Month: January 2021

“One feels right away that this is the kingdom of books. People working at the library commune with books, with the life reflected in them, and so become almost reflections of real-life human beings. Even the cloakroom attendants—not brown-haired, not blond, but something in between—are mysteriously quiet, filled with contemplative composure. At home on Saturday evenings they might well drink methylated spirits and give their wives long, drawn-out beatings, but at the library their comportment is staid, circumspect, and hazily somber.” – Isaac Babel, “The Public Library” (trans. Peter Constantine)

“Who in his youth has not dozed off on the edge of a sofa with his head propped on the breast of a high school girl, met by chance on life’s winding path? It is not necessarily such a bad thing, and more often than not there are no consequences, but one does have to show a little consideration for others, not to mention that the girl might well have to go to school the next day.” – Isaac Babel, “Mama, Rimma, and Alla” (trans. Peter Constantine)

“Paradise itself is no more than a group fantasy of the childhood of the individual. That is why mankind were naked in Paradise and were without shame in one another’s presence; till a moment arrived when shame and anxiety awoke, expulsions followed, and sexual life and the tasks of cultural activity began. But we can regain this Paradise every night in our dreams.” – Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (trans. James Strachey)

“It seems a bad thing and detrimental to the creative work of the mind if Reason makes too close an examination of the ideas as they come pouring in—at the very gateway, as it were. Looked at in isolation, a thought may seem very trivial or very fantastic; but it may be made important by another thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with other thoughts that may seem equally absurd, it may turn out to form a most effective link. Reason cannot form any opinion upon all this unless it retains the thought long enough to look at it in connection with the others. On the other hand, where there is a creative mind, Reason—so it seems to me—relaxes its watch upon the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it look them through and examine them in a mass.” – Friedrich Schiller (quoted by Sigmund Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams (trans. James Strachey))

“Fujiwara Sadanobu (1088-1156) was the grandson of Fujiwara Yukinari (Kozei, 972-1027), one of the greatest calligraphers of Japan, and the son of Sadazane (1063-ca. 1131) . . .. He is known for having copied single-handedly onto nearly six hundred scrolls the entire Issaikyo, the Chinese translation of the Tripitaka, a task that spanned twenty-seven years. His efforts literally went up in smoke a few years later, when the temple to which he had donated the work, a building in the Todaiji complex in Nara, was destroyed by fire.” – Miyeko Murase, Book of Dreams

“ ‘Every cynic is a romantic’? Well. A romantic is just a cynic for whom, as yet, the nickel hasn’t dropped. You can’t get your heart broke if you don’t give a shit. A ‘fool’s paradise’ is a perfect redundancy. The paradise, whether it’s love or success, consists not in its, no doubt, pleasant attributes, but in the fool’s ignorance of their transiency. You can’t live in paradise, unless you’re a fool. Your time there runs out, join the cynics.” – David Mamet, Chicago (emphases in original)

“A newspaper is a joke. Existing at the pleasure of the advertisers, to mulct the public, gratifying their stupidity, and render some small advance on investment to the owners, offering putative employment to their etiolated, wastrel sons.” – David Mamet, Chicago (emphasis in original)

“Mrs. Smith runs out into the street shrieking and screaming, ‘Spare the children, spare the children, dear God in heaven, couldn’t you at least do something to make them stop and spare the children!’ Suddenly there is all of a sudden a bolt of lightning and thundering and here is what God answers the woman. He says to her, ‘Show business is show business.’ “ – Gordon Lish, Extravaganza

“We looked into each other’s eyes for a long while. Oh! what power a woman’s eye has! How it agitates us, how it invades our very being, takes possession of us, and dominates us! How profound it seems, how full of infinite promises! People call that looking into each other’s souls! Oh! monsieur, what humbug! If we could see into each other’s souls, we should be more careful of what we did.” – Guy de Maupassant, “In the Spring” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“Monsieur, beware of love! It is lying in ambush everywhere; it is watching for you at every corner; all its snares are laid, all its weapons are sharpened, all its guiles are prepared! Beware of love! Beware of love! It is more dangerous than brandy, bronchitis or pleurisy! It never forgives and makes everybody commit irreparable follies.” – Guy de Maupassant, “In the Spring” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“People need rules and boundaries, and if society doesn’t provide them in sufficient measure, the estranged individual may drift into something deeper and more dangerous. Terrorism is built on structure. A terrorist act is a structured narrative played out over days or weeks or even years if there are hostages involved. What we call the shadow life of terrorists or gun runners or double agents is in fact the place where a certain clarity takes effect, where definitions matter, and both sides tend to follow the same set of rules.” – Don DeLillo (interviewed by Adam Begley, The Art of Fiction No. 135)

“The net of circumstances that constitutes in the broadest sense my physical situation, the world into which I am flung—or rather into which, when I come to any kind of awareness, I have always already been flung—is, nevertheless, a world only through my projection of what I mean to make it.” – Marjorie Grene, Introduction to Existentialism

“The study of history is useful to the historian by teaching him his ignorance of women; and the mass of this ignorance crushes one who is familiar enough with what are called historical sources to realize how few women have ever been known.” – Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

“One must have heroes, which is to say, one must create them. And they become real through our envy, our devotion. It is we who give them their majesty, their power, which we ourselves could never possess. And in turn, they give us some back. But they are mortal, these heroes, just as we are. They do not last forever. They fade. They vanish. They are surpassed, forgotten—one hears of them no more.” – James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime

“Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like coins in the pocket of a forgotten suit. Most of the details, though, have long since been transformed or rearranged to bring others of them forward. Some, in fact, are obviously counterfeit; they are no less important. One alters the past to form the future. But there is a real significance to the pattern which finally appears, which resists all further change. In fact, there is the danger that if I continue to try, the whole concert of events will begin to fall apart in my hands like old newspaper. I can’t bear to think of that. The myriad past, it enters us and disappears. Except that within it, somewhere, like diamonds, exist the fragments that refuse to be consumed. Sifting through, if one dares, and collecting them, one discovers the true design.” – James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime

“I took up with a nice lad I met on the bridge and we were married in due time under a shed on the place where his family lived high in the mountains. A fine Sunday this was, with relatives in to play the accordion. Oh, the songs I heard that day! I was so happy. We killed and consumed numerous chickens.” – Leon Rooke, “Saloam Frigid With Time’s Legacy While Mrs. Willoughby Bight-Davies Sits Naked Through The Night On A Tree Stump Awaiting The Lizard That Will Make Her Loins Go Boom-Boom”