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“A unique poem or narrative may have a good deal more than what we call voice; or there may be a good deal more embodied than the term implies. The realized work is an organic animal, impinging itself, possibly, on all the senses, but primarily, of course, on sight and sound: the layout of the language on the page (and here the designer and the printer collaborate with the author) – and the appeal to the inner ear, the way we find ourselves hearing it as we read.

In a curious way, there is verification of what I’m talking about, in the appeal to the eye: I refer to the radical transformations a piece of writing goes through, in the journey from gestation to birth. A hand-written manuscript is one thing; run up on the typewriter it is something organically different. This is not often recognized, or comes to one as a shock: that the mode of presentation may fundamentally affect the substance of what it presented. The next transformation is from typescript to galley proofs; and when these arrive on the author’s desk, he may feel a curious mixture of loss and pride: the work is distancing, but it is coming nearer to its own final realization. The final transformation, of course, is from proofs to book. The work is at last born.”

(Paul Metcalf, “The Eye Hears, the Voice Looks”, pp. 55–56 in From Quarry Road.)

against ideas

“10 December 1858

The sadness and melancholy of modern times spring from the accumulation of books, in other words from the growth of ideas. The idea is the old age of the spirit and the disease of the mind.”

(Pages from the Goncourt Journal, trans. Robert Baldick.)