Nowadays I find myself reading in snippets: in short segments squeezed between slices of free time, during a lunch break, on the john, and in between various miscellaneous slots of time. A couple of pages here and there, and this is why it took me nearly three months to read two books, both of which I started in early January. And here’s another thing that I’ve learned how to do as a result of little free time dedicated to reading non-class material: reading multiple books at once, switching off between them. I find that you can get a lot more reading done this way.
So for the past couple of months or so, I’ve been switching off between Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Kafka’s The Castle. I deliberately switched between verse and prose, just to give myself a switch up in style every now and then.
First, the Metamorphoses: it’s a coincidence, albeit not an unhappy one, that I started reading it at the same time as when I started reading Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy and the Use and Abuse of History for a class, since the two are connected. It’s an interesting perspective to read Nietzsche’s conception of myths and at the same time reading the myths themselves. I found that reading Nietzsche and Ovid complementary, as one is the raw material upon which the theory is built.
Second, The Castle: as most critics have remarked, it should really be read in conjunction, or right after, The Trial. Reading Kafka always leaves me with a strange sensation, one of a lingering uneasiness, a unsettling feeling that is both ineffable and inescapable. In fact, sometimes I wonder why I even read Kafka for “fun” during my leisure time, because reading Kafka always makes me tense up, makes it squirm, although nothing terrifying in the conventional sense ever happens in Kafka. But there is this insidious and sinister quality to Kafka’s writing that I find both repulsive and fascinating.
What’s next: I read books the way I listen to music–when I read a book or listen to an album, I am always thinking what that particular book or music is reminding me of, and how it is connected thematically/historically/emotionally with other books/albums that I have in my collection. This is not really a systematic process by any means, but rather more like an intuition, a quick impression.
Reading the Metamorphoses has rekindled my desire to re-read classical epic poetry. In that vein, I’m gonna be starting with the Iliad, then the Odyssey, and finish with the Aeneid–in other words, the Trojan war trilogy if you will. And since yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, reading about the Trojan War seems especially relevant now.
Continuing along the path of The Castle, I am gonna to re-read both Moby Dick and Don Quixote: the reason being that, like The Castle, both Moby Dick and Don Quixote are really quest-stories. Like The Castle, both raises sceptical questions about what exactly can be found in a quest. To me, both works upend and subvert the traditional quest narrative by suggesting that life, as a quest, is ultimately bound to end in absurdity and futility.