Saturday, February 22, 2014


About 20 years ago, the New York Times Book Review carried a piece by Anatole Broyard, I assume an excerpt from his memoirs. Of it, I remember that he wrote that he did not care to keep books in his bedroom; he had done so in his youth, but his relationship with books had been more erotic back then.

It strikes me that life and books are more exciting when one tries to understand life and books by the light of those books. They are more exciting the way that riding a roller coaster or falling down the steps is exciting--you really aren't in control of what is going on. It is more profitable to read books by the light of life, but it takes years of living that you haven't yet done when you are young. I did not know this when I was 20, of course, but I might have suspected it--I've tended to be wary of books that attract me too much. I wondered about Stoner when I read it, a novel about an unhappy English professor. I could have seen myself teaching English, and certainly I had a talent, as most of us do, for unhappiness; did that make me overrate the novel, I wondered.

(Thanks to Rita Byrne Tull's post for bringing these thoughts to mind.)

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