Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category


My recent reading has caused me for some reason to remember myself as I was when a young girl, reading high Romances and seeing myself simultaneously as the object of all knights’ devotion—an unspotted Guenevere—and as the author of the Tale.  I wanted to be a Poet and a Poem, and now am neither.


~ From Possession by A. S. Byatt, born on this day in 1936


"The Beguiling of Merlin" by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1874

“The Beguiling of Merlin” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1874

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My Morning Voices

If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful.  I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting.  I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans.  I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.


~ Ray Bradbury, born on this day in 1920


"Am Morgen" ("In the Morning") by A Rötting, 1840

“Am Morgen” (“In the Morning”) by A Rötting, 1840

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One face looks out from all his canvases,

One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:

We found her hidden just behind those screens,

That mirror gave back all her loveliness.

A queen in opal or in ruby dress,

A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,

A saint, an angel—every canvas means

The same one meaning, neither more nor less.

He feeds upon her face by day and night,

And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,

Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:

Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;

Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;

Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.


                                       ~ Christina Rossetti


"The Artist and His Model" by Carl Schweninger (1854-1912)

“The Artist and His Model” by Carl Schweninger (1854-1912)

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Kafka on Books

Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.  If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place?  So that it can make us happy, as you put it?  Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves.  What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide.  A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. 


"Lesendes Mädchen" by Franz Eybl, 1850

“Lesendes Mädchen” by Franz Eybl, 1850

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Like a perfect heroine, I wandered, weeping, on a forlorn quest […] through the aromatic labyrinth of alleys. […] Even though I lived there, it always seemed far away from me. It was as if there were glass between me and the world. But I could see myself perfectly well on the other side of the glass. There I was, walking up and down, eating meals, having conversations, in love, indifferent, and so on. But all the time I was pulling the strings of my own puppet; it was this puppet who was moving about on the other side of the glass. And I eyed the most marvellous adventures with the bored eye of the agent with the cigar watching another audition. I tapped out the ash and asked of events: ‘What else can you do?’

~ Angela Carter, Burning Your Boats


"The Looking Glass" by Alexander Ignatius Roche (1861-1921)

“The Looking Glass” by Alexander Ignatius Roche (1861-1921)

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When the blackberries hang

swollen in the woods, in the brambles

nobody owns, I spend


all day among the high

branches, reaching

my ripped arms, thinking


of nothing, cramming

the black honey of summer

into my mouth; all day my body


accepts what it is. In the dark

creeks that run by there is

this thick paw of my life darting among


the black bells, the leaves; there is

this happy tongue.


             ~ Mary Oliver


"Blackberry Picking" by John George Brown, 1875

“Blackberry Picking” by John George Brown, 1875

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The adolescent night, breath of the town,

Porchswings and whispers, maple leaves unseen

Deploying moonlight quieter than a man dead

After the locust’s song. These homes were mine

And are not now forever, these on the steps

Children I think removed to many places,

Lost among hushed years, and so strangely known.


This business is well ended. If in the dark

The firefly made his gleam and sank therefrom,

Yet someone’s hand would have him, the wet grass

Bed him no more. From corners of the lawn

The dusk-white dresses flutter and are past.

Before our bed time there were things to say,

Remembering tree-bark, crickets, and the first star…


After, and as the sullenness of time

Went on from summer, here in a land alien

Made I my perfect fears and flower of thought:

Sleep being no longer swift in the arms of pain,

Revisitations are convenient with a cough,

And there is something I would say again

If I had not forever, if there were time.


                                             ~ Robert Fitzgerald


"Summer Afternoon" by Winslow Homer, 1872

“Summer Afternoon” by Winslow Homer, 1872

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