n+1 Pamphlet Series #2
What We Should Have Known: Two Discussions
I was looking for another book when this and other treasures found me. Six books and three days later I found the book I was looking for in a place I never would have visited otherwise, but that's how the best living comes about. I've always held n+1 the magazine in high regard, but the quality and ideas shared within these two discussions are to be appreciated by any reader or anyone who teaches college students. The initial impetus for the conversations was reflection upon what writers and professors in their 30s mostly wish they would have read as undergraduates, as well as what they wish they hadn't and what they read too late. College freshmen can even get a free copy of this pamphlet by writing the email address on the back cover. It includes lists as well as discussions. Some of my reading this year was reflected in these discussions. I fully agree with the importance of reading Emerson, whom I have just begun to read this year. This is one of many of exquisite statements made, "No book is for you, until it is." Adding to the discussion on page 79, luckily I discovered the Velvet Underground when I was 17, if not 16.
-3- "Books we should have read earlier"- "For me, one thinker I should have read earlier is Foucault."
5- forming a self from reading
7- "books as enthusiasms"- "books that you are lucky enough to find when you are ready to find them."
11- "And what you can't do is ask a school to schedule your enthusiasms, exactly."
12-13- (students) "They pick up teachers and fall in love with them and then abandon them, throw them away like bits of trash or crumpled up paper. But this is what you have to do as a student....And the process is similar when you fall in love, and you want to read the books that the person you fall in love with most likes."
-"reading fiction is all about the tension between the book and you, and the book has to make you want to keep going. If it's assigned to you on a reading list, that tension disappears. So you're not really understanding the book, you're just reading it."
14- "poetry was the most important thing to happen to me in college"
15- periodicals club
18- "What I found that I couldn't very easily do was to sit at home and read Kant's Critique of Judgment, though I tried, and also I had no one to talk to about it."
20- "So books can speak to the world around you, but how are you going to get them to do this for you?"
21- "C.A. Bayly's Birth of the Modern World, which I don't agree with, but at least he'll give you a map. And hopefully then you'll start questioning that map..."
23- "The landscape of the future is completely blank."
27- "Because you're learning, you're being exposed to great things and discovering some sort of enthusiasm in yourself."
28- "...because time is limited in our lives...books that were read instead of other books"
32- "No book is for you, until it is."
-"I'm glad that I didn't encounter the Frankfurt School earlier because I know that I would have been doomed to be a Frankfurt School epigone."
60-61- Kierkegaard's Either/Or
63- "I went to graduate school to make up for undergrad."
64- "Nobody can get a proper undergraduate education. You'll never know in advance what that education should be. Regret is the feeling you have when you finally realize what the education is that you want. Right? And you're always going to come to that after it's too late."
67- "You move through your mistakes toward the absolute...Proust is another great author for regret- the purpose of all this retrospection is to redeem your regrets in whatever ways are possible."
68- "The world is not a text!"
71-72- "The books that one reads tend to take on a sort of naturalness within one's life, so they seem to come to you when you want them, and when you're ready for them. And so for me, the fact that we're on the verge of total civilizational collapse...next 50 or 60 or 70 at most years- makes me regret the lateness with which I've figured that out."
73- (being dazzled by a boy) "...part of what dazzled me was certainly my sense the he knew about things that I did not."
-"I didn't know at the time that you could have a crush on someone who seemed to embody things that you wanted to be yourself."
76- "...almost everyone in academia feels like an outsider, nobody knows what's going on. Academia's an empty vessel, but the ones who don't realize it end up going all the way and end up in charge."
78- "I could have discovered the Velvet Underground when I was 16, as opposed to 26, and you might say this is a minor matter, but it's a matter of style."
79- "What would have changed?"
-"I wouldn't have been such a stupid idiot, I think, and such a romantic and such a moralist. And maybe I wouldn't have married so early."
81- VU song "Sunday Morning"- theme of this symposium- "You wake up, it's Sunday, what have you done with your life, or week."
-"...Sunday's for doing nothing. But actually you know, Sunday is the day to move on from your regrets."
86- reading in a vacuum- useful framework
87- "your education shifts from this sheer accumulation of stuff, to a posing to yourself of certain fundamental questions, and then in certain ways life becomes very easy thereafter."
89- "many of our ideas about the world still seem to come from the field of classical economics- earth's resources are finite (not seemingly abundant as in classical times)
90- "Emerson instead of Nietzsche"
101- Emerson's Circles
114- advice to young people- keep a journal- read seriously- think about everything that happens
118- courage- remain open to things and serious about them