Wednesday, September 23, 2020
#267 / I Think I May Have Lost Control Of My Life
Exactly one month ago, on Sunday, August 23, 2020, I was reading my newspapers in the morning, as I almost always do, and since it was a Sunday morning, the pile of papers was large, and I felt at leisure, sitting comfortably on the couch in my sunny front room. The fires raging in the mountains around Santa Cruz were, somehow, not on my mind. Not yet, anyway!
On Sunday, The New York Times sends along both its New York Times Magazine and The New York Times Book Review. They are special treats, not available on weekdays, and I can spend a lot of time reading them. I already spend way too much time reading the newspapers (or so I frequently tell myself), and Sundays are definitely when I most often come to that conclusion. It is not unknown for me to sit down with the papers, and a cup of coffee, at, say, 6:30 in the morning, finally getting up to make my breakfast at a little before noon!
At any rate, on Sunday, August 23, 2020, on facing pages in the Book Review, I found an "Essay" by Karan Mahajan, and another "Essay" by Naomi Huffman. Mahajan's "Essay" was titled, "'The Golden Notebook' neatly foreshadows the unrestful mood of our era." Online, the Mahajan "Essay" is headlined, "Doris Lessing's 'Golden Notebook' and Our Era of Unrest." Huffman's "Essay" was titled, "Carol Shield's depictions of ordinary women and their lives are still radical." That's the hard copy title. Online, it's titled, "The Radical Ordinariness of Carol Shields’s Literary World."
Unless you are a subscriber, you might have trouble penetrating The New York Times' paywall, to read these essays for yourself. I really liked them, and can recommend them. I was convinced by Mahajan and Huffman, in fact, that I should read Lessing's The Golden Notebook and Shield's novel, The Stone Diaries.
Before rushing off to order these books online, however, I thought it might be prudent to see whether I actually had the books in my home library, part of which is shown in the picture at the top of this blog posting. This set of shelves fills one entire wall in my front room, and the books are organized alphabetically by author, so it was short work to discover that I not only already owned these two books, but that I had read and heavily underlined and annotated them.
What a surprise! While I definitely knew the titles of these books, I had no independent recollection that I had actually read them myself, and that I had interacted with them to the extent that my underlinings and notations indicate that I did. This discovery is what has led me to write this blog posting, wondering whether or not I have lost control of my life. Have I?
Maybe I have, and I have decided, looking on the bright side, that this may not be such a bad thing. "My" life, a life that I control in all its details, is perhaps less important than "life" in general, in simply being alive. I truly have no specific memory of either The Golden Notebook or The Stone Diaries; however, while I don't hold them in memory individually, I really do think that all those books I've read, all the experiences I have had, and all the wonderful people that I have known, have come to penetrate to the very heart of who I am, and what I have become. They are me, by now, and I am them. I do know who I am, and what I think, and every day I write about it, as if to remind myself.
Losing control of my life, I think I would say, is how I have found it.
I have heard that there is supposed to be some wisdom in that approach!
Gary Patton personal photo