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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

RAW: You can't read everything

Cormac McCarthy in 1973 (public domain photo)

For the past few weeks, I've been reading many obituaries/articles about Martin Amis and Cormac McCarthy, two prominent literary novelists who recently died. I'm pretty well read with Amis -- I've missed quite a few, but I've also read many of his books, including I think all of the ones that are highly regarded. I have read nothing by McCarthy.

Even if you read a lot -- I read dozens of books a year -- there will always be articles that make you think you aren't well read. After I read Bobby's and Prop's comments to my Mark Twain post, 

There's a place in Prop's 2003 interview that addresses the idea of "Oh, no, I'm not well read after all, I haven't read Cormac McCarthy."

Prop: Have you read Charles Bukowski? What are your impressions of Charles Bukowski both as a poet and a writer?

Wilson: No I have not read Charles Bukowski.

Prop: Never came across any of his books?

Wilson: No. I have lived 71 years, in which there are 365 days in each year, and only 24 hours in each day. My areas of ignorance are absolutely staggering. And I’m more and more aware of that, because my knowledge of most of the subjects I’ve written about is either five years or twenty years out of date now. So, if I ever did another lecture tour, I’d have to spend a month before the tour doing research on-line to try to figure out what is scientific matter that is still accepted.

Prop's interview by the way is quite interesting and you should take a look if you've never read it. And I admit, I've never read Bukowski either. 


Bobby Campbell said...

Ha! RAW gave me the same answer after I sent him something I wrote connecting the 8 circuit model with string theory, which was en vogue at the time.

He was basically like I'm old, scientific research is changing too quickly, and I've never even heard of string theory.

A way more eye opening and durable insight than if he'd been able to opine on a passing scientific fad that no one really seems to regard any more :)))

Bukowski was huge amongst my friend group when I was in my late teens / early 20's. He's fun for kids intellectualizing getting absolutely fucking wasted

michael said...

I've read a lot of Bukowski, but nothing for a long time now. He lived in San Pedro when I lived there, and I bumped into him once in town. The main connection I see between RAW and Bukowski was classical music. And proliferative output of writing, of course.

I can get a contact hangover reading Bukowski: my gawd the amount of drinking! Bukowski was a Juice Head Extraordinaire. I thought Mickey Rourke did a good job in Barbet Schroeder's Barfly.

I haven't read anything by Cormac McCarthy either. Yet.

Hanging with RAW and I mentioned a bunch of books and ideas and at one point, after I asked if he was familiar with ? he told me, "Believe it or not I have not read every book in the world..." and I admitted that many times while I was reading him it FELT like he had, and he told me what he told Prop: there's not enough time to keep up these days if you're a Generalist. There's just too much, and things are accelerating, etc.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I love that, "Believe it or not I have not read every book in the world."

Just keeping up with the science fiction genre alone is a time-consuming task. I have read many of the major new writers (I'm a big fan of Ada Palmer) but not all of them.

Eric Wagner said...

Pound observed that Shakespeare had access to relatively few books, but that one might see Shakespeare's reading of Ovid as the most important reading in the history of Western literature. Shakespeare learned how to become a great poet and storyteller in part through his reading of Ovid. Bob wrote about active reading. Bob read actively, engaging all of his intelligence and intuition, and he reread deeply.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I've always felt re-reading is an important part of reading. An old friend of mine told me once that his habit is never to re-read anything, and that shocked me. I've re-read Illuminatus! repeatedly, but also other RAW books, and I've re-read many other books by authors I like. Still not close to 40 reads for Ulysses, though.

Prop Anon said...

I was a little taken aback by RAW's response at the time. then he came at me with an author I'd never heard of, which was George V. Higgins. Fair Trade I thought after that.
It's funny though, RAW and Bukowski had appeared in some of the same issues of The LA Free Press and some other publications back n the day.
Bukowski must have become a phenomenon during 90s cuz he was a bit mythic, wasn't he.
Good to read in your 20s for when your dranking and thinking.
I just re-read some of his stuff the other night and he's a damn fine writer.

Manic The Doodler said...

Cormac McCarthy is worth reading IMO. If you don't read anything else by him, I recommend Blood Meridian--one of my all time favorite books by any author.