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From Musings:


Wednesday, Feb. 17 2010 UTC

One thing I love about the Kindle is the fact that you can 'highlight’ text (I never mark inside paper books because it somehow feels like blasphemy, perhaps the last guilty vestige of my Catholic upbringing). It is perhaps less well known that if you connect the Kindle to your computer, you can download a file called My Clippings.txt from the 'documents’ folder and do what you like (within legal limits) with the selections you’ve highlighted.

I think it’s within the realm of fair use to share a few of my favorite tidbits here:

LEAVE A HOUSE empty in Malibu, Tessa told Chevette, and you get the kind of people come down from the hills and barbecue dogs in your fireplace.” — William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties

“That which is overdesigned, too highly specific, anticipates outcome; the anticipation of outcome guarantees, if not failure, the absence of grace.” — ibid

“Wouldn’t be a bad job, as bad jobs went.” — ibid

“Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.” — Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“On one side hung a very large oilpainting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that in the unequal crosslights by which you viewed it, it was only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose. Such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, that at first you almost thought some ambitious young artist, in the time of the New England hags, had endeavored to delineate chaos bewitched. But by dint of much and earnest contemplation, and oft repeated ponderings, and especially by throwing open the little window towards the back of the entry, you at last come to the conclusion that such an idea, however wild, might not be altogether unwarranted. But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous, black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over three blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast. A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through.—It’s the Black Sea in a midnight gale.—It’s the unnatural combat of the four primal elements.—It’s a blasted heath.—It’s a Hyperborean winter scene.—It’s the breaking-up of the icebound stream of Time. But at last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous something in the picture’s midst. THAT once found out, and all the rest were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the great leviathan himself? In fact, the artist’s design seemed this: a final theory of my own, partly based upon the aggregated opinions of many aged persons with whom I conversed upon the subject. The picture represents a Cape-Horner in a great hurricane; the half-foundered ship weltering there with its three dismantled masts alone visible; and an exasperated whale, purposing to spring clean over the craft, is in the enormous act of impaling himself upon the three mast-heads.” — ibid

“In small towns people scent the wind with noses of uncommon keenness.” — Stephen King, The Stand

“He was a spear-carrier, the army version of a Mafia button-man, ....” — ibid

Sometimes I highlight just a word, a small treat to be shared on a later occasion. Examples:

  • spicules
  • congeries
  • apotheosis
  • fatuous
  • panic grass
  • coverts
  • vixen
  • crumps
  • brindled
  • tawny
  • tophet
  • shitcan
  • neologism
  • obliquity
  • scud
  • ruck
  • forecastle
  • gravid
  • catarrh

These from Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Herman Melville, William Gibson. Pondering words like these makes me love the English Language.