Notable Quotables | From the Moleskine

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 10.22.54 AMMy brain, lately, has been almost too fried to read.  I can’t exactly follow a plot without getting distracted by something else in the room.  I’ve become an impatient reader.  In this world where everything is so instant, I find myself unwound by a book that takes time, and polite pleading.  However, I’m also reading the most perfect book to remind me of the purpose of the wait.  Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera is too beautiful.  It reminds me how hard it will be to fashion my own book after pages like this have been written.  Today, I’m going to share a quote that I think anyone who reads this blog can respect.  Later this week, my quote will devastate you.  This is both a warning and an introduction.

In this quote, the narrator has traveled to America from Sri Lanka (due to the beginning of war on the Tamil people) and she has discovered libraries.

“If La’s particular obsession was the precise moment as which blue becomes green, mine had to do with books, words, paragraphs, and the ways they fit together on a page, nestled next to each other, waiting like time bombs.  The greatest thing about America to me was the constant availability of books.  The first time I walked into an American library, bells rang and cherubs sang about my head.

I wandered about in rapture, borrowed books by the armload, and became known to the librarians.  I liked to inhabit books, devour them.  Reading seemed so similar to eating, to consumption.  I didn’t like to eat now unless there was a book open by my plate.  A habit Amma hated and shouted at me often over.  If I could get away with it, I would have written in the margins of my favorite books, drawn diagrams, arrow, and small pictorial commentaries in direct conversation or argument with the writer.  Instead, I read in the bathtub, at the dinner table, on the bus, leaving a trail of books behind me.  Amma and Thatha revered books.  They read carefully without bending pages or breaking spines, bent to kiss them if they fell on the floor.  There were aghast at what they saw as my irreverence, and I in turn could never understand the politeness with which they read” (Munaweera, 116).

Quote from Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

Quote from Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

The moment that got me in this quote was “words…waiting like time bombs.”  I think that little phrase gets at the reason why there are so many readers, and so many readers throughout time.  The words are like a field of improvised explosive devices.  But not the kind that have murdered those who serve, but the kind that open small holes so that as Leonard Cohen so famously said, light can get in.  While I read, I’m allowed into this alternate world that I could never know otherwise.  Someone is giving me the opportunity to travel, to experience, to empathize, to add significance to things I didn’t know previous.  I love this about the world of words, the vastness of it, and the small garden plots, barren lands, and topped mountains that rise (or don’t) from this world.

Like the narrator, I am not a polite reader.  I fold pages of library books with wet thumbs.  I leave crumbs in the cracks from granola bars.  I can’t erase the coffee splotches that I spilled while I read with action.  I leave them in dusty places in my apartment and move them when I move.  The words might get wet, the pages might crease, the margins might be filled with doodles or more words.  Words on words. I try to teach my students the art of annotation and the messiness in conversation.  Every human conversation is messy, and so is every conversation made in the margins of someone else’s words.

The mess is where the light is.

13 thoughts on “Notable Quotables | From the Moleskine

  1. Claire 'Word by Word' says:

    Hey! I just this morning finished What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera and have ordered Island of a Thousand Mirrors, which should be here any day! I loved it, and had to read her earlier work. A word of warning, time-bombs galore.

    And you’ll be pleased to know the Harry Potter fan here, received his gift today and is very happy to be able to move past the first episode.

    I still want to hear from you about Fates and Furies. Did you see my review?

    • Cassie says:

      Ah! So happy you can WATCH ON with HP. I LOVE Island of a Thousand Mirrors. It is BEAUTIFUL. So so so beautiful, but also devastating. I’m reading Fates and Furies next. I’ve been putting it off until I hear she’s writing another book.

      • Claire 'Word by Word' says:

        I’m pretty sure she’ll be writing another book, you needn’t worry about that! But this one may have given her a well deserved holiday with all the acclaim it’s received. When you’re finished reading it, you must promise to come and comment on my blog! :)

      • Cassie says:

        I definitely will. I purposely haven’t read your blog on it until I’ve read it because I know you will be spot on. I’ve also avoided the acclaim! Ah!

  2. Bea says:

    Beautiful quotes, and a beautifully written blog as well. While reading that first quote, second paragraph, it was like I was reading something you had written about yourself. For as long as I can remember, you have referred to books like food, eating them up. It seems you have found a kindred spirit among these particular pages. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kristel Marie Pujanes says:

    Glorious quotes indeed. Particularly liked the second one. “…I in turn could never understand the politeness with which they read.” I rarely encounter books that leave me in awe, but when I do, I so often wish I could crawl between the sentences and stay there forever.

    Reading Anais Nin’s journals and An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, and your post just captured everything I’m feeling right now. BTW, also loved your last line. Very true, very powerful.

    • Cassie says:

      Amaris Nin’s journal will open a door inside of readers that they didn’t know existed. Such amazing writing. I feel the same way about Sylvia Plath’s journals. I love that you’re feeling that right now. I don’t know if I could handle if ALL literature made me feel that way but it would add a whole lot of beautiful to our world. Thanks for commenting! Love chatting :)

      • Kristel Marie Pujanes says:

        I love Sylvia Plath! Staggering words and so on-point in a jagged, barbed way. She’ll always be my favorite. Anais Nin writes so beautifully and perfectly that it took me a while to really appreciate her–if that makes sense. :) Virginia Woolf’s essays always leaves me breathless. And Dorothy Parker, unmatched wit. :) I apologize for the enthusiasm, but your post got me so excited. Always a pleasure to find people who still get so immersed, so steeped in good literature. :)

      • Cassie says:

        You literally just named some of my absolute favorites. I haven’t been able to get really into any of Woolf’s novels but short stories and essays always, always stay with me for days afterwards. Do you have that HUGE collection of Dorothy Parker that just came out? I almost can’t read it all at once or for long periods because it’s overwhelming. I feel the same way about Anais Nin. I have a collection that she wished not to be published until her death and it’s like the very beginning of her writing passion. It’s actually one of my favorites because you can almost see her thinking on the page. Plus, it has all her cross-outs and changes in the margins. So interesting to see how she worked before she really started honing her craft. LOVE the enthusiasm!

      • Kristel Marie Pujanes says:

        They’re my favorites too! :) You’ve got excellent taste, ma’am. Like you, I haven’t gotten into Woolf’s novels that much, but there’s something so powerful about her essays. I remember getting goosebumps and feeling so overwhelmed the first time I read A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas. :) Do you mean The Collected Dorothy Parker? Ohhh I’m envious. I don’t have it. It’s really hard to find her books (and Anais Nin’s) here in the Philippines. Once, a bookstore released ONE copy of The Collected, and I went back the next day, GONE. Nin’s journals I got from secondhand sellers – in schools and online auction sites. I don’t have the one you mentioned. I’ll definitely go on a shopping spree the next time I’m in NY.

      • Cassie says:

        Ah! I didn’t even think about that. You’ll definitely have to spree in NY! I haven’t read Three Guineas, I will have to get it! I will look at the library now.

  4. whisperinggums says:

    Fantastic quotes Cassie. And very relevant because my next post has to do with libraries.

    But oh dear, I could never treat my books that way (except, I admit, for pencilled marginalia). But then, I’m a retired librarian!


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