The Life of the Mind

This blog is about great reads that can be purchased for 25 cents at flea markets and tag sales. Sometime I cheat and they might cost a buck or even five bucks, but the idea is always the same. Enjoyment.

At the same time, every book I blog about can be, for someone, an entry to the life of the mind. It could be Stephen King or it could be Rita Mae Brown or it could be Mikhail Lermontov. For every person it will be different. For me it was Homer and Thucydides and Bob Dylan and Langston Hughes.

But that first book that transports you to another place and time and engages your interest is your admission ticket to a world of ideas that you never knew existed until you read the accounts written down by kindred souls in times long past.

You can float down any of a thousand different rivers, but you will reach the same enormous ocean.

The bookish kids who first experience this great thrill sometimes become alienated from their peers who are not in any way bookish (most kids) and they are like the albatross whose huge wings allow him to soar but make him a clumsy creature on land.

An author I admire a lot, Richard Rodriguez, said that he became connected to the literary universe when he wrote about being alienated. That became an intimate connection with countless readers.

Our alienation is what joins us together. It’s like all the teenagers who sat around listening to Bob Dylan finding out that there were millions of other teenagers listening, too.

Now they have all these unfortunate reunions (sorry, I have to pass) but the brilliance of his work was and is undeniable:

“Darkness at the break of noon, shadows, even the silver spoon, the handmade blade, the child’s balloon eclipses both the sun and moon…”

Once you tap into the life of the mind, whatever your point of entry might be, you see that the world is insane and it is logical to feel alienated. This feeling creates a bond with writers in the past who have noticed the very same inconsistencies.

And these literary and historical friends can be just as valuable as real-time actual friends because they’re saying exactly what’s on their minds and they’re speaking to one who understands.