Ruined By Reading: A Life in Books
Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book of 1996
'Without books how could I have become myself?' In this wonderfully written meditation, Lynne Sharon Schwartz offers deeply felt insight into why we read and how what we read shapes our lives. An enchanting celebration of the printed word.
books in the first place, or yank them off the library shelves to protect the innocent. Few, if any, stories are pure invention. Invention needs something to invent from, or with. Stories come from history, or from reality—lived or observed—or, as any quick survey will show, from other stories. But by my petulant logic I would refuse to see Racine’s Phèdre, and Martha Graham’s too. I would have to forswear much of Shakespeare, as well as West Side Story and Tennyson’s Ulysses or Joyce’s for that
saw one exactly like it at an outdoor flea market on Cape Cod. I seized it in a passionate embrace, almost staggering under the weight. I paid an absurd sum. When I got it home I didn’t know what to do with it. I wasn’t about to use it, yet it hadn’t quite passed over into the realm of sculpture. I put it in a closet, where it remains. Sometimes in passing, I offer a nod of greeting. I like to think it might be the very same grinder I watched my mother use, and which she allowed me to use when
airbrushed otherness. Why not be daring and appreciate them now? Besides, the dead writers have been preselected; no discrimination is necessary. I needn’t sift through five dozen nineteenth-century Russian novelists and decide, okay, this arrogant, tormented count, this loony gambler with the dubious past, this dapper smooth fellow, that sweet country doctor. I am forfeiting the opportunity to judge, to rank, to shape the tradition. The question of judgment, of who is worth reading and what
periods and confront time head-on. The dynamism is all inside, an exalted, spiritual exercise so utterly engaging that we forget time and mortality along with all of life’s lesser woes, and simply bask in the everlasting present. So I see, finally, why it hardly matters whether I remember the contents of the book. Mere information is nothing compared to this silent flurry. The mind comes into its own, delighting in its litheness and power; it pirouettes, leaps for the ball, embraces and trembles.
afternoons, we stood at the blackboard in her hallway and she drew signs that were the same, but in another sensory costume, as the words that came from our lips. Once I grasped the principle of conversion, that airy puffs of voice could have a visual counterpart, the rest, what teachers call “breaking the code,” was routine. The world existed to be read and I read it. Diamond Crystal Kosher Coarse Salt on the cylindrical container my mother shook over simmering pots, and Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. on