Coming Back from an Unintentional Break

Four months is a long time in blogging world. Yes, it has been that long since my last blog post in June, and boy has the world continued to get stranger since then. I certainly am not going to use this blog to put the world straight, even if I knew what that meant, but I hope this blog is an escape from the crazy train of the world.

Actually, when you look at the history of the world, there really isn’t much that hasn’t been round before. Have you read Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant? Human civilisation is cyclical and pandemics were not created in 2020. These are not the best of times, but time does pass and the sun will rise again.

So, where I have been? The literature version of no man’s land. Shortly after my June blog post, I went through a very weird period. I seemed to just lose the passion for reading and I really don’t know why. Well, actually, I kind of do. I will try and explain this bit by bit.

In fact, I was going to call this blog post ‘Why I’m Not a Good Book Blogger’, which was slightly meant to be a play on the Nietzche essay ‘Why I am So Wise‘ but also just to be brutally honest that I’m not really a good person to follow on here. But I thought that title was too miserable, and who needs more of that right now?

Ok, so I said I’m not a good person to follow on here, meaning internet land. Why would I say that? Well, because life is very much in the way. My wife and I are incredibly happy raising our one year old daughter, but it takes up all of our time. I work a full time job, and when I’m not working, I give all my time to my wife and daughter.

I know some motivational speaker or instagram life coach will say time is never the problem, but they are wrong. They could only be right if they knew everybody’s circumstances, but of course they don’t, and that is why the ‘you’ve always got time’ sentiment cannot be held as truth.

If I want to maintain a wonderful relationship, do everything to help my child’s upbringing and get a healthy amount of sleep at night (LOL!), then I have to prioritise those things in life. Reading is my absolute passion, but then sometimes individual passions have to take backseat to do the right thing.

Which isn’t to say I haven’t read anything. Oh no, I must have read Peppa Pig’s Magical Unicorn eight thousand two hundred and thirty seven times to my daughter, when putting her to sleep. And maybe I’ve read it too much, but to say there aren’t avant garde, post modern themes of nihilistic mythology running through it, would be very snobby.

Our circumstances changed as well over the summer, in the sense that my mother-in-law had been very welcomely staying with us for several months, helping with our daughter, but she returned home to Poland. So my wife and I became completely on our own raising our daughter, and quickly learnt that raising a child, even between two people, is incredibly exhausting and challenging. Time was not so much the problem, as just the lack of energy and ability to focus.

I felt like I didn’t need to read either. A strange thing to say I know, as I believe that daily reading is incredibly important for our mental well-being and joy of life. But you may remember the last book I blogged about The Bright Side of Life (Le Joie de Vivre) by Émile Zola, well, that stuck with me for a very long time.

Have you ever experienced that? I think that the book got inside me more than I realised, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for such a long time. I mean, it’s quite a simple, uncomplicated story really, but it really is lovely, and perhaps lovelier than I initially gave it credit for.

We also managed to get away for a few weeks during the window of opportunity in the summer, to visit my wife’s homeland, the beautiful country of Poland. We had our daughter christened out there at the same time. It was such a lovely day, christened in the same Basilica my wife and I were married in.

But all good (and bad) things come to an end, and returning to my humble town in West Berkshire meant cracking on with working hard on the job and raising our child. I had managed to read some pages of Cicero whilst in Poland, but didn’t really find the time or space to indulge in hours of reading over there either.

Only recently have I got back into reading the novel I started in June, The Masterpiece by Émile Zola. It is slightly ridiculous I have taken nearly four months to read a book that should have been finished in a few weeks, but that’s exactly where my passion for reading had gone.

Actually, it never helps my reading regularity when I am struggling with a book and I have been struggling with The Masterpiece. Now, I know full well that many Zola readers love this book, but it just hasn’t really clicked for me, but I will say more on that in my next blog post. I’m getting to the end of it now, so will be sharing my thoughts as part of an essay on the struggles of artists.

Other people would also say just put it down if you aren’t enjoying it, but I have committed to reading the whole cycle of Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart novels (20 in all) and that means I just have to plough on. But with God as my witness, Zola will not be the next book I read. I am pretty much Zola’d out for now.

Along with my lack of passion for reading, my inspiration for blogging went right out the window too. I found it recently though, and I really am going to try hard to get back into the rhythm. I realise now that I really miss writing and the people who connect with this blog as well.

I am very lucky for anybody who stops by and reads this blog, when my ability to deliver regularly is just not a guarantee. I will try hard to write regularly, it is something I need to do. Not only is it my main creative outlet, but I really love talking about the classics! It was always a blog of love, not of some great ambition, but I completely understand if people don’t stick around. I am getting back to visiting fellow classic bloggers sites, and am looking forward to contributing where I can.

I have been working on another blog post, as previously mentioned, which will be posted soon, and am also compiling a list of 1001 Penguin Classics to read before you d….. erm, let’s say whilst you’re still alive. No, I haven’t read nearly 1001 books of course, but the list should cover the greatest works of literature up to the first world war, that would be a set of books to have in your library.

Until then, I hope you are all enjoying your reading and would be delighted to know what books you recommend and have been enjoying over the summer. I’m sure it was much more productive than mine!

5 thoughts on “Coming Back from an Unintentional Break

  1. Classics bloggers are not very consistent. We all disappear for months at a time for no reason at all but to appreciate the sky & the faces around us. This is completely normal & I cannot imagine anyone questioned it. Books are tools that help us see life more deeply, but life is the thing, & it sounds like you are exactly where you should have been. Read when it is right.

    I have lived for a week off a single line of Keats & wanted no other reading lest it push out the feeling. So I do know what you mean about your last book.

    (That said it is nice to see you!) 🙂

    Golly, Pete. I’d have taken Zola & buried him deep in the earth where he could stop bothering me if I had made your twenty-book commitment. I couldn’t do it! I’d see Zola in my dreams & want him away from me. &? I’d wonder what I was missing. I mean, it’s valiant to try, but if you wander off to Dickens or Michael Crichton or the like you are ONLY HUMAN. 😉

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    1. Hi Jillian, Thank you so much for your thoughts, they are very kind. It’s nice to see you here too! 🙂

      I couldn’t agree more that life is the thing, and books are a tool to help us, but they aren’t life itself. I’m sure we would all read more than is possible, but life is the real deal, and there are times it must rightly come first. But I never doubt that the things we want (more time to read, for example) will find us down the road.

      Glad you understand as well what I mean about how a book can linger with you. It is a good thing I think. It gives you time to soak up and appreciate what a book has given you. We shouldn’t always feel the need to move onto the next one immediately.

      I’ve said before that I am not well versed (sorry, the pun wasn’t intended) on poetry, unless you count the ancient Greek epics. But Keats is one I have always been led to believe is one of the most memorable, and would certainly be one of the first for me to read, when I head in the poetic direction.

      Yes, sometimes I don’t know what I have set myself up for to read those 20 novels of Zola. But I am halfway through, which isn’t bad going considering I started in January last year, and have read other books, AND had major breaks during that time. But definitely fancy something different now. I’m long overdue going for a Dickens novel, but thinking maybe a bit of philosophy next. You’ll all find out soon anyway! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is good to see you return to the scene like a native, Pete. Clifton Fadiman said he admired the prodigality of such letter writers as Dickens, Keats, Byron, Santayana and Thomas Wolfe-those Niagaras of excess energy who never needed to budget their mental expenditures. I’ve read five volumes of the letters of Wolfe, not so much of the other men listed. Their exuberance and passion is undeniable. And they must have stayed in high gear, going all out. Only one of them lived out a long-life span; maybe they sensed in advance what would prove to be the brief and bitter brevity of their days.

    Due to varying factors of life and the demands it makes on us, even a young man like yourself caught up in the flood-tide of living can encounter a lull of interest or opportunity to read these works that we favor. Although I don’t have a bountiful blog to offer like yourself so there are none to miss what I write, a similar experience to yours has happened recently to me as well. I have avidly pursued dozens of new books (in my experience) from the James Mustich list for the last year and a half or so, but recently my reading has slowed to a halt. The last full-length book that I read a few months ago was East of Eden, which I haven’t read since the age of sixteen. I’m bereft of inspiration right now, but feel like maybe I should spend more time re-reading (listening) to old favorites for awhile.

    Speaking of Will Durant whom you mentioned, his Fallen Leaves, made up of his last reflections on life, was put together from manuscripts found in an attic by a family member thirty years after his death. You will like it if you can get to it, and it’s pretty short. We need some philosophical thought to bolster us as we see the world coming apart and going haywire in these disturbing times. Better still, J.I. Packer’s, Knowing Jesus, one of the very best I’ve read in my life; illuminating insight is to be found here, as the title suggests.

    I’m glad your family is doing so well and with the effort you put into it. I am looking forward to your 1001 book list and any essays you compose. (Just to mention, I like the Renoir picture of the party you put on up at the top.) Rest assured your blog is one of the best things about 2020, this cataclysmic year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi George, Thank you for your thoughts as always, it’s great to see you back here!

      It’s been very enlightening reading yours and Jillian’s comments, it makes me realise that in the real world, people completely understand if you need a break or cannot read as much as you’d like. I think we treat books very seriously, and in that respect, are very considerate about what we read. It’s very rare (even if I struggle) that I don’t finish a book, but I think that is because I try to believe as much as possible that I will get something out of what I am reading.

      Thank you especially for the recommendation of Fallen Leaves by Durant, it does sound like something I would enjoy. I will look for it. I think Durant also wrote The Story of Philosophy (?) but I’m told it’s a challenge! But I don’t know, I haven’t read it.

      I haven’t heard of Knowing Jesus, but will be sure to look that up as well, thanks.

      Yes, it’s very tricky going through a period bereft of inspiration. Sometimes the brain prioritises other things in our life, for instance, I have been focussing a lot on advancing my career recently (although I could also call it personal development), and to do that takes a lot of effort and focus. It’s hard to dedicate the same time, energy and focus (as well as raising a family of course) to multiple areas of life at once. Nevertheless, I’m sure you’ll find some inspiration soon, Is there anything you feel you have always wanted to re-read but haven’t? I always get more out of my favourite books after every re-read.

      Thank you for your kind words about this blog. It really does mean a lot to me, and gives me great motivation to keep blogging. I always knew I would get back on here at some point of course, but to hear people say they very much enjoy it, really does make it worth it to me. I very much enjoy conversing with yourself and other readers as well, and it in turn gives me many ideas and inspirations! 🙂

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  3. Your enthusiasm and good cheer always raise the spirits, Pete.

    Of course you can handle The Story of Philosophy if so inclined. In this work Durant treats largely of Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer, and Nietzsche. Then he covers some more contemporary figures (at least for him) including Bergson, Croce, Russell, Santayana, James, and the ever-fascinating Dewey. Is that enough names?

    Thanks for your re-reading advice. I am partially through a third reading of Little Dorrit narrated by very-talented Juliet Stevenson who does a great job on The Golden Notebook. Sort of bogged down on books by Betty Smith and Ruth Reichl, both of whom I’ve read one work apiece of in the past with interest. I’m looking forward to the Audible release of Harold Bloom’s The Bright Book of Life-(Novels to Read and Reread) on Nov. 3rd.

    J.I. Packer’s book is titled Knowing God, not the title I gave, hopefully an admissible slip given the correspondence between the two names.

    I’m very much looking forward to the commentaries you have in store.

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