Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What I'm Reading: Vol. 11

I've slowed down significantly in my reading lately. I keep starting books, getting bored, starting another, getting bored with that, and so on. I finally finished An American Childhood, another Annie Dillard book. I got about halfway through Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and though I enjoyed it, I think I need a break from seriousness. As mentioned in The Writing Life, Dillard's writing is full of anecdotes and beautiful descriptions, but there is always a note of Truth that can be exhausting after awhile. I feel like I need to read something silly and trivial.

via Harper Collins
There were a few sections that stuck with me.


On Knowledge*:
If even rock was interesting, if even this ugliness was worth whole shelves at the library, required sophisticated tools to study, and inspired grown men to crack mountains and saw crystals -- then what wasn't?

Everything in the world, every baby, city, tetanus shot, tennis ball, and pebble, was an outcrop of some vast and hitherto concealed vein of knowledge, apparently, that had compelled people's emotions and engaged their minds in the minutest detail without anyone's having done with it. There must be bands of enthusiasts for everything on earth -- fanatics who shared a vocabulary, a batch of technical skills and equipment, and, perhaps, a vision of some single slice of the beauty and mystery of things, of their complexity, fascination, and unexpectedness. There was no one here but us fanatics: bird-watchers, infielders, detectives, poets, rock collectors, and, I inferred, specialists in things I had not looked into -- violin makers, fishermen, Islamic scholars, opera composers, people who studied Bali, vials of air, bats,. It seemed to take all these people working full time to extract the interest from everything and articulate it for the rest of us. 


On Wonder:
Young children have no sense of wonder. They bewilder well, but few things surprise them. All of it is new to young children, after all, and equally gratuitous. Their parents pause at the unnecessary beauty of an ice storm coating the trees; the children look for something to throw. The children who tape colorful fall leaves to the schoolroom windows and walls are humoring the teacher. The busy teacher halts on her walk to school and stoops to pick up fine bright leaves "to show the children" -- but it is she, now in her sixties, who is increasingly stunned by the leaves, their brightness all so much trash that litters the gutter. 


On Childhood and Hobbies:
Before I had watched him at all, I ran upstairs. My parents were still at table, drinking coffee. They, too, could see the famous amoeba. I told them, bursting, that he was all set up, that they should hurry before his water dried. It was the chance of a lifetime.

Father had stretched out his long legs and was tilting back in his chair. Mother sat with her knees crossed, in blue slacks, smoking a Chesterfield. The dessert dishes were still ont he table. My sisters were nowhere in evidence. It was a warm evening; the big dining-room windows gave onto blooming rhododendrons.

Mother regarded me warmly. She gave me to understand that she was glad I had found what I had been looking for, but that she and Father were happy to sit with their coffee, and would not be coming down.

She did not say, but I understood at once, that they had their pursuits (coffee?) and I had mine. She did not say, but I began to understand then, that you do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself


*Bolded emphasis mine

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