Sunday, February 05, 2023

'A Throb of Pleasure in His Heart'

I’m told the traditional gift for a seventeenth anniversary is furniture -- practical but hardly romantic – though furniture is one of those deceptively mundane words we think we understand, densely packed with history, an example of what Emerson called “fossil poetry.” Furniture is more than couches and chairs. The OED gives twenty-two shades of meaning, not counting compounds, and here is the one, appropriately labeled “obsolete,” I claim for Anecdotal Evidence: 

“The condition of being equipped whether in body or mind; equipment in dress or armour; preparedness for action; mental cultivation, culture.”


A little high-falutin’, I agree, but books for some of us are certainly the mind’s essential equipage; in Kenneth Burke’s words, “equipment for living.” My first post, on February 5, 2006, was headed “Commonplace Book”  -- an approach I abandoned almost immediately, realizing I wanted more than a patchwork quilt of other people’s words. I wanted a voice of my own, woven from what I’ve gleaned while reading and paying attention. Here is that first post, drawn from William Hazlitt’s essay “The Fight”:   


“. . . we agreed to adjourn to my lodgings to discuss measures with that cordiality which makes old friends like new, and new friends like old, on great occasions. We are cold to others only when we are dull in ourselves, and have neither thoughts nor feelings to impart to them. Give a man a topic in his head, a throb of pleasure in his heart, and he will be glad to share it with the first person he meets.”


I’ve tried to sustain that spirit. Every day since then, except for that brief hiatus in 2019 following spinal surgery, I’ve dutifully written and posted at least a few words. I was warned by a veteran blogger that I ought to prepare a stockpile of posts to offset those inevitable sterile days. Well, I’ve never had a sterile day. I’ve learned that I have at least one thought each day worth developing.


Back in 2009, the late David Myers and I organized an online symposium, “The Function of Book Blogging at the Present Time.” We asked a dozen bloggers a series of questions and published their responses over the next two weeks. That now seems like a very distant and alien world, already late in the Golden Age of Blogging, with some claims on civility and literacy. The bookish precincts of the blogosphere are littered with dead, abandoned blogs. In answer to this question – “How do you respond to this statement?: Blogging is just another hobby, like stamp collecting or hockey.” – I responded:


“It would be easy to get defensive about this question (I did, and I wrote it). Some of us take blogging seriously but must be reminded not to take ourselves seriously. David Ferry writes in his poem ‘Rereading Old Writing,’ ‘writing / Is a way of being happy.’ Remember too that ‘hobby,’ meaning a small horse, entered the language in the 13th century. In less than three centuries it morphed into a child’s toy horse. By the 17th century it meant a pastime or avocation, the connection being that both signify activities going nowhere.”


Gary said...

Happy anniversary tomorrow for Anecdotal Evidence. This activity has defied the definition of pastime or avocation for many of its followers. It has led many readers on different continents to explore books further, has opened vistas, has given a lot of joy. In and of itself, it has been a showcase for good writing, not just writings cited but the blogger's own very good prose.

Tim Guirl said...

Thank you and congratulations on your 17th anniversary writing this blog. It brings to mind an incredible accomplishment by a bicycle mechanic who rode his bike one hour each day for more than 10,000 consecutive days. A kidney infection that hospitalized him finally ended his 28-year streak. May you continue to delight your readers for a very long time.

JJ Stickney said...

Thank you!

-Z. said...

Thank you, Mr. Kurp. I visit AE every day and am always the better for it.

Faze said...

Your daily thoughts are very much appreciated. I eagerly look into the unknown-to-me writers you recommend or speak highly of, and have discovered new favorites as a result. Many thanks for this blog.