If you know how to read them, the words between the lines are as important as the ones in black and white. If you know how to follow them, the connections between books are threads of conversation. If you know how to look, every book is a quilt stitched from a fabric of borrowed words.
From my article over at Contents Magazine about reading and how we should be helping each other out to make the hard books more decipherable and the “simple” books more complicated. There’s also an example working library on intertexts that has some of my favorite quotations/books/links, even if you don’t read the whole article.
I wrote this in part because I’ve been haunted, for about five years, by the character of Magda, who’s constituent texts are so disconnected from other humans that she’s completely unmoored.
And this morning, also in Contents, I was thrilled to read The Windhill Bequest, in which a seemingly sterile list of texts (or archival items) evokes a rich, humane history and community.
It keeps coming back to this, for me. When we’re talking about how we connect to the past and maintain and illuminate the relationships between texts, these are the existential options: Magda or Elizabeth Windhill; bewildered pastiche whose texts further fragment demented self-delusions, or loving collection that uses texts to tie our selves to a past and a future.