I Visit The Great Books of the Western World in My Local Library
I visited the South Australia State Library on North Terrace, with excitement in my belly. I was off to visit the Great Books of the Western World. To my astonishment, the State Library didn’t have the books. The librarian looked it up for me at Adelaide University Library website, and found them in the marvellous Barr-Smith Library.
I zipped behind the State Library, across the State Gallery grounds, down the physics building carpark and carried the bike down four steps to then cruise along the main side street of Adelaide University on my bike, my long blonde hair flying in the wind, feeling fairly astonishingly great.
I trotted down two flights of stairs and circled around the stacks of books, sneezing a little in the dust, til I found them… the complete collection of the Great Books of the Western World.
I sat cross legged beside them. The Great Books are nestled beside the stairwell window, so as I settled in I glanced up and got nice view of the young people’s legs as they sashayed upstairs and downstairs, adding significantly to the sensual pleasure of the finely printed and bound hardcover classics. I read the reading plan introduction, taking notes, rephrasing key points, and soaking up the glorious insights.
Gradually I entered a heightened state; I sat cross legged there forgetting myself completely until my legs went numb. An hour must have passed.
Then I took the books entitled “The Great Conversation” by Hutchins and “The Syntopicon, Volume One” by Adler, and went and sat down. I kept expecting someone to walk by and see me sitting there glowing and exhilarated almost out of my body and demand I leave shouting “No intellectual joy allowed here, sir!”
I read the entire “Great Conversation” book. It was irresistible; compelling. Among our contemporaries, where else can you find genuinely timeless erudition? It’s almost unknown, a forgotten excellence. And Hutchins made it seem effortless. Most remarkable, perhaps his brilliance really is effortless.
Imagine talking to such a man in person. I counted the great authors and came to 73 men (excluding the trio who wrote the US constitution; Jefferson alone suffices.) I imagined a great shadowy vault of a room where these men sat and conversed together through the ages, and the world outside the portals and the eaves of this quiet room trembled to their words. I imagined this and my body fairly shook with gratitude.
I started on the syntopicon with the essays on "Angel" and "Animal". I almost made myself late for my evening appointment reading - it was a huge rush to get to Glenelg on bike in 35 minutes. And I suspect as soon as my present batch of book reviews is done I will be spending a LOT more time by the window to the stairwell in the State Library.