September 12, 2012

Couple Snippets from a Online Read

Found Sven Birkerts, bibliophile::
Here in my house I am surrounded by books, books I have read and books I intend to read, many of which have been in the same spot on the shelf for years, my gaze sweeping over them day after day until they metamorphose into a kind of protruding wallpaper. They recede, becoming what they were before they were first singled out: possibilities. They need to be singled out again in order to be seen. They need to be touched, stirred, their narrow profiles turned to full face. It takes so little. A few minutes of shelf reorganization can create a sudden surprise abundance. Look! I’ll make for one book and walk away with three. Or some wires will cross somewhere in the life and create a happy inadvertency, one of those charmed short-circuitings we file under “chance.” Association brushes against need. It remains mysterious, how a book slowly amasses urgency and at the right moment pounces, finding one of its intended readers, who feels as though there are no others.

...

I did not rush out to read everything else of Sebald’s. I was afraid to dilute the wisdom, my sense of discovery, with more work that might be similar. Maybe for that reason, The Rings of Saturn became one of the books that is still charged with electricity for me. While I walk past most of my books daily without really registering them, there are like this one a few exceptions. Books that I notice because they confirm me; that extend a promise of futurity that I don’t think I could ever explain to anyone. Benjamin’s Illuminations, Joseph Brodsky’s Watermark, Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida, some of the novels of Javier MarĂ­as, Nabokov’s Speak, Memory . . . But I’d best not start on lists. Only say that these are the books I relate to via the gestures of private ritual. It is enough for me to pick out their spines as I walk through the room to my desk.

...

No matter—I had the book. What a satisfaction. Within minutes I had pushed the rest of the irrelevant world aside and settled myself into my favorite chair with the good lamp switched on bright. I remember reading somewhere how animals will obsessively lick their fresh-killed prey, making it fully their own before they take it apart with fangs and claws. I was like that now, inspecting the author photo, blurbs, copyright page, epigraphs or dedications (none of either), all that random eye-grazing which is just my way of tuning up to read.

...

The Russian writer Viktor Shklovsky said that art exists ‘to make the stone stony.’”

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How do we decide after just a few pages of prose whether or not to invest ourselves? I have turned away from so many books that I know are important and beautifully written because the prose was not then suiting me—too this, too that, rhythmically jarring, discursive when that was not what I was looking for, too terse for my melancholy, too serious for my whimsies . . . It seems the older I get, the greater are the odds against a ready mesh. Have I really become so finicky? What I increasingly want is an experience so customized I will finally have no choice but to create it myself, though there is no more joy in reading your own prose than in kissing the side of your hand and pretending it’s your beloved.

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