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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Reading 100 pages

So if you read 100 pages of something... That's a lot to read in a day. It might take an hour and a half. If you multiple that by the number of days you do that, then you are reading a fantastic number of pages.

 If you really knew quite well 50 pages of Borges's stories and essays, that would be a lot. So you could essentially do that in an hour, if you could remember and assimilate what you read. It's not just about the retention of what is read, but the significance of it. So the 50 or 100 pages I have memorized--that is something. If someone knew really well 50 pages of Wallace Stevens, we would call that person an expert on Stevens.


I read last Xmas at my mom's house a book of short stories by Graham Greene. In one, a boy is deathly afraid of playing hide-and-go-seek.  He protests vigorously, but to no avail: he must go to the party and play. He dies of fright in the arms of his twin brother.  In another, a boy joins a youth gang and takes it over by the extremism of his actions: together, they break into a man's house and demolish it from the inside in a terrifyingly complete process. I like the idea of stories whose excellence lies in their conception, not their execution--however expert this execution is. Borges's lecture on Hawthorne contains many of these examples: a couple inherent a house and have to abide by one condition: not to fire an aged servant to makes their life miserable, and who is in fact that person who bequeathed the house to them. In Borges's summary, Hawthorne becomes a surrealist poet, or precursor of Borges himself, perhaps. That paradoxical imagination: a man marries a perfect looking woman, who has one small defect, a birthmark on her face. All his attention is on the imperfection, and he gradually kills her through scientific experimentation in an effort to remove.

So 10 pages of Borges contains germs of numerous stories, and a whole universe.

The tens of thousands of pages we read simply turning pages, trying to get somewhere else...

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