Posts Tagged ‘Reading


D’il Mio Libro Piccolo: The Whole World and Your Life

it tolls for thee.

I’ve been exceptionally homesick these last few days. Perhaps it’s just another familiar wave of culture shock that pushes you inexplicably down, perhaps it’s hormones, or perhaps the cold weather is already getting to me. The cause could be anything; what I’m trying my best to ignore is the possibility that the homesickness is caused by something real, something in me that truly believes I was happier in California and should not have given that up.

But I did, and I’m here, que sera, sera, and I’m sure soon I’ll be experiencing another blissful moment – the kind of distinct happiness you can only get when you’re far away from what you know, and you’re proud for knowing you’ve begun to fit in.

Though, regardless of whether I’m floating in elation or sinking in loneliness, what I have to do is be present. Wherever I am, that is where I should be. Not back in my freshman year of college, sitting on the cafeteria patio with french fries on plastic trays, new friends at my side, and the warm Orange County evening settling over me. Not in the backyard of my childhood home, swinging on the hammock with a fudgesicle dripping down my tie-dyed cotton dress, and a sleepy plane lulling overhead in the California summer sky.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway’s masterpiece about 4 long days in the Spanish Civil War and my most recent selection from the Boekenmarkt in the Spui, delivered to me a sharp reminder of this. I was going to say that of course Robert Jordan had greater reason to live in the moment than I do, as his life was in constant danger as a guerilla bridge-blower behind fascist lines, but I won’t say that. If we all waited until our survival was in obvious danger to really pay attention, then we’d miss a hell of a lot.

“And if there is not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your lives, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it. Now, ahora, maintenant, heute [and, might I add, the Dutch nu]. Now, it has a funny sound to be a whole world and your life.”

A whole world and your life. It does sound funny, but of course that is what it is. Every minute of our lives – every memory and every single forgotten moment – fits together like a puzzle, a painting, a great galaxy. They are now a whole. And that whole exists in its only possible form, with each successive moment adding one piece, one brush stroke, one star. They are fixed. Permanent. And the only thing to do is to fully absorb each new thing that comes along, because only what happens now, and now, and now can change the way the whole turns out. And that, of course, is what matters. Living in the nu.


D’Il Mio Libro Piccolo: Dickens’ Venice

When I was in Venice in October, wandering the rainy streets aimlessly as though trapped – and with no desire to escape – in a very beautiful and perfectly unique maze, my travel companions and I came across a truly delicious book shop called Charta Venezia. Their merchandise is comprised of incredible works of art: old editions of classic texts bound, in the “art of new Venetian bookbinding,” in the most ornate and gorgeous covers I have ever seen. They run anywhere from 200 euros to 5,000, so all I did was drool (doing my best not to get that or the rain from my jacket sleeves onto any of those antique, leafy, full-of-wonder pages).

I did find a little handmade journal that had been marked down, so I decided to buy it and use it to record all of my favorite passages from the books that I read. My own personal collection of beautiful literary treasures to be admired and enjoyed on a smaller scale. I thought it fitting to start it with a chilling description of the city of Venezia from Charles Dickens’ 1846 Pictures from Italy:

“But close about the quays and churches, palaces and prisons: sucking at their walls, and welling up into the secret places of the town: crept the water always. Noiseless and watchful: coiled round and round it, in its many folds, like an old serpent: waiting for the time, I thought, when people should look down into its depths for any stone of the old city that had claimed to be its mistress.

Thus it floated me away, until I awoke in the old market-palace at Verona. I have, many and many a time, thought since, of this strange Dream upon the water: half-wondering if it lie there yet, and if its name be VENICE.”

A magical little passage that, when I read it still, makes me feel like I’m back in that mysterious, almost unreal place, standing over a canal on a little bridge under my umbrella watching the gray water dance and swirl about the ancient sinking bricks.

Since purchasing il mio libro piccolo, and writing down the Dickens passage, I haven’t been the best about keeping a faithful record of all of my favorite lines as I find them. I have this problem when I read that I get too excited and don’t want to stop reading to get up, find a pen and my little book and write anything down. As a result, there are many sparkling and colorful and deeply, personally affecting bits of writing that I will never see again and will doubtfully ever remember.

So, I will begin sharing here some of what I find, in part to motivate myself to continue recording them, but mostly because I love to bring attention to these little gems. Those moments when you come across a collection of words that makes your breath stop for just a second, and you have no choice but to read it a few times over and let it cover you, become you, change you and brighten the colors in which you see the world – these are why I read.

And it’s nice to keep those moments in one very beautiful and perfectly unique little book.

"Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!" -Henry James, The Art of Fiction
February 2019
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