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Many books are read but some books are lived

February 26, 2012

Many books are read but some books are lived, so that words and ideas lose their ethereality and become experiences, turning points in an insufficiently clarified existence, and thereby acquire the almost mystical (but also fallible) intimacy of memory. In this sense one’s books are one’s biography. This subjective urgency bears no relation to the quality of the book: lives have been changed by kitsch, too. What matters is that one’s pores be opened, and that the opening be true. “What is the Ninth Symphony,” Karl Kraus declared, “compared to a pop tune played by a hurdy-gurdy and a memory!”

-Leon Wieseltier, Voluminous

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