I heard in an interview that Maria Popova (of Brainpickings.org) marks underlined passages in the books she’s reading with a “BL” to remember instances of “beautiful language.”
(She talks a bit about her relationship with marginalia in an interview with On Being. It’s really nice.)
Hearing this got me thinking about how and why I mark up my books, and what my note-taking system really is. (It’s always been a bit chaotic and messy.) But mainly it got me noticing when I notice (and choose to underline) what I feel are really beautiful or striking passages as I’m reading.
For example, when Shevek and his friends are sitting on a hilltop, talking about what Urras might really be like (versus what they’ve been told / led to believe), Le Guin mentions that three days earlier in a history class they had all seen an image of “iridescent jewels in the smooth hollow of women’s oiled, brown bodies” (referring to the exotic luxuries / decadence of Urras). Which I simply found both linguistically and imagically luscious.
What did Roland Barthes call it? Le Plaisir du Texte [remembering back to my Comp Lit days.]
Later in the same section, when the “moon” (i.e., Urras) rises on the horizon, Le Guin writes:
The sister planet shone down upon them, serene and brilliant, a beautiful example of the improbability of the real." [p. 45 – HPMC, 2014]
And I just loved that line: “the improbability of the real.” More than just linguistically or imagaically beautiful, it’s also intriguing and beautiful to contemplate.
Here’s another passage I felt was both memorable and important:
You shall not go down twice to the same river, nor can you go home again. That he knew; indeed it was the basis of his view of the world. Yet from that acceptance of transience he evolved his vast theory, wherein what is most changeable is shown to be fullest of eternity, and your relationship to the river, and the river’s relationship to you and to itself, turns out to be at once more complex and more reassuring than a mere lack of identify. You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been. [p. 54 – HPMC, 2014]
Anyways… thought I’d start this thread as a place to collect beautiful lines—both for the language as well as the intrigue of the thought. Feel free to add your own, If you feel so moved…