Saturday, January 16, 2010

The thrill of the written word

I am reading The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs. It is about one guy's year-long journey through the Encyclopedia Brittanica -- no small feat. Reading the book is like reading the Cliff Notes for the EB. I'm trying to remember a few facts as I go along.

In the M section, Jacobs tells about Montaigne a 16th-century French writer who coined the term essay: to try. So, writing an essay is to try to explain or expound. A nice idea that. That one can make the attempt and that is enough.

But what I really loved about this passage was the story of Marie de Gournay -- a French intellectual of the same time period as Montaigne -- who "fainted from excitement when she read Montaigne's work for the first time."

Imagine that. To pass out from the thrill of the written word.

When was the last time that reading something had that sort of impact on you? Ever?


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