Friday, December 31, 2010

...and a bit o' Robbie Burns for the road

"O Whisky! soul o' plays an' pranks!
Accept a Bardie's gratefu' thanks!
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks
Are my poor verses!
Thou comes--they rattle i' their ranks
At ither's arses!"

-- Robert Burns, "Scotch Drink"

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Edna O'Brien on the monstrosity of writers

"Do writers have to be such monsters in order to create? I believe that they do. It is a paradox that while wrestling with language to capture the human condition they become more callous, and cut off from the very human traits they so glisteningly depict." -- Edna O' Brien, James Joyce

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On anti-atheists

"...when religious authors condemn atheism, they all too often construct a vision of the 'godless universe' which is a projection of the repressed underside of religion itself." -- Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

...and another one plucked from the Arcades

"Surrealism is the death of the nineteenth century in comedy." -- Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project

Monday, December 27, 2010

You don't need Bill Ayers to know which way the wind blows...

"In every true work of art there is a place where, for one who removes there, it blows cool like the wind of a coming dawn." -- Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sartre's worm

"Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being--like a worm." -- Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A hopeful thought for Christmas day

"Mankind is growing out of religion as out of its childhood clothes." -- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last Things

"...Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing."

--William Shakespeare, As You Like It (This is the lesser-known ending of the speech that begins "All the world's a stage...")

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Swift on lawyers

"I said there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves." -- Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eliot's moment of surrender

"My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed"

-- T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Monday, December 20, 2010

Schopenhauer's rewrite

"The prayer, 'Lead me not into temptation' means 'Let me not see who I am.' -- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, volume I

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Elias (like honest Iago)

"Happiness is that ridiculous life goal of the illiterate." -- attributed to Elias Canetti

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reading and depression

"There are in existence many sublimely tragic pages, but for someone who is dying or wants to die even those wondrous pages of sorrow would sound trumped up, terrifyingly inadequate to the sorrow of the instant." -- Claudio Magris, Danube

Friday, December 17, 2010

...proving by algebra...

"--Pooh! Buck Mulligan said. We have grown out of Wilde and paradoxes. It's quite simple. He proves by algebra that Hamlet's grandson is Shakespeare's grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father." -- James Joyce, Ulysses

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oppen's ontology

"...the dream merely ends, by this we know it is the real / That we confront" -- George Oppen, "Route"

Blogger's note: Get a copy of Oppen's Collected Poems and read this entire long poem. It's one of the greatest of the 20th century.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bierce's definition of religion

"Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable." -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Truth of Anxiety

"...anxiety is that which does not deceive." -- Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nietzsche's Writing Workshop

"Good prose is written only face to face with poetry." Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Schopenhauer's optimism

"Religions are the children of ignorance, and they do not long survive their mother." -- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kakfa in Love

"To me, this is love: that you are the knife I turn within myself." -- Franz Kafka, letter to Milena Jesenska

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Secret of Writing for TV

"I could not write Alf without massive quantities of heroin." -- Jerry Stahl, on Entertainment Tonight sometime in the later 1990s (I'm working from memory)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time, Chance, Ecclesiastes

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." -- Ecclesiastes, 9:11, King James Bible

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Auden's naivete (because no place is exempt from capitalist tampering)

"For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its saying where executives
Would never want to tamper..." -- W. H. Auden, "In Memory of W. B. Yeats"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't trust anyone older than Goethe

"When one has passed his thirtieth year,
One then is just the same as dead." -- Baccalaureus in Goethe's Faust, Part Two

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Religion: An American's View

"I am not now and have never been a member of any church. Nor have I ever, not even in late adolescence, believed in God or an afterlife or a power or consciousness beyond the world that is interested in this world. Nor have I ever felt the need for such a belief, or even any interest in the whole question. Religion, in short, bores me even more than Marxism." -- Dwight Macdonald, Politics Past (originally titled Memoirs of a Revolutionist)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

amar es combatir

"To love is to battle" -- Octavio Paz, Sunstone (translated by Eliot Weinberger)

Friday, December 3, 2010

The resistance to suicide

"In a man's attachment to life there is something stronger than all the ills in the world. The body's judgment is as good as the mind's, and the body shrinks from annihilation" -- Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In dead earnest...

"Religions, like the ideologies that have inherited their vices, are reduced to crusades against humor." -- E. M. Cioran, Anathemas and Admirations

Wednesday, December 1, 2010