Building a Mind Created in Words

Two passages, among many, that struck me in William H. Gass’ wonderful new essay collection Life Sentences: Literary Judgements and Accounts:

From “The Literary Miracle”:

Emerson’s essays build the mind that thinks them. It is that mind that is the miracle that interests me. Did he think the thinker who then thinks his thoughts? “The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world.” I don’t believe he began by having “the eye is the first circle” arrive in his own inward office like a parishioner with a problem, and that, subsequently, he copied this thought down exactly the way it appeared when it knocked, and as he would have been required to had the words come from Allah or from God. He wrote them down so he could think their thought. And when he thought, “the eye is the first circle,” I’ll bet he didn’t know what the second circle was. But writing notions down means building them up; it means to set forth on a word, only to turn back, erasing and replacing, choosing and refusing alternatives, listening to the language, and watching the idea take shape like solidifying fog.“

From "Spit in the Mitt,” about baseball and his father:

We listened to ticker re-creations together—always the Indians, always blowing a lead. You could hear the click of the wireless sometimes as the announcer turned the tape’s dry and sullen information—F8—into a long drive which Earl Averill pulled down against the wall after a mighty run. Later, I would realize that those radio matches were more interesting than games seen on TV or from a poor seat in some vast modern stadium, because they were conveyed in symbols, created in words, and served to the field of the imagination.