What kind of worker is a writer? On Tillie Olsen, who wrote in dribs and drabs while holding down menial jobs and raising four children: “Writing, Olsen reminded her readers, takes time, education, energy, and resources, and these things are unevenly distributed. She encouraged us to attend to unorthodox writing produced in unfavorable circumstances—letters, diaries, scrapbooks like her own—and, in doing so, to question what counts as literature.”
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Cities have often been compared to language: you can read a city, it’s said, as you read a book. But the metaphor can be inverted. The journeys we make during the reading of a book trace out, in some way, the private spaces we inhabit. There are texts that will always be our dead-end streets; fragments that will be bridges; words that will be like the scaffolding that protects fragile constructions. T.S. Eliot: a plant growing in the debris of a ruined building; Salvador Novo: a tree-lined street transformed into an expressway; Tomas Segovia: a boulevard, a breath of air; Roberto Bolano: a rooftop terrace; Isabel Allende: a (magically real) shopping mall; Gilles Deleuze: a summit; and Jacques Derrida: a pothole. Robert Walser: a chink in the wall, for looking through to the other side; Charles Baudelaire: a waiting room; Hannah Arendt: a tower, an Archimedean point; Martin Heidegger: a cul-de-sac; Walter Benjamin: a one-way street walked down against the flow.
Valeria Luiselli, “Relingos: The Cartography of Empty Spaces” (via invisiblestories
Books are special, books are the way we talk to generations that have not turned up yet. The fact that we can actually, essentially communicate with the people in ancient Egypt, people in Rome and Greece, people in ancient Britain, people in New York in the 1920s who can communicate to us and change the way we think, and change the things that we believe.
I think that books are special. Books are sacred. And I think that when you are selling books, you have to remember that in all the profits and loss, in all of that, you are treading on sacred ground.
The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.