jPay message #153

Today was store day, and this store was the polar opposite of the last one: calm, predictable, lazy. 

I’ve been reading a lot more because of LOP. My new obsessive interest is books about books, currently alternating between a compilation of Nick Hornby’s columns in which he lists the books bought and books read over the past month; and “Great Books” by David Denby, a film critic re-enrolling in his alma mater’s freshman requirements, the Core Courses, in a peculiarly 90’s rendition of the mid-life crisis. He attends Columbia, where political-correctness disparages the notion of “canonical” works that underpin these classes. The writer identifies himself as a liberal secular Jew, and particularly left-wing in his youth as a member of SDS, but throughout the term, he argues in favor of the Western Canon while grappling with the denunciations of racism, sexism, elitism etc. levelled against it.

He discovers that, far from promoting “imperialist capitalism” or “hegemonic power structures” or some other leftist bogeyman, these ancient works were often reflective and thoughtful and instead of demonstrating a consensus of values, they were in constant dialogue with each other, full of self-doubt and hard-won wisdom. They’re not timeless just because they’re written by dead white males, but because they are sublime representations of human experience (and conveyed the range of its various sensations). It’s a pretty great read and made me reminisce on how stunning and revelatory reading Augustine or Conrad or Virginia Woolf for the first time was. 

Okay, moving on, and more importantly: getting letters in prison is one of these little joys whose depth Ive only recently appreciated, and that you’ll rarely encounter elsewhere. I received a letter the other day from a good friend who I hadnt talked to in at least 6 years, which sorta made my day and brought back a whole flood of memories: of past lives, of meaningful incidents, of former friends..these random things actually happen more often than I would’ve guessed. Those letters are like hand-written notes conceived and personally delivered by the universe, ackowledging that I am here, I am alive, and I am loved.

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