“’These issues are constantly being brought to the surface… if you have eyes to see them. And, of course, having eyes to see them—that’s what the trick is.’” Rebecca Mead interviews Mary Beard about the classics and internet trolls.
In 1968 Italo Calvino published 14 reasons why we should read the classics, and his list still feels relevant. After all, “a classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”
At that point, one of the flesh-hungry demons loses his patience with Dante’s whole I-gotta-interview-the-sinners shtick and rips out a chunk of the sinner’s flesh. Before he is overpowered, the sinner tells Dante and Virgil about the other Italians he knows—Fra Gomita and Don Michel Zanche, both from Sardigna and constantly yapping about the place. The sinner, who seems far more glib about the threat of being torn to death, says almost tauntingly, ‘Oh, look at that one there, gnashing his teeth.’
As they were actual animals, rather than anthropomorphized personality traits intended to teach moral lessons, the Dog’s words were just a bunch of barking. The Goat bolted across the road, ending up on the ridge behind the Baker place. The Goat’s owner then called Animal Control, even though the Dog’s owner knew about the pot plants in the former’s greenhouse, which he had always been cool about, though that may change real soon.
Reading matters because of its relationship to thinking. What I love most about books is the way they force the reader to get involved. Unlike other leisure activities, a reader needs to actually participate in the experience. You don’t just turn a book on and enjoy it — you need to actively engage with the material, not only sorting out the words, but imagining what they describe. The scenes, the characters, the voices: all of it needs to be created inside the reader’s mind. In that way, reading itself is an imaginative act.
Like many recovering English majors before me, I have a longstanding infatuation with heavy Russian novels.