In the middle of my journey, I picked up Paradise Lost. I did so out of embarrassment, a dutiful feeling that I must at least try to read it, finish it even, before the dark evening of my life. It had sat for years on my bookshelf, a pristine copy of the Norton Critical Edition, its purple cover framing a Renaissance-era portrait of Adam and Eve in front of the Tree. Having fallen sadly out of the habit of reading serious literature, I needed an easy goal as an inducement to begin, so I promised myself I would read one page a day. As it turned out, it took me six months to finish, the longest and most intense period I had ever committed to any book.

As I learned, Paradise Lost may be sui generis, but Milton demands that one write about it; that one acknowledge, not in a merely celebratory, but in a collaborative way, its profound...


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