Progress?

Gradiva

I felt I was getting on – not lying the stagnant prey of mould and rust, but polishing my faculties and whetting them to a keen edge with constant use.”

Words from Lucy Snowe; I’m reading Villette again, partly because two friends I’ve recommended it to are now reading it, and partly because I seem to need to revisit it once a year.

I submitted my applications last Wednesday, and other than rounding up the last few pieces I can consider them finished.The hard part begins now. I ended up applying to Phil programs at UPenn, Princeton, UMD College Park, U Southern Cali,and Stanford…all very good schools, and all very daunting to think of now that I know someone has my sheaf of papers, reviewing, judging, and summing up.

The papers were quite a task too. Of course I procrastinated for way too long, especially with the writing sample. I was revising a paper I wrote for a preceptorial at SJC, on Leibniz’s concept of apperception. The paper I originally wrote was, of course, too short, too expository, too totally uninvolved with research, and basically too “St. John’s.” With some help on the revisions and re-formatting I finally finished the paper, though there wasn’t too much pride in the final product. So the main worry hinges on the fact that the paper I’ve prepared and provided is a thoughtful exposition of a difficult concept in Leibniz’s later writings on the monad, where the desired paper would be a thoughtful essay describing research into the concept of apperception and an argument stating this or that in conclusion. There’s nothing else I can do but hope that my writing speaks for my quality of thought and analysis, and that the cover page I included convinces any readers that the SJC essay is just as important and valuable as the basic research paper.

In other news, Thanksgiving was a wonderful holiday, complete with a veritable 4-day feast and a lot of family togetherness. I unfortunately caught some no-fun sinus/head cold thing which is now lingering into this week.

I haven’t been reading too much lately, but on my nightstand are the latest issue of Cabinet magazine, Leopardi’s poems, Villette, and the recently-finished Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The latter was a thrilling read; I started the book on a Friday morning and had torn through all ~500 pages by Sunday evening. In the style of Eco, Marquez, and even Ann Radcliffe, it was sordid, amusing and very surprising. Any book about books automatically has my attention, and if it manages to be clever, authentic, and say some things of its own.

As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn't help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.

It was a book that I sunk into, immersing myself in the cadence of image, word and experience. It’s a melodramatic book in many ways, very much in stride with the Gothic tradition, and not quite as erudite as Eco’s novels, but it’s a fun read for a gloomy weekend.