Sunday, 6 May 2012

How to Live by Sarah Bakewell

A good haul from the library: Adrian Frazier’s biography of George Moore, The Uncanny by Sigmund Freud, Collected Poems by Louis MacNeice and How to Live or A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer by Sarah Bakewell. The latter will be my text for today.

Opening it up at

2: Q. How to Live? A. Pay Attention.
Starting to write ((Sarah Bakewell teaches writing at City University(London).))
The riding accident, which so altered Montaigne’s perspective, lasted only a few moments in itself, but one can unfold it into three parts and spread it over several years.....
further down:
When he did turn to it however, the experience made him try a new kind of writing, barely attempted by other writers: that of re-creating a sequence of sensations as they feel from the inside, following them from instant to instant.

This seems to me to be extremely flaccid writing by someone whose grip on the actual meaning of the words is weak. It is quite opposed to the crisp precision of Montaigne.

Gaul according to Caesar is divided into three parts. On that basis each part would have its own map. Each map might be folded in three or four or whatever. If folded in 3 the number of folds would be two i.e. the actual creases in the paper. The concept of part implies detachability as in ‘spare parts’, ‘naming of parts’, ‘parts of speech’ etc.

a sequence of sensations as they felt from the inside Yes, ‘I feel your pain’ is common usage but feeling one’s own sensation as one’s own sensations as though there existed the possibility of feeling your own sensations as though they were someone else’s leaves me aghast and stricken with auto-empathy.

I’m looking at three translations of On Liars and That No Man should be happy until after his Death by John Florio, Charles Cotton and J.M. Cohen to see which of them reads best. I’m also reading essays on similar topics by the English master, Francis Bacon, Of Truth and Of Death to compare and contrast and quote in support of my answer. Will that be as dull as it sounds? I hope not.

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