I’ve always loved books and reading, and although you can learn a lot from the internet, television, and even the radio (old school? Well, many stations post their programmes online so you can hunt out the most interesting items when it’s convenient to you), books are still my key source of information for the Culture Project. Is reading time-consuming? Of course it is, but I’ve always loved it, and time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted time.
So, what am I reading at the moment?
I’m reaing Michael Levey’s 1968 A History of Western Art, which I picked up secondhand at the market for $5. With over 300 plates (83 in colour, even, as the cover proudly boasts!) it’s certainly a well-illustrated history and manages to be both comprehensive and concise, beginning with the cave paintings at Lascaux and ending with the likes of Pablo Picasso (who died in 1973) and Jacksn Pollock (d. 1956). Thus far I’ve reached the start of the 1800s: the pastoral scenes of John Constable and the paintings of one of my personal favourites, J. M. W. Turner.
I’m also making slow progress through Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, having just reached the prologue to the Man of Law’s tale. Mine is a 1962 edition which makes no concession to the difficulties faced by a modern reader endeavouring to comprehend the English of a poet who died in 1400: there are no footnotes, only a glossary at the back. In order to avoid endlessly flipping backward and forward I’m more or less going with the flow and only looking up the odd word when I become completely lost.
With Wanganui Opera Week currently underway I’m enjoying Companion to Opera by Donald Brook. Published in 1947 it’s an introduction to the major composers and the plots of their most significant works, laid out in chronological order in order to facilitate a broader understanding of the historical development of opera. As well as being remarkably easy to read, it gives a fascinating glimpse into the historical context in which it was published: Brook comments that he has kept the book short (just over 200 pages) because of the current paper shortages – rationing continued in the UK for years following the end of WWII – and in the final paragraph (I have a habit of skimming ahead) expresses his hope that the resumption of the BBC’s television service will result in the production of high-quality operas for televisation. I can only hope the poor fellow was dead before reality TV became a thing!
I’m reading the ‘Poems’ section of Stories, Essays, & Poems by G. K. Chesterton. Frankly, I don’t think poetry was his strong suit, but considering just how gifted and intelligent he was, in so many areas, it’s still pretty good and I’ve always liked ‘The Donkey’.
Finally, with the new year I’ve started over again on my annual Bible reading, this time with the Book of Psalms and the Book of Job, in my heavily-annotated New International Version. This will be my ninth consecutive year of reading the Bible, and as always it manages to be both a blessing and a discipline.
That’s my reading list covered: what are you reading at the moment?