Monday, June 4, 2012

Quote Dumps and Philosophies

A while back, I read Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck.  I really, truly loved that book.  You know the feeling when you read a book, and you can tell that it's changing you?  Where you read it, and every page tingles because you're connecting with the text in a lasting, meaningful way?  That's what happened.  Reading it was an experience in personal philosophy making.  A tangible, recognizable extension of personal canon.  Within the first ten pages, I knew that I had found a favorite book, one that immediately joined such elite tomes as Dracula, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Fugitive Pieces in my All Time Favorite Books Ever List.

When I read it, I was borrowing a friend's copy, and it drove me crazy that I couldn't underline my favorite passages.  Yes, I am one of those people who "desecrates" their books.  Here's how I see it: in Judaism, the Rabbinical studies of the Torah are considered so sacred and beautiful that they take on new life as part of the Talmud, a book that is studied and revered on the same level of scripture by certain sects.  Now, I'm not saying that my comments and interactions with the written word are that enlightened.  But I like the idea that books take on new layers and dimensions as they accumulate discussion.*  Reading a used copy of a book, one that has previous markings, always makes me pay attention to lines I might have skimmed over.  Even if the only interaction is a long-forgotten inscription in the front cover, the fact that this was an ancient gift colors my reading, makes me look at it in a way where I try to see the value that made that book so important to someone that they would share it with another.  So yes, I write in my books.  It helps me remember why they are important to me, and lets me make similar connections with others.

Sorry.  Tangent over.  Anyway, I couldn't mark up that copy, so I was left to frantically type the quotes I loved in my phone (naturally, it was the only thing I could count to always have on hand, as I sometimes didn't have a notebook near me when I was reading).  I didn't want to lose those quotes when I finally bought the book, so I'm putting them here as a method of safe-keeping.  And so that perhaps someone else will read this under-rated treasure, and it will spread to the masses!  Revolution!  Or, at least, I'll have someone else to geek out with me.

So, without further ado, some of my favorite Steinbeck moments:

"I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found."

"How myth wipes out fact. ... I am happy to report that in the war between reality and romance, reality is not the stronger."

"A man with nothing to say has no words.  Can it's reverse be true-- a man who has no one to say anything to has no words as he has no need for words?"

"The American tendency in travel.  One goes, not so much to see but to tell afterward."

"What I found was closely intermeshed with how I felt at the moment."

"But to get to be people they must fight those who aren't satisfied to be people."

"This used to be a nation of giants.  Where have they gone?  You can't defend a nation with a board of directors.  That takes men."

"In those days there was no world beyond the mountains."

"A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike."

*If you want to learn more about these theories, I highly recommend The Talmud and the Internet by Jonathan Rosen.  It completely changed my relationship with text, and strengthened my respect for Judaism.

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