A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 28 February 2008

This Reading Life (1)

For as long as I can remember during my reading life I've always kept a spiral-bound notebook next to me me in which to write down quotations and passages I've found memorable or inspirational from the books I've been reading at the time. In this way you get the really meaningful pieces which hit a personal note through one's own serendipitous exploration of books rather than the anthologized quotes which recur everywhere. I thought it might be fun to look through my notebooks today and revisit some of them...

There is a certain amount of kindness, just as there is a certain amount of light... We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things, because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine. (From E. M. Forster's A Room With A View)

I see that I have written out so many short extracts from Boris Pasternak's magnificent novel Doctor Zhivago that I can only quote a few...

Men who are not free... always idealise their bondage.

The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant, systematic duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. Your nervous system isn't a fiction, it's a part of your physical body, and your soul exists in space and is inside you, like the teeth in your head. You can't keep violating it with impunity.

He realised, more vividly than ever before, that art has two constant, two unending preoccupations: it is always meditating upon death and it is always thereby creating life.

...the misfortune of having average taste is a great deal worse than that of having no taste at all.

The great but disturbing short story writer H.H.Munro ('Saki') observed this in his deliciously wicked story Filboid Studge, The Story Of a Mouse That Helped...

...people will do things from a sense of duty which they would never attempt as a pleasure.

And from Virginia Woolf's The Waves I see I have highlighted this short sentence...

I begin to long for some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on the pavement.

Finally from Steinbeck's classic The Grapes Of Wrath...

There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do. It's all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain't nice, but that's as far as any man got a right to say.

I know this is pure self-indulgence, and probably says far too much dark stuff about the innermost workings of my psyche.. But what the hell!

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