Review: J. D. McClatchy’s Secret Autobiography, in Quotations

Dwight Garner in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_1874 Apr. 20 18.12The books of quotations that rarely let you down are commonplace books, those intellectual scrapbooks made for personal use and compiled by a single avid reader. Packed with miscellaneous delights — phrases, jokes, anecdotes, lovely sentences — they read like secret autobiographies, back catalogs of joy and heartbreak. You can apply them like compresses on the ugly bruises of life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson kept one; so did Thomas Hardy. W. H. Auden issued his under the title “A Certain World” (1970). A lesser-known figure, the English belletrist Geoffrey Madan (1895-1947) had his collected in“Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks,” published in 1981. It’s become a bit of a cult item.

These days, it’s rare that anyone publishes one. This is a reason to welcome the poet J. D. McClatchy’s “Sweet Theft: A Poet’s Commonplace Book.” Another reason is that it’s civilized and civilizing while being intimate and offbeat. It’s a treat to walk its aisles and browse its well-stocked shelves.

More here.

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