Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Our myths are so many, our vision so dim, our self-deception so deep and our smugness so gross that scarcely any way now remains of reporting the American Century except from behind the billboards...

But behind Business's billboards and Business's headlines and Business's pulpits and Business's press and Business's arsenals, behind the car ads and the subtitles and the commercials, the people of Dickens and Dostoevsky still endure.

Nonconformity, Nelson Algren
1956 (Pub. 1996)

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Faces of Joan of Arc

The next scene was the one in which Joan sees god, and Falconetti also wanted to see god, and wanted to believe, as Joan of Arc believed, that god was there, with her in the world.

She sat on a high wooden chair in the makeshift dungeon, and a man, an actor, was rehearsing the scene in which her hair is cut. As he bent close to her, his arms raised around her face, she could smell the odor from his body and his shirt and she thought to herself that god was in this man and that through this man she might see god. He was hovering over her as one might imagine the presence of a god, hovering, and when she looked up into his eyes she tried to see something or feel something or communicate something, but all she saw were his nose hairs, and she knew this wasn't a disqualification, but it was, in a way, a wall, and she couldn't get past it.

"The Faces of Joan of Arc," John Haskell
I Am Not Jackson Pollock, 2003

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Anything can be an instrument, Chigurh said. Small things. Things you wouldn't even notice. They pass from hand to hand. People don't pay attention. And then one day there's an accounting. And after that nothing is the same. Well, you say. It's just a coin. For instance. Nothing special there. What could that be an instrument of? You see the problem. To separate the act from the thing. As if the parts of some moment of history might be interchangeable with the parts of some other moment.

No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

Friday, February 15, 2008

An Imaginary Life

Always to be pushing out like this, beyond what I know cannot be the limits -- what else should a man's life be? Especially an old man who has, by a clear stroke of fortune, been violently freed of the comfortable securities that make old men happy to sink into blindness, deafness, the paralysis of all desire, feeling, will. What else should our lives be but a continual series of beginnings, of painful settings off into the unknown, pushing off from the edges of consciousness into the mystery of what we have not yet become...

I have become braver in my old age, ready at last for all the changes we must undergo, as painfully we allow our limbs to burst into a new form, let the crust of our flesh split and the tree break through, or the moth or bird abandon us for air. What else is death but the refusal any longer to grow and suffer change?

An Imaginary Life, David Malouf

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

An Imaginary Life

But we are free after all. We are bound not by the laws of our nature but by the ways we can imagine ourselves breaking out of those laws without doing violence to our essential being. We are free to transcend ourselves. If we have the imagination for it.

An Imaginary Life, David Malouf

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Imaginary Life

Do you think of Italy--or whatever land it is you now inhabit--as a place given you by the gods, readymade in all its placid beauty? It is not. It is a created place. If the gods are with you there, glowing out of a tree in some pasture or shaking their spirit over the pebbles of a brook in clear sunlight, in wells, in springs, in a stone that marks the edge of your legal right over a hillside; if the gods are there, it is because you have discovered them there, drawn them up out of your soul's need for them and dreamed them into the landscape to make it shine. They are with you, sure enough. Embrace the tree trunk and feel the spirit flow back into you, feel the warmtn of the stone enter your body, lower yourself into the spring as into some liquid place of your body's other life in sleep. But the spirits have to be recognized to become real. They are not outside us, nor even entirely within, but flow back and forth between us and the objects we have made, the landscape we have shaped and move in. We have dreamed all these things in our deepest lives and they are ourselves. It is our self we are making out there, and when the landscape is complete we shall have become the gods who are intended to fill it.

An Imaginary Life, David Malouf

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Interview with Borges

STUDENT: You said that in your life that you’ve been thankful for happiness, just as you’ve been thankful for pain, and you justified the inclusion of blindness. Why are you thankful for pain and blindness?

Jorge Luis Borges: Because for an artist, and I try to be one, everything that happens is material for your work; sometimes it’s very difficult. Happiness doesn’t require anything more; it’s an end in itself. Unhappiness has to be transformed into something else; it has to be elevated to beauty. For an artist everything that happens to him has to be clay for his mold, and he must try to feel things this way, even if these gifts might be atrocities.

Found at

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Irresponsible Self

It is easy to imagine that the press of modernity makes authentic encounter uniquely difficult, that we are all belated exceptionalists. But this is postmodern provincialism, surely, and Franzen in his heart, seems not to believe it either. We are not uniquely doomed by modern conditions; if we are doomed, then we are doomed in rather old-fashioned ways, as Cervantes and Sterne and Svevo knew. We are doomed because humans always flow over their targets; their souls are gratuitous and busy, clogged with aspiration and desire. This is the dark theme of Franzen's novel; this is its truest touch. All the rest is 'social news,' and may be turned off, as it deserves.

"Jonathan Franzen and the 'Social Novel', " James Wood

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Oryx and Crake

"The male frog, in mating season," said Crake, "makes as much noise as it can. The females are attracted to the male frog with the biggest, deepest voice because it suggests a more powerful frog, one with superior genes. Small male frogs --it's been documented-- discover if they position themselves in empty drainpipes, the pipe acts as a voice amplifier, and the small frog appears much larger than it really is."


"So that's what art is, for the artist," said Crake. "An empty drainpipe. An amplifier. A stab at getting laid."

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Cat in an Empty Apartment

Dying--you wouldn't do that to a cat.
For what is a cat to do
in an empty apartment?
Climb up the walls?
Brush up against the furniture?
Nothing here seems changed,
and yet something has changed.
Nothing has been moved,
and yet there's more room.
And in the evenings the lamp is not on.

One hears footsteps on the stairs,
but they're not the same.
Neither is the hand
that puts a fish on the plate.

Something here isn't starting
at its usual time.
Something here isn't happening
as it should.
Somebody has been here and has been,
and then has suddenly disappeared
and now is stubbornly absent.

All the closets have been scanned
and all the shelves run through.
Slipping under the carpet and checking came to nothing.
The rule has even been broken and all the papers scattered.
What else is there to do?
Sleep and wait.

Just let him come back,
let him show up.
Then he'll find out
that you don't do that to a cat.
Going toward him
faking reluctance,
on very offended paws.
And no jumping, purring at first.

"A Cat in an Empty Apartment"
Wislawa Szymborska

Found by MDD on 3quarksdaily

Words Are Something Else

The lines that follow, pages I cannot yet predict, events, sounds, things that happen: all of this is just an attempt. The words I'll use, the sentences I'll string together, the questions, the statements: all of it is unreliable, nothing is leading to some known goal, none of it possesses the firmness of the undeniable. What I'll describe is unknown to you; you will never learn what it is I meant to say. The story you will read is yours alone. Between your reading and my intentions lie endless rifts of incomprehension and human isolation.

"An attempt at describing the death of Ruben Rubenović, former textiles salesman"
Words Are Something Else, 1996
David Albahari