Reading and Thinking – Consequent Amazements

I have currently undertaken two superficially antithetical parallel reading pursuits: re-savoring Thoreau’s WALDEN and re-assaulting the difficult, luminous, thorny works of William Gass (once my mentor at a writers conference).

I suppose one is the antidote to the other and so I am in a way “safe” from being carried away by the passions of either.

And yet only today did the mutually neutralizing nature of my parallel endeavor strike me, and did I become aware of my almost unconscious caution in taking on both of these wise acres at the same time. What on earth does this mean?  How can one adore both of these literary lions and carry their thoughts around, alive and squirming, simultaneously in one’s head?

Then I recalled Keats’ “objective correlative,” (though today Eliot  gets the credit for popularizing it), which attempted to label just that sort of thing.  He coined the phrase to describe a capacity in someone so far beyond me I will not  even mention his name.

But perhaps, after all, these are precisely the benefits of “reading wide and reading deep.”

Of course, haha, this can also make you a mumbling idiot.  Steady as she goes.  Careful now…. (wink wink).

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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2 Responses to Reading and Thinking – Consequent Amazements

  1. It might depend what you’re reading of Gass’s. While I can imagine reading “The Pedersen Kid” or something from In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, or even one of his essays, alongside Thoreau, I can’t imagine trying to read The Tunnel on the installment plan with breaks to wander through “Cape Cod” or “Walden”. I think Gandalf warns Bilbo early on in The Hobbit that if he goes on this adventure, he will not come back the same. Consider yourself warned!…


    • Oh, consider yourself thanked, Jeff! Very good advice, and advice I actually gave myself ages ago. But both are in the world, thundering and convincing, so persuasive and obsessed, and must be, if not reconciled, at least attended to, appreciated. There’s ying and there’s yang and there’s moi in between, hahaha. I take breaks and breathers. One day this, one day that. BTW, am reading LIFE SENTENCES and FINDING A FORM (Gass), not as unnerving viscerally as his fiction.


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