Archive for 2017
The novel is made up of a series of the sort of letters it is generally not prudent to send. Break-up letters: familiar, contradictory, unpleasant. I need you. I detest you. Thank you. How could you?
…she was like a book without any pictures. In other words, the kind of person who, unless you brought your whole soul to bear in reading them, would remain forever unknowable (116). A fall through the ice shapes the story. It is dramatic, inexplicable – and unexplained. The narrator is walking a dog, and then, […]
and another thing
Eventually, it did snow.
It has been unexpectedly cold, and on that particularly evening we were preparing for a very cold weekend, with frost and potentially snow. The puddles from recent rains had frozen, which is a rare thing – if I had a better memory, I could probably count on one hand the number of times this has […]
It has become the favored place to go for a stroll. It is quiet. The world passes through slowly, the shifting seasons providing the most dramatic changes – fallen branches, frost heaves, holly berries, and flowers in spring. One sets external concerns aside; even the most tenacious anxiety or care has been, by the time […]
the will to be peeved
Drawing (with self portrait) from one of William James’s notebooks I don’t quite remember what led me to read William James. It could have been PF talking about him, or the mention in The Dead Ladies Project, or it could have been something I’ve forgotten about entirely. In any case, I settled in and read […]
Men let themselves out to hire; their faculties are not for themselves, but for those to whom they have enslaved themselves; ’tis their tenants occupy them, not themselves. This common humour pleases not me. We must be thrifty of the liberty of our souls, and never let it out but upon just occasions, which are […]
Crambe repetita (46)
Qiu Miaojin, Last Words from Montmartre.
accumulating and collecting knowledge…
Truth and lies are faced alike; their port, taste, and proceedings are the same, and we look upon them with the same eye. I find that we are not only remiss in defending ourselves from deceit, but that we seek and offer ourselves to be gulled; we love to entangle ourselves in vanity, as a […]
Four (of eight) heads of Socratesfrom Lavater’s Lectures on Physiognomy (p. 160) It is a great thing to have been able to put such order into ideas as pure as those of a child that, without altering or stretching them, he produced from them the finest results of our mind. The mind he shows us […]
…when one is doing nothing it is imperative to talk all the time; and that is the most wearisome and the most dangerous of all forms of constraint. I will even go further and maintain that to make any society really pleasant, not only must everyone be doing something, but something that requires a certain […]
‘La Brioche’ (1763), Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin [Mais aussi quand j’avais une fois ma chère petite brioche, et que, bien enfermé dans ma chambre, j’allais trouver ma bouteille au fond d’une armoire, quelles bonnes petites buvettes je faisais là tout seul en lisant quelques pages de roman !] Car lire en mangeant fut toujours ma fantaisie, au […]
Notes on reading Judith Butler as a tonic to Rousseau.
A view (47)
Indifference is endemic. It is a disease which has spread through our whole civilization, and which is a symptom of a lowered vitality. The sensibilities are dulled and the average human being no longer cares to feel the keen edge of life, to have freshness in vision or zest and savour in the senses. He […]
an antique fashion shows
The cover was off-putting. A boy in a garden, glancing slyly back at an illicit meeting, in the unctuous watercolors so popular for mass market literary paperbacks of a certain age. I refer, of course, to a Penguin edition of First Love, translated by Isaiah Berlin, which, as a book, rather reminded me (not to […]
The walk to work takes an hour to cover approximately three miles. This is a bit slow, perhaps, but given the uncertain state of draw bridges, traffic signals, and my own ambling pace, it feels about right. It gives me plenty of time to think – about the day ahead, about anything at all. The […]
cunning & resourceful
A pity they don’t have name tags, isn’t it? Good thing you can tell them apart by their hats. Mimesis has been on my list of books to read for quite some time. The notion that it was written from memory, without access to a present library of familiar reference books appealed to me. So […]
Alexander of Macedon and Diogenes engage in civil discourse, illustration to a 1696 edition of Quintus Curtius. On the pragmatist side we have only one edition of the universe, unfinished, growing in all sorts of places, especially in the places where thinking beings are at work. On the rationalist side we have a universe in […]
And I have another mania about order which no one seems to respect as I do. I am always disturbed when someone catches me on the wing and asks me if I don’t want to do something. I want to answer: ‘I never want to do anything, at any time, except to continue what I […]
The days are warm; even the stacks of books at the local bookstore relax into a puddle on the floor, unable to withstand the heat.
Crambe repetita (47)
Vasily Grossman, Forever Flowing.
‘Ville Imaginaire II’, Erik Desmazieres (1999) I’ve stumbled into a course of reading where nearly everything resonates with each other, ideas reverberating from page to page and decade to decade, resulting in a common clarity rather than the expected bewilderment. Renee Gladman’s personal essays are enriched by reading them with Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural criticism; Greta […]
Engraving from Ferrante Imperato’s Dell’ historia naturale (1599)1 What undermines and then kills political communities is loss of power and final impotence; and power cannot be stored up and kept in reserve for emergencies, like the instruments of violence, but exists only in its actualization. When power is not actualized, it passes away, and history […]
against the grain
One doesn’t quite know what to expect from In the American Grain – not if one comes to it expecting anything at all, because it upsets those expectations from the first page. I was expecting something about Emily Dickinson, because the only reason I picked up the book was because it was mentioned in Susan […]
Crambe repetita (48)
Shen Fu, Six Records of a Floating Life
hope against hope (5)
You have perhaps forgotten my monologue on the subject of Hope Mirrlees. I have for some years been vexed with her for encouraging the inspissation of Jane Ellen Harrison, for clotting the intellect into insipidity: there is only so much of bears and cooing that a person can take, particularly if one is not a […]
good, better, bested
Of the books I read in 2017, I would recommend the following: Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle – an engaging look at wealth and the early church. Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came from Woolworths – a better presentation of the limits of intellect than An American Tragedy. Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination […]