"That is why it is good to bring the golden fruits of arts and literature — stories of growing up and growing old, from Sophocles to Coetzee, dense with time and interiority — into our possession, for we are immeasurably the fuller for it, attuned to, even accosted by other voices and fates, times, and places. Here is an inheritance you can receive without anyone needing to die. Here is a fabulous voyage you can make without passport or suitcase. We territorialize through reading and imagining, we expand our repertory. And perhaps we learn to sense the reaches and depths of those we know and love, even of those we scarcely know and do not love. Literature schools us in this way.
"One walks into a library or bookstore and thinks: so many stories, so little time. But the truth goes the other way: each of these stories gives time, rather than taking it. Each of these works adds to our stock. Each one of them grows us. That is where I want to put my final emphasis. Stories of growing up and growing old are stories that extend who we are. Morning to noon, noon to night: the arc of the sun and the arc of a life, from birth to death. Human life would seem end-oriented — whether it be the route from innocence to experience or the apprenticeship with dying — and that is what gives the drama of growing up and growing old its inevitable pathos. Each phase seems keyed to loss. But art reverses these matters; remember again Andrew Marvell's sweet lines:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
"That is the propulsion of desire, but also of art. Hence, the two phases of my study are about the continuing heat of life, not only its eager launch or its inevitable close. One measures our coming, the other measures our going; both measure trajectories and velocities; both are kinetic. Both add to our energy and our estate."