The Literary Life blog is for serious readers of serious literature, readers for whom the great literature of Western culture, the best that is thought and known, forms a major part of who they are as passionate and intellectual beings.
Consider the ways we approach the other arts–great music and great visual art, with their grand music halls, museums, and galleries. For collectors of carefully thought about record, cd, streaming collections of the best classical music has produced, or collectors of fabulous works of artists rarely found in private hands, season ticket holders, members of museum guilds, and so forth, there is a lifestyle, a life lived of sophistication and taste. Great art affects how they live their lives.
But because literature and sophisticated reading are such private matters, often, because books of the greatest literature can be had for the price of Harlequin Romances and paperback Westerns, there doesn’t seem to me to be the same kind of sought-after way of living as for patrons of the other fine arts.
So I would like to create a digital presence that becomes the place for those whose lives center about great literature to go.
The whole idea of The Literary Life is to capture the life of an everyman or everywoman who has a good general liberal arts education and who loves to read serious literature, great literature, so much so that it really does affect part of his or her lifestyle.
While this site will evolve over time, my vision for The Literary Life would be of a site with numerous links to various departments and specialized blogs. But there would be areas where I feature lifestyle matters such as tools for reading, great reading libraries, great cultural events such as the major Shakespeare festivals, events dedicated to major writers, and art based upon great literature.
Of course, I would like to promote the very best writers of today and of the past. But I would like to maintain a theme of living the literary life itself, to promote discussion of the ideas of literature as a fine art at a high level, although not particularly at a specialized academic level, but with as little partisan politics as possible. Other blogs and websites will be linked that deal with those matters. This site I hope will promote, with a nod to Matthew Arnold, the very best that has been thought and said in the literature of Western culture, and–those for whom that matters.
I am a reader, and my reading tastes go every which way. But what really matters to me is reading the great literature of Western culture. By reading I mean the actual process of pulling down a beloved book off my shelves, sitting down in the right chair, the right place, and feeling the book, smelling the ink or fading pages, opening it up and beholding literature.
I fantasize about libraries, big ones with reading rooms, private libraries in luxurious homes I never could hope to have, coffee shops with reading nooks, and quaint bookstores. In my reader’s fantasy, my favorite way to read in the evening is to put on a smoking jacket and sit down in my ideal study and reading room in front of a cozy fire. (I don’t really own a smoking jacket.) I will invite you to tell us how you fantasize reading. My beloved, Jeanine, for instance, doesn’t dream of wearing smoking jackets.
My blog postings will often begin with my talking informally about the act of reading itself, the act of living the literary life. My framing narrative will be personal and will generally consist of an account of me in my ideal study, bookstore, reading room at a library, etc, always a bit different.
For example: So I just pulled a book off my shelf by David Hume that contains his essay on Standards of Taste. It as an intriguing read especially in light of today’s attitudes. I don’t really know what I think about taste. Do I have it? Do you? Then I’ll talk about the literature itself, hopefully with you.
Disclaimer: I make no claims to my ideas in The Literary Life being firsthand original scholarship. Feel free to ask for sources.