Monday, April 01, 2013

Understanding where our interests come from

I've just re-read Frank Schaefer's The Scapeweed Goat (review to follow), which I first read more than 20 years ago. Actually, I imagine it was in 1991. That is when the UK paperback was published, and at that time I was a stock librarian, part of whose job was to read new books as they were published. Hell of a job eh? And I gave it up....

Anyway, I remembered absolutely nothing of the novel, except that it was set in rural America and I loved it. Absolutely none of the plot stayed with me.

Having re-read it, I'm fairly astonished by the subject matter. It's pretty much everything that I'm currently interested in - the role of religion in society, the nature of evil, whether it is inherent in humanity, the possibility or otherwise of a Rousseauian escape to the past. There are even "noble savages" in it (Rousseau's term) and the society they found is called New Rousseau.

What I find remarkable is that, in 1991, I would have sworn I had no particular interest in those subject areas. I would argue till I'm blue in the face that my interest in these matters has emerged over the past 10 years at most, six or seven more likely. And yet, here is this novel that I remember reading voraciously, and it deals with precisely these matters.

Now the question is, I suppose, was it this book which, unknown to me, actually fed my interest in the subject matter, so that it emerged more fully in years to come? Or is it that you are always pretty much preoccupied with the same things, but it's just that it takes a while for them to coalesce in your thinking? Did The Scapeweed Goat establish my interest in the subject, or did it just pique what was already there?

No comments: