting my feet up and watching DVDs.

I have managed to read a few short stories as a warm up to the main reading project of the year (Dubliners) and some lighter stuff, but I was struck today by how much and how little we retain of certain books. I know Joyce well because I have read and re-read his work (and yes, that includes Ulysses and Finnegans Wake). I don’t know how many copies of The Essential James Joyce I’ve been through (even my hardback is looking… well read). Yet much of the content of Dubliners seems to have slipped from my mind. This is good in a way, as I’m coming to it fresh.

This thought was sparked by the arrival of the volume of Auden’s poems I will be re-reading. There was a frisson in getting the book in the post as it is the exact same edition I had back in 1970. I carried my school books in a canvas horse’s nose bag and this, along with others was a constant companion for two years. I have flicked through the pages, but apart from a few titles that ring bells with flat batteries, there is nothing apart from that vague memory of finding little or no connection when I first read them.

Perhaps my other reading at the time coloured this. The works we studied were (and still are) part of the literary canon. I was very much into… non-canonical writing (I started to put experimental, but much of it wasn’t; perhaps exploratory would be better?). Having said that, Chaucer, Milton, and the others all made an impression.

It will be interesting to see what happens this time round (beyond a vague nostalgia for those sixth form days – all the lovely people and wondrous events).