First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process
Robert D. Richardson
University of Iowa Press, 2009.
Instructions: Buy this book -- but don't read it. Not immediately. Keep it on hand. Buy a nice bottle of wine. Nothing exorbitant, but better than you'd ordinarily buy for yourself. Save both book and wine for a solitary despairing evening with bad weather. An evening on which you are pretty much certain that you are a lost cause. Read book with wine, enough to induce hope or facilitate grieving, but not so much that you are unable to take notes. As this is a slightly expensive book, and only long enough for one sitting -- and because it is excellent and powerful medicine -- you should save it for when you most need it. Then, if you like, you can give the book as a gift when visiting a particularly important friend -- in lieu of the wine, which you drank.
Everything Robert D. Richardson writes is remarkable -- elegant and life-giving. He has a unique ability to turn gigantic feats of research into pure inspiration. On the way to learning about Emerson, as if by accident, I learn also how to live. Richardson's biographies of Thoreau, Emerson and James are all extraordinary -- and I hope very much that there is more to come.