Tag Archives: Reading

South of Heaven

“There is no end to machinery.…For all earthly, and for some unearthly purposes, we have machines and mechanic furtherances; for mincing our cabbages; for casting us into magnetic sleep. We remove mountains, and make seas our smooth highways; nothing can resist us. We war with rude Nature; and, by our resistless engines, come off always victorious, and loaded with spoils.”

                                                                                  –Thomas Carlyle

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Commencement

“One must be an inventor to read well.”

                                     –Emerson

“Words are perhaps the hardest of all material of art. One must simultaneously express visual beauty, beauty of sound, and communicate a grammatical statement.”

                                                                               –T. S. Eliot

“Don’t imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music, or that you can please the expert before you have spent at least as much effort on the art of verse as the average piano teacher spends on the art of music.”

                                                                                                                     –Ezra Pound

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Signs

“In a consumer society, there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.”

                                                                                             –Ivan Illich

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How it is.

“I don’t think, even as an author, that I have knowledge to give to readers. Philosophers might and scientists can. It’s possible for me to express something that you can agree or disagree with, but certainly you will have heard it before. So I don’t think the ‘what’ distinguishes a good novel from a bad one but rather the ‘how’—the aesthetic quality of the sensibility of the writer, his craft, his ability to create and communicate.

I don’t have a philosophy of life, or a need to organize its progression. My books are not constructed to ‘say anything.’ When I was at college, in every literary discussion there was always such an emphasis on ‘What does he say? What’s the message?’ Even then I felt that very few authors had anything to say. What was important to me was ‘What does it do?’ This refutes, of course, the idea that the message is the objective of a novel. In fact, any ‘message’ becomes part of the texture, stirred so much that it’s as negligible as a teaspoon of salt in a large stew. Think of the number of artists who have done still lifes—a view of a river or a vase of flowers . . . there is nothing about the choice of subject that is going to startle anybody. What will distinguish one still life from another is what the artist brings to it. To a certain extent that is true of the novelist.”

                                                                         –Joseph Heller

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Submissions

“If the Muses could lobby for their interest, all biographical research into the lives of artists would probably be prohibited by law, and historians of the individual would have to confine themselves to those who act but do not make—generals, criminals, eccentrics, courtesans and the like, about whom information is not only more interesting but less misleading. Good artists—the artist manqué is another matter—never make satisfactory heroes for novelists because their life stories, even when interesting for themselves, are peripheral and less significant than their productions.”

                                                                              –W. H. Auden

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Ideally

“The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material, as a shoe must consist of leather, but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is both designed and significant, and is both the method and the meaning of the work.”

                                                                        –Robert Louis Stevenson

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“It did nothing for me.”

“I do not accept this excited rhetoric about what texts ‘actually do,’ which is replacing the older, soberer emphasis on what they say. I regard the methodology of ‘stop and go’ as a parody of genuine scientific investigation of the workings of the human brain, providing a spurious justification for what the critic himself arbitrarily chooses to ‘do’ to, and with, the text. A better way, to my mind, of slowing down the reading process and awakening attention to the nuances of language in the hands of great masters is to read aloud, to oneself, to one’s friends, or in a group, or to listen to a good reader.”

                                                                                            –Helen Gardner

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Masters

“However strong national armaments may be, they do not create military security for any nation nor do they guarantee the maintenance of peace.”

“There is no compromise possible between preparation for war, on the one hand, and preparation of a world society based on law and order on the other.”

                                                                                                   –Albert Einstein

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Testing

“…for just as the universal family of gifted writers transcends national barriers, so is the gifted reader a universal figure, not subject to spatial or temporal laws. It is he—the good, the excellent reader—who has saved the artist again and again from being destroyed by emperors, dictators, priests, puritans, philistines, political moralists, policemen, postmasters, and prigs. Let me define this admirable reader. He does not belong to any specific nation or class. No director of conscience and no book club can manage his soul. His approach to a work of fiction is not governed by those juvenile emotions that make the mediocre reader identify himself with this or that character and ‘skip descriptions.’ The good, the admirable reader identifies himself not with the boy or the girl in the book, but with the mind that conceived and composed that book. The admirable reader does not seek information about Russia in a Russian novel, for he knows that the Russia of Tolstoy or Chekhov is not the average Russia of history but a specific world imagined and created by individual genius. The admirable reader is not concerned with general ideas: he is interested in the particular vision. He likes the novel not because it helps him to get along with the group (to use a diabolical progressive-school cliché); he likes the novel because he imbibes and understands every detail of the text, enjoys what the author meant to be enjoyed, beams inwardly and all over, is thrilled by the magic imageries of the master-forger, the fancy-forger, the conjuror, the artist. Indeed, of all the characters that a great artist creates, his readers are the best.”

                                                                                        –Vladimir Nabokov

“If you want to create life, the one way not to set about it is by explanation.”

                                  –Henry Green

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Here do we go from where?

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when a cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainment, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

                                                                                           –Neil Postman

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