Month: March 2021

“I am most particular about my bed; it is the sanctuary of life. We entrust our almost naked and fatigued bodies to it so that they may be reanimated by reposing between soft sheets and feathers. There we find the most delightful hours of our existence, the hours of love and of sleep. The bed is sacred, and should be respected, venerated and loved by us as the best and most delightful of our earthly possessions. I cannot lift up the sheets of a hotel bed without a shudder of disgust. Who has occupied it the night before? Perhaps dirty, revolting people have slept in it. I begin, then, to think of all the horrible people with whom one rubs shoulders every day, people with suspicious-looking skin which makes one think of the feet and all the rest! I call to mind those who carry about with them the sickening smell of garlic or of humanity. I think of those who are deformed and unhealthy, of the perspiration emanating from the sick, of everything that is ugly and filthy in man. And all this, perhaps, in the bed in which I am about to sleep! The mere idea of it makes me feel ill as I get into it.” – Guy de Maupassant, “The Rondoli Sisters” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“It seems to me that real love must unsettle the mind, upset the nerves and distract the head; that it must—how shall I express it?—be dangerous, even terrible, almost criminal and sacrilegious; that it must be a kind of treason; I mean to say that it is bound to break laws, fraternal bonds, sacred obligations; when love is tranquil, easy, lawful and without dangers, is it really love?” – Guy de Maupassant, “The Log” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“However great the love may be that unites them a man and a woman are always strangers in mind and intellect; they remain belligerents, they belong to different races. There must always be a conqueror and a conquered, a master and a slave; now the one, now the other—they are never two equals.” – Guy de Maupassant, “The Log” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“The didactic mission of preserving the past as an object for the future, narrated by the stark finality of ‘never again,’ renders the structural violence of the present illegible while monetizing the promises of witnessing, thus profiting from the illusion that it is possible to coexist with the past.” – Julia Michiko Hori, “Berthing Violent Nostalgia: Restored Slave Ports and the Royal Caribbean Historic Falmouth Cruise Terminal”

“The past is neither inert nor given. The stories we tell about what happened then, the correspondences we discern between today and times past, and the ethical and political stakes of those stories redound in the present. If slavery feels proximate rather than remote and freedom seems increasingly elusive, this has everything to do with our own dark times. If the ghost of slavery still haunts our present, it is because we are still looking for an exit from the prison.” – Saidiyah V. Hartman, Love Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route

“If the monuments of civilization are almost always monuments to barbarism, what would it mean to let them fall into disrepair?” – Julia Michiko Hori, “Berthing Violent Nostalgia: Restored Slave Ports and the Royal Caribbean Historic Falmouth Cruise Terminal”

“The cease of majesty dies not alone but like a gulf doth draw what’s near it with it: it is a massy wheel, fix’d on the summit of the highest mount, to whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things are mortis’d and adjoin’d; which, when it falls, each small annexment, petty consequence, attends the boisterous ruin.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

“The administrative staff is supposed to be at Radzivillov along with all the transport carts, but in my opinion, Brody would be more interesting, the battle is being fought for Brody. Ivan’s opinion prevails, some of the cart drivers are saying the Poles are in Brody, the transport carts are fleeing, the army staff has left, we drive to Radzivillov. We arrive in the night. All this time we’ve been eating carrots and peas, penetrating hunger, we’re covered in dirt, haven’t slept. I took a hut on the outskirts of Radzivillov. Good choice, my knack for this sort of thing is getting better. An old man, a girl. The buttermilk is marvelous, we had all of it, they’re making tea with milk, Ivan is going to get some sugar, machine gun fire, the thunder of carts, we run out of the house, the horse is suddenly limping, that’s how things are sometimes, we are running in panic, we’re being shot at, we have no idea what’s going on, they’ll catch us any moment now, we make a dash for the bridge, pandemonium, we fall into the marshes, wild panic, a dead man lying there, abandoned carts, shells, tachankas. Traffic jam, night, terror, carts standing in an endless line, we are moving, a field, we stop, we sleep, stars. What upsets me most in all of this is the lost tea, I’m so upset, it’s peculiar. I think about it all night and hate the war.” – Isaac Babel, 1920 Diary (trans. Peter Constantine)

“The terrible truth is that all the soldiers have syphilis. Matyazh is almost cured (with practically no treatment). He had syphilis, got treatment for two weeks, he and a fellow countryman were to pay ten silver kopecks in Stavropol, his fellow countryman died, Misha had it many times, Senechka and Gerasya have syphilis, and they all go with women, and back home they have brides. The soldier’s curse. Russia’s curse—it’s horrifying. They swallow ground crystal, at times they drink either carbolic acid or crushed glass. All our fighters: velvet caps, rapes, Cossack forelocks, battle, Revolution, and syphilis.” – Isaac Babel, 1920 Diary (trans. Peter Constantine)

“Mass production changed human life forever. For the centuries preceding we were primarily an agrarian people living in a natural world, according to our needs and the seasons. Then, literally overnight, most of us were part of some immense process, making a part of a part of something. Universal time didn’t exist until relatively recently, with the establishment of transcontinental railroads. Until then, it had been two o’clock in my village, three in yours. But we needed to agree on the time so we wouldn’t miss our trains. It also took a full generation for the factory owners to get their workers to understand that they had to show up at the same time every day, even if they had enough money for the moment and just didn’t feel like working that day. Last detail—there was, in the nineteenth century, an active campaign, I mean with posters and such, to link poverty with shame. Until then our notion of poverty was more like our notion of cancer—it simply struck some people and not others. But if we’re not ashamed of being poor, we won’t show up for work consistently. In short, it was a profound change, and it was the beginning of the world in which we live now.” – Michael Cunningham (interviewed by Sarah Anne Johnson, “Close Up: Place and Setting”)

“He took home many women, and one day he found that he had en noua. He knew that was a bad disease, because it stays in the blood and eats the nose from inside. ‘A man loses his nose only long after he has already lost his head.’ He asked a doctor for medicine. The doctor gave him a paper and told him to take it to the Pharmacie de l’Etoile. There he bought six vials of penicillin in a box. He took them home and tied each little bottle with a silk thread, stringing them so that they made a necklace. He wore this always around his neck, taking care that the glass vials touched his skin. He thought it likely that by now he was cured, but his cousin in Fez had just told him that he must go on wearing the medicine for another three months, or at least until the beginning of the moon of Chouwal.” – Paul Bowles, “He of the Assembly”

“Tourists are people with the means and desire to seek out experiences different or absent from their daily lives. Leisure tourism is shaped around providing things that corporate work culture withholds, including such basics as sleep, sunlight, art and music, physical exercise, relief from stress, a break from surveillance and policed time, from the women’s double day and the culture of busyness, from the myriad mechanisms of social discipline that dehumanize and despiritualize metropolitan life. How to quarrel with such a list?” – Mary Louise Pratt, “Is this Gitmo, or Club Med?”

“Everything we have come to call the arts seems to be in almost every 3-year-old. When these capacities are absent in a young child, we worry about them. There seems to be an understanding that the thing we call the arts has a critical function for kids, though we may have a hard time saying just what it is, especially if we call it ‘art’—but ‘it’ existed before the word for it existed, not just generally but for each of us. We were doing all of these things before we knew what it was we were doing, it seemed to be something coming from the inside.” – Lynda Barry, Making Comics

“The ocean was waiting with grand and bitter provocations, as if it invited you to think how deep it was, how much colder than your blood or saltier, or to outguess it, to tell which were its feints or passes and which its real intentions, meaning business. It wasn’t any apostle-crossed or Aeneas-stirred Mediterranean, the clement, silky, marvelous beauty-sparkle bath in which all the ancientest races were children. As we left the harbor, the North Atlantic, brute gray, heckled the ship with its strength, clanging, pushing, muttering; a hungry sizzle salted the bulkheads.” – Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

“You must take your chance on what you are. And you can’t sit still. I know this is a double poser, that if you make a move you may lose but if you sit still you will decay. But what will you lose? You will not invent better than God or nature or turn yourself into the man who lacks no gift or development before you make the move. This is not given to us.” – Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

“In the world of nature you can trust, but in the world of artifacts you must beware. There you must know, and you can’t keep so many things on your mind and be happy. ‘Look on my works ye mighty and despair!’ Well, never mind about Ozymandias nor being just trunkless legs; in his day the humble had to live in his shadow, and so do we live under shadow, with acts of faith in functioning of inventions, as up to the stratosphere, down in the subway, crossing bridges, going through tunnels, rising and falling in elevators where our safety is given in keeping. Things done by man which overshadow us. And this is true also of meat on the table, heat in the pipes, print on the paper, sounds in the air, so that all matters are alike, of the same weight, of the same rank, the caldron of God’s wrath on page one and Wieboldt’s sale on page two. It’s all external and the same. Well, then what makes your existence necessary, as it should be? These technical achievements which try to make you exist in their way?” – Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (emphasis in original)

“Everyone tries to create a world he can live in, and what he can’t use he often can’t see. But the real world is already created, and if your fabrication doesn’t correspond, then even if you feel noble and insist on there being something better than what people call reality, that better something needn’t try to exceed what, in its actuality, since we know it so little, may be very surprising. If a happy state of things, surprising; if miserable or tragic, no worse than what we invent.” – Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

“I know man’s labor must be one of those deals figured out by Providence that saves him by preserving him, or he would be hungry, he would freeze, or his brittle neck would be broke. But what curious and strange forms he ends up surviving in, becoming them in the process.” – Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

“Those who fall ill on the 25th day of the 8th moon have come across, in a due westerly quarter, of some flower spirit; they feel heavy, with no inclination for drink or food. Take seven sheets of white paper money, and, advancing forty steps due west, burn them and exorcise the spirit; recovery will follow at once!” – Cao Xueqin, The Dream of the Red Chamber (trans. H. Bencraft Joly

“There is a darkness. It is for everyone. You don’t, as perhaps some imagine, try it, one foot into it like a barbershop ‘September Morn.’ Nor are lowered into it with visitor’s curiosity, as the old Eastern monarch was let down into the weeds inside a glass ball to observe the fishes. Nor are lifted straight out after an unlucky tumble, like a Napoleon from the mud of the Arcole where he had been standing up to his thoughtful nose while the Hungarian bullets broke the clay off the bank. Only some Greeks and admirers of theirs, in their liquid noon, where the friendship of beauty to human things was perfect, thought they were clearly divided from this darkness. And these Greeks too were in it. But still they are the admiration of the rest of the mud-sprung, famine-knifed, street-pounding, war-rattled, difficult, painstaking, kicked in the belly, grief and cartilage mankind, the multitude, some under a coal-sucking Vesuvius of chaos smoke, some inside a heaving Calcutta midnight, who very well know where they are.” – Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

“Before vice and shortcoming, admitted in the weariness of maturity, common enough and boring to make an extended showing of, there are, or are supposed to be, silken, unconscious, nature-painted times, like the pastoral of Sicilian shepherd lovers, or lions you can chase away with stones and golden snakes who scatter from their knots into the fissures of Eryx. Early scenes of life, I mean; for each separate person too, everyone beginning with Eden and passing through trammels, pains, distortions, and death into the darkness out of which, it is hinted, we may hope to enter permanently into the beginning again. There is horror of grayness, of the death-forerunning pinch, of scandalous mouth or of fear-eyes, and by whatever is caused by no recollection of happiness and no expectation of it either. But when there is no shepherd-Sicily, no free-hand nature-painting, but deep city vexation instead, and you are forced early into deep city aims, not sent in your ephod before Eli to start service in the temple, nor set on a horse by your weeping sisters to go and study Greek in Bogotá, but land in a poolroom—what can that lead to of the highest? And what happiness or misery-antidote can it offer instead of pipes or sheep or musical, milk-drinking innocence, or even merely nature walks with a pasty instructor in goggles, or fiddle lessons? Friends, human pals, men and brethren, there is no brief, digest, or shorthand way to say where it leads. Crusoe, alone with nature, under heaven, had a busy, complicated time of it with the unhuman itself, and I am in a crowd that yields results with much more difficulty and reluctance and am part of it myself.” – Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March