“We are fed by what we attend to.”
[W]hen I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liquer until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.”
In Francis Bacon’s essay, “On Studies,” he wrote:
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
(In The Pleasures of Reading in An Age of Distraction, Alan Jacobs notes that this passage isn’t about being snobby, really, it’s just about the knowledge that you won’t be able to read everything — the buffet is too big! — so sometimes you need to sample or nibble. And while we’re on the subject of eating books, I feel it’s worth noting that Alan also wrote a book called Breaking Bread With The Dead.)
In Waiting For God, Simone Weil wrote:
…as far as possible I do not read anything except for that which I am hungry in the moment, when I am hungry for it, and then I do not read… I eat.
When I was in middle school, my English teacher had us copy Eve Merriam’s “How to Eat a Poem” into our notebooks (note my misattribution):
Don’t be polite.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.
You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.
For there is no core
to throw away.
Later, I found Mark Strand’s “Eating Poetry”:
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.There is no happiness like mine.I have been eating poetry.
In his memoir, Life Itself, Roger Ebert wrote about how he couldn’t eat any more due to his cancer treatment. He said he didn’t miss eating food as much as conversation at the dinner table.
“Maybe that’s why writing has become so important to me. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now.”