The weather is getting cold, and the sun is now setting before 6:00 pm. It must be time to read Boswell. My reading pattern has an annual, cyclical rhythm to it, so it feels right to join my friends for a pint and brilliant conversation in the Crown and Anchor as this year’s cycle draws to a close. I’m actually three days into Boswell’s Life of Dr. Johnson now, and other than finishing that pleasant task, I only have William James, C. S. Lewis, and Dickens left to read in 2012 – three of my very favorite authors to go with my favorite time of the year.
With so few items remaining on my plan this year, I’m naturally starting to look forward through Janus’s door into the schedule for 2013. I’ve purchased all the extra books I need, and they’ve all arrived, either in my mailbox or in my Kindle. I’ve made out the schedule and posted a copy of it on this site (under “2013 Calendar” near the top of this web page). I’m ready to go.
Some aspects of this plan have me a little worried. I’m not fond of what little I know about Schopenhauer’s philosophy, and nineteenth-century Germans have caused me trouble in the past, so I expect The World as Will and Idea will tax my fortitude. What little I know about the system of American philosopher Charles Peirce, on the other hand, I like a lot. But his ideas and prose can be dense, so I expect his work will tax my intellect. To make it through the assignments, I split both of those authors up in the schedule and placed Dickens, a Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War history, and the delightful Ariosto against them in the second column. When my brain gets overheated from one book, I’ll pick up the other to blow away the smoke.
The other factor that has me a little worried is the density of that second column. I’m not sure why I ended up with so many more titles for 2013, when I have the same number of basic categories every year. But the titles stacked up, and setting aside longer periods for the long novels, that leaves me with a round estimate of only ten days each for The Song of Roland, a giant chunk of Orlando Furioso, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, and twelve other items. But the pace always looks daunting at the beginning of the year, and still it always ends up much easier than I thought – easy enough in fact to allow me to fit in some mysteries and other popular books.
As intimidating as the pace and a couple of the selections may be, I know that the year will, as Horace said good literature should do, both delight and instruct me. I just read in Durant about the Roland tales in medieval and Renaissance literature, and I’ve been reading Ariosto’s Italianate rendering over the last couple of years; to start off the coming year I finally get to read the classic French version of that story (in translation!), which has waited patiently on my shelf for over two decades. Then at the other end of the year, I’ll read Geoffrey of Monmouth, one of the classic sources of the other great medieval hero cycle: the Arthurian legend. In the spring, I’ll visit two early medieval Christian theologians, Anselm and Basil the Great; trying to tease out the culture from the religion in such works teaches me more about each, often including details whose absence today seems regrettable. Two of my favorite Shakespeare plays, Romeo and Juliet and Richard II, come up in 2013; O that I were a glove upon that hand! Shelley, Cicero, O’Brian, Faulkner. Dickens, Trollope, Austen, Sayers. And my favorite Charles Williams book. My mouth is watering.