Why do I put myself in awkward positions like this? Bryan fires off a couple of innocuous posts, and before I know it, I am staring at a blank text field, wondering what the point of it all is. But that’s sort of like reading a book, now, isn’t it? Sort of, anyway. Well, you know, someone makes an innocuous recommendation or two, and before I know it, I am staring at a text field, not-so-blank, of course, but still wondering what the point of it all is. So why do I put myself in awkward positions like this? Well, why do you, my new Book-Loop friends?
Since you are all veteran Book-Loopers, I shall presume that you will not mistake my bad writing for pompously rhetorical pseudo-profundity, but rather as a putting forth of a sincere, if misguided and naïve, question. If Ben and Bryan’s talents can be taken as representative of the Loop’s membership, then I should note that, unlike the rest of you, I am not a writer—a thousand times, no!—and so do not find amongst my natural capacities pithy blurb-writing. Alas, I am but a lowly, unrepentant reader. Thus, it is only fitting that I resort to borrowing, as a reader must, from all that he has read, to posit an answer to my own question.
So why do I put myself in awkward positions like this? For the sake of ‘Truth and Beauty!’ my friends! How about it? Three cheers and hip-hip-hooray? Of course, this is only one way I have seen it written, and for my dollar, ‘Truth and Pleasure!’ would be better. Okay, so nothing earth shattering here and you probably didn’t need my 500 words on the subject (at first I wrote, ’500 rods’—-funny that, since it must be like a punishment!), but at least this way I’ve been up front about my reasons for joining your club. Thanks for having me!
As for some books (since that’s what you are all here for), while anyone would profit from Robertson Davies’ advice as found on the Book-Loop homepage, I think that they would profit doubly in respect to Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. An intelligent blurb would say something about a deep, if latent, ambivalence running through the work, which neatly contrasts the “good” and “bad” of the chivalric code with what Twain insinuates is the moral vacuum of the industrial revolution. A responsible reviewer would add some biographical detail (which I remember finding in the prefatory material in the Penguin Classic I was reading a few months back) about Twain’s ruinous attempts to commercialize an automatic typesetting machine in the years during which he conceived of and wrote the book. I should also add that the book was very funny to me at the time. (Again, “Truth and Pleasure”—because one is less fun without the other.)
As for “non-fiction” (or is it a “wildcard”?), I mention Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, another book I read in high school without really understanding. (My best stab at a blurb: “Wonderfully provocative stuff from a master of the genre!”) While I am not especially interested in harping on Bloom’s biographical details (Bellow’s Ravelstein would be the definitive, if unauthorized, source, with the added attraction of being a novel by a “master” of the “genre”), the biographical detail on our Book-Loop colleague Bryan is that he once attended Bloom’s precious bastion of “human excellence,” the University of Chicago, so he can tell you just how crazy these academic types can be. Still, in this case, I would argue Bloom was crazy in an important way, and yet perhaps some of you would see it differently. A polemic on the value of canonical literary texts—among many other things, of course—is perhaps worth a discussion amongst us Book-Loopers at some point is all I would suggest.
PS: Bryan, does Infinite Jest make any further literary allusions beyond the title to the Bard's play?