Thursday, January 22, 2015


While the world spins through the 21st Century, I have decided—in the evening anyway—to leave our troubled era and the issues of today and travel to Tsarist Russia where I am marking the life and times of one Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili, known to us all as Uncle Joe, or Joseph Stalin.

I am reading Stephen Kotkin’s new volume (the first of an anticipated three volumes) on the great dictator. It’s called “Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928” and it measures a full 950-pages.

So far, I’ll admit, I’ve been enjoying reading on the device. Certainly carrying a ounces of e-book around beats carrying around seven or nine pounds of Soviet despot. And the device works simply, intuitively. I’ll miss having books as my living room, and bedroom, and guest room, and kids’ room décor. Like Umberto Eco who is reputed to have a personal library of 35,000 books, or like the aforementioned Jefferson who had 3,000, I love books and love being surrounded by them.

I've also been thinking of changing my reading habits. Of walking away from contemporary non-fiction to the Classics.

What if, I ask myself, for the rest of my life, I read nothing but Homer. Poring over the Iliad and Odyssey. What if I read Piers Plowman and Chaucer. And Gilgamesh. And Shakespeare. And, of course, Cervantes? What if I search, not for the temporal, but for the essential and elemental truths of our woebegon species? If I read Thucydides would I be any worse off for my knowledge of foreign wars?

Of course with the esoteric comes estrangement from others. The inability to chat about what's going on on Netflix or HBO or even NBC.

But I don't really care about that.

Like Garbo, I vant to be alone.

With my books.

No comments: