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.”


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“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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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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Contributor Notes

“Writers are, in the first place, readers. I tell every writer I’ve ever known, either they are deep readers or they cannot become real writers. Read only the best and most challenging and traditional. And reread it.” –Harold Bloom

“Everybody should advertise while they are alive.” –Elbert Hubbard

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“We are developing new types of destitutes—the automobileless, the yachtless, the Newportcottageless. The subtlest luxuries become necessities, and their loss is bitterly resented. The discontent of today reaches very high in the social scale….The end of it is vexation of spirit.”

                                                                                             –Walter Weyl

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“It would only be necessary for a writer to secure universal popularity if imagination and intelligence were equally distributed among all men.”

                                                                                      –W. H. Auden

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Ready, Set

“On the opposite side of the discussion, the phrase ‘right to life’ is an excellent example of a ‘buzzword,’ designed to inflame rather than illuminate. There is no right to life in any society on Earth today, nor has there been at any former time (with a few rare exceptions, such as among the Jains of India). We raise farm animals for slaughter; destroy forests; pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there; hunt deer and elk for sport, leopards for their pelts, and whales for dog food; entwine dolphins, gasping and writhing, in great tuna nets; and club seal pups to death for ‘population management.’ All these beasts and vegetables are as alive as we. What is protected in many human societies is not life, but human life. And even with this protection, we wage ‘modern’ wars on civilian populations with a toll so terrible we are, most of us, afraid to consider it very deeply. Often such mass murders are justified by racial or nationalistic redefinitions of our opponents as less than human.”

“Once intelligent beings achieve technology and the capacity for self-destruction of their species, the selective advantage of intelligence becomes more uncertain.”

                                                                                           –Carl Sagan

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Goodnight, Syria

“They must see Americans as strange liberators.”

                                 –Martin Luther King, Jr.