Monday, October 31, 2011

One for Zuccotti Park

" is / a defiance of authority..." -- William Carlos Williams, Paterson

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Last Post (for a while, anyway)

After 125 epigrams in 125 days, I'm calling "Hurry up please it's time" on this blog. In the future, I might add an occasional post from time to time, but this is my last daily post, a quote from Kafka that sums up this entire blog:

"In a world of lies the lie is not removed from the world by means of its opposite, but only by means of a world of truth." -- Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks

F.Y.I.  I will continue to blog on literature and other things at Mindful Pleasures.

Monday, March 14, 2011

de la mort...

"Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily." -- Francois de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pascal on September 11 (and other atrocities too numerous to mention)

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious convictions." -- Blaise Pascal, Pensees

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Picasso on art and truth

"We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand." -- Pablo Picasso, Statement, 1923

Friday, March 11, 2011

On radical statement

"We will know we have succeeded in saying something that matters when we are told that it won't be tolerated." -- Curtis White, The Middle Mind

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Freud, religion and cultural criticism

"Having recognized religious doctrines as illusions, we are at once faced by a further question: may not other cultural assets of which we hold a high opinion and by which we let our lives be ruled be of a similar nature? Must not the assumptions that determine our political regulations be called illusions as well? and is it not the case that in our civilization the relations between the sexes are disturbed by an erotic illusion or a number of such illusions? And once our suspicion has been aroused, we shall not shrink from asking too whether our conviction that we can learn something about external reality through the use of observation and reasoning in scientific work--whether this conviction has any better foundation. Nothing ought to keep us from directing our observation to our own selves or from applying our thought to criticism of itself." -- Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Philip Roth on American consciousness

"It's not as though Marx or Freud or Darwin or Stalin or Hitler or Mao had never happened--it's as though Sinclair Lewis had not happened. It's, he thought, as though Babbitt had never been written. It's as though not even that most basic level of imaginative thought had been admitted into consciousness to cause the slightest disturbance." -- Philip Roth, The Human Stain

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kant the woodman

"Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing can ever be made." -- Immanuel Kant

Monday, March 7, 2011

Triangular Theology

"If triangles made a god, they would give him three sides." -- Montesquieu

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On Greatness

"The glory of great men should always be measured against the means they used to acquire it." -- Francois de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Contemporary Existentialist

"The possibility of freedom first arises when one knows one is living a lie." -- Walter A. Davis, Inwardness and Existence

Friday, March 4, 2011

Frankly, I'd rather worship Falstaff

"...the Western worship of God--by Jews, Christians and Moslems--is the worship of a literary character..." -- Harold Bloom, The Western Canon

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Adorno Revises Himself (sort of)

"To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." -- Theodor W. Adorno, "Cultural Criticism and Society," Prisms

"Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems. But it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question whether after Auschwitz you can go on living..." -- Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Robert Frost's Reply to Pascal

"The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread." -- Blaise Pascal, Pensees

"They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places."

                             -- Robert Frost, "Desert Places"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to Survive in the Modern World

"What matters finally is not the world's judgment of oneself but one's own judgment of the world." -- Gore Vidal, United States : Essays 1952-1992

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blowing the Christian Fundamentalist Mind

"An oak tree and I are made of the same stuff. If you go far enough back, we have a common ancestor." -- Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Love and War, II

"Love is very very brave." -- William T. Vollmann, You Bright and Risen Angels

Saturday, February 26, 2011

On Love and War, I

"They are in love. Fuck the war." -- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bunuel on Surrealism

"The real purpose of surrealism was not to create a new literary, artistic, or even philosophical movement, but to explode the social order, to transform life itself." -- Luis Bunuel, My Last Sigh

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wilde's answer to Hamlet: on conscience and cowardice

"Conscience and cowardice are really the same things... Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all." -- Lord Henry Wotton in Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson on Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann

"This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us and we know not where to begin to set them right." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Willie's Words on Worship

"Were there anything worthy of worship, then, we should ignore it; look at it, if we must, cock-eyed; keep clear; never let on; invent no curses which employ and preserve its name; await the time when the vines of all our lives will grow over and hide it so it may lie safe like a city left empty and forgotten, silent inside us, solely in the deeps of us, so we might wonder about it like some wonder about Atlantis and, lost and alone, so it may remain worthy of worship, and a star shining in the midst of our dirty earth." -- William H. Gass, Tests of Time

Monday, February 21, 2011

Life and Fiction

"All we can do in the face of that ineluctable defeat called life is to try to understand it. That--that is the raison d'etre of the art of the novel." -- Milan Kundera, The Curtain

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kafka on Freud et al

"Psychology is the reading of a mirror-writing, which means that it is laborious, and as regards the always correct result, it is richly informative; but nothing has really happened." -- Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Examination Time

"In examinations the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer." -- Oscar Wilde

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vidal on the proper use of the words 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual'

"Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people. Those sexual acts are entirely natural; if they were not, no one would perform them." -- Gore Vidal, "Sex is Politics," United States: Essays, 1952-1992.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grayling on religion

"There is no greater social evil than religion. It is the cancer in the body of humanity." -- A. C. Grayling, Life, Sex and Ideas: The Good Life Without God

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

According to Wilde...

"People cry out against the sinner, yet it is not the sinful, but the stupid, who are our shame. There is no sin except stupidity." -- Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Common sense as dumbing down

"Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise that as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring." -- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wilde's Wickedness

"Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others." -- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kundera's Art of the Novel

"The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own "I" ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author's confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become." -- Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Reason Why

"We work in the dark--we do what we can--we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." -- Henry James, "The Middle Years"

Friday, February 11, 2011

On History and Literary History

"A history of literature, unlike history as such, ought to list only the names of victories, for its defeats are no victory for anyone." -- Julien Gracq

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gass on martyrdom and militarism

"Some may still be impatient to die for the emperor, but the chief point in life is to die of something and never for something if it can be helped." -- William H. Gass, Tests of Time

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The only sacred thing

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kafka on Suicide

"The suicide is the prisoner who sees a gallows being erected in the prison yard, mistakenly thinks it is the one intended for him, breaks out of his cell in the night, and goes down and hangs himself." -- Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wilde on the critics of Realism and Romanticism

"The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass." -- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Obsession: A Seductive New Fragrance from Luis Bunuel

"Obviously, I like obsessions, my own as well as other people's, because they make it easier to deal with life; I feel sorry for people who don't have any." -- Luis Bunuel, My Last Sigh

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Structuralist at the Louvre

"A Structuralist is a person who looks at a Vermeer and says, 'Nice frame.' " -- Anonymous

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Picasso on Computers

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." -- Pablo Picasso

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rushdie's Challenge

"New images urgently needed to be made. Images for a godless world. Until the language of irreligion caught up with the holy stuff, until there was a sufficient poetry and iconography of godlessness, these sainted echoes would never fade, would retain their problematic power..." -- Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, final fragment

"The time for me hasn't come yet: some are born posthumously." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part penultimate

"Even the most courageous among us only rarely has the courage for that which he really knows." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XXIX

"Without music, life would be an error." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XXVIII

"...all gods are poets' parables, poets' prevarications." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XXVII

"A joke is the epigram on the death of a feeling." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Mixed Opinions and Maxims, quoted in The Portable Nietzsche

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XXVI

"At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-Too-Human

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XXV

"To make the individual uncomfortable, that is my task." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, "Notes, 1875," quoted in The Portable Nietzsche

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XXIV

"The errors of great men are venerable because they are more fruitful than the truths of little men..." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, "Fragment of a Critique of Schopenhauer," quoted in The Portable Nietzsche

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XXII

"It is with Germans almost as it is with women: one never fathoms their depths; they don't have any, that is all. They aren't even shallow." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

(Blogger's Note: I'm not certain who should feel more insulted by this, Germans or women. Probably women. Especially German women.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XXI

"God is a gross answer, an indelicacy against us thinkers--at bottom merely a gross prohibition for us: you shall not think!" -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XX

"Philosophy, as I have so far understood and lived it, means living voluntarily among ice and high mountains--seeking out everything strange and questionable in existence, everything so far placed under a ban by morality." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XIX

"Scholars spend all of their energies on saying Yes and No, on criticism of what others have thought--they themselves no longer think." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XVIII

"Perhaps I am even envious of Stendhal? He took away from me the best atheistical joke that precisely I might have made: "God's only excuse is that he does not exist." " -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XVII

"Only great pain, the long, slow pain that takes its time--on which we are burned, as it were, with green wood--compels us philosophers to descend into our ultimate depths and to put aside all trust, everything good-natured, everything that would interpose a veil, that is mild, that is medium--things in which formerly we may have found our humanity. I doubt that such pain makes us 'better'; but I know that it makes us more profound." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XVI

"Those thinkers in whom all stars move in cyclic orbits are not the most profound. Whoever looks into himself as into vast space and carries galaxies in himself, also knows how irregular all galaxies are; they lead into the chaos and labyrinth of existence." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XV

"Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XIV

"Liquor and Christianity, the European narcotics." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XIII

"When will all these shadows of God cease to darken our minds?" -- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XII

"Almost everything we call 'higher culture' is based on the spiritualization and intensification of cruelty..." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part XI

"Every philosophy also conceals a philosophy; every opinion is also a hiding-place, every word also a mask." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part X

"Ultimately one loves ones desires and not that which is desired." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part IX

"To talk about oneself a great deal can also be a means of concealing oneself." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part VIII

"The thought of suicide is a powerful solace: by means of it one gets through many a bad night." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part VII

"What we do in dreams we also do when we are awake: we invent and fabricate the person with whom we associate--and immediately forget we have done so." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part VI

"...behind a remarkable scholar one not infrequently finds a mediocre man, and behind a mediocre artist often--a very remarkable man." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part V

"Mature manhood: That means to have rediscovered the seriousness one had as a child at play." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part IV

"He who despises himself still nonetheless respects himself as one who despises" -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part III

"A man with genius is unendurable if he does not also possess at least two other things: gratitude and cleanliness." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Month of Quoting Nietzsche, part II

"The degree and kind of a man's sexuality reaches up into the topmost summit of his spirit." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year's Resolution

"God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. --And we--we still have to vanquish his shadow, too." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vidal on Christianity and Homosexuality

"At least when the Emperor Justinian, a sky-god man, decided to outlaw sodomy, he had to come up with a good practical reason, which he did. It is well known, Justinian declared, that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited. But our sky-godders, always eager to hate, still quote Leviticus, as if that loony text had anything useful to say about anything except, perhaps, the inadvisibility of eating shellfish in the Jerusalem area." -- Gore Vidal, "Monotheism and its Discontents," United States: Essays 1952-1992

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nietzsche and the Monsters of the Abyss (not a Troma flick)

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bloom's Shakespearean Marx

"Coriolanus is a far more powerful reading of Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon than any Marxist reading of Coriolanus could hope to be." -- Harold Bloom, The Western Canon

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Fathers of the Church had way too much time on their hands

"To vindicate the omnipotence of our will, Saint Augustine alleges that he knew a man who commanded his behind to produce as many farts as he wanted, and his commentator Vives goes him one better with another example of his own time, of farts arranged to suit the tone of verses pronounced to their accompaniment..." -- Michel de Montaigne, "Of The Power of The Imagination," Essays

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hemingway's Prayer

"Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nadas as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee." -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

...but if there were, Wallace Stevens could've written you a policy

"There is thus no insurance against the risk of writing." -- Jacques Derrida, "Force and Signification," Writing and Difference

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pater on philosophy and/as art

"Philosophy serves culture, not by the fancied gift of absolute or transcendental knowledge, but by suggesting questions which help one to detect the passion, and strangeness, and dramatic contrasts of life." -- Walter Pater, The Renaissance

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the difference between reading and reading well

"He who has read Kafka's Metamorphosis and can look into his mirror unflinching may technically be able to read print, but is illiterate in the only sense that matters." -- George Steiner, 'Humane Literacy,' Language and Silence

Friday, November 19, 2010

Religion: A Roman View

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." --Seneca, quoted in Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paglia's modest proposal for a revision of the Book of Genesis

"In the beginning was nature. The background from which and against which our ideas of God were formed, nature remains the supreme moral problem." -- Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shakespeare on Freud, Lacan and Psychoanalysis

MACBETH: Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Rase out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?

DOCTOR: Therein the patient must minister to himself.

-- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hume and miracles

"...the Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one." -- David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Wilde Truth

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility." -- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Illness and the Inescapability of Metaphor

"People speak of illness as deepening. I don't feel deepened. I feel flattened. I've become opaque to myself." -- Susan Sontag, from her journals, quoted in David Rieff, Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sartre on atheism and existentialism

"Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position." -- Jean-Paul Sartre, "Existentialism is a Humanism"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Unsettling Emerson

"People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Circles"

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I begin this blog of daily epigrams for atheists and intellectuals with a favorite quote from Nietzsche:

"Weariness that wants to reach the ultimate with one leap, with one fatal leap, a poor ignorant weariness that does not want to want any more: this created all gods and afterworlds." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (translated by Walter Kaufmann)