School here starts on Monday, and this week is full of orientation week events. It already feels like things are in full swing, so before I get totally swept up in the current of a new academic year, I want to tell you about a few things I’ve read since my last Unraveled Wednesday post.
The biggie is Les Miserables.* This book is huge in every way. I almost feel like if I keep reading it I’ll eventually find all the answers to everything. The “digressions” are insane–we’re talking thirty, forty, fifty pages. But just about the time I’d start to feel frustrated with the side path Hugo was taking, I’d realize that he was heading toward the absolute heart of everything. He talks about the “spectacle of the human soul,” the “infinity that each man carries within him,” and he digs into the details. The way Hugo manages to put so much of life that seemed beyond language into words is staggering. I can’t begin to describe here the experience of reading this book, and I won’t go on about it. For the record, though, it will be alive in me forever, and I plan to read it again, and again, and probably again after that.
The other notable book I read was Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This is one of those books that it seems like everyone has read bits of but that not that many people have actually taken the time to read cover to cover. Having read it cover to cover, I can see why. In a lot of it, Campell’s focus is on giving examples to flesh out his idea of what he calls the Monomyth. In many cases he doesn’t explain the logic by which he chooses which myths to include in his analysis, and it almost feels like he’s picking the things that work to support his idea and ignoring the things that don’t. That said, there are parts of the book that are downright, bedrock, life-changing interesting! I’ll just give you one example.
The first chapter includes a fascinating account of how psychoanalysis now does what myth and ritual did for people of the past. Campbell points to Freud’s conception of the Oedipus complex as the main cause of our “adult failure to behave like rational beings,” and he says:
The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind–whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin’s caves. There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. . . . They are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry the keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self.
Finally, I wanted to mention Charles Frazier’s Varina about the life Varina Davis, wife of confederate president Jefferson Davis. I didn’t like this book well as Cold Mountain, but I’m glad I read it. It was not what I expected, and I learned some things I didn’t know.
Now, on to KNITTING!!
I have just added the last color to my Find Your Fade shawl.
My plan is to join Dana over at Yards of Happiness for her Tecumseh knit along. That starts after Labor Day, so I’m setting September 2nd as my Fade deadline. Normally, that would not seem at all difficult, but with the craziness of school’s starting I’m not so sure. Wish me luck! I cannot WAIT to wear this beast!
Be sure to head over to As Kat Knits to see what others are reading and knitting this week!
*Julie Rose’s translation is incredible. Unless you’re reading this in French, I can’t imagine a better way to go.