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Summer Reading Group (Prospectus)

Anybody interested in doing a reading group here this summer?

  • How it’d work, techwise: We’d set up a separate site section, probably name it reading.hermitsrock.mgbales.com, but off the front page.
  • How it’d work, bookwise: Between now and May 15, we decide on a book or body of work to study. If a book, it’s gotta be hard enough to merit a group; else, we decide on a body of literature, say a philosopher or novelist or poet1. Needless to say, we also accept theologians, political scientists, economists, psychologists, etc., etc., etc. Mostly, we wish to keep it interesting, without burrowing into the excruciating.
  • How it’d work, groupwise: Everyone who wants to participate will get writing access (assuming we can set up txp correctly) for the reading section—that includes you, GKB, GR, JAW, JH, K, Laura, Mary, and anyone else who lurks here now or later. May 15 is the formal deadline to join, either in the comments below or by e-mail (use the “Contact us” link at right, or directly at, hermitsrock [at] gmail [dot] com). Everyone who joins will have at least one (probably more) chances to lead discussion—format of his/her own choosing. Anyone who wishes to join after May 15 may do so, as a reader and commenter, but will not make the schedule to lead discussion. We’ll shoot for discussion to begin on or about June 1. The group won’t go indefinitely, but I’d like to gauge interest before I set an arbitrary end date for it. Addendum: If you know I don’t have your e-mail address, make sure you send it to the address above: I’ll need it when we get closer to May, for final planning. Of course all addresses will be kept confidential.

The rules above will likely change—I’ll formalize them a bit, I’m sure—but they won’t change much. Check here for news2.

In the comments: Join by nominating something to read3!

1 Caveat: said novelist or poet or philosopher cannot be the subject of anyone’s dissertations or books-in-progress; he or she may, however, have been the subject of a class you took.

2 After this article has moved off the front page, I’ll set its status to sticky; there’ll be a permanent link to it on the sidebar.

3 If everybody’s all over the map, we’ll raffle to decide.



I nominate The Collected Essays of R. W. Emerson, which is available in a really nice Modern Library edition!

The May 15 deadline submitted above is meant to look forward to a June 1 beginning-of-discussion. I’ll revise above to reflect this… (so revised. -g)

must we only nominate one book?

if not, i nominate:

Augustine’s City of God
Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind
Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum
Montaigne’s Essays

which, notice, i didn’t go to my “own” field of study. :)

if i have to pick one, i’d have to think a little more

Ooh. . . I like all of the suggestions so far. Montaigne was in some ways a kind of pre-blogging blogger (as was the patron saint of my site, Samuel Johnson—although I’m not sure I’m recommending him).

Of the things mentioned so far, Emerson and Augustine would be my first choices, I think.

I may have additional ideas; in the meantime, I’ll wait to see if this comment actually shows up. (My comments here keep disappearing. . . did you not like the dude ranch/prank call story?

Of course you can nominate more than one book; we can read more than one, too. I only named it at one because I didn’t know what any of your (or my) summers look like, and I didn’t want to get a big list of disparate texts and then have no consensus. I should have known better.

Montaigne would be really good to read with Emerson.

I’ve never read Augustine. But I don’t think my first choice would be CoG. (Another list: books of confessions. Augustine, Montaigne here too could work, Rousseau…)

About your comments, L: Never saw that link! (I think you forgot to hit submit after preview.) (that lady was so nice to those djs, tho; i hope they do get some business…)

Ah. . . yes, submit. It can be a good thing.

I hate to commit to things so far in the future, but this sounds like fun. I can’t promise I’ll contribute much (since my last lit. class was with Dottie Wright at HU, about 9 years ago), but I’ll give it a go. I’m all about expanding my mind, without the assistance of pharmaceuticals.

That being said, I am up for Emerson or Augustine. If it comes to a vote, I would put Augie up first, then Waldo.

re: “I hate to commit to things so far in the future”: Look at the blogger of the Web; he neither sows nor reaps nor gathers into barns, and yet the heavenly Father feeds him. And can we by planning 2 months ahead add a single hour to our span of life?


This is true…

I just didn’t want to throw my hat in the ring at this juncture, only to find out that in two months time I would not be able to keep up with the discussions, and my hat would remain headless inside the ring.

Heck, I signed up for this Ecumenical Theology class as an auditor, and kept up for three whole weeks. I missed one week, and now I feel so behind that I am not even attempting to catch up. That’s all.

I was kidding. I think every one of us has been in that situation before, committed to doing—particularly, committed to reading—more than we can handle. When we get closer to go time, I’ll revisit the list, make sure everyone’s on board who wants to be, then I’ll put together a reading/posting schedule, taking into account any special requests for time or subject matter. I figure it’s better to start now and lose a few than to start later and not have anyone to lose.

Sounds like fun, but I’ll mostly lurk in the background until mid-June. Have any of you considered the work of Orhan Pamuk (modern Turkish author)?

Greg, finished The Historian on Sunday, was a good read. The Istanbul part gave a decent impression of the city, though you could tell that the author’s firsthand knowledge of the city was limited. The place has changed a bit since then, naturally. Did you know that Turkey had a closed economy until around the late 80s? Opening it up changed the culture tremendously. It’s a fascinating city, both welcoming and dangerous. I last went there with B summer of ‘04. We would walk down the street hand in hand, then suddenly she would say, “Ok, we can’t hold hands in this neighborhood.” A few blocks later her hand would find mine again. I couldn’t see the borders of these neighborhoods, but they were apparent to her. You’re always walking in and out of two worlds. We’ll probably go back again this summer.

The Oxford part, though was dead on accurate. I discovered there are few pleasures as exquisite as reading a description of places you pass by every day on the way to work or school, which have long since become mundane. My only complaint about the book was that the research they conducted met so many fortuitous coincidences that it really began to feel contrived. Real historical research involves a thousand wild goose chases, but I guess it’s hard to make a good story out of that.

Sorry to clog up the thread.

Who is this Orhan Pamuk? Do you mean to say Turks can write?

Reply to The Historian on the review page.

i was under the impression that by now every one had read the confessions :)

I’d accept if everyone had; however, my reading history is eclectic and has giant holes in it. Nietzsche without Aristotle; Charles Brockden Brown without Goethe; lots of Morrison but little Faulkner. And way more sci.fi from adolescence than I ever would care to read these days…

well, now that we are confessing our readerly lacks… i shame-facedly admit to never having finished the illiad, the odessy, the aeneid, or the divine comedy, and i’ve never read any pynchon, nabokov, or proust.

and, after reading moby dick when i was 15, i’ve never gone back to it.

i would like to do the emerson, as well.

and now that we are all transcendental and stuff… i’ve never finished thoreau’s walden

yes, i know, i know, i should retreat back into the primeval ooze and pray that even it doesn’t reject me.

But Walden always gets me about 60% through, too. I’ve only read the book through once. We’re talking confessions? I taught Walden two years ago. I read Walden through to its end a long time before that!

I’ve never read Iliad, although the Odyssey I have.

If we’re talking an essay group (Montaigne, Emerson) (are we talking an essay group? Frankly, I proposed Emerson on the merits of his thinking, with writing and genre second) then should we add a 3rd to round it out?

i do like the idea of an essay group…but, i don’t know that we need to decide today.

i say to others that they should speak up!

Huzzah to that! I’d want more suggestions and/or people!

well, you can count me in, though i’m not sure i’ll be up for leading any discussions. as G knows, my mind is an almost completely blank slate right now, so ideas aren’t coming easily. i can say that i share many, if not all, of the literary/philosophical weak spots that have been mentioned so far. Not that we’d have to stick with the dead white guys, but they’re some of the more obvious choices. And not that we’d have to base our reading on our anxiety over our collective or individual lack, but i supposed it would help us to become better people. Just kidding. :)

I bring almost nothing to the literary/philosophical discussion. My last run in with literature (in a formal setting) was getting bonus points for pronouncing Gustave Flaubert properly.

Since then my life has been filled with anthropologists, missiologists, theologians, and the occasional Tom Clancy novel.

But, in the interest of embiggening myself intellectually, I am game for heading in whatever direction this thing takes.

And I have read the Odyssey and the Iliad through, but haven’t touched Walden in years.

GKB, 4 out of 5 theologians agree that you should read Flaubert’s “Three Stories.”

hannah’s white and dead…but the last time i checked, she’s not a man :)

that said, i wouldn’t mind absconding to a room of my own…

nor would i mind reading cristine de pizan’s Le Livre de la Cite des Dames [The Book of the City of the Ladies, 1405]


Margaret Cavendish’s The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World (1666)

Woolf would make it too much like recreating a class I took a few years ago: Montaigne, Woolf, Calvino, Butor, and ?—someone whose name I forget, but her book was kinda forgettable…

sorry, i missed hannah as i was scanning through the comments. i join you, J, in affirming her womanhood.

see what i mean about the blank brain problem? that’s why i’m not even trying to think of books and essays, much to G’s chagrin, though i’m liking the suggestions so far…

Walden?? Ehh, you guys are such English majors. The ancient epics sound like a great idea. I haven’t read the Illiad or Oddysey either, and I feel terrible about it. You might also want to consider the Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s the first epic ever, and though it has some holes in it, most of it is preserved.

It’s more like we’re many of us in some fashion or another Americanists rather than English majors.

But epic reading? That’s not a bad idea, either…

I move to nominate “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge. I think more men need to read this book (women, too) to discover the masculine ideal, so we can exert even more control over our society and our churches.

That’s the purpose of this reading group thing anyway, right?

I believe K would second Wild at Heart. She’s been itching to read it since October. I’d go along to read it, but for the record, I won’t vote for it. I did say “not excruciating” after all!

ha! not exactly “itching,” but now that my curiosity has been renewed (i’d forgotten all about it, actually), i may have to put that on my “next book” list after A Cook’s Tour, which i’m suffering through presently. if the public library has it, that is…

Yes, in our house, it’s the woman who reads books about manliness. I, on the other hand, read about priests and nuns who fall in love!

If the public library doesn’t have it, they should be able to get it for you through inter-library loan. Tell ‘em the librarian said so.

I do not recommend the Iliad; I suffered through it, or most of it, (including chunks of it in Greek), but I find the Odyssey far, far preferable.

I have always planned to write an essay that goes something like this: “I have never read Faulkner. I have never read Dostoyevsky. I say that I have read Derrida, but actually, I have not.” Etc. People like Milton were able to be well-read because a) there were many fewer books then and b) other people did all the housework for them. No more feeling guilty about what you haven’t read!

right… actually, the ghost of books read and forgotten weighs much more heavily on me than those I’ve not read. or, worse, the books I’ve read and not understood…

yes, i’d agree with jeremy 100%. and look what happened to milton! i happen to need my eyesight for watching the WB. okay, and for reading more books.

so no guilt, just opportunity.

oh, and i also seem to remember the Iliad as extremely painful, but that was a long time ago…

OK, I’m gonna hafta jump ship from the Wild at Heart group. Am reading it now and realizing it’s no mistake that all of Eldredge’s “books” have the titles of Harlequin romance novels.

it is arendt’s centenary…

I’ve heard Arendt’s The Human Condition is the one to be read. What of an Arendt group in general?

I’m in for anything except Wild@Heart. Sorry I’m late to this, I’m just catching up on blogs (I’ve been taking a breather).

Haven’t read Arendt. Would also, though, love to read some queer stuff with some non-queer people.

Do you mean Leaves of Grass, or queer studies more theoretical?

I’ll compile a list of all suggestions so far soon…

I actually meant that we should all watch Golden Girls reruns and talk about them.

I’ll work on a few suggestions, but I was thinking of something along the lines of Judith Butler, John Boswell, etc.

It would also be interesting to read Kenji Yoshino’s book (I think one of you linked to a NYT article by him not too long ago). I recently heard him speak at the law school. He was the first guest speaker that has attracted so much attention from our (normally snobbish) faculty since I’ve been in school here. Quite a bright fellow.

But, like I said, I’ll read anything. It’s not like I have work to do.

were we to queer the list

i’d be more in favor of kenji and boswell or mark d jordan than butler…

not that she doesn’t have something important to say, but since finishing my phid i’ve avoided turgid, jargon laden prose like the plague. iknow, iknow, how very unprofessorial of me.

haha….point well taken. butler may not have been the best suggestion.

yes, butler gives me hives. i haven’t kept up with queer studies at all since grad school, and wasn’t particularly well-versed in it then…are kenji, boswell, and jordan strictly queer theorists, or are we talking about gender politics as well?

gender, though mainly queer, politics and gender, though mainly queer, theology.

Things have been quiet on this front for a while. We still welcome other readers. Sometime this weekend or just after I’ll compile the list and suggest some options. We may also devise a newsletter that allows this discussion both on the site and in your inbox, but that’s a ways away.

PS. look for comments RSS soon! (and some slight visual changes to the way comments display…)

Sonuvabitch. It’s May 1. It’s hella time to whip this reading group in shape. I plead tornado. It probably didn't help that the comments expired, either.

I'm giving you an assignment, then. Reread this post and the comments. In the next few days, rank your reading preferences in order (You can be general, say, #1 Queer studies; #2 Hannah Arendt, #3 Classics, #4 Essays, #5 Walt Whitman, etc.). Post your prefs here.

Meanwhile, I'm giving myself a deadline: 2 days from the time of this comment, I'll have done some mighty work to pull as much as I can together, including (if most are posted) a compilation of your rankings. We'll mark the winner as what we read. (Ties will be broken.) If necessary, I'll propose specific texts to supplement the general categories, and post the results. If it’s all cool after that, I'll set the schedule up in short order, and between now and the first discussion, it’ll be up to you to secure the text(s).

1. Wild at Heart
2. Augustine
3. Gilgamesh
4. Odyssey
5. Hannah Arendt

i second jh’s first choice! gotta keep it real people!

I nominate JH to lead discussion for his #1.

Oh sh*t!

now that the summer is upon us, realistically, i will only be able to be involved with one book.

my list of things to do this summer is quite large… probably too long, in fact… but i like unrealistic goals from which i plummet like icarus

and I should remind that I can’t join in until the middle of June, until then the most I can commit to any blog is the steady patter of frivolous comments.

i might be able to do more than one, if we wait till the middle of june… that is, if i get this book review and an article or two finished by then.

Mid June actually sounds like a good starting time, especially given my tardiness in getting things rolling.

Yeah. We made have the apartment detornadoed by then, too. :)

I’m good with JH’s list, though I would flip Hannah and Gilga. And, since I think I’ve decided to quit the blogging game, I’ll be going by “Scott” instead of the mysterious (and perhaps silly) “Gay Restorationist”

Mid-June is great with me, since the next month involves paper writing, finals, and moving to another continent.

Nothing to contribute, really, just a comment to restate my interest…

another continent? have fun.

and, i really have to back away from my endorsement of the wild at heart choice.

and yeah, the blogging thing comes and goes… currently i am convinced that chris thinks it all hogwash.

and i keep teetering with the idea of sliding into cyber oblivion.

i’m not too soured on the whole thing. i’ve just been trying to stay sane during the last month of school. i feel like i’ve got a lot to say but no time to say it…which probably means i have a couple of things i should say and should be grateful that i don’t have time to say all the stuff i shouldn’t.

Your return is much anticipated: We need someone to temper the wild swings between my confessions and J’s rants. :)