A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...
Posts tagged "reading"
Daniel Genis spent ten years in prison and read over one thousand books:
He read “In Search of Lost Time” alongside two academic guidebooks, full of notations in French, and a dictionary. He said that no other novel gave him as much appreciation for his time in prison. “Of course, we are memory artists as well…,” he wrote of prisoners in his journal, in the entry on “Time Regained.” “Everyone inside tries to make their time go by as quickly as possible and live entirely in the past,” he said. “But to kill your days is essentially to shorten your own life.” In prison, time was both an enemy and a resource, and Genis said that Proust convinced him that the only way to exist outside of it, however briefly, was to become a writer himself… Later, when he came across a character in a Murakami novel who says that one really has to be in jail to read Proust, Genis said that he laughed louder than he had in ten years.
Murakami might be on to something. The people I know of who’ve read a stupendous amount of books in a certain period of time have lived in a kind of sparse, prison-like existence. When the depression hit, Joseph Campbell moved to a shack outside of Woodstock, New York, and read nine hours a day for five years. When I was 20, I spent 6 months in Cambridge, England living in a room the size of a broom closet, and that’s when I read Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Joyce, etc. (At one point, Genis’s father tells him to read Ulysses in prison, because “he wouldn’t have the willpower to get through it once he became a free man.”) My friend was in the Peace Corps for two years in Africa, and he said all there was to do at night was smoke weed and read. He read a couple hundred books.
Maybe that’s what college should be: two years where your rent is paid and you do nothing but read…
Filed under: reading
1) “I had never had any desire to be a writer. I wanted to be a reader.”
2) “One thing you discover in psychoanalytic treatment is the limits of what you can change about yourself or your life. We are children for a very long time.”
3) “Fortunately, I never recovered from my education, I’ve just carried on with it. If you happen to like reading, it can have a very powerful effect on you, an evocative effect, at least on me. It’s not as though when I read I’m gathering information, or indeed can remember much of what I read. I know the books that grip me, as everybody does, but their effect is indiscernible. I don’t quite know what it is. The Leavisite position, more or less, is that reading certain sentences makes you more alive and a morally better person, and that those two things go together. It seems to me that that isn’t necessarily so, but what is clear is that there are powerful unconscious evocative effects in reading books that one loves. There’s something about these books that we want to go on thinking about, that matters to us. They’re not just fetishes that we use to fill gaps. They are like recurring dreams we can’t help thinking about.”
4) “You can only recover your appetite, and appetites, if you can allow yourself to be unknown to yourself.”
5) “That’s what a life is, it’s the lives you don’t have.”
6) “I hope you read one of my books because it gives you pleasure or because you hate it—you read it for those sorts of reasons—and then you discover what you find yourself thinking, feeling, in the reading of it.”
7) “You can’t write differently, even if you want to. You just have to be able to notice when you are boring yourself.”
8) “Anybody who writes knows you don’t simply write what you believe. You write to find out what you believe, or what you can afford to believe.”
9) “[I]f you live in a culture which is fascinated by the myth of the artist, and the idea that the vocational artistic life is one of the best lives available, then there’s always going to be a temptation for people who are suffering to believe that to become an artist would be the solution when, in fact, it may be more of the problem. There are a number of people whom you might think of as casualties of the myth of the artist. They really should have done something else. Of course some people get lucky and find that art works for them, but for so many people it doesn’t. I think that needs to be included in the picture. Often one hears or reads accounts in which people will say, Well, he may have treated his children, wives, friends terribly, but look at the novels, the poems, the paintings. I think it’s a terrible equation. Obviously one can’t choose to be, as it were, a good parent or a good artist, but if the art legitimates cruelty, I think the art is not worth having. People should be doing everything they can to be as kind as possible and to enjoy each other’s company. Any art, any anything, that helps us do that is worth having. But if it doesn’t, it isn’t.’
(Update: my friend Mark Larson has a great AdamPhillips tag.)