Tag Archives: Reading

Agonist

“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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Easement

“We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

                                                                                            –Rod Serling

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“I read hungrily and delightedly, and have realized since that you can’t write unless you read.”

                                                                              –William Trevor

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The Listeners

“Yet it is only a symbol, a token of that vast maelstrom which has caught up states and stone-age peoples equally with the modern world. It is the technological revolution, and it has brought three things to man which it has been impossible for him to do to himself previously.

First, it has brought a social environment altering so rapidly with technological change that personal adjustments to it are frequently not viable. The individual either becomes anxious and confused or, what is worse, develops a superficial philosophy intended to carry him over the surface of life with the least possible expenditure of himself. Never before in history has it been literally possible to have been born in one age and to die in another. Many of us are now living in an age quite different from the one into which we were born. The experience is not confined to a ride in a buggy, followed in later years by a ride in a Cadillac. Of far greater significance are the social patterns and ethical adjustments which have followed fast upon the alterations in living habits introduced by machines.

Second, much of man’s attention is directed exteriorly upon the machines which now occupy most of his waking hours. He has less time alone than any man before him. In dictator-controlled countries he is harangued and stirred by propaganda projected upon him by machines to which he is forced to listen. In America he sits quiescent before the flickering screen in the living room while horsemen gallop across an American wilderness long vanished in the past. In the presence of so compelling an instrument, there is little opportunity in the evenings to explore his own thoughts or to participate in family living in the way that the man from the early part of the century remembers. For too many men, the exterior world with its mass-produced daydreams has become the conqueror. Where are the eager listeners who used to throng the lecture halls; where are the workingmen’s intellectual clubs? This world has vanished into the whirlpool.

Third, this outward projection of attention, along with the rise of a science whose powers and creations seem awe-inspiringly remote, as if above both man and nature, has come dangerously close to bringing into existence a type of man who is not human. He no longer thinks in the old terms; he has ceased to have a conscience. He is an instrument of power. Because his mind is directed outward upon this power torn from nature, he does not realize that the moment such power is brought into the human domain it partakes of human freedom. It is no longer safely within nature; it has become violent, sharing in human ambivalence and moral uncertainty.”

                                                                                 –Loren Eiseley

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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: for they must be used to express both visual beauty and beauty of sound, as well as communicating 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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