The Literary Blog Hop is hosted by The Blue Bookcase and “is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction,classic literature, and general literary discussion”.
This week’s topic is:
What one literary work must you read before you die?
I’m not a fan of the “I must do/read/see/travel to xyz before I die” quest. Because, somehow, I think the accomplished whatever must impact the state of death in some way. I’m not religious, I don’t believe there is an afterlife. Like the author Richard Dawkins, I think this good, bad, ugly right here and now is the greatest show going. So when I die, I cease to be. My consciousness, this me, just disappears. And having read and enjoyed To the Lighthouse won’t make one bit of difference to the dead me. There is a real possibility that I’m wrong and there is an afterlife :). That there is a heaven and a hell. If I find myself in Heaven, having read and enjoyed Waiting for Godot won’t make a difference to my new state of bliss either. If, quite unfortunately, I’m sent to Hell, then being able to recite Donne’s poetry or my favorite speech from Richard II,
(Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground…)
will not bring any comfort; Hell being the ultimate destination in suffering. Readers, do you see the problem I have with the question? I don’t find death interesting at all. Living is the thing, even when we are dying. So let me rephrase the question.
What one literary work must you read to continue to live, live more, live better?
Living more and better for the reading me equates to becoming a better reader. The book may, or may not, turn out to be one of my favorite books when I’m done reading it. It must be a book that is essential to my development as a reader. A book that enables me to appreciate and enjoy other books. If I think of the question in this manner then the answer is obvious.
The literary work is The Odyssey. It is an essential book. Probably, the most essential book. It’s prequel, The Iliad, is a close second. Lately, I feel hounded by The Odyssey. Its footprints appear all over some of the books that I’ve been reading and those that I want to read. The time has come for me to read this book.