There are five extraordinarily difficult and high-stake things happening right now which would each in themselves be enough to make me feel put upon, and that's on top of the normal work of being an intellectually curious breadwinning family woman. Fucking five. And I am only fully enthusiastic about one of them. I'm not fully unenthusiastic about any of them, so that's something. But I'm extremely fucking unenthusiastic about this degree of sustained stress. We are close to the apogee at the moment, and will hit it over the next month, and by September I hope to be reasonably human again. It makes me wonder how people with real problems cope. Sometimes they don't, I suppose.
I'm making a conscious effort to take care of myself mentally and physically through all this, with more or less success; still lots of phone-gazing and the occasional pre-menstrual sugar rampage. One thing that has been absolutely marvellous is Alessandro Barbero. He speaks and writes with so much welcoming, inviting enthusiasm about whatever he's speaking or writing about, which hasn't been my experience of Italian intellectuals before, either because I was paying attention to the wrong ones, or I wasn't paying enough attention, or because there is indeed a strong Ivory Tower syndrome there. In any case the Italian language has some built-in barriers to the uneducated, which certainly includes me when it comes to Italian.
Anyways. Barbero speaks and, often, writes in a way that is extremely accessible and welcoming to people like me, and for the past six months his books have been my bedtime reading. The books come in three categories: academic, conversational - almost a transcript of his lectures - and somewhere in between. The conversational books are no mental effort to read, linguistically. The academic ones send me off to sleep in half a page. And the ones that are in-between are perfectly relaxing. Very engaging but also, structurally, complex enough that after ten or so pages I'm floating in and out of meditative consciousness.
I'm wrapping up his history of Charlemagne right now; one of the in-between ones, and it's amazing. A history rather than a biography - details about the man himself but firmly contextualized in his time, organized by theme rather than chronologically. I was never particularly interested in Charlemagne as a person or subject, but I find myself during the day looking forward to bedtime and reading. Same thing with his Frederick II biography, which is conversational - on a scale of one to ten, my interest in Frederick II was never more than three, but I couldn't put that little book down.
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