Playing the trump card

“Who of us has not destroyed our enemies in our heads. Suppose but a whisper of our wishes leaked out and half a continent was ready to rise and do your bidding? Orders are easy. Liquidate the trailer parks. Murder motorbikers. Silence the soaps. Clean up the town. Bust up the trusts. It is the killing—hands-on and nearby—that takes fortitude and commitment.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

This will be on the final

“History, I do believe, is not a mighty multitude of causes whose effects we suffer now in some imaginary present; it is rather that the elements of every evanescent moment endeavor to hitch a ride on something more permanent, living on in what lives on, lengthening their little life by clinging to a longer one, and in that manner, though perhaps quite unintentionally, attaching what will be to what still is (and so far has survived).” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

You will not be the last one left

“Death, they say, is democratic. Right? It makes no class distinctions: richer or poorer, better or worse, sick or well, white or black, jew or gentile; o mortal is mortal o, don’t we moan? and mother will go though she suckled us, and father will go though he paid our way, and brother will fall and sister sicken, the snow, the poet says, is subject to the same, the beauty of the breast, damp on a wet stoop, light on a bright day, look on a face, every strength of character, every vice, every species, every holy place, the list of the fragile even has its end, though the list is as long, o mortal is mortal as mortal o, as any which can be composed; whereas the momentary song, which seeks to save itself in memory, and reemerge through another’s tongue, on other lips, which infects mankind with its rhythms, meanings, metaphors, and rhymes, its sentiments and small desires, and tries to placate the implacable by praising it, fearing its powers, praying to its priests, crying mortal is mortal o mortal o, such a resourceful tune is doomed just as certainly as the solidist theory, the grandest design, the most convoluted plot, the simplest, plainest, purest line.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

It’s just another word

“It’s a war of lie against lie in this world where we are, fancy against fantasy, nightmare throttling nightmare like two wedded anacondas, and anyone who’s taken in is nothing but a bolo and a bumpkin. But that’s just exactly what we all are—hoddydoddies—aren’t we? Aren’t we all so hungry, anxious, eager to believe? like men in prison, aren’t we skinny to be screwed? and don’t we think that we’ve escaped to freedom when we drink our wits out, dance our reason loose, and crack our nuts between the fat legs of some four-mark whore?” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

We do so love our rights

“To love is to trust another with your self-esteem. And then to see them measure you, to see the red line drop into the bulb at the bottom—my god, how you hate yourself, then, for the gift of your vanity, the care of your conceit! Think of it: you have given someone else the right to think ill of you.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel (emphasis in original)

There’s bees and spiders in there

“If we had the true and complete history of one man—which would be the history of his head—we would sign the warrants and end ourselves forever, not because of the wickedness we would find within that man, no, but because of the meagerness of feeling, the miniaturization of meaning, the pettiness of ambition, the vulgarities, the vanities, the diminution of intelligence, the endless trivia we’d encounter, the ever present dust.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

All against all

“Clashes are perfectly normal, what is the purpose of the pitiless bronze? certainly labor and management cheat one another—are suspicious, sullen, lazy, greedy, deceitful, Mafia-manipulated—you name it, no surprises, ordinary shiftlessness, ordinary exploitation, ordinary rapacity; physicians pill their poor patients to death and then bill the estates, which are already being fucked over by lawyers who specialize in quarrels and in quarreling: in instigating quarrels, nurturing and sustaining quarrels, in broadening quarrels, in aggravating and deepening them, in spelling quarrels (pretending the word needs no q, arguing against doubling the r), in quarreling among themselves then, in sucking quarrels so dry they whapper back and forth like sheets in the wind (whereas the Third Reich tried to eliminate quarrelsome elements, sought peace inside itself, sought to flatten fulminations); but no one likes their state, their place, or what they’re doing—the copper quarters their pockets, the two-dollar bill; thus riders kick their horses, peasants beat their oxen, dissociated personalities play mean pranks upon their not-so-innocent other selves; wars break out in the bleachers; psychoanalysts betray confidences and make out with their patients; journalists rake muck and ruin reputations; mystics and assorted fakes, lovers, men of the cloth, the soil, the sea: all go at it. The sparrows have learned from us how to fuss and sputter, squirrels saw away at their grievances; locusts stridulate; thorns prick; aspens clatter. What a world!” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

They’re not going to pay you, anyhow

“Amateurism is obviously differentiated from professionalism, but the criteria for differentiation here is not payment or quality. What distinguishes an amateur is not that he or she is not paid, nor that he or she is doing something in an inexpert way. Rather, the central notion of amateurism is the motivation to engage in a game or other practice for the sake of the game or practice itself. An amateur does what he or she does because of a love of the activity. There is no denying that amateurism carries a certain leisure-class connotation. A discourse of amateurism emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century, replete with clearly observable practices of rule making, exclusion and inclusion; amateurism was used by the elites to exclude and differentiate themselves from anyone engaged in manual labor.” – Halvard Leira, “International Relations Pluralism and History—Embracing Amateurism to Strengthen the Profession” (internal quotes and cites omitted)

Not to mention any readers

“Disciplinary boundaries and boundary-keeping circumscribe which channels of publication are seen as relevant and also where specific types of work will be acceptable. Hence, they are also ultimately decisive for the possibilities of getting tenure and promotion.” – Halvard Leira, “International Relations Pluralism and History—Embracing Amateurism to Strengthen the Profession”

Haters gotta hate

“Lay the length of a lasting love alongside any hate, that of the Armenians, for instance, the Turks for the Greeks, the Serbs for everybody. Do you suppose if the Armenians had been done a good turn back then, instead of being thinned, they would remember? three square meals and clean clothes in corded bales and darned blankets and bandages and modern medicines for their festers and their flu? would such deeds be held tenderly against generations of grateful hearts? No one would think so. No one. No.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

Flavor-of-the-month club

“O yes, O yes, O yes, O yes, I am aware, O how I know, that there are those who write like tenors, stock their books as though each were a fish pond, dry goods, hardware, or a pantry; who jerry-build, compose sentences like tangled spaghetti, piss through their pens and otherwise relieve themselves, play at poetry as if they were still dressing dolls, order history as though it were an endless bill of lading; but there were genuine bookmen once: Burton, Montaigne, Rabelais and other list-makers, Sir Thomas Browne and Hobbes, in the days when a book was not just a signal like a whiff of smoke from a movie Indian or a carton of cold crumb-covered carryout chicken, but a blood-filled body in the world, a mind in motion like a cannonball.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

What’s the price on that?

“Everywhere nothing now but a revocation of the muse. Cancel Clio, cross out sweet Calliope, for history’s been buggered by ideology, and farts its facts in an odorous cloud, while poets have no breath whatever, are in another business presently, where Parnassus is a pastry, and produce their poems promptly on request like short-order cooks shake forth a batch of fries. Mark out Melpomene. The lines of the anonymous are nothing like the lives of the saints; a celebrity is but a draft from his fans; crooks establish dynasties on stolen dimes.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

And this is why the Internet is free

“Of all the rights of the citizen, few are of greater importance or more essential to his peace and happiness than the right of personal security, and that involves, not merely protection of his person from assault, but exemption of his private affairs, books, and papers, from the inspection and scrutiny of others. Without the enjoyment of this right, all others would lose half their value.” – Justice Field, In re Pacific Railway Commission, 32 Fed. 241

Busybodies on the government payroll

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” – Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmsted v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)

Catch it if you can

“The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and of his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the Government, the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.” – Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmsted v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)

To be so clean again

“We lie with the Fates from our first conception; for it is said—and truly too—that the flesh is built up over the bones at birth by the caresses of those star-guarding harlots whose pawed passage clings there like a cloth, just as the soul in our life is the silted delta of the senses, their accumulated fat; and it is Clotho whose touch becomes our tissue, and Atropos who trims it to the shape we’ll take, and Lachesis who then stitches it about us like a shroud; so when we go to ground, as eventually we must, we lose our lusts with our linens, arising on the last day as clean and shriven as the one on which we were begot.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

It might not prove the joist we sought to hammer

“We live in a world of whirling air just as Anaximenes concluded, a world of whiffs, puffs, breaths, zephyrs, breezes, hurricanes, monsoons, and mistrals; and if they all died away suddenly, and we were Sargasso’d in a sea of circumstance, then one small draft through a winter window might drive us at our destiny like a nail.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

Fancy a fancy-eating tree

“A flat and wooden style, words nailed like shingles to the page, the earnest straightforward bite of the spike, is the one which suits sincerity; sincerity cannot gambol, cannot play, cannot hedge its bets, forswear a wager, bear to lose; sincerity is tidy; it shits in a paper sack to pretend it’s innocent of food; it cannot quote its masters like Montaigne, or fly its fancy even in a tree, or pun upon a wholesome opportunity, draw up lists like Burton, burst at all its seams; sincerity makes every day dull Sunday, does lump sums, keeps tabs, lies through its honesty like a Bible-beater’s pious threats and Great Good News.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

To be young and upright again

“Classicists cannot soil themselves with simple-minded seeing the way empirics do: empirics are too dewy, eager, brash, young, innocent, naive. No. And not because experience couldn’t bring them to wisdom better than the Greeks, either, but because experience is broad and muddy like the Ganges, with the filthy and the holy intermixed in every wash; because it is itself the puzzle and the surd; because it teaches primarily through pain, defeat, disappointment, loss; and these leave a groveler inside the heart; to preside in the spirit, they appoint a hanging judge; and create a resentful cripple in the mind, bent to one side in the continuous clutch of its truth.” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

And reparations cannot be paid

“Neither guilt nor innocence are ontological elements in history; they are merely ideological factors to which a skillful propaganda can seem to lend a causal force, and in that fashion furnish others—in disguise of their greed as it may be, their terror sometimes, pride possibly, remorse even, or, more often, surly resentment—a superficially plausible apologia for tomorrow’s acts of robbery or cowardice, revenge, rape, or other criminalities already under way; because the past cannot promise its future the way a premise stands in line with a ticket good for its conclusion (the past is never a justification, only a poor excuse; it confers no rights, and rights no wrongs; it is even more heartless than Hitler).” – William H. Gass, The Tunnel

Capital preservation

“The Reichskommissariat Ukraine had certain features in common with Nazi concentration camps such as Dachau: the pervasive terror; the obligation to witness public beatings or executions; the happy music during sad occasions; and the frequency with which captors observed their subjects with disgust or pretended not to see them at all. It is not surprising that the natives themselves often described their situation as one of captivity (plen) or slavery (rabstvo). ‘We are like slaves,’ wrote one woman in her diary. ‘Often the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin comes to mind. Once we shed tears over those Negroes; now obviously we ourselves are experiencing the same thing.’ But the Reichskommissariat was far worse than a slaveholding society. In the vast majority of past societies for which reliable data are available, slaves were treated with some consideration. Slaveholders and other nonslaves realized that in the treatment of slaves, incentives made more sense than punishment. Slaves were supposed to be used as servants—not to be disabled, let alone killed.” – Karel C. Berkhoff,  Harvest of Despair

Murderous tyrannies all

“Western Volhynia, less than thirty thousand square kilometers, inhabited by 1.5 million people, including 250,000 Poles, experienced in 1943 mass killings of Poles and a Polish-Ukrainian war. At the very least 15,000, and possibly many thousands more, Polish men, women, and children died at the hands of Ukrainian partisans and villagers in one of the most comprehensive cases of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in wartime eastern Europe. Many Poles survived only because they fled across the Buh River to the General Government. These events involved the only Ukrainian partisan force that presented itself as an alternative to Soviet and Nazi rule, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or UPA.” – Karel C. Berkhoff,  in Harvest of Despair

German efficiency

“Starting in 1942, the predominant Nazi reaction to partisans was to kill and burn, with careful planning and horrible precision. One of the earliest casualties of these assaults in the Reichskommissariat [Ukraine] was the village of Kortelisy near Ratne in Polissia. In May 1942, a partisan unit of some fifty locals and former Red Army soldiers destroyed the local police station. In the summer, a German unit called a village meeting and shot several relatives of partisans and Eastern Worker refugees. Still deeming the village a partisan stronghold, the Nazis dealt it a final blow some months later. One September day, peasants from surrounding villages who owned carts received an order to go to Kortelisy the next day. Early that September 23, a police company and Schuma [police auxiliaries] surrounded Kortelisy. Everybody, including all of the children, had to assemble and had to bring along their money and identity papers. A man said that he needed some time, for his children were not dressed yet and it was cold. A Schuma told him not to ‘waste’ the clothes: the meeting would be short and it would get hot, he said. Disabled villagers were taken to the square on carts. There they saw Kovel District Commissar Kassner, who told everyone through an interpreter that, because of their resistance to the German authorities, he had orders to burn them alive in their homes. But, he said, he had decided instead to shoot them. Somebody read out loud the names of those who would be spared: the village elder, the priest, the local Eastern Labor officials, the local Schuma, and the spouses and children of these villagers; all but the local Schuma were locked up in the school. Then the intruders forced the local men to dig a long and deep ditch and to undress. They started up car engines so as to muffle the sounds to come and started killing, first the men, and then the women and children. Thus nearly 2,900 people were shot with submachine guns and pistols, drowned, or bayoneted to death. . . . While the chosen locals were directed to the town of Ratne, the cart owners from the nearby villages were told to remove the possessions from the homes of those killed. The next day Kortelisy was burned to the ground and ceased to exist.” – Karel C. Berkhoff,  in Harvest of Despair