I've been back since Tuesday, but I've been reluctant to post as a few relatively major things have been swirling in my head. While reading a biography of Tolkien last week, I was struck by a description of his disinterest in the news. It will comes as no surprise to hear that Tolkien had a very rich inner world, but the sentiment got me thinking about my own addiction to the news.
The truth is, I'm tired of the news. I've long been pretty skeptical about how much of what CNN (et al) reports actually matters. I think it's gotten worse over the last 10 years, with the O.J. Simpson trial being (in my mind) a real turning point in our country's ability to become obsessed with relatively minor events. I got the same feeling watching press coverage of Princess Di's death, the disappearance of Chandra Levy, and numerous other pseudo-events. Since I started blogging, I've found myself further drawn into that media spectacle and I don't like it. I'm tired of seeing the latest episode of "American Idol" making the headlines. I'm tired of hearing about the Israelis and Palestinians. The newspapers say the American president is meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to hammer out a deal for peace, and I can't tell if it's 2003 or 1993.
Don't misunderstand me, I'm not depressed. This doesn't have anything to do with a Republican administration. And I don't mean to insult those who enjoy following such stories, everyone is entitled to focus their attention as they wish. I've decided to make an effort to shift my focus.
While in California I stumbled upon a book called The New Lifetime Reading Plan. At first it seemed very gimmicky and I'm pretty skeptical of such things. But upon flipping through it I found it to be a very helpful little guide to great literature, with due attention paid to non-European texts. Even with authors I'm already familiar with, I appreciate the suggestions on which novels to read first. There are many authors for whom certain novels, while not their best, are certainly their most accessible and provide a good stepping stone (my own best example of this would be Faulkner: picking up The Sound and the Fury out of the blue was a failure and left a bad taste in my mouth; when I returned to him, I started with The Reivers and The Unvanquished and loved both).
The point being, I have spent too many hours surfing CNN.com, Slate, etc. My love of literature has taken a backseat, and I aim to fix that.
Now that doesn't mean I want to remain completely ignorant of world events. I'll still spend my share of time on other blogs, and of course my fascination (and career ambitions) with legal issues means I'll keep my eye on the courts and the law reviews. But I think it will do me good to consciously turn my focus inward, with the great literature of our world being a prime tool.
To that end I've started reading How to Read a Book. It too seems gimmicky at first, but the authors are rather reputable and the book description (and reviews at Amazon) suggest it may be an antidote to what I'll call 'law school reading habits'. As most judges are not known for their efficiency with words, law students learn how to read cases fast and parse out the key information. This is a great way to go through Property and a terrible way to go through Shakespeare. Thus the need for an antidote. It's been five years now since I took an English class, and though I don't miss the conformity of many of those classes, I do miss the lessons in critical readings that I got from one of my high school teachers. I need to read slower and more critically, and perhaps this little book by Adler and Van Doren will help.
Finally, the question my loyal readers are surely most concerned with: what does this mean for the blog?
Hopefully it means good things. There are 1001 bloggers analyzing current events, many of them more interested, intelligent, or eloquent on whatever the topic of the day may be. I'll stay focused on what I can contribute uniquely. In a few years that'll include the perspective of an Army JAG attorney. For now it will be my life, law school, and the literature I read. I hope it is interesting.