Monday, March 31, 2008

Other Colors

A writer's progress will depend to a large degree on having read good books. But to read well is not to pass one's eyes and one's mind slowly and carefully over a text: it is to immerse oneself utterly in its soul. This is why we fall in love with only a few books in a lifetime.

"How I Got Rid of Some of My Books," Orhan Pamuk
Other Colors, 2007

A High Wind in Jamaica

The children were bilious for a few days, and inclined to dislike each other: but they accepted the change in their lives practically without noticing it. It is a fact that it takes experience before one can realize what is a catastrophe and what is not. Children have little faculty of distinguishing between disaster and the ordinary course of their lives.

A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dialoghi con Leuco

A true revelation, it seems to me, will only emerge from stubborn concentration on a solitary problem. I am not in league with inventors or adventurers, nor with travelers to exotic destinations. The surest--also the quickest--way to awake the sense of wonder in ourselves is to look intently, undeterred, at a single object. Suddenly, miraculously, it will reveal itself as something we have never seen before.

Dialoghi con Leuco, Cesare Pavese

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Style of the Mythical Age

But although the artist's problem seems to be mainly technical, his real impulse goes beyond this--it goes to the universe; and the true piece of art, even though it be the shortest lyric, must always embrace the totality of the world, must be the mirror of that universe, but one of full counterweight. This is felt by every artist, but is creatively realized only by the artist of old age...One cannot capture the universe by snaring its atoms one by one; one can only capture it by showing its basic and essential principles, its basic, and one might even say, its mathematical structure. And here the abstractism of such ultimate principles joins hands with the abstractism of the technical problem: this union constitutes the 'style of old age.'

The artist who has reached such a point is beyond art. He still produces art, but all the minor and specific problems, with which art in its worldly phase usually deals, have lost interest for him; he is interested neither in the 'beauty' of art, nor the effect which it produces on the public: although the artist more than any other, his attitude approximates that of the scientist, with whom he shares the concern for expressing the universe; however, since he remains an artist, his abstractism is not that of science but very near to that of myth.

"The Style of the Mythical Age," Hermann Broch

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Poetics of Space

Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality of those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.

The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

War and the Iliad

Perhaps all men, by the very act of being born, are destined to suffer violence; yet this is a truth to which circumstance shuts men's eyes. The strong are, as a matter of fact, never absolutely strong, nor are the weak absolutely weak, but neither is aware of this. They have in common a refusal to believe that they both belong to the same species: the weak see no relation between themselves and the strong, and vice versa. The man who is the possessor of force seems to walk through a non-resistant element; in the human substance that surrounds him nothing has the power to interpose, between the impulse and the act, the tiny interval that is reflection. Where there is no room for reflection, there is none either for justice or prudence.

"The Iliad, or the Poem of Force," War and the Iliad
Simone Weil, 1939

Friday, March 14, 2008

On Being Blue

Flaubert directs our eyes to the room in which Emma Bovary commits her adulteries, and has the sense, so often absent in his admirers, to be content with that.

The warm room, with its discreet carpet, its grey ornaments, and its calm light, seemed made for the intimacies of passion. The curtain-rods, ending in arrows, their brass pegs, and the great balls of the fire-dogs shone suddenly when the sun came in. On the chimney between the candelabra there were two of those pink shells in which one hears the murmur of the sea if one holds them to the ear.

A muff, a glove, a stocking, the glass a lover's lips have touched, the print of a shoe in the snow: how is it that these simple objects can receive our love so well that they increase it? I answer: because they become concepts, lighter than angels, and all the more meaningful because they began as solids, while the body of the beloved, dimpled and lined by the sheeted bed, bucks, sweats, freezes, alters under us, escapes our authorities and powers, lacks every dimension, in that final moment, but the sexual, yet will not remain in the world it's been sent to, and is shortly complaining of an ache. The man with his fetish, like a baby with its blanket, has security--not the simple physical condition but the Idea itself. Those pink shells, the curtain-rods ending in arrows, the great balls of the fire-dogs: how absurd they would be in reality, how meaningless, how lacking in system, all higher connection. It's not the word made flesh we want in writing, in poetry and fiction, but the flesh made word.

On Being Blue, William Gass

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Master

He wanted to hold his young friend, help him now that the worst was over, take him home to his family to be looked after. But he also knew that, as much as he wanted to aid and console the soldier, he wanted to be alone in his room with the night coming down and a book close by and pen and paper and the knowledge that the door would remain shut until the morning came and he would not be disturbed. The gap between these two desires filled him with sadness and awe at the mystery of the self, the mystery of having a single consciousness, knowing merely its own bare feelings and experiencing alone its own pain or fear or pleasure or complacency.

The Master, Colm Toibin

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Master

In these days after his opening night and his return from Ireland, he discovered that he could control the sadness which certain memories brought with them. When sorrows and fears and terrors came to him in the time after he woke, or in the night, they were like servants come to light a lamp or take away a tray. Carefully trained over the years, they would soon disappear of their own accord, knowing not to linger.

The Master, Colm Toibin

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Where My Books Go

All the words that I gather,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm darkened or starry bright.

"Where My Books Go," W.B. Yeats

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Last Evenings on Earth

She told me that her sister Susan had killed herself with an overdose of barbituates. Her parents and her sister's partner, a carpenter from Missoula, were devastated and simply couldn't understand why. I prefer not to say anything, she wrote, there's no point adding to the pain, or adding our own little mysteries to it. As if the pain itself were not enough of a mystery, as if the pain were not the (mysterious) answer to all mysteries.

"Anne Moore's Life," Last Evenings on Earth
Roberto Bolano, 1997