Reasonable Words: On Reading

Eliazabeth Hardwick, interviewed by the Paris Review:

“As I have grown older I see myself as fortunate in many ways. It is fortunate to have had all my life this passion for studying and enjoying literature and for trying to add a bit to it as interestingly as I can. This passion has given me much joy, it has given me friends who care for the same things, it has given me employment, escape from boredom, everything. The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”

In a fine NYTimes obit of her written by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt she relates,

““Even when I was in college, ‘down home,’ [in Kentucky] I’m afraid my aim was — if it doesn’t sound too ridiculous — my aim was to be a New York Jewish intellectual,” she told an interviewer in 1979. “I say ‘Jewish’ because of their tradition of rational skepticism; and also a certain deracination appeals to me — and their openness to European culture.”

I’m with you, Elizabeth, reading, skepticism, and displacement, preferably on the Upper West Side, but for now a coffee shop in Takoma Park will have to do in my particular case.

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