Hunting for an old will to share with a lawyer seeking a form, I stumbled on some of my old papers from grad school. I still like the opening of “To the Lighthouse and Critical Narrative.”
An eccentric but curious endeavor would be to assemble an abridgement of a great work out of its various critical studies, by piecing together all the quotations from it. We have no other way to know some ancient masterpieces; a pedant’s fortunate citation is all we possess of some poems of Sappho and tragedies of Aeschylus; and after the old fashion of constructing and then half-demolishing Gothic abbeys in the English countryside, perhaps some decadent scholar might one day give us a reconstruction of Wordsworth’s lost Prelude or the collected fragments of Middlemarch. Such an exercise in paraphilology would in fact resemble what critics already do when writing about texts. By virtue of being quoted, an excerpt becomes important; by virtue of being quoted often, it becomes exemplary.
That was for Mary Ann Caws (whose son is the lead singer for Nada Surf, Wikipedia tells me). To the Lighthouse is, incidentally, the finest book ever.