TITLE: Enthusiastic Recommendation Is Not A Vice AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: November 08, 2015 9:37 AM DESC: ----- BODY: Novelist Henry Miller lamented one of his greatest vices, recommending books and authors too enthusiastically, but ultimately decided that he would not apologize for it:
However, this vice of mine, as I see it, is a harmless one compared with those of political fanatics, military humbugs, vice crusaders, and other detestable types. In broadcasting to the world my admiration and affection, my gratitude and reverence, ... I fail to see that I am doing any serious harm. I may be guilty of indiscretion, I may be regarded as a naïve dolt, I may be criticized justly or unjustly for my taste, or lack of it; I may be guilty, in the high sense, of "tampering" with the destiny of others; I may be writing myself down as one more "propagandist", but -- how am I injuring anyone? I am no longer a young man. I am, to be exact, fifty-eight years of age. (Je me nomme Louis Salavin.) Instead of growing more dispassionate about books, I find the contrary is taking place.
I'm a few years younger than Messrs. Miller and Salavin, but I share this vice of Miller's, as well as his conclusion. When you reach a certain age, you realize that admiration, affection, gratitude, and reverence, especially for a favorite book or author, are all to be cherished. You want to share them with everyone you meet. Even so, I try to rein in my vice in the same way Miller himself knew he ought in his soberer moments, by having a lighter touch when I recommend. Broadcasting one's admiration and affection too enthusiastically often has the opposite effect to the one intended. The recipients either take the recommendation on its face and read with such high expectations that they will surely be disappointed, or they instinctively (if subconsciously) react with such skepticism that they read with an eye toward deflating the recommendation. I will say that I have been enjoying The Books In My Life, from which the above passage comes. I've never read any of Miller's novels, only a Paris Review interview with him. This book about the books that shaped him has been a pleasant introduction to Miller's erudite and deeply personal style. Alas, the occasional doses of French are lost on me without the help of Google Translate. -----