Special: Books, Readers, and Writers
Book love is your pass to the greatest, the purest and the most perfect pleasure that God has prepared for His creatures.
All books are either dreams or swords, you can cut, or you can drug, with words.
If I were a writer, how I would enjoy being told the novel is dead. How liberating to work in the margins, outside a central perception. You are the ghoul of literature. Lovely.
To have access to literature, world literature, was to escape the prison of national vanity, of philistinism, of compulsory provincialism, of inane schooling, of imperfect destinies and bad luck. Literature was the passport to enter a larger life; that is, the zone of freedom.
Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a ****load of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but, Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.
Dave Eggers, in "The Harvard Advocate"
People do not understand what it costs in time and suffering to learn how to read. I have been working at it for eighty years, and I still can't say that I've succeeded.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
You could write it all on a postage stamp: "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin. Your official reality is a lie. We must love each other or die.” I suppose any writer who transcends conventional literature is religious insofar as he does transcend it. That is why you can never actually base an educational system on the "Hundred Best Books.” A hundred of the truest insights into life would destroy any educational system and its society along with it.
Kenneth Rexroth, The Reality Of Henry Miller
This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty... what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off-key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse....
Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
Printer's ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries.
I know from my own experience that to be accurate, language must always usurp something that doesn't belong to it. I keep asking myself what makes verbal images such thieves, why the most apt comparison appropriates qualities that don't belong to it. To get closer to reality we need to catch the imagination unawares. Only when one perception plunders another, when an object snatches material that belongs to another and starts to exploit it—only when things that in reality are mutually exclusive become plausible in a sentence can the sentence hold its own against reality.
The Space between Languages
translated from the German by Julia Sherwood
Thus, poets were always "pagans," which was why Blake said Milton was of the devil's party but he didn't know it. The devil is, after all, not the devil at all, he is the miming elk shaman dancer at Trois Frieres, with elk antlers and a pelt on his back, and what he's doing has to do with animal fertility in the springtime. At very bottom is the question, "how do you prepare your mind to become a singer." How to prepare your mind to be a singer. An attitude of openness, inwardness, gratitude; plus meditation, fasting, a little suffering, some rupturing of the day-to-day ties with the social fabric.
Tis the good reader that makes the book; in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakenly meant for his ear; the profit of all books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Success
Both bee and oyster, indeed, take so much trouble over their works that one finds the geography books saying: ‘the oysters of Tinevelly yield the most beautiful pearls on the Indian market’, or ‘The bees of Hymettus produce the sweetest honey in the world.’ From this it is only a step to the ridiculous assumption that the oyster is mainly concerned with satisfying the Bombay pearl merchants’ love of beauty; and the bees in delighting gourmets at the world’s at the world’s most expensive restaurants. The same assumption, almost equally ridiculous, is made about poets.
...unless he despises his fellow-men, he will not deny them the pleasure of reading what he has written while inspired by the Muse, once it has served his purpose of self-information.
Robert Graves, from The Poet And His Public
Quixote is one of the most exquisite books that was ever written, and to lose it from the world's literature would be as the wresting of a constellation from the symmetry and perfection of the firmament--but neither it nor Shakespeare are proper books for virgins to read until some hand has culled them of their grossness.
Letter to Livy, 3/1/1869