And now it's really over

The press of work (office jobs suck) has prevented me from really engaging with the legacy of this project. In some ways, when thinking about it, I fold it into the general experience of my year of un- and under-employment, instead of evaluating it on its own terms. But I have to come to terms with it, and soon, because I promised I would write an essay about it for some anthology of Manly Men Writing Manly-ly About Masculine Things; I think they're looking for something lighter to contrast with pieces about failed love affairs and unexpected illness. I pitched my essay as a journal of a midlife crisis project -- the way other middle-aged guys train to run a marathon, or take to carpentry, I sat on my ass and read Burke. 5t suited me.

But the trouble I'm having is the Drawing Conclusions part. I think it's because I didn't start this or continue it, in order to draw conclusions-- or even, really, to learn anything. I wouldn't say that I'm smarter or wiser or better for the experience. I just did it because I thought it was a fun thing to do. If there's any wisdom I gained, it's that I have learned to accept myself as the kind of eccentric individual who thinks it's fun to read something written by one Dead White Guy and selected by another.

And I should say one other thing. In my cynical way, I was always aware of the Harvard Classics as a way for Collier's Publishing to make money off of free content by selling it as status to people like my great-grandfather. But we cynics are all idealists too; and I do believe in the tradition it represents. Not that we should sacralize it, or ignore everything outside of it, but these works are often useful and at times beautiful, and now, it's our turn to keep them meaningful. And so I'm most satisfied that I joined with you, my small but faithful readers, to play my part to shore these fragments against our ruin.

3 comments:

Bob G said...

And if you were one of Ray Bradbury's talking classics, which would you be?

Delicious said...

I think I'd want to be Cellini. But I would probably wind up as someone more minor like someone in the poetry anthology -- Goldsmith, say.

Anonymous said...

I realize this is an old blog post, but I have to comment on the idea that the set of Harvard Classics was sold as "status" for people like your great grandfather.
My Dad was born in 1921 and had no formal education beyond the 8th grade. He managed to procure a used set of HC and I have no doubt read a great deal of it.
He was one of the most read and educated people you could ever have met. He absolutely loved poetry and history and could probably have challenged a college professor in any discussion. This set of books worn and used, was one of his most valued possessions.