|Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Mad Russian|
No question about it, the old man has slipped into quite a state of arrested development. There's absolutely nothing wrong with reading comics, and in fact, I heartily endorse them. Even those scandalously horrible (gasp!) superhero comics. I know. What a positively ghastly assertion!
Comics are fine, but man can not live by comics alone - except I pretty much have been, for far too long.
It's making me....no, not stupid, that's not it. It's making me one-dimensional, inflexible, less fit for mental duty.
So in an effort to become more of the Renaissance Man I was meant to be, I have decided to read at least one book book (not a comic book) per month. Incidentally, Renaissance is pronounced REN-uh-zonce. It's not pronounced ren-AY-zonce. If you pronounce it with the hard "A" sound, you are hereby instructed to punch yourself in the balls, because I'm not there to do it for you. If you don't have balls, substitute your baby box.
To produce the Renaissance Man, I came up with Project: Enlightenment. Some of you are inwardly grousing about how "those are two different eras, jackass." You are also hereby commanded to punch yourself directly in the balls. Pretentious pricks, all of you.
The point is to pick a number of authors, genres, and time periods. They don't have to be texts likely to be covered in a college lit course, but it would sure help.
Here's the deal - the brain is a machine that operates on synaptic highways. You can (and do) train your brain to run down certain tracks. The plus side is that the brain gets very good rolling down those synaptic highways. The bad news is that you're allowing large swaths of your gray matter to atrophy. Part of the difficulty in kicking something like heroin is that an addict has trained their brain to define pleasure inside of some very narrow streets. Nothing else quite translates, at least not in the beginning of the recovery process.
Same thing with learning and thinking. I've funnelled a far too large concentration of synaptic firing into a tiny little four-color box. There's some variety inside the medium, of course. You flex different muscles reading 100 Bullets than you do reading Comic Book Comics. But still. I think you get the point. I need to reach outside of my comfort zone before my brain box turns into a 98 pound weakling capable of only dissecting Superman stories.
To that end, Project: Enlightenment is designed to break out of Comic Book City and into a wider world. I'm a really weird English major in that I've never read or been interested in reading any of The Canon. Time to get to it in my old age!
I'm not prescribing myself strictly to the classics, whatever those actually are. The idea is enjoy the process, not torture myself. The books need not be fiction, but I like fiction quite a bit, and I'm weak there. So I've picked out a few entries such as:
Notes From The Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky
It seems to me that my iconoclastic and anti-authoritarian impulses should mix with the Mad Russian nicely. I'm going to find out one way or another.
The Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
It's Black History Month, so it seemed like an appropriate and intriguing choice
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
No, I've never read it. Yes, I'm ashamed of that. Seems about perfect for Halloween month.
Other titles I'm considering for the Project:
Atlast Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Hell's Angels - Hunter S. Thompson
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein
The Magus - John Fowles
The Man Who Was Thursday - GK Chesterton
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
Common Sense - Thomas Paine
Any thoughts from the peanut gallery? I'm open to suggestions. Pitch me a classic that you've particularly enjoyed. It works especially well if you can attach a significance to a particular month, although that's certainly not a requirement.