Category Archives: Appreciations

All the bells say: too late.

“A country which is supposed to be built on dissent, built on the value of the individual, now distrusts dissent at least as much as any totalitarian government can and debases the individual in many ways because it places security and money above the individual; and when these things are cultivated and honored in the country, no matter what else it may have, it is in danger of perishing, because no country can survive, it cannot survive, without a patient, active responsibility for all its citizens.

We have begun to see what happens to a country when it is run according to the rules of a popularity contest; we have begun to see that we ourselves are for more dangerous for ourselves than Khrushchev or Castro.”

                                      –James Baldwin, “What Price Freedom?” (1964)

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Minor Loss of Fidelity

“Life used exactly as it is, is never good enough for fiction.”

                                                        –Charles Jackson

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Riddle

“It has become a member of the family, telling its stories patiently, compellingly, untiringly. Few parents, teachers, or priests can compete with its vivid demonstrations of what people of all kinds are like and how society works.”

                                                                                         –George Gerbner

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Novation

“If only they were allowed some freedom, if only they could exercise an individual voice….

If only. These protests have about them an engaging period optimism, depending as they do upon the Rousseauean premise that most people, left to their own devices, think not in clichés but with originality and brilliance; that most individual voices, once heard, turn out to be voices of beauty and wisdom. I think we would all agree that a novel is nothing if it is not the expression of an individual voice, of a single view of experience—and how many good or even interesting novels, of the thousands published, appear each year? I doubt that more can be expected of the motion-picture industry.”

                                                                                           –Joan Didion

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Flicker, Twitch

“We are all limited in our freedom by the capacity to hurt other people.”

                 –Peter France

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Imperious Unity

“We see the depth, the smoothness, the softness, the hardness of objects; Cézanne even claimed that we see their odor. If the painter is to express the world, the arrangement of his colors must carry with it this invisible whole, or else his picture will only hint at things and will not give them in the imperious unity, the presence, the insurpassable plenitude which is for us the definition of the real. That is why each brush stroke must satisfy an infinite number of conditions. Cézanne sometimes pondered for hours at a time before putting down a certain stroke, for, as Bernard said, each stroke must ‘contain the air, the light, the object, the composition, the character, the outline, and the style.’ Expressing what exists is an endless task.”

                                                                                                 –Merleau-Ponty

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Matters

“There seem to be three levels of readership: at the bottom, those who go after ‘human interest’; in the middle, the people who want ideas, packaged thought about Life and Truth; at the top, the proper readers, who go for style.”
                                                                                                  –Vladimir Nabokov
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Risk, Reward

“I’m inclined to think that reading silently cannot really approximate the poem’s power. For me it is an aural experience: no music, no poem.”

                                                                                             –W. D. Snodgrass

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Rejection Slips

“As readers, we remain in the nursery stage as long as we cannot distinguish between taste and judgment, so long, that is, as the only possible verdicts we can pass on a book are two: this I like, this I don’t like.”

                                                                                                 –W. H. Auden

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Origins

Interviewer: Did you know as a child you wanted to be a writer?

Toni Morrison: No, I wanted to be a reader.

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