Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | August 23, 2008

Books as Oracles

When asked how it was that Native Americans were able to discover—without the aid of modern science—the medicinal properties of hundreds of indigenous herbs and plants, the Shoshone healer Rolling Thunder explained that the secret was quite simple: a medicine man addressed the plant and asked it, in the “I and thou” dialogue of his “concrete science,” what it was good for, what power it contained. We must learn, without embarrassment, to do the same with books. Andrei Codrescu has suggested that we need to learn to “use books as oracles. Ask them a question: open them up.”

“Properly, we shd. read for power,” Ezra Pound insisted. “Man reading shd. be man intensely alive. The book shd. be a ball of light in one’s hands.”

An excerpt from an essay by David Lavery on ‘Book Gutting’ and how to cope with feeling incapable of reading enough.


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