This was the first panel discussion I attended at this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or if you know me in real life, it’s probably obvious why I’d be drawn to this talk, given its title (I’m alluding, of course, to my love of classic novels). The panel was chaired by Julianne Schultz, with guest writers Dennis Glover, Catherine Lacey and Jeff Sparrow. They had each researched and written books about inspiring and noteworthy individuals: for Glover it was George Orwell, Sparrow followed Paul Robeson, and Lacey researched various individuals in an intricate web of relationships. Continue reading
I just started reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s been about two weeks, and I’ve just finished Part One. I honestly don’t know what the whole story’s about (that’s my preferred way to read classics – or any book, really – I never really extensively research about the storyline, themes, characters, etc beforehand) so I’m just talking about Part One here. Continue reading
Of all the lessons, revelations, advice and guiding principles that I’ve gotten from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations there’s probably one that’s been most influential. Well, I actually hesitate to say that because I don’t always follow it, and because I’ve taken so much from reading the book that it’s really hard to pinpoint which one singular passage I think about the most; but if I had to choose one, this would be it:
Most of what we say and do is unnecessary: remove the superfluity, and you will have more time and less bother. … And the removal of the unnecessary should apply not only to actions but to thoughts also: then no redundant actions either will follow.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4, Chapter 24
I have mixed feelings about this book. Or I think I do (?)
I’m afraid that my view of it – as I was reading it, and now that I’ve finished it – was tainted too much by other people’s opinions of it (good and bad), and by having watched the movie (in August last year, I believe).
This year, I have read some very interesting, and very “different” books. I read New Earth which is sort of about spirituality and focuses a lot on focusing on the present moment; I read Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World which was a very bizarre story in which death – particularly the imminence of death – featured quite prominently; I read A Tale for the Time Being which dealt with suicide a lot; and, not too long ago, I finished reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations which is a philosophical text that addresses, among many things, the idea of transience.
All these books – which, let it be noted, I did not intentionally choose to read in that order, or consciously plan to read them all this year, but rather that it so happened that I came across them or otherwise felt compelled to pick them up when I did – all these books have got me thinking, subconsciously and consciously, from time to time, about how everything is transient and ephemeral and impermanent and all those beautiful words that mean more or less the same thing.
I’ve still been reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, still been carrying it around with me everywhere I go (I always take a book wherever I go – well, almost everywhere). A colleague (now, sadly, ex-colleague) commented the other week, when she saw me walking around at work with it, that she thought I was holding the Bible. I joked to her that it basically was like a bible to me.