Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The photo is from the 1960's, of the farm I grew up on.

I thought this might be a good place to occasionally post short passages from books I’ve read. A few years ago I started writing down passages that for some reason resonated with me. I figured if I spend a number of hours reading a book, I can spend a few minutes writing down some key passages to help me remember it later. Sometimes I comment on what I’ve found, and sometimes not.

I didn’t know that there is a word for this squirreling away of bits from books. It’s called commonplacing. According to Dr. Lucia Knoles of Assumption College, Worcester, MA:

“Commonplacing is the act of selecting important phrases, lines, and/or passages from texts and writing them down; the commonplace book is the notebook in which a reader has collected quotations from works s/he has read. Commonplace books can also include comments and notes from the reader; they are frequently indexed so that the reader can classify important themes and locate quotations related to particular topics or authors.”


Here’s a passage I copied out from Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel. I read the book after a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, Wolfe’s home town. In fact I toured his childhood home, which features in the novel.

page 160, Eugene Gant, talking about home:

“I am, he thought, a part of all that I have touched and that has touched me, which, having for me no existence save that which I gave to it, became other than itself by being mixed with what I then was, and is now still otherwise, having fused with what I now am, which is itself a cumulation of what I have been becoming. Why here? Why there? Why now? Why then?”

Don't we all wonder who and what has shaped us into the person we have become? I think back on my family, friends, teachers, the places I have lived and visited, the experiences I have had, and try to decide what gave me my love of reading, art and music. What made me dislike math, and be so critical of myself and others? What made me enjoy gardening, and what influenced me to travel? Just as often I wonder if I have influenced people for good or bad, and I wonder if I'll ever know for sure.

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