If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us.
...the books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of a person we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation--a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.
Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. if the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves... A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.