the meaning of books

March 30, 2019

The written word has taught me to listen to the human voice, much as the great unchanging statues have taught me to appreciate bodily motions. On the other hand, but more slowly, life has thrown light for me on the meaning of books.

 Marguerite Yourcenar

Memoirs of Hadrian

the meaning of books

March 2, 2019

The written word has taught me to listen to the human voice, much as the great unchanging statues have taught me to appreciate bodily motions. On the other hand, but more slowly, life has thrown light for me on the meaning of books.

Marguerite Yourcenar
Memoirs of Hadrian

sum of our dreams

September 13, 2018

sky trees and sea

Books are not only the arbitrary sum of our dreams, and our memory. They also give us the model of self-transcendence. Some people think of reading only as a kind of escape: an escape from the “real” everyday world to an imaginary world, the world of books. Books are much more. They are a way of being fully human.

I’m sorry to have to tell you that books are now considered an endangered species. By books, I also mean the conditions of reading that make possible literature and its soul effects. Soon, we are told, we will call up on “bookscreens” any “text” on demand, and will be able to change its appearance, ask questions of it, “interact” with it. When books become “texts” that we “interact” with according to criteria of utility, the written word will have become simply another aspect of our advertising-driven televisual reality. This is the glorious future being created, and promised to us, as something more “democratic.” Of course, it means nothing less than the death of inwardness – and of the book.

Susan Sontag
Letter to Borges

6th September

Oh, if only I were a magician of the written word, conjuring little gems from the air around me. Instead I am more a Kafka of the taxi cab. An eroticist of disappointment who sees a crack in everything. I am a half-open door onto a room shuttered and dark. I exist in a world where we can’t afford to feed the poor, but will always find money for another war –

What a horrible child I was, too! Aged twelve or thirteen at school our classroom was in a makeshift building called “The Annex”. The room had a lot of windows with views of the playground. We could watch the girls in their short skirts and navy-blue knickers playing netball on Tuesday afternoons. An invigorating experience for recently pubescent young males.

The teacher’s desk at the head of the class was lacking a front board. The female teacher’s who came to take our class had no idea. In summer they tended to sit, legs yawning, most unladylike. From where I sat beside my deskmate Alex we had a totally unrestricted view up their skirts. Consequently, we both became connoisseurs of the silken gusset, and discovered poetry and masturbation together.

Oh, what beastly creatures we were –

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The moor rinsed by a fitful sun on occasion. Rain has fallen for days and days. It has washed away the spiders webs outside the windows, and drowned the tentative flowers beside the footpaths. So much rain. If only it could wash away our sins…?

Down by the standing stones in a miserable drizzle. I hear in my head the sea’s mighty BOOM resounding in that massive blowhole on the headland at Trevone –

If we move away I am going to miss this place. Its ghosts and its echoes.