At our September 10 meeting we will discuss two books chosen by me:
Peter Dimock, George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time, Dalkey Archive Press, 2013
Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling: A Dialectical Lyric, originally published in Danish in 1843. Any translation will work but I recommend the one by Sylvia Walsh published by Cambridge University Press in 2006. (For purposes of our discussion, you can safely skim or skip the two sections titled Problem II and Problem III)
I find myself in somewhat of a quandary in terms of how much information to provide, prior to our discussion, about why I chose these books. Both are slim volumes. Once you eliminate the two skipped sections (Problem II and Problem III) in FEAR AND TREMBLING, there are only about 80 pages of text to read. With GEORGE ANDERSON, as you will soon enough discover, the sections of ‘unique’ text are probably considerably less than 100 pages. So my first inclination is to recommend that everyone simply jump in and read these two books with no background information at all. The (potential) problem with that is I am afraid some may give up before making it to the end. The reason? GEORGE ANDERSON might be a hard slog (or not — I’m not sure) because of its unusual style and structure, a genre probably most aptly labeled “experimental”. And following that up with 80 pages of (perhaps for some) dense Christian Existential Philosophy, could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. (I realize that I have already tested the tolerance of this group once before when I tried something similar with a comparison of THE SHACK with FRANNY AND ZOOEY a few years ago — but we survived that so I press on :-))
So what is the problem with simply providing some background information before embarking on our read? I have spent quite a bit of time with these two books, and I think they are both open to MULTIPLE AND WILDLY DIVERSE interpretations. I am dismayed at the narrow, stilted interpretations one often finds in reviews and commentaries about each of these books on the internet and in academic publications. I am concerned that once one is exposed to any particular narrow interpretation of these works by reading that kind of background information, it will stifle the ability to think about these works in totally different ways. (To give just one example, I find both of these books to be REALLY FUNNY (full of irony and sarcasm but also other kinds humor, from black to zany to insane) — something you would probably never guess by reading “serious” book reviews and dull “academic” treatises about either of them.) So feel free to read some background information before starting your read if you like, but try to resist getting too locked-in to any particular interpretation — I want to turn our illustrious group loose on this topic and see where it takes us.
If you want to know where I got the initial idea to choose GEORGE ANDERSON, it was from a NYT Book Review:
After having read GEORGE ANDERSON, my thoughts kept wandering across associations between this book and Kierkegaard’s classic philosophical work, FEAR AND TREMBLING. There are so many different dimensions and levels at which these two literary works intersect that it is hard to know where to start so I will leave that for our discussion — but I don’t really intend to say much of anything; what I want to do is hear what you all come up with.
I do have lots of questions I would like to pose for the group to be thinking about, but I will wait until closer to our discussion date to send those out to you.