Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Some Books Are Best Read Piecemeal

I have been reading George Carlin's Last Words.  It has been a slow journey.  I have always enjoyed his work even as I have considered some of it problematic.  Also, sharing the NYC Irish Catholic background, I can understand him without agreeing with him.  I know something of the experiences, good and bad, that shaped him, for better and worse.  But for all his brilliance and wit, he was an embittered and angry man ... and that makes reading his story a slow and sad experience.  I tend to read just a chapter at a time and then move on to other things ... the mundane, the ordinary, the gentle, the satisfying routines of everyday life serve as an antidote to the overwhelming bleakness of Last Words.  It is a book well worth reading as much for what it reveals about my ethnicity and my church as for what it reveals about George Carlin.  Of course, what it reveals is heavily skewed toward negativity.  But, it is sometimes a salutary experience to examine the failures of an institution, the darkness within a tribal group.  I had much the same feeling when reading Angela's Ashes.  It doesn't do to romanticize one's heritage.  It stops all growth and development and evolution, all forward motion, when one is so busy glorifying the past that one forgets to analyze it.

At this rate, I'll probably finish the book sometime in the summer.  But along the way, there will be plenty of thought and reflection.  And isn't that precisely what a good book does: provoke thought and reflection?

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