“Books should confuse. Literature abhors the typical. Literature flows to the particular, the mundane, the greasiness of paper, the taste of warm beer, the smell of onion or quince. Auden has a line: 'Ports have names they call the sea.' Just so will literature describe life familiarly, regionally, in terms life is accustomed to use -- high or low matters not. Literature cannot by this impulse betray the grandeur of its subject -- there is only one subject: What it feels like to be alive. Nothing is irrelevant. Nothing is typical.”—Richard Rodriguez, Brown: The Last Discovery of America (2003)I saw essayist-memoirist Richard Rodriguez (Hunger of Memory) yesterday, as part of the afternoon Interfaith Lecture Series at Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. The capacity crowd at the Hall of Philosophy, where it was being taped for later broadcast on Krista Tippett’s NPR “On Being” show and podcast, was treated to an hour of incisive, witty, impossible-to-pigeonhole remarks by the author. Afterward, I made sure to get toward the front of a very long line forming at the adjacent Hall of Missions as he signed copies of his various books.
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