Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Queenan quotations

I like to play with my books, to mark them up, to give them a lived-in look.
Joe Queenan, One for the Books

Thirty or 40 years ago I underlined frequently in my books, especially nonfiction books. It seemed like the best way to find the lines most worth returning to later. Then I became obsessed with keeping my books as pristine as possible. I started making notes on 3-by-5 cards that doubled as bookmarks and avoided any marking in books. I removed dust jackets before reading a hardback book, and I tried keep paperbacks looking like new, however impossible that task turned out to be. Dog-eared pages is something I have always tried to avoid.

Reading Joe Queenan's essays about his reading life in One for the Books inspired me to lower my standards a bit, at least for this book. If he likes to mark up his books, perhaps I should let myself mark up his book, too. The book has so many good lines in it that I am likely to keep it, not give it away. So why not mark it up? Here are a few of the lines I allowed myself the pleasure of underlining in One for the Books:

"From the moment I own a book, even before I open it to the first page, I feel that it has in some way changed my life."

"Great writers say things that are so beautiful, the very act of repeating them makes life itself more beautiful."

"Books as physical objects matter to me, because they evoke the past, because I find their presence emotionally enriching."

"...the single most feared creature on the planet: the self-published poet."

"The people I know who attend book clubs are generally intelligent, but they are rarely what I would call interesting."

"Libraries provide cost-free reading material so that tightwads and misers can tell local writers that they borrowed their books and then expect them to be grateful."

"Most people read drivel."

"Sometimes I think that I am reluctant to finish books because I want to let the joy of reading them go on and on forever."

"I do not ever want to reach the point where I have nothing left to read but Middlemarch."

"Well, I've already gotten to Ulysses. I've been getting to Ulysses for the past thirty years."

"I think it is important to have goals in life, as long as you understand that achieving those goals will not make you happy."

"Only the greatest books can withstand the damage inflicted on their reputations by bad movies."

"Staff recommendations are pitifully generic -- Fight Club, Outliers, Infinite Jest. It's like soliciting dessert tips from four-year-olds."

"Purchasing a secondhand book does absolutely nothing for a writer. Less than nothing."

"Some, like Arrowsmith and Manhattan Transfer, were books that I was actually looking forward to not reading."

"Indeed, one of the reasons I became a book reviewer was that it gave me the opportunity to read a steady stream of hopelessly  moronic books and get paid for it."

"Shockingly bad books have an important place in our lives, because they keep our brains active. Good books don't make you think, because the author has already done all the thinking for you, but a terrible book can really give your brain a workout."

"The Bridges of Madison County is a corn shucker's Madame Bovary."

"Reading books may make you smarter than other people. It does not make you better."

Now those are some lines worth marking up a book for.

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