One Book, One Chicago: Augie March

Love this one, too:

I was struck by the reading fever. I lay in my room and read, feeding on print and pages like a famished man. Sometimes I couldn’t give a book up to a customer who had ordered it, and for a long time this was all that I could care about. The sense I had was of some live weight driven into tangles or nets of hungry feeling; I wanted to haul it in. Padilla was sore and fired up when he came to my room and saw stacks of books I should have gotten rid of long ago; it was dangerous to keep them. If he had restricted me to books on mathematics, thermodynamics, mechanics, things probably would have been different, for I didn’t carry the germ of a Clerk Maxwell or Max Planck in me. But as he had turned over to me his orders for books on theology, literature, history and philosophy, and I copped Ranke’s History of the Popes and Sarpi’s Council of Trent for the seminary students, or Burckhardt or Merz’s European Thought in the Nineteenth Century, I sat reading. Padilla raised hob with me about the Merz because it took so long to finish and a man in the History department was after him for it. “You can use my card and get it out fo the library, ” he said. But somehow that wasn’t the same. As eating your own meal, I suppose is different from a handout, even if calory for calory it’s the same value; maybe the body even uses it differently.

Anyhow, I had found something out about an unknown privation, and I realized how a general love or craving, before it is explicit or before it sees its object, manifests itself as boredom or some other kind of suffering. And what did I think of myself in relation to the great occasions, the more sizable being of these books? Why, I saw them, first of all. So suppose I wasn’t created to read a great declaration, or to boss a palatinate, or send off a message to Avignon, and so on, I could see, so there nevertheless was a share for me in all that happened. How much of a share? Why, I knew there were things that would never, because they could never, come of my reading. But this knowledge was not so different from the remote, but ever-present death that sits in the corner of the loving bedroom; though it doesn’t budge form the corner, you wouldn’t stop your loving. Then neither would I stop my reading. I sat and read. I had no eye, ear, or interest for anything else–that is, for the usual, second-order, oatmeal, mere phenomenal, snarled-shoelace-carfare-laundry-ticket plainness, unspecified dismalness, unknown captivities; the life of despair-harness, or the life of organization-habits which is meant to supplant accidents with calm abiding. Well, now, who can really expect the daily facts to go, toil or prisons to go, oatmeal and laundry tickets and all the rest, and insist that all moments be raised to the greatest importance, demand that everyoen breathe the pointy, star-furnished air at its highest difficulty, abolish all brick, valutlike rooms, all dreariness, and live like prophets or gods? Why, everybody knows this triumphant life can only be periodic. So there’s a schism about it, some saying only this triumphant life is real and others that only the daily facts are. For me there was not debate, and I made speed into the former.

Don’t forget about the panel discussion today featuring Professors Domenico Ferri and Stephen Burnett, hosted by Professor Judy Rivera-van Schagen! It starts in half an hour in room 203.

2 thoughts on “One Book, One Chicago: Augie March

  1. Print is awesome. It allows you to hug, cuddle and just enjoy. No kindle or computer can compare.

    • Hard to dog ear a Kindle, too.

      I know that they allow for annotations, but (for me), part of the fun is going back to my books and skimming through the pages to find what I’m looking for. I check the dog eared pages first, and find all sorts of gems that I wouldn’t have if I’d just searched the e-text for what I was seeking and, in the process, often make my own day.

      I am so with you, Chantuxx.

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