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Eating the scroll

Something was started in the first three verses of Ezekiel 3: Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”/
So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll./
 And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.
The theme of eating the scroll, the book, the document derives, in the West, from the prophets. This is a radical reworking of the sensual spell of the book, with its obsessive visuality, into that most intimate of bodily moments, eating. The line: “Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth” is, to me, peculiarly moving. The scroll, the book, the screen on which I type these words, are all very dry. If they were not arid, they would not serve as platforms for letters. But the notion that the scroll’s dryness, which would make it repulsive, turns to something as sweet as “honey in my mouth” – this is a higher ideal than Mallarme’s notion of everything is meant to be contained in a book. That book is still high and dry; everything loses its savor. I prefer the scroll that is ingested and sweet.
Bob Dylan’s Eat the Document is a typically obscure reference – Dylan was a great reader of the Bible – to, perhaps, Ezekiel 3. But I think that the great meditation on Ezekiel three is contained in Unamuno’s “novella”, How to Make a Novel, which piles a commentary on a commentary on Unamuno by Jean Cassou, the latter of whom claimed that Unamuno’s genius was for commentary, that it was all, ultimately, commentary. To which Unamuno replied with a ramble about commentary that brought him to the truth of literature – that books are meant to be eaten.
“And the Letter we eat, which is flesh, is also the Word, which does not mean it is also idea, that is, skeleton. It is impossible to live on skeletons: no one can find nourishment from a skeleton. That is the reason I tend topause  at random in my reading of books of all kinds, among them the book of life, the history I am living, and the book of nature, and at every vital point.”
We gnaw around the bone. I do like the idea that some extract a skeleton from a book, and some eat it to find if it is like honey, or wax, or bitterness. I fear much of my own writing is wax. But I hope some is honey.

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