Continuing the quoting marathon that is The Consolations of Philsophy:
And yet we should be grateful for the paradox. Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books that were written because authors couldn't find anyone to talk to. (148)
Every difficult work presents us with a choice of whether to judge the author inept for not being clear, or ourselves stupid for grasping what is going on. Montaigne encouraged us to blame the author. An incomprehensible prose-style is likely to have resulted more from laziness than cleverness; what reads easily is rarely so written. Or else such prose masks an absence of content; being incomprehensible offers unparalleled protection against having nothing to say... (158)
But writing with simplicity takes courage, for there is a danger that one will be overlooked, dismissed as simpleminded by those with a tenacious belief that impassable prose is a hallmark of intelligence. So strong is this bias, Montaigne wondered whether the majority of university scholars would have appreciated Socrates, a man they professed to revere above all others, if he had approached them in their own towns, devoid of the prestige of Plato's dialogues, in his dirty cloak, speaking in plain language... (159)
But rather than illuminating our experiences and goading us on to our own discoveries, great books may come to cast a problematic shadow. They may lead us to dismiss aspects of our lives of which there is no printed testimony. Far from expanding our horizons, they may unjustly come to mark their limits. Montaigne knew one man who seemed to have bought his bibliophilia too dearly: 'Whenever I ask [this] acquaintance of mine to tell me what he knows about something, he wants to show me a book: he would not venture to tell me that he has scabs on his arse without studying his lexicon to find out the meaings of scab and arse.' (162)
Indeed. That's where we'll end with this for now. Need to start putting out some thesis prep before I start forgetting what was in my mind!