Dwight Garner Shares From His Stash of Different Writers’ Phrases
Make your own Bible. Select and collect all
words and phrases contained in all of your words
reading has been to you like the explosion of a
trumpet from Shakespeare, Seneca, Moses, John, and Paul.
– RALPH WALDO EMERSON
For almost forty years, I have kept what is known as a standard book. It was when I wrote my favorite sentences from books, stories, poetry and music, sports and movies, based on the interviews he had heard. Lines that made me sit in my chair; the lines that woke me up to wake up. About once a year, I say what I think should be included. Eventually I delete the entries.
I started keeping my regular book in the 1980’s, when I was in high school. In the 1990’s, while I was working as an editor for a weekly newspaper in Vermont, I wrote everything in a long computer file. I have moved it from computers to laptops and now I am inserting my iPhone. In it I have poured out the best food of the word, “the explosion of the trumpet,” as Emerson put it, and a little wisdom from my life as a reader. Yes, because I am a lover, a destroyer, and perhaps you are too.
Ordinary books are not very common. Virginia Woolf saved one. So did Samuel Johnson. WH Auden published her, as did poet JD McClatchy. EM Forster was released after his death. Author David Markson co-authored warm and cozy books similar to ordinary books; they were the nests of true birds connected with the false claims of the author. For nature lovers, many of the most valuable examples have come from well-known people like Geoffrey Madan and Samuel Rogers, both Englishmen, who donated ordinary books that are so generous and intelligent and enlightening. This has become a religious phenomenon. Author Christopher Ricks said of Rogers that, although he may not be a kind man, “he heard the good news.”
In my popular book, for personal use, I put things in categories: “food,” “discussions,” “cultural groups,” “travel,” “politics,” “hygiene,” “war,” “money,” ” clothing, ”etc. I use it as an auxiliary, a kind of external hard drive.It helps me to deal with Christopher Hitchens, citing a colleague, called CRAFT (Can’t Remember a F— Thing) syndrome. Montaigne, I just refer to others “so that I can better express their thoughts.” Montaigne compared the good repetition and arrangement of other people’s flowers. It is one curse for a person to live a life of words, as well as for a reliable memory.