From authors whom I read more than once I learn to value the weight of words and to delight in their meter and cadence — in Gibbon’s polyphonic counterpoint and Guedalla’s command of the subjunctive, in Mailer’s hyperbole and Dillard’s similes, in Twain’s invectives and burlesques with which he set the torch of his ferocious wit to the hospitality tents of the world’s colossal humbug . . . I know no other way out of what is both the maze of the eternal present and the prison of the self except with a string of words.