Commonplace Book

Quotes. Books. To Remember.

April 2018
Future Home of the Living God. Louise Erdrich
The bird, or whatever it is, seems to be eating both fruit and the insects that would be hovering around the tree and crawling on its bark. A graceful thing with fluid, darting movements, it behaves exactly like a lizard-bird. It is captivating. I find the folding binoculars and watch it for as long as I can. In spite of what this tells me about the fate of living creatures and the world in general, I am lost in contemplation. I have that sense of time folding in on itself, the same tranced awareness I experienced in the ultrasound room. I realize this: I am not at the end of things, but the beginning.

Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading. Lucy Mangan
‘There is hope for a man who never read Malory or Boswell or Tristam Shandy or Shakespeare’s Sonnets,’ C.S. Lewis once wrote. ‘But what can you do with a man who says he “has read” them, meaning he has read them once and thinks that this settles the matter?’ Exactly. The more you read, the more locks and keys you have. Rereading keeps you oiled and working smoothly, the better to let you access yourself and others for the rest of your life.

Conversations on Writing. Ursula Le Guin with David Naimon
Beneath memory and experience, beneath imagination and invention, beneath words, there are rhythms to which memory and imagination and words all move. The writer’s job is to go down deep enough to feel that rhythm, find it, move to it, be moved by it, and let move memory and imagination to find words.

In The Left Hand of Darkness: To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.

March 2018
300 Arguments. Sarah Manguso
Even if I’m writing for no audience, I’m appealing to the audience of all who ever agreed that A is A: all readers who have ever lived.

Turn forty and suddenly you’re too old to die tragically young, but at least you still have a chance of dying fascinatingly old.

Autumn. Karl Ove Knausgaard
The blood flowing through the veins, the grass growing in the soil, the trees, oh the trees swaying in the wind. 

And I can imagine how it will be when what is happening now is over, when the children have moved out, the thought that these were the important years, this is when I was alive. Why didn’t I appreciate it while I had it? Because then, I sometimes think, I hadn’t had it yet. Only what slips through one’s fingers, only what is never expressed in words, has no thoughts, exists completely. That is the price of proximity: you don’t see it. Don’t know that it’s there. Then it’s over, then you see it.

To turn forty is to realise that one’s limitations will last one’s whole life through, but also to know that all the time, whether one likes it or not, and whether one is aware of it or not, new layers are being added to one’s character, a type of knowledge and insight that isn’t directed towards the future, towards what will come to pass or one day be accomplished, but towards the here and now, in the things you do every day, in what you think about them and what you understand of them. That is experience.

Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions. Alberto Manguel
I’ve always loved public libraries but I must confess to a paradox: I don’t feel at ease working in one. I’m too impatient. I don’t like to wait for the books I want… I don’t like being forbidden to write in the margins of the books I borrow. I don’t like having to give back the books if I discover in them something astonishing or precious. Like a greedy looter, I want the books I read to be mine. 

The discovery of the art of reading is intimate, obscure, secret, almost impossible to explain, akin to falling in love, if you will forgive the maudlin comparison. It is acquired by oneself alone, like a sort of epiphany, or perhaps by contagion, confronted by other readers. I don’t know of many more ways. The happiness procured by reading, like any happiness, cannot be enforced.