I am forced to answer a question whose answer I’ve always taken for granted all this time : Do you have to be able to fully understand a book to appreciate it as a work of art ?. I reckoned that the answer must be yes. Boy, was I wrong.
Confessions is a difficult work. De Quincey apparently did not try very hard to make himself as readable as possible. Instead, he resorted to a strange method where he seemingly just recorded whatever happened in his head. The proverbial flight-of-ideas, so to speak. I did not relish this at all when I first tried to read this. His ramblings are so difficult to follow, and sometimes even incoherent.
But then it dawned on me that this is exactly where the genius of Confessions is located. It succeeded excellently in giving me a picture of how exactly a mind of an addict work : frantically. It forces me to challenge the way I comprehend good literatures so far. It disturbed me.
If there is one thing I complain about Confessions; it would be its unattachment from reality. While the journaling-style of writing fits neatly his intention to document his thoughts as an addict, I seriously doubt whether this book will appeal greatly to the greater part of readers. Always philosophical in nature, his ramblings are sophisticated, to say the least. At worst, imagine studying philosophy when you’re stoned on marijuana or something. Anyone who ever went to school surely can imagine what a humongous task it would make.
A good work indeed, but not recommended for those who gets tired easily on long discourses about Philosophy. Oh, and while you’re at it, I also lament the fact that de Quincey spent so many pages in descrying Coleridge and praising Wordsworth. It’s too much, methinks. But then again, maybe it was his intention ? 🙂