Library-induced realism

The library had, for the thousandth time, performed its mundane magic trick: It had vaulted me into the future — the prosaic, dog-eared, heaped-by-the-bedside future — that this book and I would, however promising our first encounter, inevitably have ended up having anyway. The initial flush of book-lust promises: This book will change everything; this will be the one that finally gets you into epic poetry; this will teach you how to meditate. The library says: This book will contain a stranger’s ancient receipt and will be out of your life in three weeks. […]

And in dispelling my fantasies of permanence, the library does more than save me the cost of a paperback — it provides me with a template for navigating the great sea of longing and disappointment that is life. […]

Library-induced realism is a great thing, one that can do much to increase your happiness. Because the world in which you are perpetually under the impression that the next book purchase, the next apartment, the next significant other will be the one that finally delivers the goods is not a life of happiness. It is a life of perpetual dissatisfaction, a life of thin and sugary highs followed by long and unenlightening lows. The library is, with its careworn and temporary offerings, as lovely and as poignant a reminder of our actual human condition as the tides or a forest in fall. To quote Penelope Fitzgerald (whose books are well worth owning): “Our lives are only lent to us.”

Library Books: A Small Antidote to a Life of Perpetual Dissatisfaction, Ben Dolnick, The New York Times, December 8th 2020.

Une voix sans voix off

Sur son blogue, Beth offre une réflexion très intéressante sur l’écriture du journal intime. En référence à Thomas Merton, elle dit :

He had left the academic world of New York in order to seek God and some sort of personal overhaul. He was aiming at authenticity, transparency, honesty, directness, egolessness… and yet he learned how the very act of writing — which he couldn’t help, couldn’t give up completely — became a trap for the ego. He talks about it a lot. This was his huge struggle: the need to say what he saw and felt out of the depths of his contemplative experience, to communicate it to others, and to try to make a difference in a broken world, but how writing can become performance that addictively seeks something else entirely: admiration, praise, fame. 

https://www.cassandrapages.com/the_cassandra_pages/2020/06/hermit-diary-29-on-journals.html

Ça m’a fait penser à un texte de l’autrice Helen Garner que j’ai lu récemment dans The Guardian. Elle raconte l’expérience pénible de replonger dans ses vieux journaux intimes :

A few years ago I had a huge bonfire in my backyard and burned all my diaries up to the point where Yellow Notebook begins. I did this because when I went through the cartons of exercise books one day, looking for what I’d written around the time of the dramatic dismissal of the Whitlam government, I found to my astonishment that I hadn’t even mentioned it.
That day, crouching over the crates in the laundry, I was soon so bored with my younger self and her droning sentimental concerns that there was nothing for it – this shit had to go. 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/30/my-early-diaries-filled-me-with-so-much-shame-i-burned-them-im-publishing-the-rest

Elle a quand même fini par y trouver du matériel qui avait une certaine valeur de partage, mais le travail d’édition des écrits en question n’a pas été facile. Je n’ai pas (encore) lu le résultat publié, mais les réflexions qu’elle tire de ce travail sont d’une pertinence cinglante :

And of course I soon found myself, day after day, strapped into the straitjacket that is the very nature of a diary: it’s got a voice, it’s entirely composed of voice, but it has no voiceover. It exists in an eternal present.

How memory becomes nostalgia

« There is a stage you reach, Deagle thinks, a time somewhere in early middle age, when your past ceases to be about yourself. Your connection to your former life is like a dream or delirium, and that person who you once were is merely a fond acquaintance, or a beloved character from a storybook. This is how memory becomes nostalgia. They are two very different things—the same way that a person is different from a photograph of a person. »

Stay Awake, by Dan Chaon.

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