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Is Good Writing a Habit?

I came across this article, which starts as follows: “We are what we repeatedly do,” Aristotle famously proclaimed. “Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” And later, it goes on to quote William James: The great thing, then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.…

Should a Book Stab You, Or Make You Happy?

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”