I concluded the book with the conviction that I had somehow overlooked something terribly important in life. I had once tried to write, had once reveled in feeling, had let my crude imagination roam, but the impulse to dream had been slowly beaten out of me by experience. Now it surged up again and I hungered for books, new ways of looking and seeing.
This passage appears near the beginning of Chapter 13, immediately after Richard reads H. L. Mencken’s A Book of Prefaces. This reading of Mencken serves as a fiery baptism for Richard—it reminds him that he has an imagination, and that his imagination is hungry. In this sense, it marks an instance of the blurring between Richard’s desire to eat and his desire to read. This is something of a turning point in the novel: before this point, it is unclear where Richard is going in his life. Once or twice he mentions a fleeting desire to write, but by the time he arrives in Memphis it seems that his interest in reading and writing has been thoroughly extinguished. After this point, as Richard becomes more and more dedicated to the written word, his life achieves a more definite focus. As such, this point in Chapter 13 could be called the climax of the novel.