Agreeable eye.

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Archive for 2021

Crambe repetita (49)

Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford, Business as Usual.

rudimentary

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, […]

Citation (65)

at the reference desk.

parenchyma

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 […]

strategic retreats

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

Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first there seemed danger of Lydia’s engrossing him entirely, for she was a most determined talker; but being likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in the […]

biblidion

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 […]

arche-tecton

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 […]

moonlit folly

In childhood, when we fall on the ground we are disappointed that it is hard and hurts us. When we are older we expect a less obvious but perhaps more extravagant impossibility in demanding that there should be a correspondence between our lives and their setting; it seems to all women, and to many men, […]

the guest-room bookshelf

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

‘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

Style is to sentiment what dress is to person. The effects of both are very great, and both are acquired and improved by habit. When once we are used to it, it is easy to dress neatly as like a sloven; in the same way, custom makes us write in a correct style as easily […]

whistling Lillabullero

What on earth does this Socrates of yours mean?

khndzor-esque

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 […]

Citation (66)

Socrates. One has to choose between being a man and being a mind. Man can act only because he can ignore, and content himself with a part of this knowledge which is his peculiar extravagance, a knowledge that is somewhat more extensive than is necessary! Phaedrus. Yet it is this slight excess that makes us […]

prosopopoeia

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

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), […]

recursus

If I seek to explain away, whether to others or to myself, some unworthy act on my part, on the ground that something – the political or military situation, or my emotions or inner state – was ‘too much for me’, then I am cheating myself, or others, or both. Action is choice; choice is […]

stalking horses and other specters

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. […]

apprehension

Besides the general mental faculty, more or less developed in different individuals, of sentiment and artistic feeling, there exists more or less developed in different circles of society and especially in families, a special capacity which I call understanding. The gist of this capacity is a conventional sense of proportion, and a conventional and particular […]

in brief

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. […]

implicated

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 […]

household humors

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 […]

Citation (67)

What is not seen is the growing and accompanying tension of consciousness in time. Not only, by its memory of former experience, does this consciousness retain the past better and better, so as to organize it with the present in a newer and richer decision; but, living an intenser life, contracting, by its memory of […]

the misanthrope

Woman, to save herself from boredom, is obliged to enliven the scene with a few gratuitous falsetto turns, which he interprets as co-operation. Even at this boldest man cannot get beyond a conventional anarchism. He cannot see that he is on a stage and therefore he cannot see that it is possible to get off; […]

untold runes

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)

Al-Nuwayri, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition.

pro forma

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, […]

16.06.2021: morning

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

For my way of thinking, dialectical reason is always constitutive: it is a bridge, endlessly extended and improved, that analytic reason throws out over an abyss whose other shore it does not perceive clearly even though it knows that it exists, and even if it is constantly receding. The term ‘dialectical reason,’ then, covers the […]

undae

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 […]

byzantine

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 […]

re: vision

—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. […]

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