All of Herman Melville’s poetry, complete in a beautiful, one thousand-page book — the new Library of America edition, out just days ago, is already in this reader’s hands. This is another of those projects I enjoy so well, like the slow and careful reading aloud of Thoreau’s fourteen-volume journal, which I have currently under way, Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, and the complete works of other writers I have taken on over the years — of Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Emerson, James Russell Lowell, and Montaigne. Bliss. If my memory were as large and as detailed as the inspiration I derive from this daily pleasure, I would be an encyclopedia of the world’s greatest authors and their writing. Instead I am more like a passenger on a long and dreamy bus ride, able to relate only general impressions upon my arrival. This no longer bothers me as it once did. I am not a teacher of literature, and I have written only a few simple book reviews in my lifetime. I read now as I did when I was a child, for the sheer joy of it. I remember what I remember, and I never quite forget the rest — it is part of my fiber and in my written and bodily expression; bits surface suddenly and unexpectedly. And it is the same with my own writing, which appears now that I may go on discovering for the rest of my life, even if the supply is exhausted tomorrow.
August 13, 2019
They spent nearly an hour talking at the table. He felt wonderful. It was good to be with friends, especially new ones. For him, the accidental nature of their relationship was a source of great pleasure. Anyone could make arrangements, and then follow through. But trusting life to the extent he did, he knew happiness was to be found where it was least expected, if it was expected at all. Even then, it wasn’t happiness unless you were willing to let it go. Happiness died in captivity. It folded it wings and became mournful. Coaxing hastened its end. It could be kept alive by nothing less than its freedom.
From Chapter 33 of The Smiling Eyes of Children,
an unpublished novel written in 2001
Tags: Books, Diaries, Dickens, Emerson, Finnegans Wake, Happiness, James Russell Lowell, Journals, Joyce, Library of America, Melville, Memory, Montaigne, Novels, Poetry, Reading, Ross Freeman, The Smiling Eyes of Children, Ulysses, Unpublished Novels, Walter Scott