Essays

Today I rode a slightly different version of the course I rode last week, but it was a completely different experience: no parades, no embarrassing scenes in the market, no saddle slippage. And I was a bit faster. Yay! Today’s ride was 53 miles, and next week I’m riding 60.

After thinking about my potential reading projects, I decided to begin one of them. We’ll see how they go. One thing I have to do is give myself permission to bail on it if it becomes uninteresting. I’m terrible at giving up on books and reading projects, even if they aren’t going well. But I can’t let myself get stuck in a long reading project I’m not enjoying.

So, I decided to begin the essay project; I read the first essay last night, Francis Bacon’s “On Truth,” which has a wonderful first line: “What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.” The essay is quite short, only a couple pages, and it describes both the allure of lies and half-truths:

This same truth is a naked and open daylight that doth not show the masques and mummeries and triumphs of the world half so stately and daintily as candlelights.

and the goodness of truth:

Yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it, the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature.

I think the pleasure of reading his essays will lie not so much in the ideas themselves, but in the beauty of the sentences. The prose is dense — I read very slowly — and rich.

I have a collection of Bacon’s essays that I was assigned in grad school; after reading Bacon in The Oxford Book of Essays, I pulled down the Bacon collection and saw that I’d marked up the entire text. Hmmm. I don’t remember reading the entire thing. My class in 17C prose was one of the rare classes where I skipped a significant amount of the reading. But Bacon was the first book we read, and I suppose I was still feeling motivated at the beginning of the semester (before I found out I wasn’t so fond of the professor and stopped giving the class my full attention). I plan on looking through this collection again, reading in it as long as it interests me.

I thought Montaigne was in this collection, but I just checked, and he’s not — I was considering reading through his complete essays as a part of this project. Hmmm. I’ve read many of them, but not all — I tried a complete read-through once but stopped after a while. Should I go back and try again??

6 Comments

Filed under Books, Cycling, Essays, Reading

6 responses to “Essays

  1. Yay for a good ride! And yay for the essay project! I’ve not read much Bacon. Funny that you’ve read the Bacon collection and have no memory of doing so. As someone who has read all of Montaigne’s essay and am rather fond of them, I’d encourage you to go back to them. There are a lot of them though, so skipping the ones that are only a couple pf pages wouldn’t leave you missing much.

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  2. Edd

    Dorothy,

    The answer from me is a simple, I do not know. I have just about every one of his Essays and each one has thoughts marked in the margins as well as underlined lines with markings above. When I went to my book room and took them down now is a time I truly miss my memory loss.

    Congratulations on a successful ride.

    Edd…

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  3. hepzibah

    its wonderful that you are riding again dorothy! I know exactly what you mean– I am a slow reader too — because I am so engulfed by the beauty of language of the texts I read…I find myself re-reading and re-reading…:)

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  4. Stefanie, I’m thinking of reading the Montaigne — we’ll see how I feel when I get there. And I’m afraid I can’t skip any of the essays — I’m a completist, and it’s all or nothing!🙂

    Edd, he’s worth reading closely and taking notes on, isn’t he? I like him well enough to want to read them all and re-read the ones I’m familiar with.

    Hepzibah, nothing wrong with slow reading, I say! It matters less how many books we read than how deeply we read them, right?

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  5. Glad to hear there were no riding mishaps!! I’m looking forward to see what you are reading in your essay project. I’d like to read more essays, but I never seem to be able to squeeze them in. I’ll have to note the more interesting sounding ones! And I say bail if you’re not enjoying yourself and move on to something that appeals more to you!

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  6. Danielle — I find fitting essays in is easier when I’m a busier and have a shorter attention span — I fit them in into little spaces of time I have. I’m looking forward to lots of blog posts about essays!

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