Friday, May 20, 2016


Read Him, Not About Him

Edward Dahlberg (1900-1977), Alms for Oblivion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1964), p. 17:
[Sherwood] Anderson did not have the speculative intellect of a Plato, but he had the natural integrity of a fine elm, or a fertile sow, or a potato; he had a burly, carnal mind which was always very close to his urgent, lustful hands and nose, and his books he begat, rather than wrote.
Id., p. 19:
The way to understand a man like Anderson is not to read about him but to read him. Reading him, you find that all those workinghand words of his are redolent of hay and grass and midwest stables. Get Winesburg, Ohio, or Poor White, or Tar, or the Notebook, or his still unrecognized verse, A New Testament and Mid-American Chants. Anderson's books have the heady pollen of good orchards. Aristotle says that the pleasure we take in smelling apples is good, but that an interest in unguents is a sign of debauchery.
The reference is to Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 3.10.5 (1118a; tr. W.D. Ross):
We do not call those self-indulgent who delight in the odour of apples or roses or incense, but rather those who delight in the odour of unguents or of dainty dishes.

τοὺς γὰρ χαίροντας μήλων ἢ ῥόδων ἢ θυμιαμάτων ὀσμαῖς οὐ λέγομεν ἀκολάστους, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον τοὺς μύρων ἢ ὄψων.
"The way to understand a man like Anderson is not to read about him but to read him"—excellent counsel! Read Homer, not books about Homer, Plato, not books about Plato, etc.

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