Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rereading Joseph Conrad

Book Cover: Lord Jim

I recently re-read Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim, and chased it with Jeffrey Meyers' Joseph Conrad : A Biography. Meyers' biography is excellent--neither too scholarly nor too superficial. It left me needing to reread Conrad's other books.

I read Lord Jim for the first time when I was about 12, and I found it an exciting adventure book. When I reread it in college, and then later, in graduate school, it was a fascinating exploration of how we understand who we are and come to grips with morality. Imagine my surprise to discover that it is actually a middle-aged person's reflection on how to live with ill-informed youthful choices, and how to face mortality. One constant in all my readings is my appreciation of Stein, the entomologist. Conrad is unique in understanding how romantic the pursuit of entomology is.

Book Cover: Joseph Conrad--A Biography

Electronic texts of Lord Jim are available from The Literature Network, Bibliomania, and Project Gutenberg. I prefer reading ink on paper, but it's much more fun to paste excerpts and personal notes in a text file than to try and crowd observations into margins. My marginal notes from a ten-years-distant reading are now completely obscure to me. I might as well have written "How true!!!"

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