A Sensitive Nature, from Descriptive Mentality from the Head Face and Hand by Holmes Whittier Merton, 1899. [x]
She was in contact with with her turmoil and with her ability to survive. How could that be anything less than emotional brilliance?
— From “Debarking” by Lorrie Moore, collected in Bark.
He wished this month had a less military verb for a name. Why March? How about a month named Skip? That could work.
— From “Debarking” by Lorrie Moore, collected in Bark
Detail of The Chocolate Girl, by Jean-Etienne Liotard.
Detail of Marion Collier (née Huxley) by John Maler Collier, 1882-1883.
… no curses seem to deter those readers who, like crazed lovers, are determined to make a certain book theirs. The urge to possess a book, to be its sole owner, is a species of covetousness unlike any other. “A book reads the better,” confessed Charles Lamb … “which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog’s ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins.”
The act of reading establishes an intimate, physical relationship in which all the senses have a part: the eyes drawing words from the page, the ears echoing the sounds being read, the nose inhaling the familiar scent of paper, glue, ink, cardboard or leather, the touch caressing the rough or soft page, the smooth or hard binding, even the taste, at times, when the reader’s fingers are lifted to the tongue … All this, many readers are unwilling to share—and if the book they wish to read is in someone else’s possession, the laws of property are as hard to uphold as those of faithfulness in love. Also, physical ownership becomes at times synonymous with a sense of intellectual apprehension. We come to feel that the books we own are the books we know, as if possession were, in libraries as in courts, nine-tenths of the law; that to glance at the spines of the books we call ours, obediently standing guard along the walls of our room, willing to speak to us and us alone at the mere flick of a page, allows us to say, “All this is mine,” as if their presence alone fills us with their wisdom, without our actually having to labour through their contents.
— From A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel.
Oh, and also: I spent the last two weekends covered in dust. [x]
Above slab: What I’ve been reading in the past few days. (It’s nearly three in the morning, so the sunshine in the photograph is a lie.)
Large crowds made him stifled and irritable. He preferred close company, and kept few friends—to whom he was fiercely loyal, as he was loyal to Anna, in his own way. The intimacy that he felt when he was with her owed chiefly to the fact that a man is never obliged to discuss his whores with other men: a whore is a private matter, a meal to be eaten alone. It was this aloneness that he sought in Anna. She was a solitude for him; and when he was with her, he kept her at a distance.
— From The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
Pritchard knew about whores. The mincing types who pretended shock and spoke in high-pitched voices full of air; the buxom, helpful types who wore draped-elbow sleeves in any season, and called one ‘lad’; the drunkards, greedy and whining, with chipped red knuckles and watery eyes-and then there was the category to which Anna belonged, the unknowable types, by turns limpid and flashing, whose carriage bespoke an exquisite misery, a wretchedness so perfect and so absolute that it manifested as dignity, as calm. Anna Wetherell was more than a dark horse; she was darkness itself, the cloak of it. She was a silent oracle, Pritchard thought, knowing not wisdom, but wickedness—for whatever vicious things one might have done, or said, or witnessed, she was sure to have witnessed worse.
— From The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
It was a private practice, and one he would likely have denied—for how roundly self-examination is condemned, by the moral prophets of our age! As if the self had no relation to the self, and one only looked in mirrors to have one’s arrogance confirmed; as if the act of self-regarding was not as subtle, fraught and ever-changing as any bond between twin souls.
— Walter Moody [of The Luminaries] looks at a mirror.
Disdain was useful. It gave him a fixed sense of proportion, a rightfulness to which he could appeal, and feel secure.
— From The Luminaries
, by Eleanor Catton. [x