Miranda Lehman

I have long kept a reading journal, a place where I can record passages or phrases that have struck me as particularly thought-provoking, beautiful, or even comic. I also use these journals to jot down my thoughts on a text and to make a note of any follow up I intend on doing. I love being able to rewrite the passages that were able to arrest my attention and my aesthetic interest—in doing so I underline their importance in my mind and render even more indelible the impression they have left on my thoughts.

The copying out process may seem tedious or unnecessary, but to me it’s like tracing the lineaments of some beloved figure. It allows me to appreciate and to come closer to what I have read and found to have much merit. The works which have had the greatest influence on me are, unsurprisingly, the ones which appear most often in my writings and references: Villette, Magic Mountain, the Man Without Qualities, Recherche du temps Perdu, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse. I might even put Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar and Borges’ stories “The Library of Babel” and “Ireneo Funes, The Memorious” in the list, simply because they presented such new and important thoughts/ways of thinking to me.

I’ve recently finished re-reading Villette (for probably the tenth time), and despite the familiarity of the passages marked by well-folded upper corners, I read new phrases, saw new glimmers of emotion, and found new passages to love and transcribe.

And in catalepsy and a dead trance I studiously held the quick of my nature.

But all this was nothing. I too felt those autumn suns and saw those harvest moons, and I almost wished to be covered up in earth and turf, deep out of their influence; for could not live in their light, nor make them comrades, nor yield them affection.

No mockery in the world ever sounds so hollow to me as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure.

Her eyes were the eyes of one who can remember – one whose childhood does not fade like a dream, nor whose youth vanish like a sunbeam. She would not take life loosely and incoherently, in parts, and let one season slip as she entered on another; she would retain and
add, often review from the commencement, and so grow in harmony and consistency as she grew in years.

‘But solitude is sadness.’
‘Yes, it is sadness. Life, however, has worse than that. Deeper than melancholy lies heart-break.’

Beautiful words which encapsulate more emotion than is healthy for me. I found myself weeping at the end of the story, as is usual. Lucy Snowe is a character who breaks your heart: the “quick” of her nature isn’t cold, inoffensive, pale, sober, or quiet or any of the epithets so often thrown at her. She will appear that way, but she will feel with the strength of a Vashti, of a summer storm, of a maelstrom, and she will feel loss as painfully as any less-restrained character, but she will suffer that pain in solitude.