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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Reflections on a summer in the books

"And the fever called living ... is conquered at last.” It will be extremely pompous and presumptuous of me to begin my first column of the semester with a randomly—albeit exceptionally brilliant—selected sentence from a poem that you may or (probably) may not be aware of. But then again, where’s the fun in not doing something like that?

It’s tough writing the first column for the semester. So much agonizing and deliberation goes into it; do I make that particular crude joke, or expand on that condescending remark? Do I perhaps impart some maniacal literary wisdom or just ridicule humanity as it should be? These are the hard questions and you can well imagine that the struggle is all too real.

Don’t get me wrong, I did ask for help and ideas, as much as it galled and I received an array of them—from writing about how to read during your busy semester to stuff that you must read despite your busy semester. Are you sensing a pattern here? Yeah, my friends aren’t an imaginative lot. I, magnanimous person that I am, made sure that they were all gleefully informed of their complete and utter lack of brilliance. Therefore, in lieu of keeping up with tradition and giving the good people of this school what they really actually want, I decided to write about myself. You’re welcome.

My summer began with a Classical Greek Mythology class that introduced me to a huge litany of Greek literature that sadly I still hadn’t dabbled in, as yet. I was well versed in the gist of all Greek myths—no thanks to you, “Clash of the Titans” and the even worse sequels that followed—but I can’t say that I had ever actually read many of them. Well, now I can. I’ve actually met a few people in my life who have named “The Odyssey” as their absolute favorite book of all time. For the life of me, I can not understand why. Don’t jump to conclusions here, I do not in any way deny its poetical uniqueness, unparalleled metaphors or superb manipulation of words.

My lackluster enthusiasm was a result of the excessive drama. Admittedly, one might say that that’s what Homer and Greek literature by very definition is all about, however there’s only too many incestuous relations, petty gods, vengeful women and mutant hybrid children I can stomach. I will graciously admit though that reading “The Odyssey,” “Homeric Hymns,” Euripides and quite a few others was an experience nonetheless, and something no self-respecting avid reader should overlook. Leaving the best for last, my favorite was “Metamorphoses” for the sheer absurdness and twisted tales it had to offer. Respect.

Thanks to an unrivaled birthday present, I also happened to revisit the entire work and collection of one of my favorite poets of all time, Edgar Allan Poe. It may be somewhat of a cliche—and for good reason, I might add—but I’ve always enjoyed “The Raven” as Poe’s best poetic work. However, because of a well-timed and intriguingly put suggestion, I spent a lot of time with “For Annie” this summer. You may assume by the title, and rightly so, that it is a love poem, but it is only by reading it countless times that you are able to look at every line as a lonesome stroke of scintillation—the one quoted earlier is proof enough of that.

I also stumbled upon Louis Kent’s “Declensions of the Air” during my first visit to the heavenly smelling bookstore Browzers located on State Street. Apart from the fact that this edition of the book was old and smelled like something Hermione Granger would envision in response to Felix Felicis, it held a collection of poems perfect for summertime. It has always been a source of awe for me; how poetry is spun together by employing words that are regularly tossed around us, yet what these poets manage to do with those words—that we ordinary beings never can—is nothing short of magical. “O let us on the embracing dead; build no eternities, but lying; close, close, deny the rule of dying; and die together in one bed.”

If the smell of must and aging paper is something that hits the sweet spot for you—no judgement here, we’re actually a cult—make sure you make the time while strolling down State Street during your very busy and happening schedule of guzzling pumpkin spice lattes to make a stop at Paul’s and Browzers bookshops. God forbid you might actually buy a real book and read it—stranger things have happened.

Can you think of a summer must-read Maham missed? Let her know at mhasan4@wisc.edu.

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