“What’s bitten him?”

ONE

If you like to explore knowledge and history of men, you probably, like me, from time to time choose a field and dig it completely with excitement – you draw maps, you read, you try to find your own gold nuggets.

What’s bitten him?

John Ford’s cinema, or Kurozawa, or Brian de Palma. Or a painter : Hopper or Da Vinci, or Monet. Music ? Ravel or Shostakovich? Churchill, Lincoln, a French king? An architect, a poet? Faulkner?

Exploring is a joy. Books, conversations, documentaries, Internet. It’s like a map or a puzzle you complete little by little.

At one moment, “vous avez fait le tour”, as we say in French, you finished to turn around it : all angles. You have your little trunk, full of treasures. From time to time you like to complete it, to add a book…

TWO

But some fields, some characters are continents, it’s too much, too complex to examine all angles… Why?

  • Because the subject is too big. Choose Puccini or Orson Welles, you’ll be OK. But study the US Revolution, Napoléon, or the Italian Renaissance, and you’re dead.
  • ..
  • Because the subject has too many links. It happened to me with the US Civil War. I read about Lincoln, slavery, battles, Indian natives, daily life at this time, consequences in Europa, “just after the war”, black problems in the XXth century…
  • ..
  • Because a personality or his art is too complex to understand completely. Manet in painting (a constant flow of paradoxes and possibilities), Mahler in classical music (not that “hard” to listen, but with so many facets and complexities), probably Proust in literature…
  • ..

THREE

All this is a bit fractal, too : you can pick up a very tiny subject and explore it very well and so precisely that it becomes… infinite.

  • A tiny subject can be an “dot”. One movie director from Norway. The diary of your grandmother. An unknown painter from Provence.
  • It also could be a slight slice of a big event. One day in Germany during the WWII. A single battle of the Revolutionary War.
  • Something besides. You like Stravinsky? Then you could study his influence.
  • A much less known artist, or political man, or geographic place. Try Koechlin in French music. Or the guy who helped Lincoln with trains during the war. Study the city of Baku, in Azerbaijan.
  • Choose another angle. Instead of exploring Tolstoï, read about his wife. Don’t study Communism, but the Mccarthysm againts movie makers, the life of John Reed, or daily life in USSR’s during collectivization.
  • Move a cursor : don’t read about the Russian Revolution but how was the daily life there twenty years before.

There’s a danger of being stuck for your whole life : the subject your chose is so enthralling that you’ll never quit it.

FOUR

What subject(s) did you choose? Why? Did it end quickly or did you stay for years? Do you wait to have more time to attack a big one?

Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on ““What’s bitten him?”

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