Deep and Narrow

In defending Beckett from a bitchy put-down, Patrick Kurp of Anecdotal Evidence states:

Had Beckett read only Dante, Milton, Swift and Johnson (odd that Donoghue does not include Shakespeare and Joyce), and read them deeply and across a lifetime, he would qualify as “immensely learned.” Of course, Beckett didn’t stop there. Few writers have woven their learning so inextricably into the texture of their work.

I am struck by the romance of being “immensely learned” from reading narrowly but deeply. How many authors, I wonder, would fit into this ultra-narrow literary canon if one was restricted to four or five choices?

Are there a handful of living authors, four or five, that one could read deeply over a lifetime and be considered learned?

8 thoughts on “Deep and Narrow

  1. >I couldn’t answer your question, but I’m glad to have found your blog.I need to read Beckett again, it’s been too long.Cheers from Philadelphia.

  2. >As to living authors one could read over the course of a life time in terms of this criteria I know many will not agree but I would say Thomas Pynchon for sure. Maybe A S Byatt, Anita Brookner, and the recently passed Penelope Fitzgerald.

  3. >mel: I've only dipped into each of those authors and cannot claim any deep knowledge. I'm eager to try Penelope Fitzgerald. Is there any particular work that you would think definitive? My reading of Pynchon is selective: I don't read everything.

  4. >On Penelope Fitzgerald, I would start with "The Bookshop", then read "Off Shore" then what most consider her best work "The Blue Flower". To me her story is inspiring in that she published her first book at 60 then published 8 more novels and three works of nonfiction. All of her books are short and painless reads.

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