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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Chapter Fifty-Nine, in which We learn to dam the Stream

In Pipefuls (which I have just finished enjoying), Christopher Morley quotes his own John Mistletoe on the passing of time, the flow of one's experiences like a river: "The urgent necessity is to dam the stream here and there so we can go swimming in it."

I can think of two quite pleasurable ways of damming this stream: reading and writing.

Reading (unless you are Evelyn Wood) causes us to absorb words one by one. An experience being described usually takes more time than the actual experience itself--think of the description of a fistfight in any western novel--and with possible intrusions of feelings, reactions, or other viewpoints, events that might pass as quickly as a day in the life of Leopold Bloom can take 1076 pages to recount. Reading allows one to savor a story, and slip deep inside a character, in a way a two-hour film can not.

Writing forces one to slow down even more. To write about an event, one must reflect upon it, think for a while, try to come to the essence of the thing so that words, once set on paper, will convey that experience as fully as possible. In a way, writing about an event causes us to relive it, even rescue it and preserve it, safe from the raging flow of time.

Dam the stream: Read and Write!

1 comment:

  1. What a great quote. I know I've been a better reader since I started writing about books. I'm actually enjoying Kafka today, who would've thought!