‘Merely a form of anaesthetic’

For the first time in months he was in reach of a real library, just the kind of scholarly yet miscellaneous library that his restless and impatient spirit craved. He was aware that the books he read… were merely a form of anaesthetic… But they were beginning to produce in him a moral languor that was not disagreeable, that, indeed… was almost pleasurable. It was exactly the kind of drug that he needed.

The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton
The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton, Collier 1994, p. 147

There was an inscription over the door to the library at Thebes: “Medicine for the soul.” Which is all very nice and makes us bibliophiles feel as though we are doing a public service when we recommend a book to someone who says they have nothing to read. (Be cautious whom you voice such a sentiment around—I have been known to create a numbered list of titles for the hapless individual who says they’re looking for books to read, along with which ones I own and could lend to them.)

But even the most benign medicine can be misused. It’s very tempting to use reading as only an anaesthetic instead of also as an invigorating agent. I should be more aware of which I’m doing.

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