What is it good for

“A war doesn’t merely kill off a few thousand or a few hundred thousand young men. It kills off something in a people that can never be brought back. And if a people goes through enough wars, pretty soon all that’s left is the brute, the creature that we—you and I and others like us—have brought up from the slime.” – John Williams, Stoner

Playing with matches

“Memory is an arsonist, setting fires cell-deep at ungovernable intervals of time and space. Lights go on, searching out pain. The hands of another. The mother voice, singing to block out the noise. Titanic laughter and with it confusion. Clouds, white, grey striations, disposed across the eye. The folded heron in the reed bed, the river drifting deeply, its world mirroring still.” – David Hayden, “Wonder Meadow”

Snapped in two like a pencil

“All the hours, all the days, the months in figurative seclusion, all the sentences written that’ll never be read, and all the books published that’ll never reach any more than a handful. And yet it’s still in the act of solitude that I look to make a connection, to be something other than alone. There’s something so broken about it, but look, I’m still here. I’m writing in the darkness of a room, shortly after dusk.” – Michael J. Seidlinger, “Every Time You’re Alone: An Incomplete List”

And that’s why we do it

“Philosophy in the end is an intellectual game. At limits unattainable by mathematics and the empirical sciences, it constructs all sorts of intricate structures. And as a structure is completed, the game ends. Fiction is different from philosophy because it is the product of sensory perceptions. If a futile self-made signifier is saturated in a solution of lust and at a particular time transforms into a living cell capable of multiplying and growing, it is much more interesting than games of the intellect.” – Gao Xingjian, Soul Mountain (trans. Mabel Lee)

Especially having to apologize for it later

“It’s what musicians do when they don’t know what to do anymore. They take out a wineglass or a handkerchief and try to play their cellos with that. Or they rub a balloon and tell people that this is their new instrument. Or they hang on to the bow and toss the cello, and they play their bow on the radiator or piano or a piece of wood. They make a sliding or scratching sound and this is their new music. Or artists, they do it too. They put away their pads and pull stuff out of the garbage. They’ve been doing that for so long, it’s unnerving—this little segment of the population going around, saying that they see art everywhere: trash bin, mountain, sidewalk, plank, person, disease. Some people find it almost annoying.” – Deb Olin Unferth, “Abandon Normal Instruments”

Please don’t talk about love tonight

“There’s a reason people in foodwork stay up late, drinking and drugging. Your shift ends and hours later you’re still sweating from those burners, amped up and pissed at whichever customer or coworker screwed you the hardest.” – Kimberly King Parsons, “Wisdom to Know the Difference”

Would you like fries with that

“The fisherman hauls his nets, tiring his body in the very act of shielding it from starvation; the starving fish takes the bait, its very need for life condemning it to death. Just how much can a man profit in this world; how much can a little fish consume? Each feels the same about existence, each treasures life. Further, the woodsman sweating on the hillside, who returns at evening bearing the north wind at his back, the limping seller plying his trade through the fields, who sets out at dawn through the thick white dew—their work may differ but for all, the sufferings of this life are one.” – Anonymous Monk, “Journey Along the Sea Road” (trans. Meredith McKinney)

The thing to do

“If you’ve ever been in a fight with someone you love,
each of you holding the pistol of your dignity
to the other’s temple, despite, or maybe
because of, the width and breadth of that love,
which has you pretty sure you’ve been mistaken
for her father, while she’s fairly certain
she’s again found someone like her mother,
so she’s haunted by her blindness, and you’re
sick of her projections, and just as someone’s
about to say the next perfect thing—perfect
for deepening this unfathomable trench—
it might be a good time to get up and leave
saying, ‘I need to check on the cornbread.’ “

– Diana Goetsch, “Whole Lotta Love”

It’s nice when they’re connected

“Intelligence is the ability to solve a problem, to decipher a riddle, to master a set of facts. Judgment is the ability to orbit a problem or a set of facts and see it as it might be seen through other eyes, by observers with different biases, motives, and backgrounds.” – James Comey, A Higher Loyalty

How special, you’re a writer

“Writing isn’t a precious thing and I’m not in eternal search of keeping what I do holy or built up out of shimmering gems. I don’t eat my lunch off a gold plated lunch truck. The great American novel doesn’t know it’s the great American novel until it’s been out almost a hundred years and the woman or man who wrote it is dead. Who cares about the great American novel while we’re in the golden age of TV? Art isn’t something you should protect from yourself. Just run towards it full sprint and embrace how ridiculous your ideas are, how unguarded, how close to something a child might think up, lying on their back in a field overgrown with weeds. The sights and sounds of the rotating world revealing itself to you, or not. Take a sip of black gas station quality coffee, take a bite of fish sandwich, write down the adventures of the day. Every day adds up. Every lunch break is something more than a lunch break.” – Bud Smith, Work