Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thinking with the hand

One of the appealing things about having a very quiet week is that under the right circumstances it leads to great mental fertility! I've been hungry all semester for some thinking and writing time; the most immediate project that I want to get underway is a book I've been thinking about for a few years now, a little book whose provisional title is The Ten-Week Clarissa.

Not as instructional as something like this, though not entirely dissimilar - but more for readers and students and teachers who want some assistance tackling Richardson's million-word-long novel, which I hope to persuade obsessive readers should as much be on their lifetime bucket lists as Proust.

It will have elements in common with funny books like Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage and Jonathan Coe's B. S. Johnson biography; it will also bear a respectful but somewhat ironized relationship to Alain de Bouton's How Proust Can Change Your Life.

(It will start with an opening essay that addresses the question "Why bother?" and considers the topic of immersive reading - then it will proceed through Richardson's novel in ten chunks that have worked well for me as subdivisions in the classroom, with an interlude after each chapter in which I consider some interesting question of relevance (changes in kinship structures and inheritance law, hypergraphia, epistolarity and letters in both their material and conventional aspects, novels and the counterfactual mode, detail and description, clothing, readers kicking back against the ending in a sort of proto-"fanfic" culture, the culture of death as instantiated in mourning rings, coffin designs etc.). I have to write this book quickly because I have a sabbatical in two years that I want to devote wholly to the battle of ancients and moderns, with a few months on the side for a long essay to be called "Gibbon's Rome" - reread Decline and Fall, tromp around Rome, look at the medals and inscriptions and books that he consulted, write it up after the manner of Sebald!)

With a couple more weeks of reading, I feel (it is probably a delusion) that I will be able to sit down and let the proposal just pour out of me like a stream of water. I made a map for it the other day: there is nothing quite like illegible thinking with the hand....

1 comment:

  1. I would definitely read a book you write about Clarissa. I got to about page 900 and sort of stalled! So any instructional help would be great. By the way, I am currently reading your book on reading style and greatly enjoying it.