I waited in line to meet John Green today for about 2 hours. He was signing books that whole time. When I finally reached the front of the line, I sort-of-jokingly asked him, “How’s your hand holding up?” And he looked up at me with wide, borderline-manic eyes and said flatly, “My head always goes before my hand.”
Bard’s Fifty-fifth Sonnet:
“Nont marble, nor the gilded monuments
of princes, shall out live this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright on these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.”
(Off topic, but: What a slut time is. She screws everybody.) It’s a fine poem, but a deceitful one: We do indeed remember Shakespeare’s powerful rhyme, but what do we remember without the person it commemorates? Nothing. We’re pretty sure he was a male; everything else is guesswork. Shakespeare told us precious little of the man whom he entombed in his linguistic sarcophagus. (Witness also that when we talk about literature, we do so in the present tense. When we speak of the dead, we are not so kind.) You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect…The dead are visible only in the terrible lidless eye of memory. The living, thank heaven, retain the ability to surprise and disappoint.