March 05, 2018

THIS IS SERIOUS, and a Proposal

Deep breath. Okay. It's now the fifth of the month, and I still can't pay the rent. Many thanks to the (few, sadly) people who made donations in response to my last post on this subject. As always, I am deeply grateful.

But I'm $400 short of where I need to be. So my rent will be officially late, and if it's later than Wednesday or Thursday, I will be staring the beginning of the eviction process in the face. I keep reading about people starting GoFundMe campaigns to raise funds to make, as just one example out of many such, a documentary about the heroic and eventful life of their pet eel -- and raking in $15,000 in three days. I could post pictures of my ingrown toenail. What's that worth, do you think?

Seriously, I mean seriously, $400 -- or eviction. As I've said before, and not to be melodramatic but simply to state the truth of the matter, eviction would be the beginning of the end for me. I have nowhere to go, and I could not possibly survive on the street. So I will greet donations in any amount with unbridled glee. And $400 isn't that much in the great scheme of things, even though it's everything to me at this particular moment.

Meanwhile, I have a proposal for the future. (I assume there will be one for these purposes.) I put up a new post yesterday, largely because I felt a desperate need to publish something that didn't concern my dire personal situation. And I did find the two articles that I excerpted to offer several points of interest. I'm still working on a discussion of Steven Pinker, and then I will take up Trump, Russia and related matters.

The proposal: over the past few years, I've toyed with the following idea. I'd like to do a series of "Reading Circle" posts, where a group of us read a book together. My first candidate would be Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. I select that for the reason that it is among the most widely misunderstood and misrepresented books in the canon. Everyone uses the famous comment about the "banality of evil" far too often, and most people have no idea what Arendt herself intended the phrase the communicate. And most people can't tell you anything else about Arendt's analysis, primarily because most people haven't read it.

I was reminded of all this when I came across one of the better articles I've read about Arendt's Eichmann just a few days ago. (I was also astounded to discover a huge wealth of reading and audio material available in the Hannah Arendt Archives. You could happily lose yourself for months in there, at least I certainly could.) This paragraph, which comes toward the end of the commentary, will give you a sense of the perspective:
Perhaps Arendt has been so violently misunderstood because her thinking is both provocative and demanding. Her blessing, and her curse, was a facility for quotable aphorisms that, like Nietzsche’s, require whole books to reveal their unconventional meaning. It is easy to cite the “banality of evil.” It is much more difficult to make sense of what Arendt actually meant.
In recent years, I've reread Eichmann in Jerusalem, but only in bits and pieces. I'd like to reread the entire book again (it's not that long), and it would be nice to have some company. My thought is that we'd read a chapter a week, and then I'd publish my thoughts about that chapter on, say, Friday (obviously, all the details can be worked out later). Those readers who are in the Reading Circle can then offer their thoughts, and we can try to hash out differences in our reactions and answer any questions that might arise. I might even try opening up comments for those posts. My only concern would be the concern that caused me to abandon comments some years ago (my blog did have comments at one time): I had to spend an inordinate amount of time policing the comments, and it was finally too wearying and time-wasting. So I might encourage other readers to write up their own comments (if any), and then I would publish those on the blog as well (with or without the readers' names, as they prefer). As I say, we can work out the details later and, if we proceed, we can make adjustments as seems advisable.

For the moment, I'd like to know if anyone is interested in doing this. If you are, please write me at arthur4801 at yahoodotcom, and put "Reading Circle" in the subject line. If 10 or 15 people are interested, we can start putting it in motion. (And if 100 people are interested, hooray!) I must add that I like this idea for some entirely selfish reasons. I think it would be excellent for me to have a project like this to help structure my time, and even force me to keep reading and writing when my body would prefer to simply collapse into comatose-like sleep. A project like this might be just what the doctor ordered.

The nice thing about the Reading Circle idea is that it could continue as long as there's interest. There are a lot more candidates for reading in the political arena, of course, but we could broaden it to include fiction, too. I'd include "popular" fiction as well, and perhaps I can encourage some folks to read, for example, Ruth Rendell (an unusually skillful and provocative writer, whose work truly gets under your skin).

To do this (and hopefully more!), I need to get past the first of the month bills. I had understood that everyone was promised a pet billionaire. So where's mine? Until I find her or him, $400 would be a godsend. A little bit more, and I can eat for another week.

Many, many thanks. Write to me about the Reading Circle! Oh, and feel free to offer suggestions of your own for books we can read.