I do not accept reading tips from strangers, especially from indecisive men whose shirt collars are a dramatically different color from the main portion of the garment. I am particularly averse to being lent or given books by people I may like personally but whose taste in literature I have reason to suspect, and perhaps even fear.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the only really coherent position on the abortion issue is one that is both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.
Argument: As of 4 March 1999, the question of defining human life in utero is hopelessly vexed. That is, given our best present medical and philosophical understandings of what makes something not just a living organism but a person, there is no way to establish at just what point during gestation a fertilized ovum becomes a human being. This conundrum, together with the basically inarguable soundness of the principle “When in irresolvable doubt about whether something is a human or not, it is better not to kill it,” appears to me to require any reasonable American to be Pro-Life. At the same time, however, the principle “When in irresolvable doubt about something, I have neither the legal nor the moral right to tell another person what to do about it, especially if that person feels that s/he is not in doubt” is an unassailable part of the Democratic pact we Americans all make with one another, a pact in which each adult citizen gets to be an autonomous moral agent; and this principle appears to me to require any reasonable American to be Pro-Choice.
This reviewer is thus, as a private citizen and an autonomous agent, both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. It is not an easy or comfortable position to maintain. Every time someone I know decides to terminate a pregnancy, I am required to believe simultaneously that she is doing the wrong thing and that she has every right to do it. Plus, of course, I have both to believe that a Pro-Life + Pro-Choice stance is the only really coherent one and to restrain myself from trying to force that position on other people whose ideological or religious convictions seem (to me) to override reason and yield a (in my opinion) wacko dogmatic position. This restraint has to be maintained even when somebody’s (to me) wacko dogmatic position appears (to me) to reject the very Democratic tolerance that is keeping me from trying to force my position on him/her; it requires me not to press or argue or retaliate even when somebody calls me Satan’s Minion or Just Another Shithead Male, which forbearance represents the really outer and tooth-grinding limits of my own personal Democratic Spirit.
The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary
He thought about the people he knew, with their excellent young bodies, their summerhouses, their cool clothes, their potent drugs, their liberalism, their orgasms, their haircuts. Everything they did was either pleasurable in itself or engineered to bring pleasure down the line. Even the people he knew who were ‘political’ and who protested the war in El Salvador did so largely in order to bathe themselves in an attractively crusading light. And the artists were the worst, the painters and the writers, because they believed they were living for art when they were really feeding their narcissism.
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot (via venula)
A book was never ‘read.’ Here, as elsewhere, language betrayed the true nature of the activity. To say that a book was read was to make the same mistake as the gambler who crowed about winning as though he’d taken it by force of hand or resolve. To toss the number-sticks was to seize a moment of helplessness, nothing more. But to open a book was not only to seize a moment of helplessness, not only to relinquish a jealous handful of heartbeats to the unpredictable mark of another man’s quill, it was to allow oneself to be written. For what was a book if not a long, consecutive surrender to the movements of another’s soul?
Achamian could think of no abandonment of self more profound. He read, and was moved to chuckle by ironies a thousand years dead, and to reflect pensively on claims and hopes that had far outlived the age of their import.”
“The value of the metal in a nickel is worth six point eight cents,” he said. “Did you know that?”
“I just bought a million dollars’ worth of them,” he said, and then, perhaps sensing I couldn’t do the math: “twenty million nickels.”
“You bought twenty million nickels?”
“How do you buy twenty million nickels?”
“Actually, it’s very difficult,” he said, and then explained that he had to call his bank and talk them into ordering him twenty million nickels. The bank had finally done it, but the Federal Reserve had its own questions. “The Fed apparently called my guy at the bank,” he says. “They asked him, ‘Why do you want all these nickels?’ So he called me and asked ‘Why do you want all these nickels?’ and I said, ‘I just like nickels.’”