Sunday, February 26, 2006

Thoughts on To a Young Friend Charged With Possession of the Classics

The prose of William H. Gass is capable of evoking many emotions, the most notable of which is pure joy. This man has such an unbridled passion for the written word and such a keen understanding of its raw power when executed effectively, that one cannot help but to become overwhelmed and a little weak in the knees when confronted with unintentionally self-referential observations like this:

"Thinking produces its own endorphins, and encountering a fine thought is as thrilling as the sight of the bluebird, partly because both have been threatened with extinction."

Weak in the knees may seem like an exaggerated response to such an ostensibly benign grouping of words, but this is precisely the effect elicited in my particular case. No alcohol was consumed to facilitate the process. It is the ability of Gass to evoke what it means to experience the persistently elusive 'moment of clarity'. The capability of a precise grouping of words to achieve this desired effect is admittedly a notion that I have never before considered to be as true as it rings here. But Gass is right: the thrill is undeniable, and it can be attributed to a chosen few words put in splendid order by a thriving mind. It cannot be found while sitting in the local Starbucks, listening to menopausal women discuss the South Beach Diet, nor can it be found while riding on the streetcar tucked in beside a surly unkempt troglodyte. Edification cannot be found in either place. It can, though, be readily accessible: it is as close as the volume that lies against one's side within the shoulder bag that you take everywhere. Gass has something further to say on the matter:

"It is we who must do [books] honor by searching for our truth there, by taking their heart as our heart, by refusing to let our mind flag so that we close their covers together, and spend our future forgetting them, denying the mind's best moments."

It is advice to be heeded and acted upon forthwith, and never to be stopped.


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