Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The ratio of quotation to life

Henry, who had wished once to become a professor of literature, had always loved a good line of poetry or liturgy, but lately the ratio of quotation to life, always high in him, had gotten even higher. He had retained a good head for the words of others even as his own words, particularly after the last stroke, sometimes eluded him. Goethe, Shakespeare, the Psalms had always spoken for him best. He wondered if that was why his memoir had become impossible. Walter Benjamin had wanted to write a book woven entirely out of quotations. But, in the first place, he hadn't. In the second place, Henry didn't really like Benjamin's work, which amounted to little more than fancy footnotes. And in the third place, he thought with sudden melancholy, Benjamin had killed himself. For good reason, of course. He feared the Nazis.

--Jonathan Rosen, Joy Comes in the Morning

The above paragraph snagged my eye as I was flipping through the book. It's enough to make me want to read the entire book just as soon as possible.

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