Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Quite A Life

Left Maison KL carrying my old Everyman edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson (and leaving the Elvis Costello memoir in its place on the bookshelves.) The last time I read this was back in 1987 so I thought it was time to renew my acquaintance. When we were in the UK last December I got to thinking about what I might read in the year ahead and it struck me then how little attention I've been paying in recent times to anything post-Milton and pre-Victorian (with the minor exception of a bit of a foray into Pope's Essay on Man a few months back). That's a big gap. What's particularly strange is that at one time I tended to neglect the big Victorians and had a bit of a thing about the eighteenth century. So I suppose I'm trying to get that thing going again.

Getting going on the Boswell was a reminder of the sheer elegance of these earlier johnnies. There's a certain pleasure to be gained from the lovely balance of the sentences alone. Mind you, it's not all mouth and no trousers, you know. I'd completely forgotten the segment early in the Life in which the biographer deals with Johnson's depressive nature (his hypochondria in the parlance of the age.) This is startlingly modern in its insight into depression as an illness and its compassionate empathy regarding the condition.

Much as I'm enjoying the Boswell and will, I know, continue to do so, I need to balance it with some more recent fiction. Now thinking, in an unhurried, Boswellian manner, of what might do the trick.

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