Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I like a look of Agony,
Because I know it's true—
Men do not sham Convulsion,
Nor simulate, a Throe—

The Eyes glaze once—and that is Death—
Impossible to feign
The Beads upon the Forehead
By homely Anguish strung.

Emily Dickinson, 1862

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Complete text to Proverb, by Steve Reich

Monday, January 28, 2008

Two from G.

I cannot continue this account of the eleven-year-old boy in Milan on 6 May 1898. From this point on, everything I write will either converge upon a final full stop or else disperse so wildly that it will become incoherent. Yet there was no such convergence and no incoherence. To stop here, despite all that I leave unsaid, is to admit more of the truth than will be possible if I bring the account to a conclusion. The writer's desire to finish is fatal to the truth. The End unifies. Unity must be established in another way.


The state of being in love was usually short-lived -- except in the unhappy cases of unrequited love. Far shorter lived than the nineteenth century romantic emphasis on the condition would lead us to believe. Sexual passion may have varied little throughout recorded history. But the account one renders to oneself about being in love is always informed and modified by the specific culture and social relations of the time.

G., John Berger

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Being in love is an elaborate state of anticipation for the exchanging of certain kinds of gifts. The gifts can range from a glance to the offering of the entire self. But the gifts must be gifts: they cannot be claimed. One has no rights as a lover -- except the right to anticipate what the other wishes to give.

G., John Berger

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Animals do not admire each other. A horse does not admire its companions. It is not that they won't race against each other, but this is of no consequence, for, back in the stable, the one who is heavier and clumsier does not on that accoutn give up his oats to the other, as men want others to do to them. With animals virtue is its own reward.

Pensees, Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Natural History of German Life

The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist is the extension of our sympathies...Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow men beyond the bounds of our personal lot.

"The Natural History of German Life," George Eliot

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How Fiction Works

The risky tautology inherent in the contemporary writing project has begun: in order to evoke a debased language (the debased language your character might use), you must be willing to represent that mangled language in your text, and perhaps thoroughly debase your own language. Pynchon, DeLillo, and David Foster Wallace are to some extent Lewis's heirs, and Wallace pushes to parodic extremes his full immersion method: he does not flinch at narrating twenty to thirty pages in the style quoted above. His fiction prosecutes an intense argument about the decomposition of language in America, and he is not afraid to decompose -- and discompose -- his own style in the interests of making us live through this linguistic America with him.

How Fiction Works, James Wood

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Space is all one space, and thought is all one thought, but my mind divides its spaces into spaces into spaces and thoughts into thoughts into thoughts. Like a large condominium. Occasionally I think about the one Space and the one Thought, but usually I don't. Usually I think about my condominium.

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol

Friday, January 11, 2008

Timon of Athens

I'll example you with thievery:
The sun's a thief, and with his great attraction
Robs the vast sea; the moon's an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the sun;
The sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves
The moon into salt tears; the earth's a thief,
That feeds and breeds by a composture stolen
From general excrement: each thing's a thief.

Timon of Athens, William Shakespeare

Thursday, January 10, 2008


There is no discourse so obscure, no tale so odd or remark so incoherent that it cannot be given a meaning.

Paul Valery

Found in From Gutenberg to Google, Peter Shillingsburg

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Letter to Sophie Volland

Sentiment and life are eternal. Someone who lives has always lived and will continue to live forever. The only difference I know between death and life is that now you live as a single entity (mass) and that later, after dissolution, twenty years from now, you will live in scattered distinct molecules . . .

The rest of the evening I was teased about my paradox. They offered me beautiful living pears, thinking grapes, but I said : Those who love each other during their life and who insist on being buried side by side are perhaps not as crazy as you might think. Perhaps their ashes touch, blend, and join together. Que scays-je? What do I know? Perhaps they have kept a residue of warmth and life that gives them pleasure deep in the cold urn that encloses them . . .

Oh, my Sophie, then I could keep the hope of touching you, feeling you, loving you, seeking for you, joining with you and becoming one with you when we are no more! . . . Let me keep this fantasy; it’s sweet; it guarantees me eternity in you and with you.

Denis Diderot, October 17, 1759
Letter to Sophie Volland

Sleepless Nights

Everything groans under treachery. The yellow, thirsting grass when the rain betrays it day after day without mercy, and the sun all the while smiling away in the sky for brown legs and warm water for ungrateful swimmers. At times, thinking of the unfortunate ones I have known, it seems to me that they live surrounded by their own kind. The windows resent the curtains, the light its woven shade, the door its lock, the coffin its loathsome, suffocating pile of dirt. But what can they do? The grass shrugs, the windows grow sullen, the light gives out a sardonic glow, the door swells and requires a shoulder to push it open, the coffin hibernates in a long, not displeasing slumber.

Sleepless Nights, Elizabeth Hardwick

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Wealth of Nations

In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour comes to be confined to a few very simple operations...The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations...generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.

The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Flaubert's Parrot

Don't think that I belong to that vulgar race of men who feel disgust after pleasure, and for whom love exists only as lust. No: in me what rises doesn't subside so quickly. Moss grows on the castles of my heart as soon as they are built; but it takes some time for them to fall into ruin, if they ever completely do.

Gustave Flaubert, 1846
Found in Flaubert's Parrot, Julian Barnes