Reading between the Mountains

I took three books for reading with me. I thought I ought to take things about which I was not entirely enthusiastic since I would be limited and have more incentive to keep at them. I have wanted for a long while to make it through Don Quixote. I wavered, however, and at the last moment I left Cervantes behind.

I took with me Robert Frost. I have never though a great deal of him but have read more about him recently: his stature in American letters, his understanding of things. I read a few of his essays on poetry, some fiction, some of his poems there. He strikes me much like Yeats only a little worse. Frost has these rambly addresses in the back of this Library of America collection and some of them are really good. His meditative monologue on ‘Education by Poetry’ is full of considerations a metaphysical realist is likely to consider with profit and joy .

I also took Christopher Dawson. I found a collection of his essays on Christianity and European Culture. In one he makes remarks about Eliot’s work which so depends on his, interacting with his ideas. This is a set of essays worth going over carefully. All are short, very lucid, all measured and modest; it is a collection of unglittering treasure. I hope to get up some kind of a review eventually because they are thought provoking.

And I took with me the copious and charming Santayana; his fictional memoir, The Last Puritan. I am afraid many things are taking place over my head in that work, and that makes it loose some of its hold on the reader. It is quite interesting as a piece of fiction, as an observation on humanity, the times and mores. But the though of something going on out of my reach persists, and I keep thinking I ought to have a better education before I can appreciate the work. Besides, it is really copious. Now I have it hanging over me, unfinished, copious, at 50% of 600 pages.

Part of the trouble is that there is only one comfortable reading place in my parents house. There was no question of walking and reading; the traffic and the sidewalks there do no lend themselves; besides, one already sticks out. One wants, in a home, many worthwhile places to read: well lit, but not too saturated with light—I dislike overhead lighting; give me focused lighting and general dimness of atmosphere—and comfortable. Comfort was forfeit upstairs where it was too warm. Downstairs, as upstairs, the lighting situation was bad. There is no joy in turning on an overhead light to read, especially when the light is on a ceiling designed to accommodate Goliath of Gath. What was left was one lamp and one place on the couch—a pretty good place too, but only one. I would have stayed up every night reading, and wanted to, but never did. Perhaps it was the book, perhaps it was the convalescence, but I wonder if the trouble was that I had not worn the life enough.

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