Category Archives: Reading

A Capacity to Wonder

Patrick Kurp says he reads Vladimir Nabokov “for the sense of wonder he brings to the world and to human consciousness.” As evidence he shares this from Nabokov:

“I remember a cartoon depicting a chimney sweep falling from the roof of a tall building and noticing on the way that a sign-board had one word spelled wrong, and wondering in his headlong flight why nobody had thought of correcting it. In a sense, we are all crashing to our death from the top story of our birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an immortal Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at trifles — no matter the imminent peril — these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness, and it is in this childishly speculative state of mind, so different from commonsense and its logic, that we know the world to be good.”

[The excerpt is from “The Creative Writer” (Think, Write, Speak: Uncollected Essays, Reviews, Interviews, and Letters to the Editor, 2019). It was originally written in 1941 as a lecture delivered at Wellesley College. An incomplete version, retitled “The Art of Literature and Commonsense,” was published in Lectures on Literature, 1980.]

The Bibliobibuli

Patrick Kurp quotes H. L. Mencken:

“There are people who read too much: the bibliobibuli. I know some who are who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through the most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.”

Apparently Mencken himself coined the word, bibliobiduli.  I like the word, but note that some bibulous readers read to improve their seeing  and hearing.

Mickey Mousing All Those Nice Characters

More from The Private World of Tasha Tudor:


My education, such as it was, revolved around books.  Aunt Gwen read aloud to us as only she could until ten or eleven every night, and then we went to school at eight the next morning, but it didn’t seem to affect us.  She read us all of Scott and Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Conan Doyle.  I was conversant with Huckleberry Finn and The Mysterious Stranger from the age of seven.

Of course we were brought up on Beatrix Potter, and I loved The Wind in the Willows.  That was one of my father’s favorite books.  Walt Disney should be sued for cheapening it as he did.  Imagine it, Mickey Mousing all those nice characters.  I’m surprised he didn’t do it with the New Testament.

There are certain books that you enjoy as a child, but when you read them again as an adult you find there’s nothing to them.  But then there are others that you get just as much pleasure out of: Gulliver’s Travels, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, Robinson Crusoe, and especially Moby-Dick.  That book has been ruined by teachers!  The pictures it creates in your mind you never forget.  You can even smell the food of the inn in the opening chapter.  When I read a story, I see it like a movie, moving and all in color.  Books are very real to me.  I greatly admire Emily Dickinson, who said, “There is no Frigate like a Book/To take us Lands away.”

I still haven’t read Moby-Dick, and I never before heard of The Wonderful Adventures of Nils.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys beautiful things, whether they are ideas or physical objects.  It is more of a browsing, than a read through sort of book, more than half of the 129 pages are photographs, and many pages have a Tudor illustration.

Books and Memories

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Maura Roan McKeegan, a reading educator, thinks there are important reasons to read actual books instead of screen versions of them.  This is one of them:

A few months ago, I suddenly had a memory of a character from a book I had read many times when I was a girl, though I had forgotten all about it as an adult. As I tried to remember more about it, bits and pieces of the story came back to me. I was overcome with the desire to read the book again, to find it as I might want to find an old friend I hadn’t seen in decades.

I ordered a used copy, and within a week held it in my hands once again. The details came rushing back as I looked at the cover and flipped through the pages, remembering how I would read the book in my bedroom in the house where I grew up. It truly felt like I was reunited with an old, dear friend—reunited with the book, and reunited with my childhood, too.

I wonder: If I had first read this book on a screen, would I have felt the same physical connection to my youth as I held it in my hands decades later?

No doubt, a computer might contain a story worth reading. When a father or mother or beloved teacher reads that story aloud to a child, it can forge memories for a lifetime. In our house, we use computers to listen to audio books by authors like Hans Christian Anderson and Thornton W. Burgess, and everyone enjoys it.

Still, it isn’t the same. Listening to the book on the laptop can be nice, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the bond that is built when my husband or I cuddle up with the children and turn the worn pages of our favorite books as we read aloud together.

Isn’t there something precious about the book itself? Isn’t there something in its weight, in its feel, in its illustrations, in its pages, that, when a grown-up child holds it in his hands and reads it to his own children, will awaken a reverence for the story that a computer screen would not?

Read it all here.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Authentic Reactionary

I have discovered Nicolás Gómez Dávila and am enjoying some of his aphorisms such as these:

    Those who replace the “letter” of Christianity with its “spirit” generally turn it into a load of socio-economic nonsense.
    The modern theologian longs to transform Christian doctrine into a simple ideology of community behavior.
    Clergymen and journalists have smeared the term “love” with so much sentimentality that even its echo stinks.
    The Gospels, in the hands of a progressive clergyman, degenerate into a compilation of trivial ethical teachings.
    Not having gotten men to practice what she teaches, the contemporary Church has resolved to teach what they practice.
From the blog dedicated to English translation of his aphorisms:
Nicolás Gómez Dávila was a man of wide-ranging interests, and his aphorisms reflect that fact. Although he was to a certain extent an autodidact—he received an excellent secondary education, but never attended university, instead relying on his voluminous library—he may rightfully be considered one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. Among the scholarly topics he wrote about are religion, philosophy, politics, history, literature, aesthetics, and more. Besides these scholarly interests, however, many of his aphorisms betray a more personal dimension, with intimate observations on topics like love and the process of aging.
…Gómez Dávila proudly labeled himself a reactionary and actually created a literary persona for himself as “the authentic reactionary…For Gómez Dávila, the reactionary’s task in our age is to resist democracy. By democracy he means “less a political fact than a metaphysical perversion.” Indeed, Gómez Dávila defines democracy as, quite literally, “an anthropotheist religion,” an insane attempt to rival, or even surpass, God. The secret of modernity is that man has begun to worship man, and it is this secret which lurks behind every doctrine of inevitable progress. The reactionary’s resistance, therefore, is religious in nature. “In our time, rebellion is reactionary, or else it is nothing but a hypocritical and facile farce.” The most important and difficult rebellion, however, does not necessarily take place in action. “To think against is more difficult than to act against.” But, all that remains to the reactionary today is “an impotent lucidity.” Moreover, Gómez Dávila did not look forward to the establishment of a utopia; what he wanted was to preserve values within the world. For this purpose, not force but art was the more powerful weapon.

The blog is very well done and includes a section titled “What did Nicolás Gómez Dávila think about…?” where you can search by category.


Sometimes a phrase or sentence strikes me as perfect or even sublime.  C.S. Lewis describes that experience.

“Isn’t it funny the way some combinations of words can give you–almost part from their meaning–a thrill like music?”

The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves


Reading Quotations


“Quotations live as long as they are used, and so long as they are used, they shape thought, language, and individual personalities. Collections inspire us with the muse of quotation, and encourage a special sort of reading as roaming. We get to make a new dialogue from words already spoken. We play, and grow wiser as we do.”  Gary Morson

I enjoy collections of quotations, especially those of my favorite writers.  Normally it is the idea or thought conveyed that catches my fancy, but sometimes it is simply the beauty of a well-crafted expression (“a special sort of reading as roaming”is one example).  This looks like a book I would like to own, or at least read.  It is rather expensive.






Thanks to Anecdotal Evidence for the reference.