Agreeable eye.

an eudæmonistarchives

Archive for 2016

caresses and lullabies

And you have to realize that you cannot hope to console yourself for your grief by writing. You cannot deceive yourself by hoping for caresses and lullabies from your vocation. In my life there have been interminable, desolate empty Sundays in which I have desperately wanted to write something that would console me for my […]

indulge me

No one is telling me that I must like this book, and that is just as well because I do not. This book, Marguerite Duras’ Yann Andréa Steiner is not a bad book, but it is a self-indulgent one, and it approaches the reader with the watery over-familiarity of acknowledged eminence and suffering, for which […]

ennui ensues

Sunshine, from The Illustrated London News (1865) Peter Toohey’s Boredom: A Lively History is a competent bit of work, hitting the key surface points of the topic, from Aristotle to Heidegger, with an obligatory early twenty-first-century excursus on neuroscience. It is, as the acknowledgements give away, a commissioned book – an editor’s idea of something […]

Poe

a lyric elixir of death  embalms  the spindle spirits of your hour glass loves  on moon spun nights sets  icicled canopy  for corpses of poesy  with roses and northern lights  Where frozen nightingales in ilix aisles  sing burial rights – Mina Loy (Corpses and Geniuses, ‘Poe’)

Citation (53)

There is a legend about a prisoner sentenced to solitary confinement for life. He spent years scratching a boat on the wall with the handle of a prison spoon. One day, they brought him his water, bread, and gruel, as usual, but the cell was empty, and the wall was blank. He had climbed into […]

bettered novels (13)

Illustration from an 1802 edition of The Old English Baron. A first reading of Clara Reeve’s 1777 novel The Old English Baron did not leave much of an impression. In thinking back on it, I have a vague sense of a tedious simulacra of early modernity, somewhat less appealing than one of William Morris’s more […]

bettered novels (22.1)

First Impressions A walk in the country, ca. 1800 At the time I considered myself a great reader and East of Eden perhaps the greatest book ever written in English. So it is not a surprise that my first reading of Pride & Prejudice was not marked by any particular sympathy. It was recommended to […]

bettered novels (22.2)

Ampersand William Hogarth & Modern Morals. …more knowledge may be gained of a man’s real character, by a short conversation with one of his servants, than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree, and ended with his funeral. – Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s The Life of Dr. Johnson (vol. 1, p. […]

Citation (54)

Pieter van der Borcht, engraving of a pelican from Sancti Epiphanii ad Physiologum (1588) Writing, that powerful myth. The highest degree of distinction; how can it happen? How can the eye become progressively sensitive to reading, how can it get into the rhythm, the music; how can it be hurt – as if the light […]

rather a chaos

I confess, there are many useless and superfluous books, and perchance mine will add to the number of them; especially it is to be observed, that there have been in this latter age, as many writers of natural philosophy, as in former ages there have been of moral philosophy; which multitude, I fear, will produce […]

Crambe repetita (43)

Danielle Dutton, Margaret the First.

springes

Forgot Easter is tomorrow. A gaggle of families carried four outsize crosses (not sturdy enough to bear human weight, but strong enough for faith I dare say) in the direction of the river. A few minutes later, a fifth cross scurried down the sidewalk to catch up. Or so it seemed from the coffee shop. […]

exchange

It cost too much, to begin with. I really had no excuse for buying it, except that I was feeling out of sorts and aphoristic philosophy seemed like a good choice at the time; it seemed to be a clean copy, too, which would go a little way to excusing the price. At home, however, […]

bears with swords

Plate with loversIn the same sense that The Need for Roots is primarily concerned with finding reasons for the fall of France and the Vichy government, Mavrogordato’s introduction to Digenes Akrites – while still an entertaining and enlightening excursion through the manuscript tradition and historical context of the poem – is less about Byzantine poetry […]

Crambe repetita (44)

Poe, ‘The Philosophy of Furniture’.

self-as-character

Thomas Patch, self portrait (late 1760s) A very beautiful woman who looks at her reflection in the mirror can very well believe that she is that. An ugly woman knows that she is not that. –Simone Weil (Gravity and Grace, p. 33) In our society the character one performs and one’s self are somewhat equated, […]

Citation (55)

on the best society…

cavilling

Crambe repetita (45)

Gert Jonke, The System of Vienna.

non disputandum

One might be tempted to think this is merely the result of a false sort of conjugation, something along the lines of: ‘I have taste; you have preferences; s/he has an unfortunate partiality’; except I would be the first to admit that I have no real taste – it has been rarefied out of me […]

up to nature

Mirror Lake on an overcast day Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable. [ . . . ] If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much. –Mary Oliver, ‘How I go to […]

Improbable places (5)

the room of characters.

wellspring

Il y a de certaines choses dont la médiocrité est insupportable : la poésie, la musique, la peinture, le discours public. – La Bruyère (Les Caractères, I.7) * * * Words are not terms, and thus are not like buckets and kegs from which we scoop a content that is there. Words are wellsprings that are found […]

tautologous (2)

These are by no means all of the books I read this year that I found enjoyable or good, but they are the ones that, when thinking back over the year, stood out to me as some of the better ones – or at least the ones that were the right books for me at […]

A view (46)

snow, Zigzag.

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