I'm reading two books about life. I have mentioned the first previously: it's the excellent How to Live, Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, by Sarah Bakewell. I'm excited to find out that my favorite essayist was quite the Buddhist--not in name or religion, of course. This was the 16th century, after all. But in spirit, in the way his mind worked, in the way he approached his writing and his life. On education, for example, Bakewell reports, he believed that "the child should learn to question everything"; and, quoting the master now, "should learn to pass everything through a sieve and lodge nothing in his head on mere authority or trust." I'm looking forward to digging further into this book, and MUST get hold of the Essais. I have not decided, yet, whether to go for an English translation or challenge myself with the French. There is a magic to the original language, especially with a writer like Montaigne. But do I dare...? It would be, after all these years, a serious commitment of time. I'm thinking I could perhaps find a single essay in French online, and give myself a little test.
The second book is the (thus far) wildly entertaining and thoroughly disturbing Life, by Keith Richards--a Christmas gift from Ellie, as the result of a few subtle hints from me. Entertaining because this is the rogue Stone with his tongue firmly in his cheek, cheerfully disrespectful of everything and everyone; and the man writes well (I'm giving him credit for the writing.) The book has an authentic feel to it that makes it an easy and pleasurable read. It's also (thus far) familiar territory for me--the area around London during and immediately after World War II. I, too, remember the visits to the "sweet shop" with the ration coupons you needed to buy candy. Bullseyes, anyone?
Disturbing, though, because of the constant, casual reference to drugs--indeed, an uninhibited celebration of a life seemingly devoted to their use. It's not the legality or the illegality of them that bothers me, nor am I one to make easy condemnations of other people's choices in these matters. But I do harbor judgments about the surrender of the mind to intoxicants and stimulants; perhaps these judgments originate in my own experiences with drugs, back in the 1960s, which were not always happy ones. Remind me to tell you some time about my one experience with LSD! But anyway, what do you think? Am I just being a prude?
I'll probably stop by tomorrow to pass on wishes for the New Year, so I'll refrain for now...