Passages: How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken

I've been meaning to cook up a section on this here blog-type thing that would allow me to share worthwhile sections of books I'm reading or past favorites. (John has a great section that does this as well.) I figure the new year is as good a time as any to get this going, and I hope to regularly offer interesting passages and receive book suggestions in return. Anyway, to kick things off, here's Daniel Mendelsohn from in the introduction of How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken, his collection of essays and criticisms. The phrase is from Tennessee Williams, and Mendelsohn is writing about why it struck a chord with him:

But to my mind Williams's haunting phrase illuminates not only the nature of certain works that have preoccupied me, but also something about the nature of the critics who judge these works. For (strange as it may sound to many people, who tend to think of critics as being motivated by the lower emotions: envy, disdain, contempt even) critics are, above all, people who are in love with beautiful things, and who worry that those things will get broken. What motivates so many of us to write in the first place is, to begin with, a great passion for a subject (Tennessee Williams, Balanchine, jazz, the twentieth-century novel, whatever) that we find beautiful; and, then, a kind of corresponding anxiety about the fragility of that beauty.