Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Thick Tomes

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Books for the Journey," Along the Road: Notes and Essays of a Tourist (London: Chatto & Windus, 1925; rpt. 1948), pp. 63-71 (at 63-64):
All tourists cherish an illusion, of which no amount of experience can ever completely cure them; they imagine that they will find time, in the course of their travels, to do a lot of reading. They see themselves, at the end of a day's sight-seeing or motoring, or while they are sitting in the train, studiously turning over the pages of all the vast and serious works which, at ordinary seasons, they never find time to read. They start for a fortnight's tour in France, taking with them The Critique of Pure Reason, Appearance and Reality, the complete works of Dante and the Golden Bough. They come home to make the discovery that they have read something less than half a chapter of the Golden Bough and the first fifty-two lines of the Inferno. But that does not prevent them from taking just as many books the next time they set out on their travels.

Long experience has taught me to reduce in some slight measure the dimensions of my travelling library. But even now I am far too optimistic about my powers of reading while on a journey. Along with the books which I know it is possible to read, I still continue to put in a few impossible volumes in the pious hope that some day, somehow, they will get read. Thick tomes have travelled with me for thousands of kilometres across the face of Europe and have returned with their secrets unviolated. But whereas in the past I took nothing but thick tomes, and a great quantity of them at that, I now take only one or two and for the rest pack only the sort of books which I know by experience can be read in a hotel bedroom after a day's sight-seeing.

Vittorio Matteo Corcos (1859-1933), La lettura sul mare

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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