Sunday, March 31, 2013

Post Easter Melancholy, Robert Burton and Language, Really Great Literature

This post is dedicated to my comrades in epilepsy arms but might amuse anyone

Much of today was spent like this:

I guess there's something to be said for staying in one's pajamas nearly all day, reading two collections of short stories -- one by George Saunders and the other by Jamie Quatro -- and allowing both of my sons to play video games all day and to somewhat neglect my daughter. Both books were so fantastic that I was nearly yanked out of my Easter Sunday melancholy, but not quite. I'm feeling obsessed by the Quatro book in particular and am sorry that I finished it. I won't tell you what the short stories are about but think infidelity, sex, religion, the south, Flannery O'Connor weirdness and you'll have some idea. It might be my Every Five Years Or So Book.**

Speaking of literature, I got this email and thought to make it just one post, titled The Bastardization of Language.

Reader, why?

I suppose the definition of literature might include those writings of scientific or medical interest, but the literature on pediatric antiepileptic drugs? To be read on Easter Sunday when in a state of melancholy? Speaking of melancholy, even Robert Burton, the esteemed writer of the seventeenth century titled his tome The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up. That was in 1621. 

If Robert Burton were to have written a book about pediatric anti-epileptic drugs, I figure he'd title it something like The Anatomy of Hell, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Side Effectes, False Prognostickes, and Never a Cure for the Epilepsies. In One Thousand Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, The Braine Opened and Fucked Up.

**I read pretty voraciously -- sometimes up to fifty books a year, not counting poetry and The New Yorker, but it's only every five years or so that I read a novel that knocks me out. The last one I can remember doing so was Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, and that was in late 2009, so it's a little early to be counting it, but I Want to Show You More might be a contender.


  1. Damn. I just remembered that I read, Let the Great World Spin and lent it to someone but did not receive it back. I do not remember who I lent it to. Damn. Damn.

  2. I don't know Jamie Quatro and I've never read "Let The Great World Spin." Thanks for the recommendations! Sometimes we all need a day to recharge with some page-turning. Nothing wrong with that. :)

  3. I will look into Quatro...always looking for a good book that you can't put down! I watched a show on PBS on Philip Roth...I have never read him either but ordered several from the library today...

  4. Well, good morning. It is the Day After Easter which means that all is well again. Right?
    I found two jelly beans on the floor yesterday. I ate them.
    May the madness now end.
    I can't wait to read those books.

  5. Hey, I was needing some book recommendations. Thanks!

    The email? Ugh. Who makes that shit up?

  6. Well I dig the title, but you tell us more about the Seven Circles of Epilepsies than Burton ever could.

    (I guess that's the point.)

    I was melancholic this Easter too, but I shook it off with a kind of manic frenzy. It worked well enough.

    I liked the Saunders a lot, but I'm glad you mentioned the Quatro. It hadn't hit my radar yet.

  7. We all need days of not getting out of our pjs, ignoring the madding crowd, and curling up with a good book in bed. in fact, my sanity depends on it. thanks for the recommendation!

    ps are you still watching west wing?

  8. As a neuroscience research assistant I've gotten pretty used to thinking about "the literature" on epilepsy, but the day I really start reading literature on epilepsy I'll consider myself more sick than the 20 years with seizures. Always great reading your posts.



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