"It is an odd thing, but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world." - The Picture of Dorian Gray.
". . . in art, a school once established normally deteriorates as it goes on. It achieves perfection in its kind with a startling burst of energy, a gesture too quick for the historian's eye to follow. He can never explain such a movement or tell us how exactly it happened. But once it is achieved, there is the melancholy certainty of a decline. The grasped perfection does not educated and purify the taste of posterity; it debauches it. The story is the same whether we look at Samian pottery or Anglian carving, Elizabethan drama or Venetian painting. So far as there is any observable law in collective art history it is, like the law of the individual artist's life, the law not of progress but of reaction. Whether in large or in little, the equilibrium of the aesthetic life is permanently unstable."
-- R. G. Collingwood (1924)
"Good god, it just occurred to me how much I am influenced even here by our own works. maybe we should just slap this into the middle of "How to Proceed [in the Arts]." I think if I publish a book it should be called "How to Proceed in Everything I Can Think Of" by Frank O'Hara. In our own discursive way we are getting to be the moralists of our time, since we are always trying to tell people how to act. >>>
"[t]here is no substitute for reading. Hearing something aloud is its own experience, but it's hard to beat sitting in bed or in a comfortable chair turning the pages of a book, putting it down, and eagerly awaiting the chance to get back to it."
July 21, 2010 NYT interview about recording audiobooks of his four essay collections.
"Writing, remember, is the only art in which the creator is publicly judged by people who do precisely the same thing, but as a rule less well. And bubbling beneath the surface of a lot of these interviews and book reviews is resentment."
Graydon Carter in the New York Times Book Review (May 23, 2010). .
In the Winter 2010 issue of the venerable journal, Pritchard reviews an edition of Graham Greene's letters (Graham Greene:A Life in Letters, ed. Richard Greene; Norton). It's an exemplary review -- well-written, enjoyably opinionated, tactful.
I love it that Pritchard thinks more highly of The Ministry of Fear (1943) than of The Power and the Glory (1940), though this reverses Greene's own valuation. What Greene called his "entertainments," such as The Ministry of Fear or This Gun fir Hire, are generally superior to his journeys into high despair, such as e Power and The Glory or The Heart of the Matter.
But the best things in the review are the quotations from Greene. The writer said that he traveled as much as he did -- to Cuba, Panama, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Vietnam -- not "to seek material for novels but to regain the sense of insecurity" to which the London blitzes had addicted him. I believe it.
Here's Greene's take on Havana, capital of luxury and vice, in the days before Castro seized control: "Havana has been a fascinating city, quite the most vicious I have ever been in. I had hardly left my hotel door before I was offered cocaine, marijuana, and various varieties of two girls and a boy, two boys and a girl, etc." According to Pritchard, Richard Greene (no relation) seems to like his namesake, a refreshing change from Greene biographer Norman Sherry, who, in a display of "prurient absurdity," gave "a list of the novelist's forty-seven favorite prostitutes -- surely a new kind of labor of love on a biographer's part."
Now I will read the book.
<< The epistemology of post-capitalist hegemony asks to be read as the discourse of the gendered body. >>
<< The eroticization of the gaze functions as the conceptual frame for the fantasy of the powerful other. >>
There are two ways to acquire this academic powerhouse fake vocabulary:
(1) Go to grad school, or
(2) Go here
Same old bullshit but this will save you a lot of time.
". . .if a stranger in a train station asks me my occupation, I never answer `writer' for fear that he may go on to ask me what I write, and to answer`poetry' would embarrass us both, for we both know that nobody can earn a living simply by writing poetry. (The most satisfactory answer I have discovered, satisfactory because it withers curiosity, is to say Medieval Historian.)"
-- Auden, "The Poet & the City"
"If you talk to God you're praying. If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia."
-- Thomas Szasz, in The Second Sin (1973)
One of two epigraphs that Sebastian Faulkes uses to head his new novel, A Week in December (London: Hutchinson's, 2009).
It occurs to us that we have no serious critical, scholarly, or simply literary study of the use of epigraphs in novels and poems. If you're looking for a thesis subject, you might consider this one. . .
This is the epigraph of John Ashbery's poem "Wet Casements" in his collection Houseboat Days:
When Edouardo Raban, coming along the passage, walked into the open doorway, he saw that it was raining. It was not raining much.
-- Kafka, Wedding Preparations in the Country
David Shapiro (pictured left with son Daniel): "Leonardo believed in reading palms until he saw the long life-lines on the palms of young soldiers dead on the field."
David Lehman: "That's a great line."
DS: "I used it in a poem."
DL: "Which one?"
DS: "It's in one of my last ten books."
DL: "Which one?"
DS: "Can't remember but here it is."
The only palm presentation I will make
will be reading your palms one day
for long life-lines on the field of battle
and intricate lovelines and laughlines
on the field of your face.
DS: "Circa 2000. In the book the poem is called 'Little Low Tech'."
DL: "I think you should change the title."
DS: "I can't. It's already in a book."
DL: "That doesn't prevent you from changing the title. Then it becomes a different poem and eligible for inclusion in a new book."
DS: "OK. How about 'Reading in the Dark'"?
DL: "Much better."
“Some shy from putting prose out there because it’s a
giveaway. You can’t fake it. It reveals quality of mind, for better or worse,
in a culture where poems can be faked. Find a faker and ask him or her to write
anything more substantial than a jacket blurb, and the jig is up.”
-- W. S. Di Piero, “From a Notebook” (in Poetry, October 2006)
Agree or disagree? Please comment (succinctly).
These are the epigraphs for John Updike's novel Terrorist (2006)
And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.
And the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"
Disbelief is more resistant than faith because it is sustained by the sense.
-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Of Love and Other Demons
Anthony Burgess's Tremor of Intent (1966), his satire of espionage novels, bears a double epigraph. The first is from W. H. Auden:
But between the day and night
The choice is free to all, and light
Falls equally on black and white.
The second is from T. S. Eliot:
The worst that can be said of most of our malefactors, from statesmen to thieves, is that they are not men enough to be damned. >>
Balanchine is tremendously quotable – if only because so
many of his bon mots are adapted from others. When he declared himself to be
“not a man but a cloud in trousers,” for example, he lifted the line directly
from one of Mayakovsky’s greatest poems. Usually, however, the matchless
choreographer offered not a straight quotation but an unacknowledged
paraphrase. Here is a handful of Mr. B’s observations.
"God made men to sing the praises of women."
"When you have a garden full of pretty flowers, you don't demand of them, ‘What do you mean? What is your significance?’ Dancers are just flowers, and flowers grow without any literal meaning, they are just beautiful. We're like flowers. A flower doesn't tell you a story. It's in itself a beautiful thing."
"The ballet is a purely female thing; it is a woman, a garden of beautiful flowers, and man is the gardener. "
"Dance is music made visible." (Also, “See the music, hear the dance.”)
“There are no mothers-in-law in ballet” (also known as Balanchine’s Law).
“We all live in the same time forever. There is no future and there is no past.”
"Someone once said that dancers work just as hard as policemen, always alert, always tense. But I don't agree with that because policemen don't have to look beautiful at the same time."
"In fact I disagree with everybody and I don't want to argue about it."
And when he received the Handel medallion, he said, "I can't Handel it. . .so I'll Haydn it."
See Arlene Croce's "Balanchine Said" in The New Yorker (January 26, 2009): “In later years, [Balanchine] waged a personal campaign against the twentieth-century fetish of originality. . . . He saw no harm in appropriating; and he stole and was stolen from – that was the way of art.”
Above: George Balanchine and Suzanne Farrell rehearsing Don Quixote in 1968.
"so foul a sky clears not without a storm."
Joseph Conrad's epigraph for Nostromo
"Those that hold that all things are governed by Fortune had not erred, had they not persisted there."
-- Sir Thomas Browne
Quiz: This quotation appears on the title page of which Conrad novel?
Here is the epigraph of James Tate's most recent book, The Ghost Soldiers (2008):
The paratroopers fall and as they fall
They mow the lawn.
-- Wallace Stevens
“There are people who are too intelligent to
become authors, but they do not become critics."
-- W. H. Auden
We have Art
in order that we may not perish from Truth.
-- F. W. Nietzsche
The epigraph to Auden's essays in The Dyer's Hand (1962).
Vladimir Nabokov took hi's epigraph for The Gift from a Russian school-book:
"An oak is a tree. A rose is a flower. A deer is an animal. A sparrow is a bird. Russia is our fatherland. Death is inevitable."
God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please,-- you can never have both. Between these as a pendulum man oscillates. He in whom the love of repose predominates will accept the first creed, the first philosophy, the first political party he meets, most likely his father's. He gets rest, commodity, and reputation but he shuts the door of truth. He in whom the love of truth predominates will keep himself aloof from all moorings, and afloat. He will abstain from dogmatism and recognize all the opposite negations between which, as walls, his being is swung. He submits to the inconvenience of suspense and imperfect opinion but he is a candidate for truth, as the other is not, and respects the highest law of his being.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, first series
When asked what he liked best about New York City, Auden (I learned in a recent issue of The American Scholar) said "Jewish jokes," illustrating with one about a man, we'll call him Sam, who consults a psychiatrist because he has been feeling hostile and depressed. The shrink tells him to get a pet.
"But I live in a small apartment."
"Even a tiny pet may help."
A few months pass and the psychiatrist notices the improvement in his patient's mood.
"I took your advice about pets," Sam says.
"What kind of pet did you get?"
"Bees," the psychiatrist exclaims. "Where do you keep them?"
"In a cigar box."
"But how do they breathe?"
Sam puffs on his cigar. "Fuck the bees."
--Wandrers Nachtlied (1780)
Over the hills
Comes the quiet.
Across the treetops
No breeze blows.
Not a sound: even the small
Birds in the woods
Just wait: soon you
Will be quiet, too.
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.