To the Editor:
I was intrigued to read in Daisy Fried’s review of Anne Carson’s ‘Red Doc>’ (April 21) these lines from the book, which describe when the mythical Geryon looks up and sees the nymph-turned-cow Io:
plummeting toward him
at the velocity you would
expect of a 400-pound
object falling through
I would expect Io to fall at 9.8 meters/second², the same velocity at which one-pound balls fall from the Tower of Pisa, if Galileo is to be believed. I’m curious to know what Carson would expect.
The writer is a professor of the humanities at Columbia University.
This is simply the best thing.
It is about five o’clock in an evening that the first hour of spring strikes—autumn arrives in the early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day…The air, about to darken, quickens and is run through with mysterious white light…silences fall in company…What is happening is only acknowledged between strangers, by looks, or between lovers…In cities the traffic lightens and quickens; even buildings take such feeling of depth that the streets might be rides cut through a wood.Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart (I would love to compile a set of passages about the seasons—I am obsessed with cycles.)
But they did not comment on the weather, which seemed to them part of their private fate—brought on them by the act of waking up, like grown-up people’s varying tempers, or the state, from day to day, of their own insides.Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart (This is a strange and marvelous book!)
She walked about with the rather fated expression of girls who have subsequently been murdered, but nothing so far had happened to her…Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart
To see a literary work as an expression of trauma and neurosis, or as a poised structure of ambiguities, is to forget that writers write for a conscious purpose—in fact, a double purpose: to propagate certain ideas about nature, society, and man, and to assert the writer’s own claim to power and honor…His own desire to become a novelist may not have allowed Trilling to write great fiction, but it gave him first-hand experience of what many critics do not understand: the tremendous will of the artist, and the moral dubiousness of that will.Adam Kirsch, Why Trilling Matters (on “the bad conscience of literature”)
I use the word beautiful all the time, as a term of high value – to claim and identify the beauty of something gives me an emotional release subtly distinct from and additional to that effected by the beautiful thing itself. Beauty demands surrender, an echoing back, some inward involuntary applause. I feel that responsiveness to it is fundamental to my sense of who I am, and what I live for. I’m quickly alienated and bored by things that don’t give an opportunity for this kind of response; therefore, perhaps, all the more keen to find it in less likely places; but on the other hand wary of any too calculated attempt at beauty, for its own sake, as a form of fantasy. Beauty is clearly not synonymous with truth, but it’s flimsy without truth to experience. That way tends towards kitsch. I love the ravishment of the unthought-of and unanswerable thing.Alan Hollinghurst, interviewed by Gilded Birds (via Nico Muhly)
Because of the price of film he felt obliged to make every shot count. He did not like making mistakes or wasting film, and so developed his quick eye and decisive manner. He was precise and economical, first out of necessity, then out of habit. Observing his swift progress was rewarding, as I felt a part of his process. The creed we developed as artist and model was simple. I trust in you, I trust in myself.Patti Smith, Just Kids (on Robert Mapplethorpe. Of less cultural/literary interest than as a portrait of a profound relationship.)
GENYA RAVAN: So I turned [The Dead Boys] on to bagels. They never had a fucking bagel. In Cleveland! I said, ‘What’s with Cleveland? Where were you, in Dachau? What do you mean you never had a bagel!’ They didn’t know what a bagel was. I mean, you fuck, what part of Cleveland did you come from? Cleveland, Germany?Please Kill Me
John [Holmstrom, founder of Punk magazine] said, ‘But if we have a magazine, people will think we’re cool and stuff and want to hang out with us.’ I didn’t get it. Then he said, ‘If we had a magazine, we could drink for free. People will give us free drinks.’ That got me. I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’Please Kill Me (dead laughing.)
Sometimes when you shit-talk a famous author on Twitter, this happens.
Can Protagonist think of a single film that interests him as much as the three-hundredth best book he ever read?David Markson, Reader’s Block
Please Kill Me
Was the punk movement really a prolonged outburst of the dangerous, mysterious, Dionysian, Freudian will toward self-annihilation? Just wondering.
The incredible thing is that even after reading hundreds of pages of interviews with these people, you still can’t tell whether they were brilliant visionaries or complete fucking idiots. Or, like Andy Warhol, both at once.
LOU REED: The people just have to die for the music. People are dying for everything else, so why not the music? Die for it. Isn’t it pretty? Wouldn’t you die for something pretty?Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me (Did everyone else know that Nico and Alain Delon had a child together? Because I did not.)
ROSEBUD: When Andy Warhol swanned into the Cafe Bizarre with his crew you could tell he was hypnotized right off the bat. Image was all, and the Velvet Underground certainly had it. I could not believe all these tourists were sitting there drinking their bubbly and listening to the Velvets going on about heroin and S&M. I’m sure the audience didn’t have a clue because the lyrics were fairly indecipherable. But I thought, This is great!Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
You assume you are not quite like others and that to understand others, to be with others, to love others, and to be loved by them, you need to think other thoughts than the ones that come naturally. To be with others you must be the opposite of who you are; to read others, you must read the opposite of what you see; to be somewhere, you must suspect you are or could be elsewhere. This is the irrealis-mood. You feel, you imagine, you think counterfactually, because writing speaks this disturbance, investigates it, because writing also perpetuates and consolidates it and hopes to make sense of it by giving it a form.Andre Aciman, “Parallax,” Alibis (This is the last one, I swear.)