The long literary climb

{ Tuesday, June 3, 2008 }

In honor of Hospital Hill 5K week, I bring you today a few of the books that have proven as tough for me to get through as Hospital Hill is to run.

I labor on, of course, in the belief that someday I'll finish each of these. I just have to train properly, that's all.

#1 - The Inferno, Dante Alighieri. I've tried in English. I've tried in Italian. It's the neverending book. I want to love it, I really do. The language is so tactile. Gummy, even. I just never care about any of the people who ended up in hell. I care about Dante and about Virgil (for whom I'm not sure Dante isn't actually his circle of hell), just not so much about any of the other people Dante sees. Seeing them with Dante seems a little like clicking through ViewMaster photos. I know I'm missing the point.

#2 - For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Sun Also Rises. I have always thought something must be wrong with me that I can wallow around in Faulkner but have no attention for Hemingway. But see? I am not properly trained though surely I can get up this hill, too. I am very much like a beginning runner with these. Just needing reassurance that if I slow down and keep going, I'll finish a longer run than I think I can. Somebody please tell me that if I make it past the first 50 pages, I'll want to keep going.

#3 - "Paradise Lost" and William Blake's "Jerusalem." No reason why these should have always felt so difficult, why I should feel so lost in them. Well, maybe there's a reason for getting lost in the Blake. He says things like, "She cries: The Human is but a Worm, & thou O Male: Thou art Thyself Female, a Male: a breeder of seed: a Son & Husband: & Lo." And at that point I sort of wander off in a happy daze, reading mindlessly. There really is no excuse for not getting through the Milton, since he just says things like, oh, wait, I can't find a sentence short enough to quote. Sigh. This is me admitting my lazy bones.

So here. I'll pick one of these hills to climb this summer. And I pick.... Dante. Because I know I love him. I'm just not trained for the attention span. Only thing is that I'll have to read it in English to make sense of it and read it in Italian to hear how beautiful it is.

Just like running hills. I can do this.

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