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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Monday, December 21, 2009

The pleasure of the texts

One of the effects of moving to a slightly smaller house with slightly less shelf space is the need to do at least some culling of our book collection. In some cases it's obvious which books can go, but there are many that have been sitting on the shelves waiting to be read - many of which are surely worth reading at least once, but not necessarily worth keeping. Others have been read many years ago. They may be worth reading another time, but, alas, not worth keeping in a home library.

As a result, I'm taking some time to read a randomish array of books that seem like candidates to be culled out of the collection, but nonetheless look interesting (I could easily imagine borrowing them from a library, but I don't necessarily need to keep copies for future reference). This is proving to be quite enjoyable - in an almost guilty way, with a tinge of the erotic overtones of jouissance rather than mere plaisir. Here I am: reading various books that I don't have a specific need to absorb at this moment! Such silky luxury of the mind! It seldom happens to me these days, when I have so many books that I actually need to read and understand, for one reason or other. I'm gaining unexpected - as it were, collateral - pleasures, even from books that I don't especially admire or exactly like.

How interesting, for example, to be able to stop and think just why I find Terry Eagleton's prose so off-putting (at least a couple of his books are off to a new home, I'm afraid). How unexpected to find enjoyment in a late-1970s account of structuralism and post-structuralism that I haven't dipped into since 1981, when I bought it (according to the flattened and yellowed sales docket that was lingering within its pages). This book, Structuralism and Since (ed. John Sturrock) is obviously out of date in respect of developments with post-structuralism, but so lucid in its discussions of Levi-Strauss and Barthes that I've decided to keep it.

And so it goes. I'm looking forward to more little gems.


John said...

It is a pernicious evil: I find that that the mere fact that I have read a book implies a lifetime of ownership, and, accordingly, I have dragged the utmost drivel with me as I have moved. Yet, I cannot seem to free myself of those now embarrassing volumes as they were me, then and, to be honest, may still be me now.

I have boxes upon boxes of books I have not even opened in 25 years. But, when my loving spouse says ``lets ship them off to a used bookstore'', I can't do it. After all, I may need one of them one day! It is a disease. It deserves at least a name.

NewEnglandBob said...

I have read about 100 non-fiction books in the last year because I wanted to and not because I needed to. I operate in that mode all the time and it is terrific. I just have to remind myself occasionally to put a book down and enjoy the extended family and friends, but I think I have a good balance.

I sometimes find a new area of interest and then find several books to tread down a new path. That can be quite mind expanding.

stuart said...

russell - read a gathering storm yet? i loved it