Tag Archives: Levity

Marginalia, no.269

The white blackbird exists, but it is so white that it cannot be seen, and the black blackbird is only its shadow.

~ Jules Renard, Journals

Platonism is more than the instinct that things might be better. It’s the insistence that in fact they are better: it’s just that things at their best are invisible. This becomes a handy notion, allowing me to claim the superlative qualities of the ideal person I imagine myself to be, while still allowing me, when I fail in one respect or another, to blame my shadow.

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Marginalia, no.13

Every reader exists in order to assure for a certain book a modest immortality.

~ Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

How’s that for a raison d’être? Consider it a twist on Aristophanes’ explanation for the origin of the sexes in the Symposium. Were the reader and the book primordially one? Manguel doesn’t say. But rather than living to search the world for that other half we were born to love, we live to search the stacks for that “certain book” we were born to read.

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Marginalia, no.7

Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity.

~ Robert Louis Stevenson, An Apology for Idlers

I like to think that I have a deep but sadly unexploited faculty for idleness (which, by the way, is something quite different than a tendency toward boredom). In fact, I could do with a lot more idleness in my life, but sometimes we choose busyness and sometimes busyness chooses us.

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Marginalia, no.2

In these days in which we live, when existence has become a thing of infinite complexity and fate, if it slips us a bit of goose with one hand, is pretty sure to give us the sleeve across the windpipe with the other, it is rarely that we find a human being who is unmixedly happy… A severe indictment of our modern civilization, but it can’t say it didn’t ask for it.

~ P.G. Wodehouse, Uncle Dynamite

His most blistering critique of the age. I wonder, is Wodehouse one of those writers whose books are so of a piece that a fellow who has read one or two can arguably claim to “know” him? The alternative is daunting: you’d have to read forty-six of them just to cross half-way mark.

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