Sunday, November 13, 2005


Cheery Books

Holbrook Jackson, On Cheerful Books, from Occasions (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922):
I am an unabashed reader of books: all kinds of books -- good books and bad books, well-written and ill-written; books with a purpose, and books whose existence only the nicest sophistry could justify; books created by genius, and books built by talent standing on its head to attract attention; I even read books made to sell. I can and do read at all times and in all places -- standing up, and sitting or lying down; in chair or bed; on trains and 'buses or boats; in houses, gardens, theatres (when the play is dull); at concerts (reading to music is a discovery and not nearly so offensive to the musicians as talking to music); at meals (this is a delight which deserves an essay to itself) -- in short it would not be easy to name time or place inappropriate to the indulgence of this habit; and yet with all its catholicity and its complete indifference to the feelings of others, I can say with that self-satisfaction which comes only to those who admit being addicted to at least one habit which is no use to anyone but themselves that I could never bring myself to anything approaching enjoyment of an intentionally cheerful book. Cheerful books, or shall I say "cheery" books, make me sad: professional optimism reduces me to ashes.

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