Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday's Book About Books. Author On Authors: Colin Wilson's THE BOOKS OF MY LIFE

On Friday, I briefly discussed Colin Wilson's smart synthesis of intellectual thought, smart especially considering the conformist and puritanical years of the mid-1950s in which it became rightly famous in the United States, carried about by both college intellectuals and by those who aspired to be seen as intellectual.

If you have not read this book on books yet, you should, though its appeal is greater to the young and restless than to the old and settled.

Colin Wilson wrote an even better book on books when he was old and settled himself.  Wilson was born in 1931 (which makes him two years older than Cormac McCarthy) and to my mind he published his best book in 1998 (the year of McCarthy's Cities of the Plain).  That book is The Books in My Life, something I've kept on my "most-beloved shelf" since then, a tonic always available for inspiration.  The Outsider is the sharply smarter study, but The Books in My Life is much wiser.
The Books In My Life contains the wisdom gleaned from Colin Wilson's long life as a reader of books.  A book for reading and rereading.  There is no trace in here of his writings on the occult, on Atlantis, on flying saucers or other such things.  His interpretations here of William and Henry James, Hemingway, Joyce, Twain, Shaw, Sartre, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and such renowned authors received little notice, probably because they are already so well known.

But here too are chapters with the titles: Mikhail Artsybashev, Huysmans: The Ultimate Decadent, Leonid Andreyev, Ernst Cassirer, David Lindsey And A Voyage To Arcturus, Sex And The Eternal Feminine, Anatole France, and Zola And Maupassant, among others.

My favorite piece in here is Wilson's discussion of William James' essay, On Vital Reserves.  If you find yourself in a listless funk or simply lacking energy for any reason whatever, read this one.  A mood changer if there ever was one, as interpreted by Colin Wilson.
 My own copy of The Books In My Life is the easy-to-open, easy-to-read trade paperback, which has weathered well despite airplane flights with me to Atlanta, rough rides in a pick-up truck hauling horses, and sojourns in doctors' waiting rooms.  I aim to keep it around.

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