Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reading, Church Music, etc.

For the first time since childhood I am creating a wish list. While we are making rent here, we do not have much (or any) disposable income. Our financial goal for the year is to make enough money to save a little bit each month after rent, groceries, and other expenses. So far, it's all going into the apartment and in our bellies, and we're skimming off our little nest egg. 

All that to pre-amble my sudden desire for a Kindle. I would like to try one, first. I would also like to be assured that I can upload Project Gutenberg e-books. I know that some of the newer formats on the Gutenberg site are supposedly compatible with Kindle, and of course you can upload .pdf files to the device. I've read, too, that many books are only $0.99 ... the same books you find on Project Gutenberg. I am glad that my taste is as old-fashioned as it is. 

This brings to mind one of my first roommates in Boston. She was an avid reader, herself, but couldn't help but ask me, upon seeing my copy of The Tempest lying around, "Why are you reading that?" The only answer: "Fun." She commended me for reading The Tempest just for fun. I can't think of any other reason to read that play. Sure, you might have to write a paper about it for a literature course, but once you start, so starts the fun. Not every Shakespeare play is as delightful, of course. But it is hands down one of the most delightful and inviting of his plays. Ariel! Caliban! Ladies and Gentlemen... Prospero: 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, 
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yeah, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, 
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. 

Maybe fun is not the right word to describe the joy of reading this play. We have this silly phrase in English to describe our leisure reading , to set it apart from reading for school, for business, for the news, to check the cholesterol and sodium content of the Campbell's Soup: "reading for fun." You read Stephen King for fun. Michael Crichton. Dean Kootz. I don't. Mind you, I don't knock these authors, nor do I fault anyone for reading them. I enjoyed the hell out of Jurassic Park, The Sphere, Andromeda Strain, and Congo years ago. But these days, if I'm going to put in the effort of attention to read, when I have all of this electronic stimulation just a click away--I want to read something that will give greater rewards for my added effort and concentration. I want to rub my eyes after a passage and feel the buzz of my brain cells reforming after a genius turn of phrase. I want to feel--to be--changed. 

Here's one thing John Berryman had to say about Shakespeare: "Sometimes a series of this poet's phrases will drag out our profoundest thought as if, truly, we overheard the soul of the world murmuring truths to herself." If ever asked again why I am reading The Tempest, Lear, or A Midsummer Night's Dream, I'll just say that I feel like overhearing the world murmur truths to herself. 

I just had a happy session of reading that included no Shakespeare, but did include various selections from the King James Bible and Milton's Samson Agonistes. Milton's command of the line floors me. Though out of church since adolescence, I find reading the Bible a treat because the words reverberate and rattle awake some of my earliest memories. So does listening to old hymns, especially when done with only piano or guitar and a lone voice, or a small choir. The last time I was coerced into churchgoing, I was appalled to find a drum set and electric guitar and bass as part of the instrumentation. The pianist hardly played during the entire service--a few members were moved to sing along to a back-up tape that distorted during playback by the Peavy speakers. Of course sound quality wouldn't have mattered as much had the lyrics and music been worth a damn. Instead of the psychologically complex and literary hymns I was raised on, what I heard instead were banal, uninspired "inspirational" songs, or what I gather is called "Praise Music." Any of these songs can be boiled down to this: "God I love you/You're so awesome/I'm going to worship you all the time." Something like Kiss's "I wanna rock n' roll all night/And party ev-e-ry day..." Maybe this: "I'm gonna love God all the time/and praise Him ev-e-ry day."

Anyway, I don't mean to overly criticize something that is really none of my business--like I said, I'm not a churchgoer. How worshippers choose to worship together is their business. But I have had devout friends lament the loss of the old hymns with me. 

Nothing about Brazil in this post. I am thinking of creating a separate blog to meditate on things literary and (more or less) spiritual, thereby leaving this blog entirely to Brazil. I'll keep you posted. 

I have not forgotten my promise from yesterday--I am going to research the rain song tradition of the northeast and report my findings here. Stay tuned, Internet friends. 


  1. Create as many blogs as you want, of course, but I tend to think one ought to focus on a single blog with a lot of posts. (I am not, you know, taking this advice. But then I did start my second blog before tags were available.)

  2. Glenn,

    Thanks for this. I believe you are right. I hadn't thought of using tags as a way of organizing a blog of disparate subjects.