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1/04/10 / Supa

On reading a good long book

Coming to the end of a good, long book is akin to saying farewell to a good friend for some time. It’s not just the characters and setting in a good story that capture you; if a story is well-written, well-told, you establish a connection of feelings with it, so that it’s just like meeting that old friend for coffee. As soon as she sits down across from you, or you see her face as she sits there waiting for you, feelings arise, an atmosphere is established that is unique to your particular friendship. Similarly, opening the pages of a well-written book, somewhere in the middle, picking up where you left off, is like entering the space of a temporary relationship that exists between reader, characters, plot, setting, and author.

I feel this moment of farewell approaching as I finish The Magic Mountain. It’s not the longest book I’ve ever read, but it is among the heaviest in terms of content and Mann’s dense philosophy. It’s a beautiful book, a masterful book, and so I feel like I’m ending a stay of a few months in Davos-Dorf with Hans Castorp, that ‘life’s problem child’ and Herr Settembrini and the other intensely thinking creatures that comprise Mann’s tome.

Closing that back cover is like turning around after hugging your friend as she gets on a train, or bus, or walks through the security checkpoint (if she’s desperate enough to fly, given the recent absurdities implemented at airports to enhance “security”).

Higher learning

Let’s not kid ourselves.

A higher degree, a better paying job, some exclusive certification – they all have the same purpose, they are all means to the same end: more money. Yet we have to embellish and say how we want to better the world, better ourselves, improve this and reform that; we have to say, in as beautiful words as we’re capable of producing, what we have to offer to the program, the institution, the job; we have to prove that we fit into the culture and mission of the place – because obviously insane amounts of money isn’t enough for the sons of bitches!

I’m not cynical. In fact I think I understand quite well the raison-d-etre of these systems, methods, and practices. It’s just that, in certain moments marked by frustrated inquisitiveness (the frustrated “why?”), when viewed from a certain angle of feelings and past experiences (which give rise to those feelings), they seem quite absurd and, at times, even maniacal.

How strange and coincidental that a book I picked up randomly at the library (Tranquility) contains references to the one other book I’m reading at the moment (The Magic Mountain).

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