Archive for 2015
Crambe repetita (35)
Virginia Woolf, ‘Four Figures: Beau Brummell’ from The Second Common Reader.
beware of pity
of fictitious and real entities in motion and at rest
the long road
Robert Adam, Ruins of the palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia (1764) From time to time out of the text there emerged little black figures which postured on the white paper beside it, achieved a group which was magical, an incantation to death, and ran back again into the text, which carried […]
‘Menschenhaupt’, Aegidius Albertinus, Hirnschleiffer.
crusted over and hardened by reason
the printer’s mark
Winsor McCay, A Good Book (not the book in question) It is not that the book is badly designed. No. The typeface suits and the pages are pleasingly laid out out. There are suitable illustrations, photos of the poet at various stages in her career – the ordinary image-making of an attractive woman. No. The […]
in which culture achieves its apotheosis and history is denied
from Albrecht Dürer’s Portrait of Maximilian I We are never at home with, but always beyond, ourselves. Fear, desire, and hope impel us into the future, and rob us of the sense and consideration of that which is, in order to keep us musing over that which will be, even when we shall cease to […]
in the study
Curie of the laboratory of vocabulary she crushed the tonnage of consciousness congealed to phrases to extract a radium of the word – Mina Loy (Corpses and Geniuses, ‘Gertrude Stein’) What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it. The question does not […]
Action Comics #1, 1938 Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit. Her eyes were shiny black shoe buttons, her cheeks were as soft as suet and about the same color. She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like Napoleon’s tomb and […]
But, in good sooth, when the hand is raised to strike we feel hurt if it misses its aim and falls on empty air; so also, if the sight is to have a pleasant prospect, it must not be lost and scattered on vacant space, but have an object to sustain it at a reasonable […]
a wholesome note of doubt
‘With so little new reading-matter to distract us we were able to carry all the details in our head until the next issue.’
Aegidius Albertinus, Hirnschleiffer (1645), p. 94 As to ourselves, who, not being so overscrupulous, give the honour of the war to him who has the profit of it, and who say, with Lysander, that ‘when the lion’s skin is too short, we must eke it out with a bit from that of the fox’, the […]
Crambe repetita (36)
Teffi, ‘One Day in the Future’ from Subtly Worded.
The dangers of conferring with the ‘enemy’ – both if one goes on one’s own or with one’s cohorts: dangers on all sides. Circumstances create their own consequence, and lead naturally to a certain course of action; the refrain from that action becomes difficult (specifically to do with the difficulty in restraining a conquering army […]
Around the neighborhood. One of the more interesting stylistic problems during the Hellenistic period was the problem of quotation. The forms of direct, half-hidden and completely hidden quoting were endlessly varied, as were the forms for framing quotations by a context, forms of intonational quotation marks, varying degrees of alienation or assimilation of another’s quoted […]
It is perhaps the result of reading too many detective stories, but Montaigne’s notes on the importance of intentions was full of possibilities: They do still worse who reserve for their last will the declaration of some spiteful intention against a neighbour after having concealed it during life; thereby manifesting little regard for their own […]
A rainy day in the past.
When lately I withdrew to my own home, resolved, as far as in me lay, to think only of spending in rest and retirement the little time I still have to live, it seemed to me that I could do my mind no greater favour than to allow it, in idleness, to entertain itself, to […]
From Pierre L’Estoile’s Les belles Figures et Drolleries de la Ligue We are human beings, and hold together, only by speech (30). When thinking back over the essay ‘On Liars’ I find myself thinking of it in terms of memory, for the first third of it is taken up with Montaigne’s concern about his own […]
A bit of light reading from Terry and the Pirates. I’ve been spending much of March reading Will Eisner’s The Spirit (as reprinted by DC Comics), and trying to put it in some sort of context, which involves more reading (of Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates and Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy). It hasn’t been […]
A Feeling for Books
Janice A. Radway. A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire. Chapel Hill, NC: University of NC Press, 1997. Radway’s book, along with her earlier Reading the Romance, is a classic of readership studies. It is organized into three broad sections (which will be summarized in greater detail below): a study […]
As we advise ladies to take up those games and bodily exercises which will show off their particular beauty to the best advantage, so I would give the same advice with regard to those advantages in eloquence (33) […] I know by experience that natural disposition which is impatience of earnest and laborious premeditation, and […]
hope against hope (4)
A bit of Caravaggio’s painting of ‘Saint Jerome Writing’ It’s taken me a while to get through Hope Mirrlees’ Collected Poems, perhaps because it confounded my expectations (which were admittedly a bit confused). Eager readers of Mirrlees’ work or those interested in her life should, of course, pick up a copy, as it is contains […]
It is at this point in reading the Essays that I notice the running heads do not contain the titles of the essay but rather an arbitrary key point for the page – for the shorter essays this usually results in the title appearing as the running head, but the longer compositions generally have a […]
I cannot deny that if the loud report of an arquebus suddenly strikes on my ear in a place where I have no reason to expect it, I am startled; which I have seen happen to others more valorous than I. – Montaigne (Essays, ‘On Steadfastness’) Is steadfastness then to apply only in those circumstances […]
An engraving by Matthäus Merian the Elder (1710) For my part, I often neglect both of these empty formalities, since I curtail all ceremony in my own house. If any take offence, what shall I do? Better to offend him once than myself every day; that would be a perpetual slavery. […] Not only every […]
Crambe repetita (37)
Allen Lane, quoted in Penguin Portrait.
I live from day to day, and am content with having sufficient for present and ordinary needs; for the extraordinary all the provision in the world will not suffice. And it is madness to expect that Fortune could ever sufficiently arm us against herself. With our own arms must we fight her. – Montaigne (Essays, […]
The bombardment of the Acropolis in 1687 via the Ottoman Imperial Archives (formerly on Flickr, but now not) So above all things a man should take heed, if he can, against falling into the hands of an enemy judge who is victorious and armed. – Montaigne (Essays,‘One does notwith impunity defend a placeobstinately and against […]
A view (43)
Goris, Armenia, 2010 Going through my hard drive and tidying up all my old photos – discarding the blurred and the irretrievably badly exposed – brought up quite a few memories.
The Gunpowder plot conspirators, Crispin de Passe the Elder 1605 via Giornale Nuovo (ca. 2007) The recurring theme of willfulness, and the conflation of cowardice and ignorance as two pernicious forms of weakness one can, in part, lay at the feet of Nature, but only in part: It is reasonable indeed to see difference between […]
‘A Girl Walks Home Alone’ It moves slowly; indeed, the pacing is unsettling. It’s been quite a while, though, since I’ve enjoyed a movie as much as A Girl Walks Home Alone, which was a thoughtful bit of creativity, rather than a bombastic collection of marketing images. I cannot (and do not want to) say […]
…when I read history, which is written by all sorts and conditions of men, I usually consider what kind of man the author is: if his profession is that of letters only, he teaches me principally style and language; if he is a physician, I am the more ready to believe what he says of […]
A selection of ‘useful hints’ from Rambles in Rome (9th edition, 1903, page xiv) by S. Russell Forbes: Avoid bad odours. Do not ride in an open carriage at night. Take lunch in the middle of the day. This is essential. It is better to take a light breakfast an lunch, than a heavy breakfast […]
They who have had a good drubbing in a fight may be led back to the charge on the morrow, though still wounded and bleeding; but if they have been given a good fright by the enemy, you will not induce them even to look at them. – Montaigne (Essays, ‘Of Fear’) The consideration of […]
Solon the Athenian, from the Nuremberg Chronicle But in this last act, where death and ourselves each play there part, there must be no more pretending: we must speak plainly, and disclose what there is of good and clean at the bottom of the pot. – Montaigne (Essays, ‘That we should not judge of our […]
‘Philosophy’ (1707) by Sébastien Leclerc (1637-1714) via Giornale Nuovo The other day somebody, turning over my tablets, found a memorandum of something I wished to be done after my death. I told him, what was true, that being but a league’s distance from my house, and healthy and robust, I had hastened to write it […]
Steel engraving by J.B. Bourgois, 1808, after ‘The Hermaphrodite’ in the Louvre. We sweat, we tremble, we turn pale and blush through the shock of our imagination and lying back in our feather-bed we feel our body agitated by its power… –Montaigne (Essays ‘Of the Power of Imagination’) The power of imagination – excesses of […]
Rodin, ‘Assemblage: mask of Camille Claudel and left hand of Pierre de Wissant’ (1895?) Reading Fiona Templeton’s Delirium of Interpretation, I didn’t quite know what to make of it – I do not believe I have recently read a work that so forcefully put me, as a reader, at such a great cultural distance from the […]
Hieronymus Brunschwig, Liber Pestilentialis de venenis epidemie The tradesman thrives only by the extravagance of youth, the husbandman by the dearness of grain, the architect by the ruin of houses, the officers of justice by lawsuits and men’s quarrels; even the honour and practice of ministers of religion depend on our death and our vices. […]
Crambe repetita (38)
M.V. Hughes, A London Home in the 1890s.
‘Philosophy and Christian Art’ (1868) by Daniel Huntington What can be more barbarous than to see a nation where, by lawful custom, the office of a judge is sold, and judgements are paid for in good ready money, and where justice is by law denied to him who has not the wherewithal to pay for […]
Now, I say that not only in medicine, but in several more certain arts, there is a good deal of luck. Why should we not attribute the poetic flights which ravish and transport their author out of himself to his good luck, since he himself confesses that they exceed his power and ability, and acknowledges […]
We labour but to cram our memory, and leave the understanding and the conscience empty. Even as the birds sometimes fly in search of grain, and bring it in their beaks without tasting it, to feed their young, so do our pedants go picking knowledge out of books, carrying it at the end of their […]
Vanity & Vexation And besides, I do not compete wholesale with those old champions, and body to body; I do so by repetitions, by frequent and light attacks. I do not stubbornly grapple with them, but only try their strength, and if I try to keep pace with them, I do so hesitatingly. If I […]
Crambe repetita (39)
Vainglory and curiosity are the two scourges of our soul. The latter prompts us to thrust our noses into everything, and the former forbids us to leave anything unresolved and undecided (182). Doubt concerning the ‘miraculous’ spread of information – such one knowing the results of a battle three days away within the hour. Odd […]
I cannot allow those other common friendships to be placed in the same line with ours. I have as much knowledge of them as another, and of the most perfect of their kind, but I should not advise any one to measure them with the same rule; he would be much mistaken (190). anachronism –entry […]
Medice, cura teipsum. And what are these essays but grotesque and monstrous bodies, pieced together of different members, without any definite shape, without any order, coherence, or proportion, except they be accidental? – ‘Of Friendship’ (183) * * * These poems may be seen elsewhere. – Dedication of 29 sonnets (196)
vos conturbemini. For to him whom fasting would make more healthful and more sprightly, and to him to whose palate fish were more acceptable than flesh, the prescription of these would have no curative effect; no more than in the other sort of physic, where drugs have no effect upon him who swallows them with […]
America (1580), by by Theodor Galle after Jan van der Straet …but hold! they don’t wear trousers (215). Montaigne’s essay ‘Of Cannibals’ covers a great deal of ground and, if it does not reach the heights of ‘Of Moderation’, nonetheless typifies his style. In the course of the essay he considers bravery, relative morality, difference […]
Crambe repetita (40)
Pliny the Elder, The Natural History.
‘Contre les astrologues’, Gilles Corrozet, Hecatomgraphie (1540) We can neither understand the arbitrary and personal meaning of the stars, nor why Heliogabalus died in a privy. Montaigne seems to suggest that we should be content with not knowing and, while he would believe in a greater meaning for these things – a meaning perceptible only […]
A view (44)
Now Reader, don’t go making trouble fixing names to all this. I say thereଁs not a person nor a thing in this book that ever stepped outside of this book. It’s all out of my head. And don’t go looking like a sick cat for wicked envy, it’s a thing you might come to yourself: […]
Crambe repetita (41)
Machi Tawara, Salad Anniversary.
Books that currently ‘saved for later’ – either because I hope to find them at the library book sale, at the local bookstore, or I really don’t have need of them – offered without comment: The complete works of Elizabeth Gaskell The complete works of Constance Holme Thomas Love Peacock, The Misfortunes of Elphin and […]
the art of ‘truthiness’
Well, if I forked over the cover price for nonfiction, I consider it my business. While it’s great she [Vivian Gornick] owned up to her deceits, it’s hard to lend credence to any after-the-fact confession, especially one as vague or self-justifying as this one. It’s as if after lunch the deli guy quipped, ‘I put […]
Carlo Levi, Paesaggio con Capo Mele e valletta (1933) I have often wondered why there is such a feeling of desolation in English cafés. Perhaps it comes from their desolate social relationships. Every place where the English gather to chat to one another exudes melancholy. Indeed, nothing in the world is sadder than an English […]
For me, boredom is not the opposite of amusement; I might even go so far as to say that in certain of its aspects it actually resembles amusement inasmuch as it gives rise to distraction and forgetfulness, even if of a very special type. Boredom to me consists in a kind of insufficiency, or inadequacy, […]
Crambe repetita (42)
Natalia Ginzburg, The Little Virtues.
A view (45)
At this point it is unlikely I will finish reading any more books this year, so I might as well make a list of the books I most enjoyed reading in 2015: Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby Anne Garréta, Sphinx Mary Lascelles, Jane […]