It is for the security of the homeland

“Evil that is everyday is lost in life, goes shrewdly into it; becomes a part of habitual blood.  First it is a convenient receptacle for blame.  It holds all hate.  We fasten to it—the permanent and always good excuse.  If it were not for it, ah then, we say, we would improve, we would succeed, we would go on.  And then one day it is necessary, as if there’s been a pain to breathing for so long that when the pain at last subsides, out of fright, we suffocate.” – William Gass, “Mrs. Mean”

Black magic writer, I’m just a black magic writer…

“The people by me primitively guess that I am enemy and hate me: not alone for being different, or disdaining work, or worse, not doing any; but for something that would seem, if spoken for them, words of magic; for I take their souls away—I know it—and I play with them; I puppet them up to something; I march them through strange crowds and passions; I snuffle at their roots.” – William Gass, “Mrs. Mean”

They called it “Bloody Angle”

“The trench on the Rebel side of the works was filled with their dead piled together in every way with their wounded.  The sight was terrible and ghastly.  We helped off their wounded as well we could, and searched for our own wounded in front.  Captain Corey was killed and never found.  Captain Thomas was found with twelve bullet wounds.  He had fallen and then been shot to pieces, possibly by his friends.  The horses of the regular battery were so shot that each was not over ten or twelve inches thick.” – Erasmus C. Gilbreath, 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Spotsylvania, Virginia, May, 1864 (quoted in If It Takes All Summer, William D. Matter)

My father shows on my south side

“I have been told that when people say they see my father in me, I am to do one of two things.  The first is just to tell them that it must be only because he’s trying to get their attention because he wants something again.  Otherwise he wouldn’t be showing himself in me of all people.  The other is for when people have already stayed too long.  I’m supposed to say, ‘Where?  Point him out.  Show me where, so I can pull him out all the way.  Maybe I can shit him out.  Think that would work?  Let’s go see.’  I have done both, but sometimes I just picture my body glassed over and my father motioning from within, bobbing up now and then between my bones, no big trouble.” – Gary Lutz, “The Summer I Could Walk Again”

Res publica and busy bodies

“In no time even the least sneaky of things will have already been handled awfully, will have drawn onto themselves a commonwealth of squandered touch: anything eventually sports the lonelihood of people who could no longer keep their hands to themselves.” — Gary Lutz, “The Least Sneaky of Things”

Power to the people, right on

“The people is an animal which can see and hear, but never thinks.  It is in a state of surprising lethargy or of surprising fury and goes constantly backwards and forwards from one state to the other, never knowing where it came from.” –  Montesquieu, “Letter 111,” Persian Letters (trans. Betts)

Ground down and cast away

“Piety, a sign of strength in some characters, is in others a sign of weakness.  It is never without significance: for if on the one hand it is attractive in those who are virtuous, it completes the degradation of those who are not.” – Montesquieu, “Appendix 10,” Persian Letters (trans. Betts)

Kick it, it’ll wiggle

“It is no wonder that criticism is a more conservative, more academically elite, more racially exclusive club than fiction writing itself. To be a critic in the manner of Virginia Woolf—the default position of the Anglo-American critic, from F.R. Leavis to Lionel Trilling to John Updike to Helen Vendler—requires more than a simple lack of humility; it requires a self-assurance that one is speaking from the center of things, that one is qualified to pass judgment on any aesthetic object that comes along. This kind of criticism isn’t interested in discussion or debate, except in a very circumscribed sense; what it seeks, above all, is a universal validation of the writer’s own subjectivity.” – Jess Row, “The Novel Is Not Dead”

The Congress is in session

“Most legislators have been men of limited abilities who have become leaders by chance, and have taken scarcely anything into account except their own whims and prejudices.  They seem not even to have been aware of the grandeur and dignity of their task: they have passed the time making puerile regulations, which, it is true, have satisfied those without much intelligence, but have discredited them with men of sense.” —  Montesquieu, “Letter 125,” Persian Letters (trans. Betts)

Plugging in

“A story is a serving of palpated verbal material with feelings surging through it, and not just some caboodle of data about fabricated people and their antics.  If a reader is asked again and again to travel the distance between a capital letter and a period, every sentence ought to have been routed through the writer’s nervous system and acquired charged particles of language along the way.  A sentence ought to be offering a vista of the infinite.” – Gary Lutz (from Dylan Nice interview in Wag’s Revue)

Out of plasmids are paragraphs made

“Once the words begin to settle into their circumstance in a sentence and decide to make the most of their predicament, they look around and take notice of their neighbors. They seek out affinities, they adapt to each other, they begin to make adjustments in their appearance to try to blend in with each other better and enhance any resemblance. Pretty soon in the writer’s eyes the words in the sentence are all vibrating and destabilizing themselves: no longer solid and immutable, they start to flutter this way and that in playful receptivity, taking into themselves parts of neighboring words, or shedding parts of themselves into the gutter of the page or screen; and in this process of intimate mutation and transformation, the words swap alphabetary vitals and viscera, tiny bits and dabs of their languagey inner and outer natures; the words intermingle and blend and smear and recompose themselves. They begin to take on a similar typographical physique. The phrasing now feels literally all of a piece. The lonely space of the sentence feels colonized. There’s a sumptuousness, a roundedness, a dimensionality to what has emerged. The sentence feels filled in from end to end; there are no vacant segments along its length, no pockets of unperforming or underperforming verbal matter. The words of the sentence have in fact formed a united community.” – Gary Lutz, “The Sentence Is a Lonely Place”

Inhabitated is what the man said

“The sentence, with its narrow typographical confines, is a lonely place, the loneliest place for a writer, and the temptation for the writer to get out of one sentence as soon as possible and get going on the next sentence is entirely understandable. In fact, the conditions in just about any sentence soon enough become (shall we admit it?) claustrophobic, inhospitable, even hellish. But too often our habitual and hasty breaking away from one sentence to another results in sentences that remain undeveloped parcels of literary real estate, sentences that do not feel fully inhabitated and settled in by language.” – Gary Lutz, “The Sentence Is a Lonely Place”

You may rather be in Philadelphia

“I have read descriptions of Paradise which would make any sensible person stop wanting to go there: according to some, the spirits of the blessed spend all their time playing the flute; others sentence them to walk about for ever; others again claim that while up there they dream about their mistresses down here, considering that a hundred million years is not too long for them to lose their taste for being love-sick.” – Montesquieu, “Letter 125,” Persian Letters (trans. Betts)

The unreasoned reason

“The urge to greet every answer with another question is one we find in children not because it’s childish but because it’s natural.  Once you begin the search for knowledge, there is no obvious place to stop.  The fact that the desire for omniscience cannot be met does not make it either foolish or pathological.  Indeed, it is embodied in the principle of sufficient reason itself.  The principle of sufficient reason expresses the belief that we can find a reason for everything the world presents.  It is not an idea that we derive from the world, but one that we bring to it.” – Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought