Surprised – because despite the fact that in my last blog at Overland I called 2012 the year of Australian women writers, I didn’t realise this subject had also prevailed on bookish girl this year. (Especially as offline I’ve been increasingly preoccupied by … green accounting and other offshoots of Double Entry.)
I’m not only surprised – but also feeling a little sheepish, given that in December 2011 prompted by the Stella Prize I said I’d make 2012 the year of looking for lost or overlooked classics by women written before 1800. And that I’d start by reading The Tale of the Genji, written between 1000 and 1012 and said to be the world’s first novel. The world’s first novel is 5 centimetres thick and I didn’t end up reading a centimetre of it. So much for December resolutions.
Instead this year I’ve written about Jane Austen, Emily and Charlotte Bronte dividing us into rock stars and librarians, maths art and God, Dan Brown, Vivid Sydney, ‘She doesn’t know, she can’t know, what his fingers are doing with her hair’, Luke Davies, wild weather and The Transit of Venus, the Miles Franklin Award, Australian literature, writers’ festivals, Stendhal, George Eliot, Dickens. So many blog posts, so many women, so few lost classics by women written before 1800.
So I won’t be making any grand declarations for reading in 2013. But there will be plenty of classics (next up is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Fawn, an extraordinary novel and one of my all-time favourites), I hope more poetry and science, some interviews with writers, and lots of bookish news.
I’m very taken by this interview in the Guardian with ‘curator of interestingness’ Maria Popova, especially her opening remarks:
‘If something interests me and is both timeless and timely, I write about it. Much of what is published online is content designed to be dead within hours, so I find most of my material offline. I gravitate more and more towards historical things that are somewhat obscure and yet timely in their sensibility and message. We really need an antidote to this culture of ‘if it’s not Google-able, it doesn’t exist’.’
Having spent two years trawling the shelves, archives and hard copy storage facilities of libraries in Italy, England and Australia to write about a forgotten Renaissance monk and his extraordinary but overlooked 500-year legacy for Double Entry, I know the power and importance of ‘offline material’. I’ll be taking Popova’s words as my inspiration for 2013.
As for my holiday reading, already it’s blowing my mind. I’m 67 pages into Atomised. SO LONG overdue. Any book which has Werner Heisenberg on page 15 and opens with this has my immediate and undivided attention:
‘Metaphysical mutations – that is to say radical, global transformations in the values to which the majority subscribe – are rare in the history of humanity. The rise of Christianity might be cited as an example.
Once a metaphysical mutation has arisen, it tends to move inexorably towards its logical conclusion. Heedlessly, it sweeps away economic and political systems, ethical considerations and social structures. No human agency can halt its progress – nothing, but another metaphysical mutation.
It is a fallacy that such metaphysical mutations gain ground only in weakened societies or those in decline. When Christianity appeared, the Roman Empire was at the height of its powers: supremely organised, it dominated the known world. Its technical and military prowess had no rival; nonetheless, it had no chance. When modern science appeared, medieval Christianity was a complete, comprehensive system which explained man and the universe; it was the basis for the government of peoples, the inspiration for knowledge and art, the arbiter of war and peace and the power behind the production and distribution of wealth; none of these was sufficient to prevent its downfall.’