Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ivan Il'ich is DEAD

This April, I'm giving the keynote speech at this year's "The Big Read" in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where the book they, as a community, are going to read is The Death of Ivan Il'ich, by Tolstoy.

I have very mixed feelings about this: On the one hand, I'm honored and delighted to have been asked to give a speech at such an important, public event. "Ivan Il'ich" (as anyone who's taken my lit classes knows) is my favorite work of literature (well, along with Walden).

On the other hand, I'm going to have to figure what the heck I am going to say to a lay audience about a book, the theme of which is (roughly speaking): "You are going to die. A painful, humiliating, terrifying death. Probably a really painful one, too. And, at the moment of death, you will realize that everything you believed was good and pleasant and important were, in fact, the least good, least pleasant, and least important things in the world. Oh, and, there's no redemption. Sorry about that." I mean, this is the book the Heidegger read and said: "If you want to know about the hopelessness of life and the true meaning of death, read this book!"

Not exactly an Oprah Winfrey selection.

Anyway, one way to help me focus on the book, and to communicate with the participants in the Big Read in Illinois, is (you guessed it!) -- a blog! Check it out...

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