Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Changing moods of the artist's pet...

 The ocelot seems more nervous than on the previous day. 

—Alain Bosquet, Conversations with Dali, pg. 11

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Voltaire 1, Rousseau 0

Voltaire started the rumour that Rousseau suffered from venereal disease.

— Julian Barnes' footnote in In the Land of Pain by Alphonse Daudet, pg. 39

Thursday, August 29, 2019

i.e., he was balding

...and on his broad, insolent temples the first white hairs were visible, announcing the imminent arrival of the barbarians, and the end of the Empire.

Don Juan's Crowning Love-Affair by Jules Barbey D'Aurevilly

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Personal Solar System...

For instance, choosing my big leather armchair as the main celestial body, having around it and at a distance of fifty centimeters in east-west position a wooden table (originally, a carpenter's bench and strongly imbued with artisanal emotions); behind the armchair, at a distance of two and a half meters, the skull of a crocodile; to the left of the armchair, among other objects, a pipe inlaid with fake diamonds, and to the right, at a distance of three meters, a green earthenware pitcher; I have a solar system (I won't go into a detailed description of the whole, it would be too long), which I can move at will, knowing beforehand the effects I can generate, though at times the unpredictable is generated, provoked by the rapid trajectory of an unexpected meteor across my established order. The meteor is none other than my cat...

— Letters, Dreams & Other Writings by Remedios Varo, pg. 24

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Problem child...

I did a quick eenie-meenie with my chin and the words inside my head so no one would know. I landed on 'sit with the chair between us,' then knew I didn't want that, so I sat down next to her and asked why she [was being sent to principal's office.] She said she was there for talking in Spanish.
I said, that's racist.
June said, Spanish. Class.
— The Instructions, by Adam Levin, pg. 19

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Homunculus Rex

“I once had a toy, a little wooden man in a blue coat who was moved by strings. When I played with him, I made him walk and bow, and spoke for him. I practiced until I thought myself very clever. One day I saw my mother holding the two sticks that held his strings, and my little man saluting my youngest sister much more cleverly than I could have made him do it, and laughing with his head thrown back, then mourning with his face in his hands. I never spoke of it to my  mother, but I was angry and ashamed.
— On Blue's Waters by Gene Wolfe, pg. 158

Thursday, January 24, 2019

What Ray Monk didn't tell us about Wittgenstein...

When people are about to die, all they want to do is fuck. People in jails and hospitals, all they want to do is fuck. The helpless, the impotent, the castrated, all they want to do is fuck. The seriously injured, the suicidal, the impenitent disciples of Heidegger. Even Wittgenstein, the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century, all he wanted to do was fuck. Even the dead, I read somewhere, all they want to do is fuck. Sad to say and hard to admit, but that's the way it is.

— Illness + Illness = Illness in The Insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolaño

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Don't let Helmholtz catch you crying...

   “Sound is vibration. Trembling ought to make a noise. How come I can't hear it?

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, pg. 95, Clarence Brown translation

Monday, June 4, 2018

Favorite book?

CHARLOTTE: Have you got a favorite book?
HENRY: Finnegans Wake.
CHARLOTTE: Have you read it?
HENRY: Don't be silly.

— The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Man vs. Ocean

Man says: “I am more intelligent than the ocean. That is possible, even more or less true. But the ocean inspires more dread in him than he in the ocean.

— Les Chants de Maldoror, by the Comte de Lautrémont, pg. 22

Not a fan of California pizza...

Praire worked at the Bodhi Dharma Pizza Temple, which a little smugly offered the most wholesome, not to mention the slowest, fast food in the region, a classic example of the California pizza concept at its most misguided. Zoyd was both a certified pizzamaniac and a cheapskate, but not once had he ever hustled Prarie for one nepotistic slice of the Bodhi Dharma product. Its sauce was all but crunchy with fistfuls of herbs only marginally Italian and more appropriate in a cough remedy, the rennnetless cheese reminded customers variously of bottled hollandaise or joint compound, and the options were all vegetables rigorously organic, whose high water content saturated, long before it baked through, a stone-ground twelve-grain crust with the lightness and digestibility of a manhole cover.

— Vineland, by Thomas Pynchon, pg. 45 

Sunday, September 24, 2017


– Bad Machinery: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison, pg. 110

Sunday, September 17, 2017

If power were horses...

   Stupid things they say: If it were in my power, I would never permit this or that.
   It's possible, if the power was given to you now, miraculously. But if you'd grown up enclosed in your power, slave of your power, you'd be on the side of the ones who do the beating.

— Diary of Andrés Fava, by Julio Cortázar, pg. 46

Critical reading

One afternoon I was reading The Brothers Karamazov, and idly wondering which brother I'd like to fuck, Dimitri or Ivan, when the phone rang.

— Conversations with Stalin, by Elanor Antin, pg. 111


And if we live, we live to tread on kings.

— Henry IV, Part I by Shakespeare

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Our charge:

Can a civilization that evolves more and more around market activity, more and more around the buying and selling of commodities, expand the scope of freedom and democracy? Can we simply bear witness to its slow decay and doom–a painful denouement prefigured already in many poor black and brown communities and rapidly embracing all of us? These haunting questions remain unanswered yet the challenge they pose must not remain unmet. The new cultural politics of difference tries to confront these enormous and urgent challenges. It will require all the imagination, intelligence, courage, sacrifice, care and laughter we can muster.

Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America by Cornel West, pg. 31

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Showing, not telling...

   This time, as a token of his master's love, the messenger brought a handful of earth and a handful of salt, an ancient Bactrian custom that was observed persisting as late as the seventeenth century, according to the accounts of Tavernier and Chardin. But Arsaphes, driven by the obduracy of the princess and feeling victory within his grasp, added to the traditional offering two partridge eggs, one painted blue and the other red. The princess easily saw their significance, mysterious as it may seem to us. The colored eggs meant that though women may not look exactly alike, in the end they taste alike.
   Princess Heloise was worthy of the captain's admiration. She knew how to answer insolence. She sent back the lieutenant with two flasks which looked as though they contained water, but when Arsaphes tasted them, he found that while the first was indeed full of water, the second held the strongest and headiest rye brandy he had ever drunk. He then realized that while people may no doubt look alike, some are insipid and dull while others burn and intoxicate.

The Glory of the Empire, by Jean D'Ormesson, pg. 25

The other problem...

The other problem with [Rikki Tikki Tavi]not that there are any real problems with the story, it's a good story...but it's sad to think of such a likable mongoose eating holes in the baby cobra eggs. The baby cobras hadn't killed anything or frightened anyone. They would when they hatched out, because that's what cobra snakes are designed to do naturally. But a story should not have a small, tiny, curled-up barely alive animal be killed unless it has done a terrible thing, which it can't have done because it hasn't even uncurled itself from the egg. And the story isn't about what cobras do naturally, anyway, since it has cobras speaking. In real life they don't speak, at least in English. A cobra couldn't call itself 'Nag' or 'Nagaina' because the cobra's tongue is so thin it couldn't make an N sound. A cobra would probably call itself 'Lah,' if anything.

The Everlasting Story of Nory, by Nicholson Baker, pg. 36

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Two for the price of one...

   “And if any such thing should occur, understand that I would hold all three of you equally guilty and would mete out my vengeance accordingly. She, he, and you.
   “We would be four, madam. A man who has been warned is worth two ordinary men.
The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars, by Maurice Dekobra, pg. 95

Monday, December 19, 2016

By Crom!

A phrase of his father's returned to him: you give a dog a bad name, and that dog is bad for life. (Remember that, Joseph,with one hand on Pritchard's shoulder, and the other clasping a newborn puppy against his chest; the next day Pritchard dubbed the young thing Cromwell, and his father nodded once.)

The Luminaries, by Elenor Catton, pg. 165

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just because you can bring up Matthew Arnold doesn't mean you should

...finally, it is said, he died by leaping into the crater of Etna to prove that he was a god. In the words of the [unknown] poet:

    'Great Empedocles, that ardent soul
    Lept into Etna, and was roasted whole.'

Matthew Arnold wrote a poem on this subject, but, although one of his worst, it does not contain the above couplet.

— The History of Western Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell, pg. 53

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The more things change...

“The TRUMP movement (not party) is the strongest by far. Why? Because it takes advantage of the weakness of “those who blindly desire something different” using a revolutionary, amorphous mass of men who are both non-conscientious and irresponsible. On the other side, it takes advantage of the fear and greed of the grand bourgeoisie and turns that amorphous mass into armed bands against DEMOCRATS. It attracts all those who feel the weight of the OBAMA regime without being able to count upon themselves to transform it. It gives the illusion of force through violence; it gives the illusion of order through defending the family, private property and religion; it gives the illusion of protection with its promise of dignified comfort for all. Its fundamental character is inconsistency. Since it is the “reflection of the very inconsistency of the REPUBLICAN PARTY in their present circumstances,” its language is understandable to all those desperate men who flock to TRUMP: PUNDITS, the petite bourgeoisie of the city and country, almost all farm laborers, the majority of the unemployed in the cities, among whom are many adolescents. To the romantic young it offers the mirage of noble deeds, to the brutish the implied promise of beatings and killings. It promises high prices to the farmer, low prices to the consumer. In its substance, it is a nationalist fanaticism rooted in a feeling which the AMERICANS have experienced, whether they are right or wrong: the certainty that the capitalism of the victorious DEMOCRATS is crushing them much worse than REPUBLICAN capitalism.”

—paraphrase of Simone Weil's observations of 1932 Germany, with a few words updated for 2016, quoted from “Simone Weil: An Intellectual Biography” by Gabriella Fiori

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Inside an argument

I was correcting her about my books: they did not have walls, they had holes dug deep in the earth.

 Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge by Renee Gladman

Friday, April 29, 2016

The upside of crazy ideas...

It was not at all unusual in theoretical physics to spend a lot of time on a speculative notion that turns out to be wrong. I do it all the time. Having a lot of crazy ideas is the secret to my success. Some of them turned out to be right!
Interactions by Sheldon Glashow, pg. 114