60 in 60: #38 – Thorstein Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption (Penguin’s Great Ideas Series)

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 DaysYears” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series–the Guardian’s book site of the week and mentioned on the Penguin blog a couple of times.

The plan was to read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning, although this plan got derailed–first by deadlines and teaching, then by having fallen out of the rhythm, despite my best efforts–including a photo-essay on Thoreau (#37). My new plan is to read and blog about the remaining volumes as I have time and hopefully finish by year’s end. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION
by Thorstein Veblen (1857 to 1929)

Memorable Line
“It is worthy of notice that the possibility of producing pathological and other idiosyncrasies of person and manner by shrewd mimicry and a systematic drill have been turned to account in the deliberate production of a cultured class.”

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Recalibrating, Resurrecting…60 in 60 Resumes

In a few minutes I’ll post the next installment of the 60 in 60—covering the Penguin Great Ideas series—after a delay of almost a year. The project, looking back at it now, was insane. I was going to read one of 60 small books a day for 60 days and blog about one each day for 60 straight days. It didn’t quite work out that way. First, I faltered by allowing myself weekends free. Then it got off schedule in more significant ways, before grinding to a halt.

I’m glad it ground to a halt. It had become one of many brain-numbing tasks, and the initial rather stupid thrill of “how long can I keep juggling all of this” had faded into a dull ache of “why am I doing all of this?”

Now, today, I’m engaging the 60 in 60 for a different reason: because I want to slow down. I want to reconnect with reading books, after so many months of being involved with the process of having my own books brought out into the world.

I stopped writing on this blog and logged out of facebook in part to find the time to think about things, but also to read—and to read books not slated for formal review somewhere. I re-read Roberto Bolano’s 2666, not in the kind of ridiculous skimming speed read filled with interruptions and gaps that marked the first time, but taking a couple of days off just to read it for many hours in a row. What a novel idea.

The fact is, if I have the choice, I would much rather spend the majority of my time in the real world than in the virtual world. The virtual world, if I spend too much time there, irritates me almost pathologically, saps my strength, and stresses me out. It can make me someone I don’t like very much. So, once again, I’m trying hard to rearrange my life so that most of what I do gives me and my loved ones a sense of peace and of happiness.

Spending time with Ann makes me happy. Writing stories and books makes me happy. Editing projects and collaborations make me happy. Oddly enough, resurrecting the 60 in 60 also makes me happy. A lot of the rest of it doesn’t make me happy at all. So I’m going to try not to do it.

Part of this recalibrating means you may see slightly fewer posts on this blog, but what you do find will hopefully be more personal or more interesting and involving. Or silly, or fun—who knows?—but far fewer “Hey–here’s mah book, lookit this!” posts.

I’m also going to be reading this book, and writing about it here every once in awhile, because it fits nicely with 2666, and, well, I feel like it…

60 in 60: #37 – Henry David Thoreau’s Where I Lived, and What I Lived For (Penguin’s Great Ideas)


(The Penguin Great Ideas series goes where it’s never gone before–St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, seven miles out on the Deep Creek/Stony Bayou Trail, far from any other human being, May 14, 2009.)

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series–a Guardian’s book site of the week (back in the day) and mentioned on the Penguin blog. (Their latest post comments on the first 20.)

My plan was to read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. In actual fact, due to a series of delays beyond my control, the “60 in 60″ has become more of a sad, shambolic, shuffling staggering death march, or like an intermittently flickering lightbulb in a drug addict’s derelict apartment. To preserve the vestiges of my lingering sanity, I will now complete my mission in a haphazard, almost pub-crawl fashion, thus reminding readers that writers are eccentric, undependable, and pathetic. Still, I will stick to the rules and review on the same day I read.

For more on this beautifully designed series of which I am unworthy, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

WHERE I LIVED, AND WHAT I LIVED FOR
by Henry David Thoreau (1817 to 1862)

Memorable Line
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.”

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Mord Says Penguin Blog Is Wrong Re 60 in 60: I Am Not Mad

UPDATE 4/10: Great. Now the National Post thinks I’m mad.

mord

Colin Brush on the Penguin Blog has the cojones to suggest I’ve gone insane from doing the 60 in 60:

It is a sad thing to watch a writer go off the rails. But in these Twittered, My-Faced, Spacebooked, blog-rolled times, any meltdown is bound to be tragically public…[long garble about my insanity]…Then on Tuesday, this post appeared on his blog (see the not-at-all-disturbing screen-grab above). Who knows what possessed him when he wrote it? Guilt perhaps. Shame maybe. Alcohol certainly. But also there is a kind of insane defiance at work here. The 60 days have long passed. The war is over, the battle lost. Yet he’s soldiering on nevertheless.

It’s true the news that a fourth army of 20 titles is forthcoming put a momentary icicle through the part of my brain not yet numbed by my reading thus far, but I am not in any way insane.

To prove, it, I am posting selections from my Facebook status messages for the last day or so (along with related comments), since these should provide a valid snapshot of my state of mind. Proving, of course, that I’m just fine.

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60 in 60: 23 Books in 3 Lines in 1 Post

As the above photo shows, I’ve been preoccupied with shooting down deadlines. The 60 in 60 on the Penguin Great Ideas series should resume next week–who knew I meant 60 books in 60 years–but in the meantime, I’ve been prepping by reading the back covers and first page of each one (cheating? who knows). To give you a preview based on my gleanings, here are my three-line non-trad haikus on each. Prepare to be horrified.

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60 in 60: To Resume Next Week

Still recovering from jetlag–it’s taking a lot longer than I thought–but determined to complete the 60 in 60. I’ll be resuming next week with #37, Henry David Thoreau’s Where I Lived, and What I Lived For. You’ll just have to trust me when I say I haven’t read any of the remaining books in the period since I left off posting about them. (As it turns out, I didn’t even bring any of them with me to Australia.) But I’m also going to only do the 60 in 60 on weekdays. It’s a question of my sanity. So in a sense I’m going to limp to the finish line, but I’m still going to get there. I’m not sure exactly when next week I’ll start up again. A lot depends on the jetlag.

Here’s the list of what’s remaining for me re the 60 in 60:

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60 in 60: #36.5 – VanderMeer Teaching at Clarion South (Non-Penguin Crazy Idea)


(Matt Cheney‘s guns, originally intended to go with my discussion of Thoreau, #37 in the Penguin Great Ideas series.)

Nothing would have pleased me more than to continue the 60 in 60 on schedule. However, life and circumstances are trumping dead philosophers. (I’m sure Marcus Aurelius would approve…or more likely be indifferent.)

I’ve accepted an offer from Clarion South in Brisbane, Australia, to teach week 6 of their workshop, from February 8 through 14. They have a sudden need for an instructor and, after weighing all of the pros and cons of accepting a gig with so little prep time, it seemed I could be of use. Week six is the last week, the students are usually exhausted, and they need not only support but strategies and approaches for the return to their “normal” lives.

Unfortunately, Ann ‘s schedule permits her from being part of it–our teaching these days is usually inextricably woven together–but she will be reading some of their manuscripts as time permits so that they also get the advantage of the careful eye of Weird Tales’ fiction editor. (I’m going to have to make it up to her big-time for missing Valentine’s Day.)

Now, the only problem is there’s only so much time in a day, and I have a deadline of early February for Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st Century Writers. (Which turns out to be perfect timing-wise for the Clarion South students, since I’ll make the book in draft form available to them; they can even test out bits if they want.)

But the only way to meet my deadline and to make sure the book is as good as I want it to be is to get rid of the next biggest time expenditure…which is the 60 in 60.

To preserve the concept, Ann’s keeping the books in a secure location until my return. I will still be reading one a day until I finish them, but the series will resume around February 18 or 19. There will be no break this time between sets, either. Thanks for your patience. (It’s a mere speck of time compared to how long some of these texts have been around.)

That said, these three, which I’ve read in the past, are coming with me to Australia, as they’re all energizing and yet calming:

60 in 60: #36 – Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear & Trembling (Penguin’s Great Ideas)

kierk

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series–the Guardian’s book site of the week and mentioned on the Penguin blog. (Their latest post comments on the first 20.) From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

Fear & Trembling
by Soren Kierkegaard (1813 to 1855)

Memorable Line
“Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wonder whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid.”

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60 in 60: #35 – Von Clausewitz’s On the Nature of War (Penguin’s Great Ideas)

clausewitz

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series–the Guardian’s book site of the week and mentioned on the Penguin blog. (Their latest post comments on the first 20.) From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

On the Nature of War
by Carl von Clausewitz (1780 to 1831)

Memorable Line
“We say therefore that War belongs not to the province of Arts and Sciences, but to the province of social life. It is a conflict of great interests which is settled by bloodshed, and only in that is it different from others. It would be better, instead of comparing it to any Art, to liken it to business competition, which is also a conflict of human interests and activities… ”

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60 in 60: #34 – David Hume’s On Suicide (Penguin’s Great Ideas)

hume

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series–the Guardian’s book site of the week and mentioned on the Penguin blog. (Their latest post comments on the first 20.) From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

On Suicide
by David Hume (1711 to 1776)

Memorable Line
“…the lives of men depend upon the same laws as the lives of all other animals; and these are subjected to the general laws of matter and motion. The fall of a tower, or the infusion of a poison, will destroy a man equally with the meanest creature; an inundation sweeps away every thing without distinction that comes within the reach of its fury. ”

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