Four Spontaneous Acts of Education Regarding Booksellers

1. In The Confessions of St Augustine the author recalls that one of his greatest lessons came from seeing a man quietly read to himself, in a courtyard in Ostia. Thereby marking the first time in recorded history a man moved his lips to the words on a page, squinting his eyes to a private music better suited to the wrinkles of his body.

It is true that long before the proliferation of books the Greeks and the Romans considered intelligence to be located in the flesh—someplace between the heart and the ‘voicebox,’ rather than in the brain which is silent.

2. On the night Troy was to be sacked, Helen of Sparta—who remains literature’s original and undisputed femme fatale—pranced around the wooden horse in which the Greek commandos were crammed together and—in order to amuse a new boyfriend of hers who was with her at the time—imitated the voices of the wives of the men inside it.  Thereby testing the will of each of the soldiers, circling the great horse a lot like the thunder-storm, homer says, that raged and spoke out also–so that it was difficult to tell who had been more scandalized by Helen’s behavior—the gods or all the men inside the horse who were silent.

3. Remember: 

If there can be lightning so slow and tender that it can kill you, then this is what dying will deprive you of.

This is what I imagine Helen might have said to the soldiers inside the horse, were Helen a poet and not a heartless horse of a bitch herself (Homer’s words).

4. [ Part of this story has been removed, to satisfy certain publication requirements or magazine solicitations ]


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