0. We Are Back: Take Two 🎬
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee.
– William Shakespeare (from his Sonnets)
This time we get a generous second helping of—you guessed it—shelf-help, of the self kind, to be sure, as we sally forth in the spirit of the first helping.
And not only do we get the cake this time, we get to eat it, too. Meaning that it’s all candy, all the time, this time: No ponderous musings (from your truly.) Instead, you get to glide through the landscape in which the object of our pursuit finds itself nestled: Behold, then, standing upright in the pic above, with a fine porcelain trowel-like thingamajig securely—and a tad benevolently, too—placed on its head, heralding its title as
The Self-Help Compulsion: Searching for Advice in Modern Literature by Beth Blum (Columbia University Press)
So yeah, if you had detected a change of scenery last time, toward the end of that piece to be sure, we are picking it up from that point here.
Chop-chop, having moved our collage setting from a prosaic, stain-proof berber carpet—gotta watch out for those inevitable pet accidents—we find ourselves on the relatively rarefied, vaunted top of a gorgeous piano.
Dear book, and we know you go by the name The Self-Help Compulsion—SHC henceforth—you take it from here. It’s all on you. We gorged on your interiority last time. Now we’re cruising, gliding if you will, ready to dig into plentiful serving of our fabled cake.
Let’s take in the scenery, SHC, shall we?
1. The Structure Of Our Lives 🏰
Let us create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist. Let us together desire, conceive, and create the new building of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will rise one day toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith.
– Walter Gropius (in Proclamation of the Weimar Bauhaus)
Oh my! We hardly knew ye, SHC. Looking dapper and demure, all at the same time, oh-so-snugly surrounded—and going from the left to the right—by (1) a butterflies-emblazoned fine china medallion, (2) an intriguing stack of books in mint condition, (3) a delicate and wafer-thin architectural structure, (4) our friend the intrepid detective Tintin, and (5) a spiral-bound set of musical notes that surely belong to an ardent disciple of piano on her way to virtuosity.
Caramba! That was just our first bite of this delicious cake.
What awaits us next?
2. A Bird’s Eye View 🚁
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
– John Keats (in Ode on a Grecian Urn)
Crikey! What a lark SHC is, what a lark, and what a deliciously hefty serving of patterns (in an altogether underserved area of human endeavors.)
3. And From A Higher Yet Altitude 🚀
What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
– John Milton (in Paradise Lost)
The lyrics from a certain Steve Winwood song pummel my memory, intoning missives of a higher love. But I digress.
(But really, some telltale signs detected… Who treads into our pic so stealthily?)
Gotta keep at our appointed task: tackling the cake, bite-by-bite.
4. Going In For A Close-up Now 🎃
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.
– John Keats
Of friendship, of closeness, and of camaraderie—all among the motley crew of books so diverse yet so intertwined—we glimpse at but a reflection in the pic above.
5. Now At Sea, Er, Ground-Level 🐳
And now we find ourselves kneeling down there at the level of our stain-proof berber carpet—good bye to the ethereal heights of the piano top and all that—and peering intently into a decidedly ragtag group of books, with SHC square and center, of course.
6. Chords Of Farewell Now 🎫
As many farewells as be stars in heaven.
– William Shakespeare
We end right where we had started: atop our vaunted piano. And I don’t know about you, but I sure had a good time availing myself of that—yes—altogether delicious cake. Still licking my lips.
This book (SHC) is strikingly original, and its metaphors apt. I have only to glance at the copious highlighting in my copy of the book to be convinced that this one’s a keeper: I’ll be keeping my copy handy, to serve not only as enjoyment, but also as a rich source of ideas (and inspiration) for the essays I sally forth to write and publish around here (with guest contributions coming in all the time.)
With that, farewell. Heave-ho!