Writing Note:
Romance
2 April 2019

¶ In March, I was so busy recovering, both from the foot infection and from the household neglect that it had induced, that I left the writing project untouched. But I thought about it a great deal, and even worked out my thoughts in a couple of letters to friends, so that when I finally took up the material this afternoon, first re-reading the current draft and then glancing through the notebook in which I’ve attacked questions that I couldn’t immediately answer, I knew where to resume. There was a long paragraph that had to be tucked into the third page, and then a longer discussion to launch at the point where I had left off in February. At the end of the day, I found myself charged with the sense that the essay — originally an introductory chapter encompassing all the principal points of the project, but now a sustained inquiry into just one issue, my long and self-conscious relationship with books — was complete. An hour later, I changed my mind; once again, there was something left out, this time to be tucked into the later pages. But the piece remains done, at least for the moment. 

I had come to regard the subject of this essay as “the romance of books,” but I realized that I had better qualify it as “my romance with books.” I’ve read a number of other people’s romances, such as Alberto Manguel’s, and I think that mine is comparably darker, haunted by dragons of pretension and wishful thinking, among others. Far from corrupting my reading, however, these dragons protected me, for a very long time, from any need to account for what I was doing, and by the time their power waned I had read a very great deal. I had re-read a great deal. The dreamy expectation that I would one day know a lot of things that I’d learned from books gave way to the conviction that I don’t begin to know enough about anything, which is the proper outlook for any serious reader. 

I retitled the essay, simply, “Romance.” 

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