Long and Sluggish Lines

“I am primarily a teacher and proud of it because it is one of the most honorable things one can be. My function is to teach my students or my reader how to appreciate really great writers in every sense of appreciation, meaning to evaluate; meaning once you’ve established for yourself and by the criteria of all the great works of the past from Homer and the Bible, considered as literature, through Dante and Shakespeare and Milton and up to the present day, with Proust and with Joyce. Once it is perfectly clear that one is dealing with really great and profound literature that is marked by cognitive power, aesthetic beauty, originality and above all, of the deepest human relevance, then appreciate it in the sense of not only enjoying it and communicating the enjoyment of it but apprehending it, deepening your understanding of it.”

                                                                      –Harold Bloom


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I will refuse.

“You get up on your little 21-inch screen, and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.

What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state — Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories and minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments just like we do.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business.

The world is a business, Mr. Beale! It has been since man crawled out of the slime, and our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there is no war or famine, oppression or brutality — one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.”

                                                                                  –from The Network

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Back When

“Wasn’t there a time when American writers were let alone by personality mongers and publicity monsters?”

                                                                                  –Jack Kerouac

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“Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.”

                                –Bertrand Russell


“An extraterrestrial being, newly arrived on Earth—scrutinizing what we mainly present to our children in television, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, the comics, and many books—might easily conclude that we are intent on teaching them murder, rape, cruelty, superstition, credulity, and consumerism. We keep at it, and through constant repetition many of them finally get it. What kind of society could we create if, instead, we drummed into them science and a sense of hope?”

                                                                              –Carl Sagan

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Puppies and Cupcakes

“There are those who maintain that you can’t demand anything of the reader. They say the reader knows nothing about art, and that if you are going to reach him, you have to be humble enough to descend to his level. This supposes either that the aim of art is to teach, which it is not, or that to create anything which is simply a good-in-itself is a waste of time. Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it. We hear a great deal about humility being required to lower oneself, but it requires an equal humility and a real love of the truth to raise oneself and by hard labor to acquire higher standards.”

                                                                                 –Flannery O’Connor

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“Biography first convinces us of the fleeing of the Biographied.”

–Emily Dickinson

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“Finally, of course, I am very struck by the fact that once you introduce the system of the law as a device (the protection of the status quo by legal means), you finish up not with society against criminals but with two gangs: one called the police and the other called the criminals. The police wear a different kind of hat, but they have now become an army. I am, for instance, very unpleasantly struck by the fact that in my home state of California the policemen look as if they were soldiers. Policemen are not soldiers, they are guardians of the law. They are not in a campaign against crime.”

                                          –Jacob Bronowski, Silliman Memorial Lectures (1967)

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Proper Lead

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”

                                                                                          –Mark Twain

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