I hit page 173 of Capital in the Twenty-First Century just over a week ago, and I haven’t picked it up since. I’ve already written about the burden of unfinished books and their reverse Melvillian effects on me. You might think that this one, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, would be added to that stack of shame. But it’s not. Because, in this case, it’s just a matter of me finally admitting to myself that I have no clue what is going on in this book. I was with Piketty through the introduction, and I was there for about 40% of “Part One: Income and Capital.” But I’ve just gotten progressively more lost as I worked through “Part Two: The Dynamics of the Capital/Income Ratio.” I’m almost to the end of Part Two (if 60 pages counts as “almost”), but it’s not looking good. There’s still 400 pages left in the book! No way, bro. I can’t make it.
Which put me in a little bit of a panic after I came to terms with not understanding any of it: what do I read next? There was a panicked text to Canelli about whether he was doing GR or Brothers Karamazov in July, and there was a discussion with the roommate M about her recommendations. Amanda has suggested Purple Hibiscus by one of her favorite writers, Chimamanda NGozi Adichie. I’m mulling it over. But while I mull it over, I started in on an old book I picked up at one of the Enoch Pratt Free Library book sales, Robert S. Gottfried’s The Black Death.* It’s been a quick, easy, and fascinating read so far, and I’ve almost finished it. (Don’t trust those reviews on Amazon that claim it’s too technical. Those people are weak and inveterately lazy-minded.) After that, I might pick up and reread an old college textbook, Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity, Volume I. It’s an old book from back when I thought about minoring in Religious Studies 20 years ago, and I’m inspired to reread it after our recent trip to the Vatican.
Or I’ll just wait until Canelli gets here next week and have him pick between GR and Brothers Karamazov, getting started on “the big summer read.”
* Page 42, quoting Ibn Khaldun, North Africa: “It is as if the voice of existence in the world had called out for oblivion and restriction and the world responded to its call.”