October 11th, 2007

new year

Recent reading

Still reading, at possibly greater pace. I have the liberty to do that, while I sit on the sofa waiting for over-the-counter meds to kick in. Then I take a walk. Then I read more, fix dinner, watch television; and then read more.

"Largely of my own free will, and twice as much by compulsion!" (from The Maiden King by Robert Bly and Marion Woodman) is the correct answer to the witch's question (why are you here, of your own free will or by compulsion?) when you arrive in Baba Yaga's house. Or her sisters'.

The following from Clive James' Cultural Amnesia: "Grammar is a mechanism for meaing one thing at a time. Without it, you can't even manage to be deliberately ambiguous, although to be ambiguous by accident is a result all too easily attained." (p. 779)

"Without the capacity to forget, we would not be able to go back to something we love with the delicious twin certainties that it will yield a pleasure of the highest quality, and still be new all over again. The triumph of Proust is that he can give you that feeling on first reading. He can do it because he set himself, in his earliest years, to remembering what it felt like to forget." (p 498) James also cites the next three:

A good style simply doesn't form unless you absorb half-a-dozen top-flight authors every year. Or rather it forms but instead of being a subconscious amalgam of all that you have admired, it is simply a reflection of the last writer you have read, a watered-down journalese. (F. Scott Fitzgerald, in a 1940 letter)

Every circle of society is a little world apart; to the extent that one lives in it, one knows everything and believes that everyone must know the same things; and then, ten years, twenty years, thirty years having gone by, the circle is broken, and vanished, not a sign is left, nothing is written down, and one is reduced to guessing about the whole thing, to bringing it back on the basis of the vaguest hearsay and through feeble echoes. (Sainte-Beuve, 1804-1869)

There are only two things that can destroy a healthy man: love trouble, ambition, and financial catastrophe. And that's already three things, and there are a lot more. (Peter Altenberg, 1859-1919)

When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else. (from Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace)

"We don't have to live great lives, we just have to understand and survive the ones we've got." (Andre Dubus, in Voices from the Moon)