The imp of the original

“Originality (unless in minds of very unusual force) is by no means a matter, as some suppose, of impulse or intuition. In general, to be found, it must be elaborately sought, and although a positive merit of the highest class, demands in its attainment less of invention than negation.” — Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”

And none of them involve snark attacks

“Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day.” – Aaron Sorkin, Syracuse University commencement speech, 2012.

We’re all girls now

“That spirit of performativity you have about your citizenship now? That sense that someone’s peering over your shoulder, watching everything you do and say and think and choose? That feeling of being observed? It’s not a new facet of life in the 21st century. It’s what it feels like for a girl.” — Rahel Aima, “Desiring Machines”

Pretty people earn more

“In the world of women’s work, how one looks is as important, if not more important, than what one does: The existential anxiety of identity creation is also economic and social anxiety, because the penalties for nonconformity are so high. Feminine mystique becomes identity itself. The woman who does not possess it, the ugly woman, the overweight woman, the older woman, the woman of color who will not straighten her hair or bleach her skin, is assumed, in a very real sense, to be invisible. She is overlooked on the street, at parties, on dating websites, at job interviews. She is dogged by a feeling of unreality; she does not exist, and if she dares to ‘be herself,’ she is stunned to find that, since her social legitimacy is contingent on artifice, that self is not a legitimate social construct.” — Laurie Penny, “Model Behavior”

Penalties assessed for failure to comply

“When beauty becomes mandatory, it ceases to be about fun, about play. Dressing up, playing with gender roles, doing your braids badly in the mirror, and eating half your mother’s lipstick in an attempt to get it on your face: Do you remember when that used to be fun? And do you remember when it stopped? Like any game, the woman game stops being fun when you start playing to win, especially if you’ve got no choice: Win or be ridiculed, win or become invisible, dismissed — disturbed.” — Laurie Penny, “Model Behavior”

It may be

“More than love, sex, courtship, and marriage; more than inheritance, ambition, rivalry, or disgrace; more than hatred, betrayal, revenge, or death, orphanhood—the absence of the parent, the frightening yet galvanizing solitude of the child—may be the defining fixation of the novel as a genre, what one might call its primordial motive or matrix, the conditioning psychic reality out of which the form itself develops.” — Terry Castle, “Don’t Pick Up”

And there are no secrets

“Maybe I can describe it this way.  I like to play chess.  I moved to a small town, and nobody played chess there, but one guy challenged me to checkers.  I always thought it was kind of a simple game, but I accepted.  And he beat me nine or ten games in a row.  That’s sort of like living in a small town.  It’s a simpler game, but it’s played to a higher level.” – Ken Jenks (as quoted by Peter Hessler in “Dr. Don”)

Dissizda samizdat

“To take a physical object out of someone’s possession is clearly not equivalent to making a copy for oneself while leaving all other copies untouched. If the right of physical property grants the right to control a particular copy of an object — a particular pair of Nike shoes, for example — the right of intellectual property instantiates the far broader power to control all copies of an idea or a software program or a work of art. Whether this extension is valid and justified, and whether it should fall within the same legal and rhetorical purview that addresses physical property, is ultimately a matter of cultural norms and political struggle.” — Peter Frase, “Phantom Tollbooths”

World of poachers poaching

“Beneath its frontier rhetoric of individualism and autonomy, capitalism is founded on the exercise of state power to defend the institution of private property. Its model of generalized commodity exchange presupposes a novel world in which everything is parceled into discrete chunks and tagged with the name of its owner. This way of seeing things does not come automatically to human societies; constructing a world of private property entails both state violence and ideological propagandizing.” — Peter Frase, “Phantom Tollbooths”

Followed by the cold vacuum of excess

“It takes more than full bellies to make fulfilled lives.  Without enough to eat, life is nasty; with merely enough to eat, it feels empty.  The escape from not-enough can highlight the emptiness of only-enough.” – Adam Gopnik, “Decline, Fall, Rinse, Repeat”

When the hub gives way, the wheel flies to pieces

“Remember what Socrates tells Euthyphro, who supposed that the good could be defined by what the gods had willed: if what the gods will is based on some other criterion of goodness, divine will isn’t what makes something good; but if goodness is simply determined by divine will there’s no way for us to assess that judgment.  In other words, if you believe that God ordains morality–constitutes it through his will–you still have to decide where God gets morality from.  If you are inclined to reply, ‘ Well, God is goodness; He invents it,’ you threaten to turn morality into God’s plaything, and you deprive yourself of any capacity to judge that morality.” — James Wood, “Is That All There Is?” (emphasis in original)

A naked definition of sovereignty

“I would banish all minor questions, assert the broad doctrine that as a nation the United States has the right, and also the physical power, to penetrate to every part of our national domain, and that we will do it—that we will do it in our own time and in our own way; that it makes no difference whether it be in one year, or two, or ten, or twenty; that we will remove and destroy every obstacle, if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper; that we will not cease till the end is attained; that all who do not aid us are enemies, and that we will not account to them for our acts.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, 1863 (quoted in The Civil War: A Narrative, by Shelby Foote)

How one or two things work

“Editing has pushed me to recognize when my own work is not succeeding and how essential revision is to the process. It’s also taught me that belief in a piece is essential to publication. Editing inspires, perhaps even demands, belief in a poem or story, enough to publish work that’s operating at its best quality.  Also, to be on this end of the process increases my enthusiasm about submitting my own work and helps me accept any rejections. Because I’ve been in the position of saying, ‘We already have a story about ninja alien cats so while this is a good story, it’s too much ninja alien cats for one issue.’ So in that respect, I’m more accepting of rejection as a natural occurrence in the submissions process. On the flip side though, having edited and sent acceptances, I know it happens, that this isn’t some weird numbers game, that if the work demonstrates quality writing and is a good fit for a journal, it will get accepted.” – Gina Keicher (quoted in “An Interview with the Editors of Salt Hill,” by Roxane Gay)

Our best Other friend

“Cats and birds are wonderful, but they keep their own counsel and their own identity.  They sit withing their own circles, even in the house, and let us spy, occasionally, on what it’s like out there.  Only the dog sits right at the edge of the first circle of caring, and points to the great unending circles of Otherness that we can barely begin to contemplate.” – Adam Gopnik, “Dog Story”