“Traveling without moving your feet” is how Jhumpa Lahiri described what reading can be.
Since actual traveling is one of my favorite activities, I had to make major adjustments
since March of last year. For the past 12 months, my ‘travels’ have been exclusively
mental ones – through reading. I am happy to report, though, that this kind of travel
can be rich and exciting, especially when shared with others. While nothing can replace
the presence of real people sitting around a table, Zoom has made it possible for
me to discuss books with people who I know to be just as obsessed with ‘cosmic’ questions
as I am, or just as intrigued by weird and quirky works in the utopian tradition –
even though some of these people are in different countries now.
We spent several weeks reading Timothy Ferris’s Coming of Age in the Milky Way – a truly magnificent tour through the history of science that, though scrupulously
researched, is accessible to any curious reader.
In the fiction department, Eco’s Island of the Day Before and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go made for great discussion [with lots of connections made to works from the Honors
I was also happy for the opportunity to re-read some favorites from my high school
days; my generous Zoom-Book-Club friends had heard of – and read some works by – Rainer
Maria Rilke and Thomas Mann; but The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge [Rilke’s only novel] and Mann’s The Magic Mountain [about the same length as Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which means - not frequently read in its entirety] were books they had not read.
It has been a joy to be able to travel through fictional worlds or the history of
ideas, and to have company along the way.