Archive for 2021
Crambe repetita (49)
1 January 2021, around 7.12.
Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford, Business as Usual.
8 January 2021, around 5.47.
The other day I happened see something about a fashion photographer’s memoirs and was bored and the ebook was available from the library, so I succumbed to the temptation of my phone and looked. It had the expected condescending, self-assured tone, with a rhythm to its prose like the jolting trot of a school-horse (willful, […]
12 January 2021, around 8.22.
at the reference desk.
21 January 2021, around 5.24.
A passage from Homo Ludens, chapter VIII. The small points when reading for a project (arbitrary or intentional), when discrete facts from disparate sources align to form, in another text, a constellation, the resonances of which exceed the harmonics intended by the author. So in reading Johann Huizinga’s Homo Ludens as part of a broader […]
26 January 2021, around 5.31.
These are some of the latest things I haven’t read, with the excuses I made for abandoning them. Penguin classics edition of Epicurus. I had hoped for updated notes and bibliography, something that I could point students (should I ever get another course as adjunct) towards, but it was a reprint of a book published […]
other fish in the sea
30 January 2021, around 7.13.
Two quotations on games of chance and serious intentions in Jane Austen.
5 February 2021, around 15.06.
The other morning I happened to finish reading a relatively recent translation of The Encheiridion by Epictetus (well, via Arrian), which is a text I almost always find to be a tonic (if not taken in excess). In addition to soothing my temper, though, the present reading also left me somewhat unsettled, not with the […]
10 February 2021, around 5.08.
There is a passage in the third chapter of Toril Moi’s Revolution of the Ordinary: Literary Studies after Wittgeinstein, Austin, and Cavell that drew my eye: In many cases, then it is useless to spend time and energy trying to produce a sharp concept. To avoid meaningless work, we need to understand the situation we […]
14 February 2021, around 5.38.
Rebecca West, apostate of romantic love.
the guest-room bookshelf
19 February 2021, around 14.22.
Not quite a guest-room bookshelf, ca. 2012. So many books enter one’s life through happenstance, rather than through the ordered chaos of book reviews or bibliographies or the propinquity of a library or bookstore shelf (each good in its way).1 This aleatoric approach to book selection is something I associate with travelling, and I like […]
human kindness, curdled
25 February 2021, around 5.23.
‘A plan of the cities of London and Westminster’, etc., by Johns Roque, Pine, and Pinney (ca. 1746) We disputed about some poems. Sheridan said that a man should not be a poet except he were excellent; for that to be a mediocris poeta was but a poor thing. I said I differed from him. […]
fits and starts
1 March 2021, around 8.35.
This a juxtaposition of three quotations about clothes, from Boswell, Hamann, and Thomas Carlyle.
3 March 2021, around 5.07.
What on earth does this Socrates of yours mean?
8 March 2021, around 5.21.
It was the mention of baklava that made me dubious. It was mentioned as quintessentially Armenian, yet baklava is a pastry I don’t recall encountering once in three years – except in Yerevan (admittedly, I don’t recall many weddings). I read the book quickly, enjoying the familiar but disoriented by details – famines and December […]
14 March 2021, around 5.43.
howling at the moon…
17 March 2021, around 5.26.
The question is, of course, whether a writer genuinely reveals anything, and whether a reader can discover what it is. —Philip Rousseau (‘Knowing Theodoret: Text and Self’, p. 277)1 It is difficult to know how to read books about psychosis. Unless one has also experienced abnormal mental states, sympathy – in the sense of feeling […]
the forest path
23 March 2021, around 5.38.
Sometime near the end of last November or beginning of December I managed to hurt my left heel. For the first two weeks or so I didn’t allow myself to think too much about it and kept my daily routine of walking (usually some three to five miles, depending on the weather and my inclinations), […]
29 March 2021, around 8.01.
Isaiah Berlin makes a decision.
stalking horses and other specters
2 April 2021, around 5.31.
Paul Nash, Stalking Horse (black and white negative, 1941), presented by the Paul Nash Trust to the Tate in 1970 CC-BY-NC-ND. The experience in which we meet specters or let them come visit us remains indestructible and undeniable. The most cultivated, the most reasonable, the most nonbelieving people easily reconcile a certain spiritualism with reason. […]
6 April 2021, around 5.20.
Tolstoy takes on the magic of secret languages.
9 April 2021, around 5.00.
Dear Professor ———, It was with great interest that I picked up a recent translation of one of your books, as I hoped that it would provide a fresh perspective on what could perhaps be called ‘the current moment’. Although your book failed to be helpful in this regard, it did provide food for thought. […]
13 April 2021, around 5.27.
Extract from Monet’s ‘Cliffs near Dieppe’ (1882), at the Carnegie Museum of Art — It’s a dialogue, of course. — What? — The book I was telling you about. — What book? — Paul Valéry’s Idée Fixe. — Oh? — I really liked it. It’s charming. — I thought it was a rush job for […]
22 April 2021, around 13.54.
I don’t think the illustrator got the phthisical phiz of Lorry Slim quite right in this dapper sketch of a portly parson. Idleness does not cause disease primarily and in itself, but by means of excess. For parts of the body characterized by idleness become weaker and less robust, as each excess comes about due […]
11 May 2021, around 9.39.
consciousness and memory…
31 May 2021, around 23.53.
Laura Riding considers the tedium of the phallus.
1 June 2021, around 14.05.
The conversion of nothing into something is the task of criticism. Literature is the storehouse of these rescued somethings. In discussing literature one has to use, unfortunately, the same language that one uses in discussing experience. But even so, literature is preferable to experience, since it is for the most part the closest one can […]
Crambe repetita (50)
9 June 2021, around 10.44.
Al-Nuwayri, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition.
11 June 2021, around 5.51.
It is a foolish question – what book is the most formally perfect? – because it assumes, first, that there is an ideal form for a book, and second, that perfection is attainable.1 The only perfection possible is the heat death of the universe – frozen droplets of iron suspended, isolated, in a deafening void, […]
16 June 2021, around 15.20.
Awake at ten past four with the clear impression, through earplugs, that someone has spoken my name. Light of the lamp slowly dawning. The dog nudges the rattling doorknob, then click-click-click away down the hall. A trip to the necessary reveals nothing new, and a short doze passes the time before the alarum. One stares […]
bridging the gap
22 June 2021, around 10.56.
This a juxtaposition of two quotations about the philosophical necessity for cognitive leaps, from Claude Lévi-Strauss and Henri Bergson.
25 June 2021, around 12.06.
It is supposed to be warm this weekend and, as usual, there is no air conditioning. Well, that is not quite accurate. There are two air-conditioning units, which may or may not work, that the previous owners left in the storage area, but there are no window supports and no instruction manuals and no one […]
2 July 2021, around 9.37.
A view of Constantinople, ca. 1635, by Matthäus Merian Somewhat jokingly I said that I wanted the shelves to reflect the great arc of history, not a hodgepodge of regional narratives. In the beginning, this was fine. There was room, narrative room, to arrange the books in something like a chronology to present something like […]
14 July 2021, around 9.11.
—All ideas come in some measure from misunderstanding, from a misreading of a situation or a text or an intention. Thinking, then, in its purest form, is a type of error – a constant going astray, or wander— —No. Too broad. —Most ideas— —No. —Some ide— —Some? Really? No. —There are ideas— —No. Too vague. […]
25 July 2021, around 6.47.
…the soul and body are joint-sharers in every thing they get: A man cannot dress, but his ideas get cloth’d at the same time; and if he dresses like a gentleman, every one of them stands presented to his imagination, genteelized along with him—so that he has nothing to do, but take his pen, and […]
to the swift
31 August 2021, around 5.49.
This is a quotation from a writing manual about the tangled skein of thought, buttressed by two images of winding yarn.
a note on the translation
2 September 2021, around 14.33.
Книгу занимательную вы проглотите слишком скоро, она слишком врежется в вашу память и воображение; перечесть ее уже невозможно. Книга скучная, напротив, читается с расстановкою, с отдохновением — оставляет вам способность позабыться, мечтать; опомнившись, вы опять за нее принимаетесь, перечитываете места, вами пропущенные без внимания etc. Книга скучная представляет более развлечения. —Pushkin, ‘Thoughts on the Road/Journey […]
22 September 2021, around 10.47.
They have started to appear along the forest path. First there was one, and the precarity was amusing; between one walk and the next the stack usually would have toppled, either gravity or other passers-by objecting. Now they line the path, darkling signposts, and the sight unnerves me – one such is charming, but seven or […]
the foyer inside
27 September 2021, around 7.00.
This a juxtaposition of two quotations about interior architectures, from Henry James and George Eliot.
10 October 2021, around 18.17.
The sort of lazy Sunday on which one has to work because one was having a sort of lazy Friday and a lazy Saturday, but Monday will come with its deadlines, and one does not like to disappoint. Somehow, last week, I managed to write my to-do list on the wrong day in my planner, […]
bettered novels (55)
12 October 2021, around 14.44.
Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers (1844).
15 October 2021, around 10.53.
Amazing what one finds in old folders. So many possibilities. (ca. 2002)
18 October 2021, around 5.34.
— Is it OK, do you think, to stop reading a book without finishing it? — What do you mean by ‘finishing a book’? — Getting to the end of it. — So you think that if someone takes up a book and turns all of the pages until he (the exemplar is invariably a […]