4.02.02 – Monday
Granulated brain, vocabulary running free like an hour-glass’s sands.
To study, to know a thing, is to internalize it and make it one’s own; in short, to memorize it. In a different age, the classical education required massive rote memorization of poetry, prose — you know, the classics. Everything then becomes allusive, words acquire a mnemonic savor. Lime blossom tea and Proustian madeleine. And all that.
Have decided to re-read Bleak House — first read at age seventeen, at Christmastime, in Arizona. How comforting to find oneself in thrall to a capable narrator — it has been such a long time since I read something with such a natural, comfortable rhythm to it, a style definable, personal, and familiar. One feels it in the very opening:
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.