Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Note on the Last Entry:

Today's "Daily Dose," marks -- by circumstances I do not quite understand -- my 365th daily quotation on this blog. That's a full year's worth of better wisdom than otherwise on offer here. I know there are, among my friends and more regular readers, those who choose to read only the bits I write myself. I would encourage any readers I have to consider the fact that in so doing, I think they miss the best, and most interesting thing I do here.

And now, there is a year's worth, at least, of things I know to be good, collected here! Not all of equal value, I admit; most offered more to amuse than enlighten, some no more than a pretty phrase, but still, in the aggregate, worth more than might be obvious.

Many, though no longer by any means most of the quotations I post have been taken directly from what I happen to be reading at the time I write, but a great number come from my own commonplace book, in which, over the years, I have made a point of recording some of the best things I ever read. Besides reminding me of my favorite brief passages from some of my favorite books, I've found that the habit of keeping a commonplace book -- a habit I learned from reading for the first time the commonplace book of W. H. Auden, years ago --has been a great discipline for my memory, an invaluable aid to the seriousness of my reading, a source of considerable pleasure in review, and the best means I've yet found for preserving not only the clean pages of my books, and thus their value for their future owners, but also of preserving my contentment as a reader of many books. There need be nothing in such a keepsake but what appeals to the person who keeps it. One's commonplace book answers only those questions asked by the recorder of the memorandum, and with only those answers, from only those books most congenial. What better way to confirm, privately, one's personal opinions and prejudices than with such borrowed authority?

My first such copy-book was begun almost thirty years ago. Sadly, that book and many of its descendants, are now lost. I have now only more recent notebooks, and the records kept on my computer. But in rereading so many of the books I best love, I find my attention drawn to exactly the same spots, the best phrases, jokes, anecdotes and I find, in recording these things, that I am often as not restoring to my collection lost treasures, and mixing old goods with new. Posting some of these here, I like to think I am offering only best of what I've read, or at least the best I read just now. (In writing good things down, I've found, it makes it harder for me to write as badly as I would otherwise, so there's that, too.)

So, do please try it. All that's required is a small notebook and pencil that can be kept in a pocket or purse, next to the book one is reading that day. Whatever strikes in the reading, write it down. (I note the first few words, the title and page number in my notebook and then copy the passage onto my computer, if not the same day, then as soon thereafter as I may.) Simple as that.

As to the value of quotation generally, I'm sure it is a habit that can be abused, but it must be better to repeat what's been better said, than to rely entirely on the inspiration? Mine, anyway. I could, though I won't, find you a quote or two to support this.

I try not to abuse the privilege, here, though what I do in the privacy of a notebook is my business, isn't it?

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