Sunday, February 13, 2011

Aliteracy, fraternite, egalite

The first magazine in the U. S. was published on this day in 1741.

"I see no point in reading." -- Louis XIV of France (1638-1715).

He’d taken to reading early on, as a way of filling up time. But beyond that, a good reader and a good book could create a world unto itself, and shut out the real one. He’d been a good reader, however, only at times. For the most part it had been a mere habit, an unhealthy one at that it seemed to him now. All those ill-read books! He’d gone through thousands of them, most of them no more than a title now, if not utterly forgotten. What did he remember, say, of Moby Dick or Madame Bovary? “The heartless voids and immensities of the universe.” That was Melville, wasn’t it? Or was it Flaubert? The universe was as inhospitable to Emma as it was to Ishmael, equally cruel, capricious and senseless on land or at sea. That was what he’d carried away from books. The inscrutable pointlessness of life. The hostility it had in store for us. A hero or heroine, brimming with hope and good will, sets out in a novel to engage with life, prepared for a skirmish, for its inevitable bumps and bruises, and ends up crushed, demolished.

Life took you where it would, but who needed books to learn that?  --  Chapter 22, The Misforgotten

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