Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Never-Ending Book of Stories

Jesus H., I write some bold blog post claiming I'm "back" and ready to kick blogospheric ass, and then I disappear back in my hole for three months. This is not any way to have a successful blog with avid readers who log in every day to see if my latest post is up. Nor is it the way to finish the project I started, namely to read the top 105 books I've never read before and do it before I die a horrible, miserable death, or any other kind of death. I looked it up today - I started reading "The Decameron" on March 16, 2009. Now it's February 23, 2010, and I have 200 pages left to go. If I assume this project will continue at the pace of 1 book per year, that means I will get done in, uh, NEVER. I will NEVER get done at this pace. I will die long before I've read Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations", meaning I will never have that cathartic moment when I'm reading page 576 and realize that I'm a complete idiot for putting this book on my list because it's boring me to tears. Oh, the humanity!

No, the only way I can get back on this project is to get back up on the horse and "git 'er done" as they say in the hills of Georgia, near Kennesaw Mountain. So I vow I will finish 'The Decameron" in the next 21 days, so as not to have said it took me over a year to read the thing. I have some pride, after all...although those who know me well might disagree.

I don't want to give the impression that it's the fault of "The Decameron" for my snail's pace of progression. No, the fault lies in my own laziness and distraction. Indeed, I've actually warmed up to the book, and find it quite delightful. Many of these stories are really bawdy! Is this what the Renaissance was really all about: the rediscovery of wanton sex? I mean, many of these stories are about married women having affairs and how they hide them from their husbands (who are usually none too bright), or about how priests and friars have affairs and then hide them from their church elders. Reading this book, one can quickly get the impression that living in the Renaissance was one big pork-fest. Which makes me wonder how scandalous this book was in its own time. I mean, it sure doesn't paint a very holy picture of the church, to say the least. Was this a commonly held opinion at the time, or was this portrayal of hypocritical priests and monks a shock to contemporary readers? Somehow I suspect the former. After all, these were the plague years, and religion didn't seem to do much good in fighting the epidemic. I would be natural for people to get cynical, and also to seek solace in the pleasures of the flesh.

One odd thing about this book: each story begins with a short synopsis of the story. In other words, there's a spoiler at the beginning of each story that tells you exactly what will happen and what the outcome will be. I find this curious. Why is this here? Did Boccaccio have no sense of suspense? Or were these introductions used as sort of an index, so people could look through the book and find the story they wanted quickly. I dunno...but it seems odd to our modern sensibilities.

But enough. I have 21 days to finish this book. I just poured myself a delicious glass of rye whiskey, and I must go settle down with another tale or two. I will report back...soon!