“They are like that.” —Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (“they” being homosexuals)
In thinking about revolutions, the usual mistake is to imagine that people decide which side to fight for by looking to their interests. But they don’t, at least not in any long-term way. They look to the immediate advantages or disadvantages, which mostly consist of rewards and punishments that others in their society are willing to inflict, or willing to pay to have inflicted. The few are indeed few, but they are able to buy the services, if not the allegiance, of the many in a pinch.
“But if one wants to be primarily a writer, then, in our society, one is an animal that is tolerated but not encouraged—something rather like a house sparrow—and one gets on better if one realizes one’s position from the start.” —Orwell, “The Cost of Letters,” 1946
At some point, Am I crazy to keep doing this? is no longer the right question to ask, because you have been doing it so long that you no longer have the option of doing anything else. The realization is not necessarily pleasant.
Is growing old more painful for the beautiful, or is it in fact not that hard for them to resign themselves merely to being more beautiful than others their age?
If the super leaves a mirror outside our building, in the spot reserved for furniture that strangers are welcome to take away, it gets shattered by the end of the day. A television’s screen, on the other hand, remains intact for weeks.
By an iron law, probably having something to do with my vanity, I only find men beautiful if they are my age or younger. But every year, as I age, a larger and larger proportion of the men in the world fall into this category. If I live long enough, then by the end of my life, there will scarcely be any man in the world I couldn’t fall for, which might be hardly bearable.
Teenage boys in the park, talking about the strains of marijuana they have recently acquired, are so hobbled by the low waists of their pants that they have the gait of geishas.
To say what you know, without reference to what the powers that be would like to hear, is always a claim to sovereignty.
“I am not with you” is what a writer is always saying.
falcate (adjective): bent or curved like a sickle
In my mind I saw the rainbands of the storm, the falcate concentric arms, reach out across a thousand miles to embrace the coast.
—Greg Jackson, Prodigals
“Unintended baggage may be removed or destroyed.” —public service announcement on the loudspeaker in the Newark Airport
Hypervigilance is not intelligence, though my history has conditioned me to confuse them. Real intelligence would involve a more prudent and thoughtful management of one’s attention.
“It seems in America you can have pederasts in books as long as they are fearfully gloomy and end by committing suicide.” —Jessica Mitford, quoted in Gregory Woods, Homintern
“A revolutionary with taste in wine has come already half the distance from Marx to Burke.” —Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago
“To know how it feels to be a seaweed you have to get in the water.” —Saul Bellow, Seize the Day
“Otters are extremely bad at doing nothing.” —Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water
Just put your phone over your face is a weird sales pitch.
“I might write of it and subsequent events with a wry dishonesty, a negation of my feeling for that creature, which might disarm criticism, might forestall the accusation of sentimentality and slushiness to which I now lay myself open. There is, however, a certain obligation of honesty upon a writer, without which his words are worthless.” —Maxwell, Ring
spraint (noun): the excrement of an otter
I remember seeing, in that year when the cubs were on Otter Island, a tiny caterpillar of spraint whose deposition must have been an acrobatic feat for the tottering cub.
Love is the fart
Of every heart:
It pains a man when ’tis kept close,
And others doth offend when ’tis let loose.
—John Suckling, “Love’s Offense”
Remember, kids: By the end of Miami and the Siege of Chicago, Mailer has come to believe that the republic would be safer with Nixon.
Heard through the window while brushing my teeth: the reassuring gray hyperventilating of the USPS van’s engine, and its even more reassuring sudden death.
I’m worried that you’ve been tone-policing my concern-trolling.
O hateful error, melancholy’s child,
Why dost thou show to the apt thoughts of men
The things that are not?
—Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
When I was young, I thought that Copperfield, in wedding Agnes, was at last marrying someone who was suitably adult, and that Dora had been a mistake, caused by a childish fantasy of what love is. But now I think that Dora, however disappointing, was a real love, and that in wedding Agnes, David wedded only his anima, a fiction of his own feminine nature.
“The deliberate manipulation of anachronisms to produce an appearance of eternity.” —Borges, pronouncing judgment on T. S. Eliot, quoted in James Gleick, Time Travel
“She liked Victorian novels. They were the only kind of novel you could read while you were eating an apple.” —Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
“One of the disadvantages of almost universal education was the fact that all kinds of persons acquired a familiarity with one’s favorite writers. It gave one a curious feeling; it was like seeing a drunken stranger wrapped in one’s dressing-gown.” —Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
“They always say, she says, that my writing is appalling but they always quote it and what is more, they quote it correctly, and those they say they admire they do not quote.” —Gertrude Stein, Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
“. . . translating heartache into delicate, even piercing observation . . .” —Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler’s Planet
But then Mr. Arthur Sammler took a picture of it with his cell phone and by the time he got upstairs it had gone viral on gay porn Tumblrs.
“In explaining his unhappiness he told Gertrude Stein, they talk about the sorrows of great artists, the tragic unhappiness of great artists but after all they are great artists. A little artist has all the tragic unhappiness and the sorrows of a great artist and he is not a great artist.” —Stein, Toklas
“In the lecture, Martha Nussbaum described how the Roman philosopher Seneca, at the end of each day, reflected on his misdeeds before saying to himself, ‘This time I pardon you.'” —Rachel Aviv, “The Philosopher of Feelings”
“One person with a belief is equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.” —J. S. Mill, Representative Government
The downside of reading G. H. Hardy is that if you’re not a mathematician you end up fairly well convinced that you’ve wasted your life.
The process of memory is abrasive and skins a little of the nap off of what is remembered.
And art made tongue-tied by authority
And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill
—Shakespeare, sonnet 66
One’s memories fading before one has written one’s novels from them—like a photograph fading in a box before it can be rediscovered and reproduced.
One almost gets the sense this year that there are people who don’t care whether they’ll turn out to be on the wrong side of history, morally speaking.
Dude, I’m part of the mainstream media. I’m not likely to believe your conspiracy theories about it.
“It fareth with sentences as with coins: In coins, they that in smallest compass contain greatest value, are best esteemed: and, in sentences, those that in fewest words comprise most matter, are most praised.” —Lancelot Andrewes, quoted in Drury, Music at Midnight
“As an historian he had the fatal inhibition that he would not begin to write until he had read all the sources.” —footnote about Lord Acton, in One Hundred Letters from Hugh Trevor-Roper
“Perhaps the mere effort to convert any one to a theory involves some form of renunciation of the power of credence.” —Oscar Wilde, “Portrait of Mr. W. H.”
“He only seemed to have most pre-eminence that was most rageful.” —Phlip Sidney, The Old Arcadia
“But let me tell you that the delight of political life is altogether in opposition. Why, it is freedom against slavery, fire against clay, movement against stagnation! The very inaccuracy which is permitted to opposition is in itself a charm worth more than all the patronage and all the prestige of ministerial power.” —Trollope, Phineas Finn
In Shane Carruth’s movies, the problem of incarnation takes the form of a discovery that you’re involved in an almost mechanical process that’s much larger and more powerful than you are.
Winning doesn’t seem to be enough for the comments. It looks like they won’t be content until they’ve exterminated the articles.