Monday, 23 July 2018

Microblog Mondays: torthúil reads

A few weeks ago I started a new writing/reading project: Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. I’m currently on chapter 4. It’s a difficult book, as it tackles the heavy topic of why humans would do some of the most evil actions recorded in history, and not just a few humans, but most people in a society.  I decided to start a new blog where I would record my observations and thoughts as I read. So far I am writing something resembling a personal essay for every chapter, which has slowed down the reading pace even more. However, it has helped me recall and process what I read. I like this. I have the sort of brain that quickly grasps the bigger picture but forgets details. I’m the person who says: “I read this interesting story about....but sorry I can’t remember the names or the dates or where it happened! You’ll have to google that....but here’s what I learned!” Writing as I read helps me to not forget so fast.

My new blog is torthúil reads. I write about my reasons for undertaking The Gulag Archipelago here. I’ve written about chapters 1-3 so far. In my ideal world, a few people will read along with me (reading the book as well would be stellar, but I try to make the blog entries readable even if you’ve never read Gulag Archipelago). However, I’m committed to this even if it’s just me: that is part of the challenge. I want to increase my confidence and ability to write about difficult material. If anyone else does read, I'd be interested in 1) For people who have read GA: how your impressions about the book are similar or different from mine, and whether similar or different parts of the book made an impression on you. 2) for people who haven't read GA, I'd be interested in your reactions to the sections of the book I discuss (I quote extensively. Sometimes it's hard not to copy large sections of each chapter because I can't believe what I just read.)

Here’s an excerpt from my entry on the first chapter, "Arrest":

The first theme of chapter one is the shock and outrage of arrest. The moment of arrest is a life crisis where it appears that everything you once believed is wrong.
“The Universe has many different centres as there are living beings in it. Each of us is a centre of the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you: ‘You are under arrest!’
“If you are arrested, can anything else remain unshattered by this cataclysm?
But the darkened mind is incapable of embracing these displacements in our universe, and both the most sophisticated and the veriest simpleton among us, drawing on all life’s experiences, can gasp out only: ‘Me? What for?’
And this is a question which,though repeated millions and millions of times before, has yet to receive an answer.
Arrest is an instantaneous, shattering thrust, expulsion, somersault from one state to another.” (Pages 3-4)
I suspect one reason I did not make progress with GA when I was younger was because I did not have personal experience of the feeling Solzhenitsyn is talking about. I had not had my assumed reality and expectations shattered; I had not been thrust from one state into another. Life was still very safe and predictable. This of course changes in most people’s lives as they grow older. Apart from arrest in a totalitarian state, some analogous experiences might be diagnosis with a serious illness (self or loved one), being a crime victim, a severe accident or injury.  In my case I think being told we might never be able to have children was my most profound displacement. It altered all my assumptions and how I saw my place in society. (Chapter 1, Arrest)

 Back to Microblog Mondays

7 comments:

  1. Oh, this: "In my case I think being told we might never be able to have children was my most profound displacement. It altered all my assumptions and how I saw my place in society." I feel like there is something to books that you've tried to read when you are younger, but that speak to you far more as an older person because you've had the life experiences to connect to things more. Or you relate to different characters or experiences or concepts than when you first read it. The Handmaid's Tale is a book that I've read throughout different stages of life, and it reads very differently as a 16 year old than it does as an infertile, childless 41 year old. The Great Gatsby was another one that was very different for me as an adult. I love this blog idea, and while I suspect that our reading habits are very different and I likely won't be reading those same books, I love that you are writing as you read and creating a dialog for yourself (and hopefully others). Love it.

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    1. Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement! There is something about tracking just what I’m thinking as I read and why. It’s a lot of work, especially when the material is interesting but not pleasant. I have to take ownership of the thoughts and the connections I make, whereas if I wasn’t writing it down it would stew around in a semi conscious sludge.

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  2. I am very proud of you for doing this!! This is quite the undertaking, dissecting each chapter as you go through and writing about it. That is something I haven’t done in many years, and only did when required as an assignment. I am bookmarking your new blog to sit down with when I have a clear head and dive into...it sounds like just the thing I need right now, so I can’t wait to arbe put some one for this!

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    1. Carve out some time!!! Lol

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    2. Thanks! Appreciate the enthusiasm and encouragement! Motivates me to keep reading, too.

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  3. This is such a great idea to help you process the book. I'm looking forward to reading it, though I haven't read the book. (I'm blogging about books this month on taketwo365.wordprss.com - my daily blog - but not in such detail.)

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    1. Thanks! I will make a note to check out yours too xo

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