There are few things I'm confident about in life. Confidence suggests a measure of control over events and only a fool believes in measures. But one thing I'm confident about, because experience has taught me to be, is that the right book will appear in my life when I need it. Today I am, as I was yesterday, and will no doubt be tomorrow, sick to the bone of my hard-earned capacity for understanding and for rational and thoughtful behavior and opinions. I'm pining for the days when my reason was so underdeveloped my anger stormed through it like a runaway truck through a school playground. I have been near tears while I wonder when was it I left the ignorant shadowed wilderness that had tended me for so long, only to trap myself in the village square of reason.
So what book do I pick up from the mountain of books that shadow my every step? Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard is a single 156-page spit-filled paragraph of invective delivered by a suicidal musicologist as he sits before Tintoretto's White-Beared Man in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The ranter, Reger, says things such as Bruckner only produced musical garbage and Heidegger looked and acted like a bloated staff officer and was a charlatan who never wrote a line that wasn't repulsive. And that is when he's getting started. There seems to be no limit to his anger and disregard for humans, and as it becomes clear he's using his bile to save his life it made me reconsider even more darkly my life-long struggle to be reasonable. Maybe what I thought was a victory, what I had told myself I wanted so long, was actually the foolish extinguishing of the angry heart that drove me. Bernhard is forcing me to ask: Without the anger what am I left with? Today, it doesn't seem like much.