Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Totally digging books, man

Villette is wearing me down. I knew there was a reason I hadn't finished it before. If Bronte addresses me as "dear reader" one more time I'm throwing the book across the room. (Actually no, because I'm reading most of it through Project Gutenberg)

Here's a passage from the fantabulous Sarah Vowell book Assassination Vacation:

If there is a recurring theme in [President Garfield's] diaries it's this: I'd rather be reading. That might sound dull and perfunctory, but Garfield's book fever was sickness. Take, for example, the commencement address he delivered at his alma mater Hiram College in the summer of 1880. Traditionally, these pep talks to college graduates are supposed to shove young people into the future with a briefcase bulging with infinitive verbs: to make, to produce, to do. Mr. Loner McBookworm, on the other hand, stands up and breaks it to his audience, the future achievers of America, that the price of the supposedly fulfilling attainment of one's personal and professional dream is the irritating way it cuts into one's free time. He tells them,

It has occurred to me that the thing you have enough of, is perhaps the thing that you care for the least and that is your leisure--the leisure you have to think; the leisure you have to be let alone; the leisure you have to throw the plummet into your mind, and sound the depth and dive for things below.

The only thing stopping this address from turning into a slacker parable is the absence of the word "dude."

Ohhhh, so that's how Garfield the cat got his name. I wonder if the late president also craved lasagna and hated Mondays.

Another gem:
...when I'm around strangers, I turn into a conversational Mount St. Helens. I'm dormant, dormant, quiet, quiet, old-guy loners build log cabins on the slopes of my silence and then, boom, it's 1980. Once I erupt, they'll be wiping my verbal ashes off their windshields as far away as North Dakota.

Bring up the subject of film censorship in a conversation with me for a similar effect.

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