When I think of some of the things I was made to read at school, instead of Miss Lonelyhearts, I have more patience for the endless debate about The Canon.
I kicked off my camping season this weekend, and inexplicably, I brought with me the little paperback Miss Lonelyhearts and A Cool Million, which I have packed and unpacked in numerous changes of residence, yet somehow never read. I do respect the Buddhist precept about consuming only items that preserve peace in body and consciousness, and while my practice of it would not by any means be considered thorough, I do generally avoid depictions of extensive or graphic violence. Maybe that was the hold up.
In any case, I now know that in future, should I wish to consume some harshness, I should do so in solitude, in nature. Sitting and hiking and sleeping and sitting in the woods or at the shore tops up my peace…it may even create a surplus.
Of course, West’s story is a bit of a paradox for sensitive souls such as mine, as it is the story of just such a sensitive soul and the madness brought about through his consumption of depictions of rape, gang rape, gay bashing, and wife beatings which result in dental work. Tricky.
But it is a short work, a one-sitting read, and the sufferings are surrounded by astounding passages of philosophy, surrealism and humour. Its masterful and strange presentation of big ideas is moving, and while ultimately disturbing, it can still be peacefully consumed provided the reading environment is sufficiently serene and beautiful.