Thursday, December 26, 2013

"BLESSED OBSESSIVENESS" of Jay Leyda and Hershel Parker--What a Post-Christmas Gift!

An Excerpt from A Reader's Book of Days: True Tales From the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year by Tom Nissley
Tom Nissley has gathered an impressive potpourri of 2000 stories, anecdotes, and commentaries from writers for each day of the year. Here is an excerpt on wonder.
"Not every story cares about the calendar, of course. Do you ever know what day — or even month — it is in one of Kafka's novels? Time there is both too urgent and too infinite for the mere particularity of dates. Time has a different character in Virginia Woolf's novels too. Mrs. Dalloway, like Ulysses, is set on a single day in the middle of June, but she never says which one, leaving us no Dallowayday to celebrate the way we do Joyce's June 16, 1904. In fiction, her sense of time had less to do with what day it was than with, as Mrs. Dalloway's working title put it, The Hours, or, as she named one of her essays, 'The Moment.'
"But outside their fiction, Kafka and Woolf were two of the great artists of daily life — Kafka in his diary and especially his letters to his eternal fiancee Felice Bauer, and Woolf in her letters and especially her incomparable diary. They are among those writers whose daily impromptu autobiographies, like the diaries of Pepys, Thoreau, and Victor Klemperer or the letters of Flannery O'Connor or the James family, have become literature too. Then there are those who have the everyday art of their lives recorded by others: Dr. Johnson by his Boswell, of course, but also Herman Melville, who was no diarist but whose days appear again and again in these pages thanks to the blessed obsessiveness of biographers like Jay Leyda and Hershel Parker, and literary characters like Zora Neale Hurston and Jack Kerouac, whose self-creation made their days lastingly vivid.
"Now you know how I read to make this book. How should you read it? If you're like me, you'll look up your birthday first. Some readers will simply open it at random, or seek out favorite names in the index, or read a single page on its appointed day before moving on to the next one, or even sit down and read it straight through. Most of all, I hope you will get detoured from this book to start opening some of the other books it's made of. That's what I'm going to do now that I've finished writing it."

I am going to find a picture of Leyda and Parker to post here. How I revered that man!

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