How Nietzsche Turned me into a Reader

Hey! Nietzsche!I’m not really interested in giving people a quick introduction; I tend to mix my personal life, humour, sarcasm and knowledge into my book reviews and blog posts. However I do want to kick off talking about the book that turned me into a reader.  It wasn’t until 2009 that I discovered the joys of books and reading and something inside me clicked and I wanted to consume every book I saw. This life changing event was all because of one book, an Australian non-fiction title called Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by Craig Schuftan.

At the time I listened to a lot of music and would have cited AFI, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, and so on as some of my favourite bands. In face I was right into the music that was been played on Triple J. Craig Schuftan was a radio producer at Triple J at the time and there was a short show he made for the station called The Culture Club. In this show he would talk about the connection rock and roll has to art and literary worlds. Friedrich Nietzsche was claiming, “I am no man, I am dynamite” well before AC/DC’s song TNT.

That was a real revelation for me and I picked up Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! (subtitled; The Romantic Movement, Rock and Roll, and the End of Civilisation as We Know It) and began reading it. However it didn’t stop there; this book connected the so called ‘emo’ movement with The Romantic Movement, I never thought these bands would have anything in common with the greats like Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley or John Keats but I had to find out.

Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by  Craig Schuftan ended up taking half a year to complete; not because I was a slow reader but I wanted to know more,and  I read poetry by Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, and researched online. I picked up books like Frankenstein (an obsession of mine), Dracula and Wuthering Heights just because they were mentioned. This was a weird turn in my life but my growing thirst for knowledge became an obsession with reading. I have now set a life goal to read everything on the 1001 Books you must read before you die list.

It is weird to think one book can have such a huge impact on my life but I credit Craig Schuftan (and my wife) for such a positive improvement in my life. I will eventually read Craig Schuftan’s books The Culture Club: Modern Art, Rock and Roll and other stuff your parents warned you about and Entertain Us!: The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties but I’ve put them off because I suspect the same amount of research will be involved.

Has a book had such a positive impact in your life? I would love to know in the comments. Also are there any other books that explore the connections between art and literature with pop-culture?

More poetic musings

Today, there are two books I want to write about — The Norton Anthology of Poetry and The World’s Contracted Thus.

The Norton Anthology of Poetry. If you look it up on the Boomerang Books database, you’ll see that it’s up to its fifth edition, published in 2005. I own a copy of the third edition, published in 1983. It’s a second-hand copy I purchased for Lit at Uni, back in the late 1980s.

The Norton Anthology of Poetry. It’s a BIG book! The third edition runs to 1452 pages, and is chock full of … yep, you guessed it… poetry. 🙂 Starting with anonymous verses from the 13th Century, it finishes with the mid-20th Century poetry of Leslie Marmon Silko.

But before Norton’s, I owned The World’s Contracted Thus — a shorter anthology of poetry with a mere 386 pages. The second edition was published in 1983 and covers roughly the same time-period as Norton’s, but in less depth. My parents bought it for me in 1984 for high school Literature.

I have never read either of these books from cover to cover, and I doubt I ever will. Back in high school, I wouldn’t be caught dead even glancing at any poems other than those that were required reading. When at Uni, I would occasionally seek out a few more by any poet we were studying in depth. Since Uni, these two anthologies have become the sort of book that I’ll occasionally take down from the shelf to do one of three things with…

1. Randomly select a page and read whatever poem happens to be there. This can be rather interesting.

2. Select a poem I know I like, but have not read in ages, and re-read it. And there are LOTS of really good poems within these books. Let me quote a few of my favourites.

“To his Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

But at my back I always hear
Times winged Charriot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lye
Desarts of vast Eternity.

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Looks upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

“Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The Latin translates as “Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country.”

“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

There are so may more — from “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (1812-1889), to “An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow” by Les Murry (b.1938). I could go on and on. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll move on to point three…

3. Research. Yes, I have occasionally needed to quote a poem in something that I am writing. The first time I did this was with my very first book, a YA short story collection called Life, Death and Detention. The final story in that book, “The Writing’s On The Wall”, is about a person engaging in some creative graffiti, which includes poetry. And so I got to include my all time favourite lines of verse, from William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”…

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

More recently, I got to quote these exact same lines in a novelette called The Bookworm Mystery, in which a couple of kids follow clues left in library books as they search for treasure.

I’m sure I’ll continue to quote poetry in the future. Keep reading Literary Clutter and you’ll probably see me doing it here again, some time.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… where I rarely quote poetry.

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