Sunday, February 13, 2011

The bell of recognition

Random quotations from my reading this week, all of which struck a special chord. These first three are from Main Street by Sinclair Lewis:

"'When I die, the world will be annihilated, as far as I'm concerned.'"
This one perfectly captures the horror that grips us when we consider our own mortality, the fear that swings us into carpe diem, the bittersweetness of realizing how short life is.

"She had the neophyte's shock of discovery that, outside of tracts, conservatives do not tremble and find no answer when an iconoclast turns on them, but resort with agility and confusing statistics."
(In this quote, "conservative" doesn't necessarily mean politically conservative, but any adherent of the status quo.) This one makes me laugh. How often have we believed we could bring someone over to our way of thinking with an argument that seems so obvious to us, crystalline in its flawlessness! And how often has our opponent in the debate failed to yield, expressing the argument in entirely different terms.

"'What if you do drop back? You'll have had the adventure. Don't be too meek toward life! Go! ... Try everything!"
Here, one character urges another to try his wings and follow his dreams. He can't really lose, this statement says--because even if he doesn't succeed, he'll know his capacity. He'll never have to wonder.

This is why I read and write: to find the sentences that make me feel communion with another mind. Even if it's the mind of someone I've never met.

Finally, this writerly one is from the journals of Sylvia Plath, a caution against overusing one's thesaurus:
"... I believe in not being Roget's trollop, parading words and tossing off bravado for an audience."

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