A recurring theme of this blog has been that what we see out of the window depends only partly on what is out there and partly on what we have previously pasted onto the inside of the glass. Little surprise, then, that on reading the first couple of pages of Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” I was struck by their relevance to some of the other things that are going through my mind at this point as I embark on a process of what I am calling i-simplification at the start of a new year, and as I position myself for the final approach to my 50th birthday. The i-simplification is a simple de-cluttering of my online and electronic environments. Over the ten years or so that I have been keeping multiple websites, writing blogs, maintaining carefully isolated identities etc, I have moved deep into the dark territory that lies beyond overwhelming. Many websites, many identities, many empires connected by links that only I can see. So I have taken a machete and am starting to hack away at some of the overgrowth. Identities: cut down to just three or four. FourSquare and similar distractions: gone completely. WordPress: cut back to just this one blog. Only drops in the ocean, I know, but a gesture, at least. I think the i-simplification is just part of a typical New Year feeling and a logical consequence of a broader decision to sort out some of the activity-clutter that plays havoc with my largely futile attempts at time management. In the untitled opening section of “Invisible Cities” Calvino writes of there being in the lives of Emperors a desperate moment “when we discover that this empire, which had seemed to us the sum of all wonders, is an endless, formless ruin… that the triumph over enemy sovereigns has made us the heirs of their long undoing. Only in Marco Polo’s accounts was Kublai Khan able to discern, through the walls and towers destined to crumble, the tracery of a pattern so subtle it could escape the termites’ gnawing.” This moment comes after the pride in the extension of territories, and after the melancholy and relief of knowing we shall soon give up thought of knowing and understanding them. Then comes the emptiness, then that desperate moment. Then the discovery of the tracery of the subtle pattern. So my thought upon reading that opening section, while hacking my way to i-Simplification and my 50th birthday, concerns on the one hand (while perhaps in the back of my mind touching upon camels and needles) the issue of how pride in the boundless extension of our territory may obscure the vision of that subtle tracery which may elude the termites and on the other hand the way that what we read depends only partly (perhaps very little) on what is actually written.
Posts Tagged ‘reading’
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about Jack Kerouac here. Well, probably not much. I suppose it isn’t really a total coincidence that I called a new blog “On the road” while I had a new copy of Kerouac’s book lying around in the room, but equally there was no deliberate connection, no implication, no reference intended. I haven’t even read Kerouac yet, or at least not much of it, and from what I have read so far his road, except in the barest essentials that we all share, does not seem a lot like mine. I am wondering though, about how much of what we do is driven by things we don’t notice, and whether I would still have thought of this title for the blog if Kerouac hadn’t crept through the corner of my eye into the corner of my subconscious? And would I be writing such long sentences if I wasn’t in the middle – or not yet even the middle but only somewhere, deep in a subordinate subclause, from where the middle is still several volumes away – of reading Proust? I am also wondering, now I’ve brought it up, about how far any of our roads are really different from anybody else’s. There are a lot of different journeys underway on the M6 tonight. It isn’t necessarily the road that defines the journey.