Sunday, 9 June 2013

When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes - Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

I've spent the last three or four days buying new books. Well, old books actually.  Very old books. Mainly first editions. But not very expensive ones. Just first editions of old books I like.

I say three or four days because I was buying on eBay. So the time frame was dictated to me. What fun, though! Finding the right book. Putting it in the basket. Waiting for the time left to tick by.  Bidding.  And winning.  Or not.  Sooo therapeutic. And then getting some seriously nice feedback. Into the bargain. (I'm a model eBayer, apparently!).

I think this should be standard for all human interactions: find the right person to talk to, approach, engage. And get feedback. Wouldn't life be more fun? And more civil?

Anyway, my spare cash is now spent and I must abandon eBay for a while once again. But awaiting receipt of the spoils is good too. And I now have so much more reading material to catch up on. Again.

While I continue with Kundera's essays, I have in the meantime finished The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In English, I hasten to add.

I was always going to be inclined to like it as it's a tale told through letters. One of my favourite writing styles. And it was an easy read. Despite being Goethe. A big name with an equally big and intimidating reputation.

It was charming. Endearing. Drawing you in by its expressiveness, its emotion. All so admirable. At least at first.

The story of a man deeply attracted to a woman. Beside himself with love and desire. Honourable at first. But which takes possession of him. And never lets go.

He is ready to do anything to be with her.  Except step away when she is no longer available. When the admiration sours somewhat. He becomes a tad obsessive. And then very much so. Leading to his downfall. A long, drawn out affair. Coldly, indulgently dragged out for maximum effect. By him. On her. Sure indeed to stay with her - and her husband - forever. Sitting between them always.

The whole leaves you with a sour taste. As if you've just partaken of something unpleasant. Unwillingly. As though thrust upon you while trapped and unable to move away.

Such is the skill of the author. Arousing sympathy, empathy for the main protagonist. Convincing you all is well. Convincing you he is a winner. Kind of. Eventually. Maybe. And then no. 

Still, the warning hints abound: "Human kind is merely human, and that jot of rational sense that a man may possess is of little or no avail once passion is raging and the bounds of human nature are merely hemming him in."

Goethe certainly champions emotions and our expressing them: "The only thing that makes Man’s life on earth essential and necessary is love", but warns "The source of man’s contentment becomes the source of his misery".

And so Young Werther was not the book to cheer me up. Although I didn't dislike it. Quite the contrary. But you understand my need for some eBay retail therapy? The worst is that I thought YW was on my Classics Club challenge list. It was but now isn't. Still, it would seem I don't have many cheery books on the list. Hiroshima is next. I sense more eBaying in the very near future. Let's hope my funds will hold out...  

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