The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

More specifically concerning: criticism

24.02.01

24 February 2001, around 19.40.

Up, coffee, bath, Love in a Cold Climate (it troubles me somewhat, being clever and charming and not especially brilliant, the characters remain, as intended I suppose, card-board cut-outs — Cedric, for instance, is an insult to one’s intelligence — though it is entertaining to ponder the actual schedule of the narrator), library (Greek Religion, […]

aesthetic differences

25 October 2002, around 17.03.

[Bloom] claims to be of the school of aesthetic critics, remarking that, in an ideological age, ‘I feel quite alone these days in defending the autonomy of the aesthetic.’ Yet he himself doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to produce anything approaching the aesthetically pleasing in his own writing. In an interview in […]

It was the Distance

28 October 2002, around 17.09.

For no good reason1 I’ve been reading The Cambridge Companion to Emily Dickinson (ed. W. Martin, CUP: 2002). It is somewhat refreshing to find books which do not concern Cicero. And it is interesting to step outside the charmed circle of academics and then to peer back in, as though through windows. For one can […]

Compendium academicorum

27 November 2002, around 16.42.

Within this field, which no single scholar can create but which each scholar receives and in which he then finds a place for himself, the individual researcher makes his contribution. Such contributions, even for the exceptional genius, are strategies of redisposing material within the field. Even the scholar who unearths a once-lost manuscript produces the […]

Byzantine Biographers

21 January 2003, around 11.03.

Reading the Alexiad (or life of the Byzantine emperor, Alexius Comnenus), which was written by his daughter, Anna Comnena, when she was an old woman. She describes everything homerically, from the Odysseus-like Alexius, to his Nausicaa-bride, Irene; and Robert of Lombardy, his foe during the first few books, is obviously nothing more (or less) than […]

pseudaphoristica (1)

6 June 2003, around 8.26.

darkness.

An Errant Academic

10 July 2003, around 13.44.

I mentioned Seth Lerer’s Error and the Academic Self more than a month ago and, having finally finished reading it, there are a few more comments I would like to make. To begin, though, with a summary: errô, errare, erravi, erratus – to wander, to go astray, to err. The record of scholarship, particularly of […]

dedication

14 November 2003, around 12.38.

Although the new A. S. Byatt collection Little Black Book of Stories is something of a disappointment because three1 of the five stories have been published before, the last paragraph in the book book almost makes up for it: Finally, this book is dedicated to my German translator and to my Italian translators, all good […]

A Sudden Liberating Thought

23 March 2004, around 19.09.

with no sudden crisis of conscience

The Victim of Prejudice

24 March 2004, around 19.07.

or, the difficulties of being desired

Love and Freindship (sic)

9 April 2004, around 18.59.

the perils of misspelling for young authors

experimentalist

21 April 2004, around 8.15.

…the judgement that someone is unliterary is like the judgement ‘This man is not in love’, whereas the judgement that my taste is bad is more like ‘This man is in love, but with a frightful woman’. And just as the mere fact that a man of sense and breeding loves a woman we dislike […]

introductory

12 May 2004, around 17.20.

…once we have recognised that knowledge in itself is good for man, we shall need to invent no pretexts for studying this subject or that; we shall import no extraneous considerations of use or ornament to justify us in learning one thing rather than another. If a certain department of knowledge specially attracts a man, […]

The Sacred Font

26 June 2004, around 18.48.

and other puzzles

east of Eden in the land of Nod

1 January 2005, around 3.51.

A sleepless night, drowsing over Samson Agonistes. Dalila dandled forth, almost more specious than Helen among the Trojan Women, and the blind man missing his apotheosis, but not heroization. And then there are certain beautiful infelicities; I hesitate to say Milton loses his tone, but perhaps he clings rather too fiercely: Chorus. But we had […]

family albums

28 January 2006, around 14.03.

cricket, criticism, & Clytaemnestra

translator’s note

19 May 2006, around 15.12.

some people get cranky about Hegel

wild east

4 September 2007, around 9.50.

Boris Fishman, ed. Wild East: Stories from the Last Frontier 2003 Now a reader is in a sense complicit in the making of a good book; without the reader’s empathy, wit, and understanding, be the book ever so finely written and ever so well put together, any book can be called rubbish. I myself remember […]

greene dreams

2 October 2007, around 10.07.

I was working one day for a poetry competition and had written one line – ‘Beauty makes crime noble’ – when I was interrupted by a criticism flung at me from behind by T.S. Eliot. ‘What does that mean? How can crime be noble?’ He had, I noticed, grown a mustache. —Graham Greene A World […]

literary virtues

9 December 2007, around 0.58.

I ordered the book from the library after reading a quotation from it somewhere on the internet. I don’t remember my source, which is probably just as well; I had also heard the author mentioned favorably, and thought I might as well take a look. The book arrived and, as usual, I judged it by […]

pseudaphoristica (14)

8 March 2008, around 11.02.

butterflies.

all the baggage

25 March 2008, around 17.38.

So I was reading Paul Fussell’s book about travel, Abroad. Of course it’s not just about travel, though he does spend some thirty-odd (or more or less, I’ve returned it to the library and cannot refer to it now) pages lamenting the impossibility of true travel1 in this degraded age of tourism, it’s about literary […]

Ho yuss! Vurry true.

17 April 2008, around 6.00.

Properly, we shd. read for power. Man reading shd. be man intensely alive. The book shd. be a ball of light in one’s hand (55).1 Reading Pound’s Guide to Kulcher, I was perplexed; partially because it is an odd book, aimed at those who don’t mind attending the university of the brain of Ezra Pound […]

tetrad

31 August 2008, around 0.12.

We always associate the word ‘book’ with printing, and think of it in terms of format and typographical convenience, but such mechanical criteria do not apply to notebooks, whose beginning and end are determined only by the unity of the poetic impulse which gives birth to a given series of poems. In other words, a […]

afflatus criticus

11 February 2012, around 9.26.

This is as far as we can get on the assumption that the scholar and the man of taste are connected by nothing more than a common interest in literature. If this assumption is true, the high percentage of sheer futility in all criticism should be honestly faced, for the percentage can only increase with […]

the dim view

21 April 2013, around 5.17.

By sacrificing thought, which in its reified form as mathematics, machinery, organization, avenges itself on a humanity forgetful of it, enlightenment forfeited its own realization. By subjecting everything particular to its discipline, it left the uncomprehended whole free to rebound as mastery over things against the life and consciousness of human beings. But a true […]

Citation (51)

4 March 2014, around 8.28.

fury and despair…

a mere habit

24 December 2014, around 11.56.

It is snowing outside and there is nothing to do save sit in front of the fire and read. Indeed, there is nothing one would rather be doing. Did she distrust all figurative language because she was sharply aware of the aptitude of the most languid figurative expressions for persisting as a mere habit of […]

a wholesome note of doubt

8 February 2015, around 9.16.

‘With so little new reading-matter to distract us we were able to carry all the details in our head until the next issue.’

Citation (54)

25 February 2016, around 13.34.

intellectual pelicans and plucked chickens…

cavilling

6 July 2016, around 14.01.

untold runes

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 […]

pro forma

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, […]

with abandon

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 […]

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