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
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.