Thursday, December 13, 2007


I feel as if i am in one, a Gulag that is. Not as cold here, and I am not forced to do physical labour (thankfully). No, the Gulag that I inhabit is not a physical one, but an intellectual one, and in some respects it is self-created. The self-created bit makes it even harder to escape, strange but true. My guards are not stolid large men with murder in their hearts, but sloth and ennui. Guards of my own creation, and right hard buggers to sneak past. This Gulag is not in one spot, not surrounded by barbed wire, or vast expanses of frozen tundra. Being unbounded on any side makes it very difficult to explain to other people. The sadder part is my own role in building it. My job does not challenge me on an intellectual level except maybe once a month (sshhh do not tell my boss). Therefore, it is incumbent upon me to provide my own intellectual challenge, and I am not talking about doing the New York Times daily crossword puzzle. Though I seriously doubt I could finish it, that is not the intellectual challenge I am looking for. Also, I am not trying to compare my intellectual wandering in the desert to the true tens of thousands of victims of the actual Gulag for that I recommend an excellent book by Anne Applebaum. However, I have no concept of that kind of suffering and that kind of evil so perhaps I exaggerate. The larger problem is that I know I am trapped in this intellectual Gulag, I am aware of my guards, I have attempted to, and failed to take their measure, but there does not seem to be one goddamn thing I can do to escape. Books are my best hope, but as I was doing my year end's accounting the other day, and realizing that this year I have read 42 books despair hit me pretty hard. Certainly, all 42 of those books were not hefty tomes of great intellectual import, there was a fair share of "fluff". The problem that became clear to me is that if I were to maintain that reading pace I would need 42 more books to read to get me through to next year when I whine about this in another post. I am sure I could locate 42 books to read with minor effort, but the problem, and the major reason I tremble as my guards make their rounds is I realize that I need to find 42 books worth reading. Not some dribble by the likes of Tom Clancy or John Grishman, but books that are worth my while, books that help me dig that tunnel (ever so slowly) out of this prison my intellectual Gulag. Anyone, anywhere have any suggestions? Careful though the guards shoot to kill.