Grist for the Mill

For me it tends to be more a matter of finding the links between things. I need to fill out my knowledge of Prague, 1949, or the Elizabethan prose writers, or the cross-migration between New York newspapers and Hollywood in the ’20s and ’30s. I buy every book I see about Gypsies, and most firsthand accounts of vaudeville, and almost everything by lesser-known New Yorker writers of the old regime. I’m always on the lookout for memoirs – frequently by the less-than-famous – that supply concrete details of daily life, rather than simply lists of names or dates of parties or, heaven forfend, litanies of traumas. I like books published before 1940 that are illustrated with photographs; even if those are frequently small and murky, they are rare windows into the past. Books help me construct whole worlds in my mind, and I require an army of books to complete the picture, not that it’s ever truly complete. When I’m truly passionate about a subject, anything can be grist for the mill. Poetry can be as materially informative as journalism, and railroad timetables can be as evocative and lilting as poems. I derive nourishment from the copyright pages, from the publishers’ ads in the back, from even the most misguided attempts at cover design.

Luc Sante

One response to “Grist for the Mill

  1. Pingback: Colorful | Submitted For Your Perusal

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