A Small Mass of Sand

Whitman had two studies where he read: one was the top of an omnibus, and the other a small mass of sand, entirely uninhabited, far out in the ocean, called Coney Island. (M. D Conway, 1866)

From which we can draw the following conclusion: Walt Whitman was very much the Active Reader. Not for him the cosy, well-upholstered armchair! Not for him the yielding mattress! Not for him the smart grass of a prominent public park, safely in sight of other impressionable readers! No, Whitman sought more daring habitats. The moving bus, with its interrupting jolts and bumps; with its fellow passengers mumbling nonsense to one another; with its torn and dirty seats. Or the ‘small mass of sand’ on the remote, windy island. Sand that gets into your shoes, into your ears, into the spine of every book you own.

Uncomfortable reading: the way reading should be.


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