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  1. 5 months ago

    IQfy is officially an anti-introduction board, and quite right too. Nineteen out of every twenty consist of literally-who academics trying to chew our food for us while telling us how good it's going to taste. Fortunately, this quiz is concerned with the other five percent. One hundred introductions, forewords, prefaces or other preliminary texts, written either by the author in question or some other person we might conceivably want to listen to.

    Fiction and non-fiction represented. Translated works denoted [*]. A few curveballs (non-introductions labelled as introductions, introductions labelled as something else, introductions which appear half-way through the work, etc).

    Hints on request.

    The authors (the ones doing the introducing, rather than the ones being introduced):

    King Alfred, Kingsley Amis, W. H. Auden

    J. G. Ballard, Hilaire Belloc, John Berryman, J. L. Borges, Ray Bradbury, Charlotte Bronte, Art Buchwald, Charles Bukowski, Anthony Burgess, Richard Burton

    Truman Capote, Thomas Carlyle, Raymond Carver, William Caxton, Raymond Chandler, G. K. Chesterton, Joseph Conrad, Michael Crichton, e. e. cummings

    James Dickey

    T. S. Eliot, James Ellroy

    William Faulkner, Shelby Foote

    John Gardner, William H. Gass, Théophile Gautier, William Gibson, Robert Graves, Graham Greene

    Thomas Hardy, Thomas Harris, Seamus Heaney, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Thomas Hobbes, Ted Hughes, Victor Hugo, Aldous Huxley

    Henry James, Tove Jansson, Randall Jarrell, Jerome K. Jerome, Samuel Johnson

    Jack Kerouac, Stephen King

    Pierre Simon de Laplace, D. H. Lawrence, Elmore Leonard, C. S. Lewis, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Lowell

    Herman Melville, H. L. Mencken, Yehudi Menuhin, John Milton, Michel de Montaigne, Yukio Mishima

    Vladimir Nabokov, Isaac Newton, Friedrich Nietzsche

    Camille Paglia, Walter Pater, Walker Percy, Ezra Pound, Terry Pratchett, Thomas Pynchon

    Francois Rabelais, Bertrand Russell

    Dorothy L. Sayers, Phyllis Schlafly, Walter Scott, Will Self, G. B. Shaw, C. P. Snow, Edmund Spenser, John Steinbeck, Laurence Sterne, Theodore Sturgeon, Jonathan Swift, A. C. Swinburne, J. M. Synge

    W. M. Thackeray, Dylan Thomas, Hunter S. Thompson, Mark Twain

    John Updike

    Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut

    Orson Welles, Eudora Welty, E. B. White, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, William Carlos Williams, P. G. Wodehouse, Virginia Woolf, William Wordsworth

  2. 5 months ago

    On the assumption that my technique is either complicated or original or both, the publishers have politely requested me to write an introduction to this book.

    At least my theory of technique, if I have one, is very far from original; nor is it complicated. I can express it in fifteen words, by quoting The Eternal Question And Immortal Answer of burlesk, viz. “Would you hit a woman with a child? — No, I'd hit her with a brick.”

    What experience and history teach is this — that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.


    The Tenniel Alice with long blonde tresses was based on another Carroll intimate, Mary Badwiener, rather than slim, dark-haired Alice Liddell, whose connection to the first book was prudently obscured.

    But it is surely Alice Liddell’s personality that draws us in and charms us. “Who am I?” Carroll’s Alice asks, like Odysseus, Oedipus, and Hamlet, as she makes her way past the Elysian throngs of boors, bores, and bullies, the meddlers, dandies, raconteurs, monomaniacs, melancholics, tricksters, sophists, gurus, gluttons, loafers, ninnies, male bunglers, and female termagants.

    Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

    I did most of my reading at the downtown L.A. Public Library, and nothing that I read related to me or to the streets or to the people about me. It seemed as if everybody was playing word-tricks, that those who said almost nothing at all were considered excellent writers. Their writing was an admixture of subtlety, craft and form, and it was read and it was taught and it was ingested and it was passed on. It was a comfortable contrivance, a very slick and careful Word-Culture. One had to go back to the pre-Revolution writers of Russia to find any gamble, any passion. There were exceptions but those exceptions were so few that reading them was quickly done, and you were left staring at rows and rows of exceedingly dull books. With centuries to look back on, with all their advantages, the moderns just weren't very good.

    . . .

    I kept on walking around the big room, pulling the books off the shelves, reading a few lines, a few pages, then putting them back.

    I pulled book after book from the shelves. Why didn't anybody say something? Why didn't anybody scream out?

    Then one day I pulled a book down and opened it, and there it was. I stood for a moment, reading. Then like a man who had found gold in the city dump, I carried the book to a table.

    • 5 months ago

      5) Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

      • 5 months ago

        >5) Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
        Interesting shot, but incorrect.

        Hint: This one is an American writer (prose and poetry) introducing a book which is very much in his style. (That's why he liked it so much — the guy was basically writing the sort of books he wanted to write.) There are a couple of clues in the first line. He's reading at the L. A. Public Library, and he talks about "the streets". So he's not exactly going to be a refined Virginia Woolf / Henry James type.

  3. 5 months ago

    All art is quite useless.

    When I was growing up, I read all twenty-three Tarzan books, as well as the ten Mars books. My own inner story-telling mechanism was vivid. At any one time, I had at least three serials going as well as a number of tried and true re-runs. I mined Burroughs largely for source material. When he went to the center of the earth á la Jules Verne (much too fancy a writer for one’s taste), I immediately worked up a thirteen-part series, with myself as lead and various friends as guest stars. Sometimes I used the master’s material, but more often I adapted it freely to suit myself. One’s daydreams tended to be Tarzanish pre-puberty (physical strength and freedom) and Martian post-puberty (exotic worlds and subtle *combinazione* to be worked out). After adolescence, if one’s life is sufficiently interesting, the desire to tell oneself stories diminishes. My last serial ran into sponsor trouble when I was in the Second World War, and it was never renewed.

    This extraordinary novel is a comic apocalypse, a roller-coaster ride through hell, a safari to the strangest people of the strangest planet, ourselves.

    He had a large, loose-limbed body, a swarthy complexion, a high, narrow forehead, and huge bricklayer’s hands; in youth he looked like a gypsy; in age like a dirty old monk; he had the finest ear, perhaps, of any English poet; he was also undoubtedly the stupidest; there was little about melancholia that he didn’t know; there was little else that he did.

    Over the years I have become very good at getting out of things I don’t want to do. And if ever there was something I didn’t want to do, this was surely it: to deal with the mother of a dead novelist and, worst of all, to have to read a manuscript that she said was great, and that, as it turned out, was a badly smeared, scarcely readable carbon.

    But the lady was persistent, and it somehow came to pass that she stood in my office handing me the hefty manuscript. There was no getting out of it; only one hope remained — that I could read a few pages and that they would be bad enough for me, in good conscience, to read no farther. Usually I can do just that. Indeed the first paragraph often suffices. My only fear was that this one might not be bad enough, or might be just good enough, so that I would have to keep reading.

    In this case I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good. I shall resist the temptation to say what first made me gape, grin, laugh out loud, shake my head in wonderment. Better let the reader make the discovery on his own.

    • 5 months ago

      6 is from Oscar Wilde, i dont remember what book its from though

      There are various problems as regards language. First, there is the problem what actually occurs in our minds when we use language with the intention of meaning something by it; this problem belongs to psychology. Secondly, there is the problem as to what is the relation subsisting between thoughts, words, or sentences, and that which they refer to or mean; this problem belongs to epistemology. Thirdly, there is the problem of using sentences so as to convey truth rather than falsehood; this belongs to the special sciences dealing with the subject-matter of the sentences in question. Fourthly, there is the question: what relation must one fact (such as a sentence) have to another in order to be capable of being a symbol for that other? This last is a logical question.

      The jerky, disconnected sentences are as rapid and it would seem as little under control as the phrases that fall from the lips of a brilliant talker. The very punctuation is that of speech, not writing, and brings the sound, the associations, of the speaking voice in with it. The order of the ideas, their suddenness and irrelevancy, is more true to life than to literature. There is a privacy in this intercourse which allows things to slip out unreproved that would have been in doubtful taste had they been spoken in public. Under the influence of this extraordinary style the book becomes semi-transparent. The usual ceremonies and conventions which keep reader and writer at arm’s length disappear. We are as close to life as we can be.

      This mere painstaking burrower and grubworm of a poor devil appears to have gone through the long Vaticans and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions he could anyways find in any book whatsoever, sacred or profane.

      Frost has always respected metre. When, during the *Vers Libre* period of the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties his poems were disdained as old-fashioned, he remarked disdainfully that writing free verse was like playing tennis without a net. The Vers Librists, it should be explained, had rebelled against a degenerate sort of poetry in which nothing mattered except getting the ball neatly over the net. Few games are so wearisome to watch as a methodical ping-pong, ping-pong tennis match in which each player allows his opponent an easy forehand return from the same court. The Vers Librists, therefore, abandoned the tennis-net of metre altogether, and concentrated on rhythm. But though metre is boring without rhythm, the reverse is equally true . . .

      One day I seemed to shut a door between me and all publishers' addresses and book lists. I said to myself, Now I can write. Now I can make myself a vase like that which the old Roman kept at his bedside and wore the rim slowly away with kissing it. So I, who had never had a sister and was fated to lose my daugher in infancy, set out to make myself a beautiful and tragic little girl.

      53 is Moby Dick

      • 4 months ago

        >6 is from Oscar Wilde, i dont remember what book its from though
        Correct. Portrait of Dorian Gray, although someone already got it.

        >53 is Moby Dick
        It is. Melville talking about himself.

  4. 5 months ago

    The chief beauty of this book lies not so much in its literary style, or in the extent and usefulness of the information it conveys, as in its simple truthfulness. Its pages form the record of events that really happened. All that has been done is to colour them; and, for this, no extra charge has been made. George and Harris and Montmorency are not poetic ideals, but things of flesh and blood — especially George, who weighs about twelve stone.

    I was completely unprepared for the kind of criticism I received from him. Before our conference he would have marked up my story, crossing out unacceptable sentences, phrases, individual words, even some of the punctuation; and he gave me to understand that these deletions were not negotiable. In other cases he would bracket sentences, phrases, or individual words, and these were items we’d talk about, these cases were negotiable. And he wouldn’t hesitate to add something to what I'd written — a word here and there, or else a few words, maybe a sentence that would make clear what I was trying to say. We'd discuss commas in my story as if nothing else in the world mattered more at that moment — and, indeed, it did not. He was always looking to find something to praise. When there was a sentence, a line of dialogue, or a narrative passage that he liked, something that he thought “worked” and moved the story along in some pleasant or unexpected way, he’d write “Nice” in the margin, or else “Good!” And seeing these comments, my heart would lift.

    Now “happy” is something extremely subjective. One of our sillier Zemblan proverbs says: the lost glove is happy.

    The warden walked me out. I thanked him for his time, and said I appreciated the doctor’s help. I asked how long Dr. Salazar had worked there.
    “Hombre! You don’t know who that is?”
    “No. We talked about Simmons.”
    The warden turned to me on the steps. “The doctor is a murderer. As a surgeon, he could package his victim in a surprisingly small box. He will never leave this place. He is insane.”
    “Insane? I see patients going into his office.”
    The warden shrugged and spread his open hands. “He is not insane with the poor.”

    The whole book is a gesture only too well aware that it goes too far; there is a certain built-in self-mockery, most evidently proclaimed in the grotesque names and titles. We are asked to accept conventions that it is impossible to take seriously, but within those conventions the blood is genuinely moved or chilled. The husky purr of the Countess, her heavy body decked, thick as foliage, with birds, conveys a shudder authentic enough: ‘In Titus it’s all centred. Stone and mountain — the Blood and the Observance. Let them touch him. For every hair that’s hurt I’ll stop a heart. If grace I have when turbulence is over — so be it; and if not — what then?’

  5. 5 months ago

    Most noble and illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious pockified blades (for to you, and none else, do I dedicate my writings), Alcibiades, in that dialogue of Plato’s, which is entitled The Banquet, whilst he was setting forth the praises of his schoolmaster Socrates (without all question the prince of philosophers), amongst other discourses to that purpose, said that he resembled the Silenes. Silenes of old were little boxes, like those we now may see in the shops of apothecaries, painted on the outside with wanton toyish figures, as harpies, satyrs, bridled geese, horned hares, saddled ducks, flying goats, thiller harts, and other such-like counterfeited pictures at discretion, to excite people unto laughter, as Silenus himself, who was the foster-father of good Bacchus, was wont to do; but within those capricious caskets were carefully preserved and kept many rich israeliteels and fine drugs, such as balm, ambergris, amomon, musk, civet, with several kinds of precious stones, and other things of great price. Just such another thing was Socrates . . .


    Few major writers have had fewer detractors regarding either their person or their work. A rare detractive exception is Ernest Hemingway, who enjoyed turning bumptious in his spare time; and in one such, in his middle twenties, referred to Chekhov as "an amateur writer" who "wrote about six good stories." Six is rather a large figure in the category of goodness, but I would put the number closer to one hundred, and so would many grateful practitioners of the art of the short story.

    He who knows how to breathe the air of my writings knows that it is an air of the heights, a *robust* air. One has to be made for it, otherwise there is no small danger one will catch cold.


    The invention of the steam engine produced a revolution, not merely in industrial techniques, but also and much more significantly in philosophy. Because machines could be made progressively more and more efficient, western man came to believe that men and societies would automatically register a corresponding moral and spiritual improvement. Attention and allegiance came to be paid, not to Eternity, but to the Utopian future. External circumstances came to be regarded as more important than states of mind about external circumstances, and the end of human life was held to be action, with contemplation as a means to that end. These false and, historically, aberrant and heretical doctrines are now systematically taught in our schools and repeated, day in, day out, by those anonymous writers of advertising copy who, more than any other teachers, provide European and American adults with their current philosophy of life . . .

    Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do ingloriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple: who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?

  6. 5 months ago

    I guess the purpose of an introduction to a book is to tell the reader what to expect. “This is a book about — etc., etc., etc.” It should hook the reader so, when he’s browsing through it in a bookstore, he’ll immediately want to buy it.

    If this is the purpose of an introduction then all I can say —

    “This is a book about a woman who loved too many men but with her body and not her heart. Desire, passion, and pain rule the life of our heroine who sought to find happiness at the expense of others. The town whispered about her, but even their whispers were mild to what she *really* had done. Sultry, rubylipped, fair-breasted, she drove men mad, mad, mad.”

    This book has nothing to do with the above. I wish it did.

    It’s image-mongering slapstick — riff-driven, word-grubbing lyric afflatus that pops up like a pie thrower, containing inexplicable filmic flashes of fleeting looks, like vivisection cameos colliding with preposterous coincidence. Can you top this: each poem sprints down the page like a naked water-rat in a shit storm, until it drowns or disappears. Like a priest with a hardon, this book makes a beeline for any vulnerable taboo tush.

    I would ask to any genteel reader, who cannot endure to have said what everybody nowadays thinks and feels, to remember a well-worn sentence of St. Jerome’s: If an offence come out of the truth, better is it that the offence come than that the truth be concealed.

    Few artists, not Goethe or Byron even, work quite cleanly, casting off all debris, and leaving us only what the heat of their imagination has wholly fused and transformed. Take, for instance, the writings of Wordsworth. The heat of his genius, entering into the substance of his work, has crystallised a part, but only a part, of it; and in that great mass of verse there is much which might well be forgotten. But scattered up and down it, sometimes fusing and transforming entire compositions, like the Stanzas on Resolution and Independence, and the Ode on the Recollections of Childhood, sometimes, as if at random, depositing a fine crystal here or there, in a matter it does not wholly search through and transform, we trace the action of his unique, incommunicable faculty, that strange, mystical sense of a life in natural things, and of man's life as a part of nature, drawing strength and colour and character from local influences, from the hills and streams, and from natural sights and sounds.

    All that’s central to the book can be summed up by our hero’s lament as he stands beneath the ‘girt shyning weals’ of Fork Stoan: ‘O what we ben! And what we come to . . . How cud any 1 not want to get that shyning Power back from time back way back? How cud any 1 not want to be like them what had boats in the air and picters on the wind? How cud any 1 not want to see them shyning weals terning?’

  7. 5 months ago

    I think it was Milosz, the Polish poet, who when he lay in a doorway and watched the bullets lifting the cobbles out of the street beside him realized that most poetry is not equipped for life in a world where people actually do die.

    The ancients considered mechanics in a twofold respect; as rational, which proceeds accurately by demonstration, and practical. To practical mechanics all the manual arts belong, from which mechanics took its name. But as artificers do not work with perfect accuracy, it comes to pass that mechanics is so distinguished from geometry, that what is perfectly accurate is called geometrical; what is less so is called mechanical. But the errors are not in the art, but in the artificers. He that works With less accuracy is an imperfect mechanic; and if any could work with perfect accuracy, he would be the most perfect mechanic of all; for the description of right lines and circles, upon which geometry is founded, belongs to mechanics.

    Thompson’s other books are either good or almost great, but all of them pale before the horrifying, mesmerizing story of Lou Ford, that smiling good ol’ Texas boy who would rather beat you to death with clichés than shoot you with a 44... But if the clichés don’t do the job, he is not afraid to pick up the gun. And use it.

    The first exposé of big changes in the American public schools was *Why Johnny Can't Read* by Rudolf Flesch. In this 1955 book, he laid bare how public schools had abandoned the teaching of phonics (i.e., learning the sounds and syllables of the English language and how to put them together like building blocks), and substituted a method called "look-say" (i.e., recognizing and memorizing a few dozen whole words, usually from clues in pictures, and reading stories that repeat the same words ad nauseam). Look-say took over the U.S. educational system with the elementary school readers entitled Dick and Jane.

    The result was that, students didn't learn how to read books without pictures and with polysyllabic words. The entire educational system was "dumbed down" to accommodate this new reality.

    The public schools adamantly refused to reinstate the proven system of phonics. Twenty-five years after his landmark book, Rudolf Flesch wrote *Why Johnny Still Can't Read*. The schools had renamed look-say as "whole language" and to this day persist in stubborn hostility to phonics. We now have two or even three generations of Americans who are virtually blocked out from reading the great books written in the English language.

    I have lived with these sonnets and ballate daily month in and month out, and have been daily drawn deeper into them and daily into contemplation of things that are not of an hour. And I deem, for this, that voi altri pochi who understand, will love me better for my labor in proportion as you read more carefully.

  8. 5 months ago

    The relatively slight recognition hitherto accorded Lord Dunsany, perhaps the most unique, original, and richly imaginative of authors living at this time, forms an amusing commentary on the natural stupidity of mankind. Conservatives view him with patronage because he does not concern himself with the heavy fallacies and artificialities which constitute their supreme values. Radicals slight him because his work does not display that chaotic defiance of taste which to them is the sole identifying mark of authentic modern disillusion. And yet one might hardly err in claiming that he should have the homage of both rather than of neither; for surely if any man has extracted and combined the residue of true art in older and newer schools alike it is this singular giant in whom the classic, the Hebraic, the Nordic, and the Irish aesthetic traditions are so curiously and admirably combined.

    We workshopped manuscripts. (Workshop has become a verb.) Betsy's twenty-odd-thousand-word story had to be put off while we went through the maze of story architecture, mood, crisis/climax/denouement, the "sound" of punctuation and all that machine-shop stuff, until the last meeting, when we had Betsy read her story aloud.

    It was *When Darkness Loves Us*.

    It was for this moment that I wish you had been there...

    There is a thing that happens in theater when one or another of the cast is having "his" or "her" night — a very special spell that overtakes a performer; you can tell when it's happening by two things. One, you become aware that everyone else in the cast is playing to and for the magicked one. And two, when the final curtain falls, instead of the appreciative crash of applause, there is an instant of hush before anyone moves. It's the possibility of that hush that keeps actors — actors.

    Well, that's what happened at that reading.

    Somehow The Monk ought not to have been good at all. Its author was a witty diplomat aged nineteen, its locale the Spain of the Inquisition and romantic Germany, its mode the Gothic mode that had been originated, unpromisingly, by Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto thirty years before and appeared to have just reached its highest development in Mrs. Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). This lachrymose, spineless, more or less insufferable romance Lewis much admired and aspired to imitate.

    Fierce wars and faithful loves shall moralize my song.

    I asked a poet friend one time what it was that poets did, and he thought awhile, and then he told me, “They extend the language.” I thought that was neat, but it didn’t make me grateful in my bones for poets. Language extenders I can take or leave alone.

    Anne Sexton does a deeper favor for me: she domesticates my terror, examines it and describes it, teaches it some tricks which will amuse me, then lets it gallop wild in my forest once more.

    She does this for herself, too, I assume. Good for her.

  9. 5 months ago

    The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title . . .

    A certain critic — for such men, I regret to say, do exist — made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably now been eaten by bears, like the children who made a mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.

    The writing about the nervous, restless, exuberant and often angry people who play probably the most universal language of our time is nothing but anecdotes. Pee Wee Russell gets a blown ulcer, no one wonders why because Pee Wee who can talk circles around any one living with a clarinet is almost without the power of any other communicating speech. I remember years ago when that book Young Man with a Horn came out carrying the message that Bix Beiderbecke was searching for a perfect note you said in your estimation he was searching for a perfect skinful of gin; I am inclined to agree with your description and yet behind that is something else . . .

    The bullfighter himself is a knight without armor who slays his dragons for pay, a mercenary who does battle by a code as strict as the duello. He stands, in the last quarter of this century, as an absurd anachronism, a semidivine paradox. Folk-hero, circus star, gladiator, he is nothing without courage, and his function is inexcusable without art. It is as an artist that he must be praised or condemned: as a sculptor working in the most difficult of raw materials, a ballet dancer with the most deadly dangerous of partners, a tragic actor, bright in the spangles of carnival and the harlequinade, shedding — and bleeding — real blood. He is many things. But he is not a woman.

    Conchita Cintron, the lady bullfighter, therefore, is a very great rarity indeed . . .

    I did what I was told, bought the book, opened to the first page and read: “Jackie Brown at twenty-six, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns.”

    I finished the book in one sitting and felt as if I’d been set free. So this was how you do it.

  10. 5 months ago

    Harlan Ellison lives in the Los Angeles foothills, in a perfectly ordinary-appearing house, in a quiet suburban neighborhood. The inside of the house is as remarkable as the exterior is mundane; Ellison himself seems to take a certain pleasure in the unobtrusive outward appearance he presents to the community.

    Inside, the feeling is sensual, almost sybaritic, with a quality of tension that comes from a barely controlled chaos. There are books everywhere, thousands of books, lining walls, tucked above doorways, filling closets, threatening to spill out and consume the living space. There are bizarre juxtapositions at every turn: signed Wunderlich prints, Soleri notebooks, sculpture from Mozambique, psychedelic book art set side by side in confusing profusion . . .

    One has about him the amused, admiring, and affectionate certainty that one has about Whitman: Why, he'd say anything! — creditable or discreditable, sayable or unsayable, so long as he believes it. There is something particularly willing and generous about the man in and behind the poems: one is attracted to him so automatically that one is "reminded of a story" of how S______ was defined as the only man in the universe who didn't like William James.

    I hasten to protest at the outset that I have no personal knowledge of the incorrigible Super-tramp who wrote this amazing book. If he is to be encouraged and approved, then British morality is a mockery, British respectability is an imposture, and British industry a vice. Perhaps they are: I have always kept an open mind on the subject; but still one may ask some better ground for pitching them out of the window than the caprice of a tramp.

    It is one of the longest poems in the world, and there is not a dead line in it. The noble passion and the noble pathos of its greater parts are alike indiscussible and irresistible.

    There is indeed little in the plot to require attention; the various events, which are successively narrated, being no otherwise connected together, than as they place the character of the hero in some new and peculiar point of view. The same may be said of the numerous and long conversations upon religious and moral topics, which compose so great a part of the work, that a venerable old lady, whom we well knew, when in advanced age, she became subject to drowsy fits, chose to hear Sir Charles Grandison read to her as she sat in her elbow-chair, in preference to any other work, 'because,' said she, 'should I drop asleep in course of the reading, I am sure, when I awake, I shall have lost none of the story, but shall find the party, where I left them, conversing in the cedar-parlour.'

  11. 5 months ago

    Had it been my purpose to seek the world's favour, I should have put on finer clothes, and have presented myself in a studied attitude. But I want to appear in my simple, natural, and everyday dress, without strain or artifice; for it is myself that I portray.


    Thoreau’s assault on the Concord society of the mid-nineteenth century has the quality of a modern Western: he rides into the subject at top speed, shooting in all directions. Many of his shots ricochet and nick him on the rebound, and throughout the melee there is a horrendous cloud of inconsistencies and contradictions, and when the shooting dies down and the air clears, one is impressed chiefly by the courage of the rider and by how splendid it was that somebody should have ridden in there and raised all that ruckus.

    Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through hell.

    With a new nation being dreamt to life, set to rights with fabulous new toys, the uneasy dreamers cast about and came up with two most ardent blasphemers:

    Herman Melville.

    Jules Verne.

    “American” authors, both.

    I have always felt a particular frisson upon seeing for the first time the actual handwriting of a master composer, alive with its irregularities, its visible impulses, its detectable moments of ease and worry, of joy and despair. It leads one straight to the heart of the matter, to the mind of the man who wrote the composition. No printed score can offer one such insights. But this manuscript is something very special. It is not only a provocative document revealing a master at work. It records vital aspects of the collaboration between two masters — the composer and the performer. And theirs is a kind of relationship which is essential to the music of our civilization but is too often overlooked or taken for granted.

    It is one hundred years since the close friendship between Johannes Brahms and the great virtuoso Joseph Joachim culminated in the Violin Concerto. Joachim, his senior by two years, was in the very prime of his life and career and not yet married. Brahms worshipped the already committed Clara Schumann. Both men embraced wholeheartedly a friendship which began in 1856 and for a quarter of a century fulfilled the highest ideals of reciprocal commitment and loyalty so curiously similar to those indissoluble ties bred in times of war and adventure — quite different situations from those in which the two men lived. It was the kind of friendship which flourished in the milieu of German university life and was most deeply expressed through music. Music was in fact considered to be as manly an art as fencing — both were, on the one hand, intense aesthetic disciplines achieved by the constant exercise of great skill and, on the other, unashamedly emotional arts demanding passionate dedication. Does real *Brüderschaft* of this kind still exist today?

  12. 5 months ago

    There are various problems as regards language. First, there is the problem what actually occurs in our minds when we use language with the intention of meaning something by it; this problem belongs to psychology. Secondly, there is the problem as to what is the relation subsisting between thoughts, words, or sentences, and that which they refer to or mean; this problem belongs to epistemology. Thirdly, there is the problem of using sentences so as to convey truth rather than falsehood; this belongs to the special sciences dealing with the subject-matter of the sentences in question. Fourthly, there is the question: what relation must one fact (such as a sentence) have to another in order to be capable of being a symbol for that other? This last is a logical question.

    The jerky, disconnected sentences are as rapid and it would seem as little under control as the phrases that fall from the lips of a brilliant talker. The very punctuation is that of speech, not writing, and brings the sound, the associations, of the speaking voice in with it. The order of the ideas, their suddenness and irrelevancy, is more true to life than to literature. There is a privacy in this intercourse which allows things to slip out unreproved that would have been in doubtful taste had they been spoken in public. Under the influence of this extraordinary style the book becomes semi-transparent. The usual ceremonies and conventions which keep reader and writer at arm’s length disappear. We are as close to life as we can be.

    This mere painstaking burrower and grubworm of a poor devil appears to have gone through the long Vaticans and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions he could anyways find in any book whatsoever, sacred or profane.

    Frost has always respected metre. When, during the *Vers Libre* period of the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties his poems were disdained as old-fashioned, he remarked disdainfully that writing free verse was like playing tennis without a net. The Vers Librists, it should be explained, had rebelled against a degenerate sort of poetry in which nothing mattered except getting the ball neatly over the net. Few games are so wearisome to watch as a methodical ping-pong, ping-pong tennis match in which each player allows his opponent an easy forehand return from the same court. The Vers Librists, therefore, abandoned the tennis-net of metre altogether, and concentrated on rhythm. But though metre is boring without rhythm, the reverse is equally true . . .

    One day I seemed to shut a door between me and all publishers' addresses and book lists. I said to myself, Now I can write. Now I can make myself a vase like that which the old Roman kept at his bedside and wore the rim slowly away with kissing it. So I, who had never had a sister and was fated to lose my daugher in infancy, set out to make myself a beautiful and tragic little girl.

  13. 5 months ago

    Constantine Cavafy’s poems survive translation better than most. One reason for this is the sheer interest of their content: homoerotic amours in exotic settings, the dooms of tyrants, the various crossed destinies of sophists and drifters and soothsayers . . .

    Imagine a cold October morning. I fill my basket with found potatoes in the field and race to the kitchen to prepare my one and only most delicious ever potato lunch. The Russian vodka — it must be 80 proof — goes into the icebox to chill. The potatoes into the oven to bake. My breathless friend arrives to share the feast. Out comes the icy vodka. Out comes a bowl of sour cream. Likewise the potatoes, piping hot.

    We sit down to sip our drinks. We split open steaming potatoes and put on some sour cream. *Now* I whisk out the big tin of caviar, which I have forgotten to tell you is the only way *I* can bear to eat a potato . . .

    I believe that it is quite probable, as Frau Forster-Nietzsche says, that it was Wagner’s snuffling gabble about Christianity that finished him.

    It’s showy vulgarity that chiefly makes me cringe. James Ferry’s “Dancing Ducks and Talking Anus” almost went into my junkpile, I confess, for its title alone, but being no better than the next man, I decided to peek at the first sentence. I read: “I suppose you’ve heard that Renee douched herself with sulfuric acid.” “Enough!” I thought. But my eyes had by this time wandered into the second sentence, and behold, I found myself reading one of the most touching and vivid Native American stories I’d ever come across.

    . . . of which books so incorrect was one brought to me, 6 years past, which I supposed had been very true and correct; and according to the same I did so imprint a certain number of them, which anon were sold to many and divers gentlemen, of whom one gentleman came to me and said that this book was not according in many place unto the book that Geoffrey Chaucer had made. To whom I answered that I had made it according to my copy, and by me was nothing added ne minished. Then he said he knew a book which his father had and much loved, that was very true and according unto his own first book by him made; and said more, if I would imprint it again he would get me the same book for a copy, howbeit he wist well that his father would not gladly depart from it. To whom I said, in case that he could get me such a book, true and correct, yet I would once endeavour me to imprint it again for to satisfy the author, whereas before by ignorance I erred in hurting and defaming his book in divers places, in setting in some things that he never said ne made, and leaving out many things that he made which be requisite to be set in it. And thus we fell at accord, and he full gently got of his father the said book, and delivered it to me, by which I have corrected my book, as hereafter, all along by the aid of Almighty God, shall follow . . .

  14. 5 months ago

    When this novel first appeared in book form a notion got about that I had been bolted away with. Some reviewers maintained that the work starting as a short story had got beyond the writer’s control. One or two discovered internal evidence of the fact, which seemed to amuse them. They pointed out the limitations of the narrative form. They argued that no man could have been expected to talk all that time, and other men to listen so long. It was not, they said, very credible.

    After thinking it over for something like sixteen years I am not so sure about that.



    Everything: Let’s elucidate: scullion on ships, gas station attendant, deckhand on ships, newspaper sportswriter (Lowell Sun), railroad brakeman, script synopsizer for 20th Century Fox in N.Y., soda jerk, railroad yardclerk, also railroad baggagehandler, cottonpicker, assistant furniture mover, sheet metal apprentice on the Pentagon in 1942, forest service fire lookout 1956, construction laborer (1941).

    In an esoteric masterpiece, a writer's most secret, deeply hidden themes make their appearance. Such a work is dominated not by openness and clarity but by a strangling tightness. In place of limpidness and purity we have density; rather than the broad, open world we have a closed room. The spirit of the author, flinging away all inhibitions, shows itself in its boldest form. I have elsewhere likened "House of the Sleeping Beauties" to a submarine in which people are trapped and the air is gradually disappearing. While in the grip of this story, the reader sweats and grows dizzy, and knows with the greatest immediacy the terror of lust urged on by the approach of death . . .


    How is it that Wells’s marvels lay such close hold on us? Because we are made to feel that they are possible. Plenty of amazing things happen in Hans Christian Andersen’s stories, but nobody seriously believes in them. Even Edgar Allan Poe’s tales often give a feeling of unreality. Wells’s secret — and a valuable heritage passed on to later writers of science fiction — was to lay the fantastic and the fabulous side by side with the everyday, even the humdrum.

    I did not hear the bottle shatter, only the explosive intake of gasoline igniting, flames throwing black shadows against the concrete; our shadows, running. We all were running, and in the eyes of a Kennedyjawed girl from the Virginia suburbs I would see something I had never seen before: a feral shiver, a bright wet shard of ancient light called Panic, where dread and ecstasy commingled utterly. And then the first cannisters fell, trailing gas, and she was off, running, like a deer and in that moment as beautiful. And I ran after her, and lost her, and sometimes I imagine she is running still.

  15. 5 months ago

    Writing is a craft, like any other: playing the violin, skating, batting at cricket, billiards, wood-carving — anything you like; and mastership in any craft is attainment of the end to which that craft is devoted. A craftsman is excellent in his craft according to his degree of attainment towards its end, and his use of the means towards that end. Now the end of writing is the production in the reader’s mind of a certain image and a certain emotion. And the means towards that end are the use of words in any particular language; and the complete use of that medium is the choosing of the right words and the putting of them into the right order. It is this which Mr. Wodehouse does better, in the English language, than anyone else alive; or at any rate than anyone else whom I have read for many years past.

    Now, Agelastes (speaking dispraisingly) sayeth, That there may be some wit in it, for aught he knows —— but no judgment at all. And Triptolemus and Phutatorius agreeing thereto, ask, How is it possible there should? for that wit and judgment in this world never go together; inasmuch as they are two operations differing from each other as wide as east from west ——— So, says Locke —— so are farting and hickuping, say I.

    Oscar was not into serious street-fighting, but he was hell on wheels in a bar brawl. Any combination of a 250-pound Mexican and LSD-25 is a potentially terminal menace for anything it can reach — but when the alleged Mexican is in fact a profoundly angry Chicano lawyer with no fear at all of anything that walks on less than three legs and a de facto suicidal conviction that he will die at the age of thirty-three — just like Jesus Christ — you have a serious piece of work on your hands.

    The result is that I’m often accused of not having ‘story’ enough. I seem to myself to have as much as I need — to show my people, to exhibit their relations with each other; for that is all my measure.

    The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. In the history of the earth hitherto, the largest and most stirring appear tame and orderly to their ampler largeness and stir. Here at last is something in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast doings of the day and night. Here is action untied from strings, necessarily blind to particulars and details, magnificently moving in masses. Here is the hospitality which for ever indicates heroes. Here the performance, disdaining the trivial, unapproach’d in the tremendous audacity of its crowds and groupings, and the push of its perspective, spreads with crampless and flowing breadth, and showers its prolific and splendid extravagance. One sees it must indeed own the riches of the summer and winter, and need never be bankrupt while corn grows from the ground, or the orchards drop apples, or the bays contain fish, or men beget children upon women.

  16. 5 months ago

    The author of this book is clearly a very courageous man. If I had been in prison five times, I doubt very much that I should have had the courage to write about it so vividly and at times even humorously.

    He has a clear eye and swift observation and the power to put these qualities on paper and make you feel and see with him. There is no damned literary nonsense about his writing. The situation is there, the people are there and you are there with both; and this is a rare thing.

    . . . there is a saying much usurped of late, That Wisedome is acquired, not by reading of Books, but of Men. Consequently whereunto, those persons, that for the most part can give no other proof of being wise, take great delight to shew what they think they have read in men, by uncharitable censures of one another behind their backs. But there is another saying not of late understood, by which they might learn truly to read one another, if they would take the pains; and that is, Nosce Teipsum, Read Thy Self . . .

    The curious Reader will observe, that where Conversation appears in Danger to flag; which, in some Places, I have artfully contrived; I took Care to invent some sudden Question, or Turn of Wit to revive it. Such as these that follow. What? I think here is a silent Meeting. Come Madam, a Penny for your Thought; with several others of the like Sort.

    From its beginning, the novel never departs from the subjective. The youngest child, James, is on page one cutting out a catalogue picture of a refrigerator which he sees "fringed with joy." The interior of its characters' lives is where we experience everything. And in the subjective — contrary to what so many authors find there — lies its clarity. There is nowhere in this radiant novel a shadow of detachment. Such is Virginia Woolf's genius. The business of living goes on — stockings are knit, the Boeuf en Daube is cooked and served — and she is a genius with the homely, piercingly precise detail too. But if there is a pull and lure and threat from the outside world, other threats, other lures, are greater: those that search the characters more fatally, from within.

    . . . notes and prefaces are sometimes a convenient method of adding to the weight of a book, and of magnifying, in appearance at least, the importance of a work; as a matter of tactics this is not dissimilar to that of the general who, to make his battlefront more imposing, puts everything, even his baggage-trains, in the line, and then, while critics fall foul of the preface and scholars of the notes, it may happen that the work itself will escape them, passing uninjured between their cross-fires, as an army extricates itself from a dangerous position between two skirmishes of outposts and rear-guards.

    These reasons, weighty as they may seem, are not those which influenced the author . . .


  17. 5 months ago

    There is no evidence that any wild wolf has ever killed a human being in North America. As Rensberger notes, “It has a rather playful, friendly nature among its fellows. Research findings to date show wolves to exhibit many of the behavioral patterns that should find favor among the more sentimentally inclined animal lovers.”

    And yet London's wolf is very much a part of the consciousness of many people, and as the wolf's habitat continues to shrink under the pressure of oil pipelines and other industrial encroachments, its mystery and its savage spirituality increase, now that vulnerability has been added. We need London’s mythical wolf almost as much as we need the wildernesses of the world, for without such ghost-animals from the depths of the human subconscious we are alone with ourselves.

    One might expect that a poet who appeared to communicate so little of his private ecstacies and despairs would be dull; one might expect that a poety who had given so much of his time to the service of the political imagination would be ephemeral; one might expect that a poety so constantly occupied with the appearances of things would be shallow. We know that he is not dull, because we have all, at one time or another, by one poem or another, been thrilled; we know that he is not ephemeral, because we remember so much of what we have read. As for shallowness, that is a charge which can only be brought by those who have continued to read him only with a boyish interest.

    The milk-wort, the aconite, the henbane, the hemlock, mingle their cold virus with the glowing poisons of the tropics and the Indies. The manchineel here displays its small apples, deadly as those which hang from the tree of knowledge, the upas here distils its lacteous juices, more corrosive than aquafortis. Above this garden floats a sickly vapor, which benumbs the birds when they pass through it. But the doctor’s daughter lives unharmed amid these mephitic effluvias.


    When I considered all this, I remembered also that I saw, before it had been all ravaged and burned, how the churches throughout the whole of England stood filled with treasures and books; and there was also a great multitude of God’s servants, but they had very little knowledge of the books, for they could not understand anything of them, because they were not written in their own language. As if they had said: ‘Our forefathers, who formerly held these places, loved wisdom, and through it they obtained wealth and bequeathed it to us. In this we can still see their tracks, but we cannot follow them, and therefore we have lost both the wealth and the wisdom, because we would not incline our hearts after their example.’

    Here is the play. Read it. The greatness is here in the bald, printed line.

  18. 5 months ago

    There are certain writers, as different as Dickens from Kipling, who never shake off the burden of their childhood. The abandonment to the blacking factory in Dickens’s case and in Kipling’s to the cruel Aunt Rosa living in the sandy suburban road were never forgotten. All later experience seems to have been related to those months or years of unhappiness. Life which turns its cruel side to most of us at an age when we have begun to learn the arts of self-protection took these two writers by surprise during the defencelessness of early childhood.

    As the child learns A for Ass or B for Bull or C for Cow, so man has learnt here to connect the simpler and stronger creatures with the simpler and stronger truths. That a flowing stream cannot befoul its own fountain, and that any one who says it does is a tyrant and a liar; that a mouse is too weak to fight a lion, but too strong for the cords that can hold a lion; that a fox who gets most out of a flat dish may easily get least out of a deep dish; that the crow whom the gods forbid to sing, the gods nevertheless provide with cheese; that when the goat insults from a mountain-top it is not the goat that insults, but the mountain: all these are deep truths deeply graven on the rocks wherever men have passed.

    But overlooking these spiritual genealogies, which bring little certainty and little profit, it may be sufficient to observe of Berlichingen and Werther, that they stand prominent among the causes, or, at the very least, among the signals, of a great change in modern Literature. The former directed men’s attention with a new force to the picturesque effects of the Past; and the latter, for the first time, attempted the more accurate delineation of a class of feelings, deeply important to modern minds; but for which our elder poetry offered no exponent, and perhaps could offer none, because they are feelings that arise from passion incapable of being converted into action, and belong chiefly to an age as indolent, cultivated, and unbelieving, as our own.

    There is a man in our own days whose words are not framed to tickle delicate ears: who, to my thinking, comes before the great ones of society, much as the son of Imlah came before the throned Kings of Judah and Israel; and who speaks truth as deep, with a power as prophet-like and as vital — a mien as dauntless and as daring. Is the satirist of “Vanity Fair” admired in high places? I cannot tell; but I think if some of those amongst whom he hurls the Greek fire of his sarcasm, and over whom he flashes the levin-brand of his denunciation, were to take his warnings in time — they or their seed might yet escape a fatal Rimoth-Gilead.

    Doyle understood a lot about evil, not so much about venality and corruption and shabbiness. That is another reason why the Holmes stories are nobler than this mortal life of ours.

  19. 5 months ago

    If there is any question: Who is the Grand Inquisitor? — then surely we must say it is Ivan himself. And Ivan is the thinking mind of the human being in rebellion, thinking the whole thing out to the bitter end. As such he is, of course, identical with the Russian revolutionary of the thinking type. He is also, of course, Dostoevsky himself, in his thoughtful, as apart from his passional and inspirational self. Dostoevsky half hated Ivan. Yet after all, Ivan is the greatest of the three brothers, pivotal. The passionate Dmitri and the inspired Alyosha are, at last, only offsets to Ivan.

    And we cannot doubt that the Inquisitor speaks Dostoevsky’s own final opinion about Jesus. The opinion is, baldly, this: Jesus, you are inadequate. Men must correct you.

    It is no secret nowadays, particularly to women, that many American males, even those of middleaged appearance, wearing suits and holding down jobs, are in fact, incredible as it sounds, still small boys inside. Flange is this type of character, although when I wrote this story I thought he was pretty cool.

    Barth’s attitude toward Mozart puts me in mind, incongruously, of Walt Whitman’s praise, in "Song of Myself,” of animals:

    They do not sweat and whine about their condition
    They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins.
    They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God.

    Like those beautiful and guiltless animals, Mozart’s music says Yea; hearing it, Barth tells us, "one can live.”

    In her lines, I often hear the serpent whisper, “Come, if only you had the courage, you too could have my rightness, audacity and ease of inspiration.” But most of us will turn back. These poems are playing Russian roulette with six cartridges in the cylinder . . .

    These new authorities, who often elbow Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to one side, supply evidence of two kinds: first, of the breadth of the author’s learning, and second, of the rightness of his opinions, because the facts that matter are still those mostly found in books, not those picked like posies out of a meadow or distilled in an alembic; moreover, the words themselves are magical; you cannot have too many of them; they are like spices brought back from countries so far away they’re even out of sight of seas; words that roll, Poloniously, into the reader’s ken in lists that subside only to resume in no time at all with words even more exotic, redolent, or chewy; for instance the names and kinds of terrestrial devils that lurk about to pester us: lares, lemurs, genii, satyrs, fauns, fairies, wood-nymphs, trolls, and foliots, those visitors to forlorn houses, about whom you may not be familiar, who make “strange noises in the night, howl sometimes pitifully, and then laugh again, cause great flame and sudden lights, fling stones, rattle chains,” and if you wake to find your beard shaved and your chin smooth, they will be the impish cause.

    • 5 months ago

      quizanon ur my hero. keep making these (although this one is very difficult)

      86 is very obviously TBK (athough i haven't the slightest clue who wrote this (except that it is even more obviously not dostoevsky himself))

      • 5 months ago

        >this one is very difficult
        Looking back over it I'm inclined to agree. Sometimes the work being introduced is reasonably obvious, and sometimes it's clear the introduction is by the author himself, but many extracts are going to be very elusive if you don't happen to have read that particular edition. To make things worse I have one or two instances of famous authors introducing far-from-famous books 🙁 Oh well.

        >86 is very obviously TBK
        Correct, more or less. It's actually a review of "The Grand Inquisitor", the story within TBK, which was published separately.

        >(athough i haven't the slightest clue who wrote this (except that it is even more obviously not dostoevsky himself))
        Yeah, not too much to go on, except the tone is fairly ranting. Hint: it's an English novelist.

        • 5 months ago

          The Dh Lawrence essay on the grand inquisitor from his nyrb essay?

          • 5 months ago

            >The Dh Lawrence essay on the grand inquisitor
            Correct. D. H. Lawrence always rants. Professor Literally-Who would never say "Dostoevsky half hated Ivan. Yet after all, Ivan is the greatest of the three brothers..." He would say "It has been suggested that Dostoevsky's own attitude to Ivan was equivocal at best..." That's why DHL got the girls and Prof. L-W doesn't get anything.

          • 5 months ago

            Yeah, he can be a little too much at times or too flowery sentimental but he will always be one of my favorites and I feel him to be a kindred spirit, even when he rubs the wrong way or I disagree with him. Whenever I find these threads I make an effort to find the DH Lawrence one if he’s an answer. I think I said it last time, but awesome work making these quizzes. I find myself spending less and less time and effort here but next time you do a quiz I’ll make an effort to participate more if I catch it in the beginning

  20. 5 months ago

    On the stage one must have reality, and one must have joy; and that is why the intellectual modern drama has failed, and people have grown sick of the false joy of the musical comedy, that has been given them in place of the rich joy found only in what is superb and wild in reality. In a good play every speech should be as fully flavoured as a nut or apple, and such speeches cannot be written by anyone who works among people who have shut their lips on poetry.

    “Life is only an electrochemical reaction. Love, art, and altruism are only sex. The universe is only matter. Matter is only energy. I forget what I said energy is only”; thus she describes the philosophy with which she started life. How, from the very first, it failed to accommodate her actual experience, how, as a result of this discrepancy, she was for some years almost “two people,” how Communism, too, broke up under the impact of realities more formidable even than itself, must be read in her own words. Re-reading the poems in the light of the essay one is struck by a recurring image; that of the brain within the skull as within a fortress which may, or may not, be held against “the universe.” The essay describes exactly how “the universe” — indeed, something much more important than it — broke in. For of course every story of conversion is the story of a blessed defeat.

    Shakespeare is above all writers, at least above all modern writers, the poet of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life. His characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the world; by the peculiarities of studies or professions, which can operate but upon small numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions: they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find.

    What more has the Manager of the Performance to say? — To acknowledge the kindness with which it has been received in all the principal towns of England through which the Show has passed, and where it has been most favourably noticed by the respected conductors of the public Press, and by the Nobility and Gentry. He is proud to think that his Puppets have given satisfaction to the very best company in this empire. The famous little Becky Puppet has been pronounced to be uncommonly flexible in the joints, and lively on the wire; the Amelia Doll, though it has had a smaller circle of admirers, has yet been carved and dressed with the greatest care by the artist; the Dobbin Figure, though apparently clumsy, yet dances in a very amusing and natural manner . . .

    The clocks stopped ticking one by one. Winter had come.

    • 5 months ago

      93) I'm fricking guessing, but kill me if this isn't Samuel Johnson's style

      • 5 months ago

        >93) I'm fricking guessing, but kill me if this isn't Samuel Johnson's style
        Bingo. Samuel Johnson, Preface to Shakespeare. Guessing based on style is where it's at. " . . . for you do not desire to feel for a rope with cowardly hand, and where you can GUESS you hate to CALCULATE — " (Zarathustra)

  21. 5 months ago

    Virgil on his deathbed asked his friends to burn the unfinished manuscript of the Aeneid, fruit of eleven years’ noble and intricate toil; Shakespeare never gathered into a single volume his many separate plays; Kafka implored Max Brod to destroy the novels and stories that were to bring him lasting fame. Any affinity between these illustrious episodes is, unless I am much mistaken, an illusion. Virgil was surely relying on the devout disobedience of his friends, Kafka on that of Brod. Shakespeare’s case is different. De Quincey believed that, for Shakespeare, a reputation was something to be achieved on the stage rather than through the printed word. The fact is, a man who really wishes to see his work consigned to oblivion does not entrust the task to someone else.

    When Dante chooses to be sheerly beautiful, he writes not like a man but like an angel, and at that point the translator has to give up the chase after perfection

    ‘As at his art's end, every artist must’.

    The most that one can do with passages like the one about Benaco (Inf. xx. 61-78), or the Last Voyage of Ulysses (Inf. xxvi. 85-142), or the heart-breaking little vision of the brooks of the Casentino (Inf. xxx. 64-7), and *a fortiori* with the first eight cantos of the Purgatorio or the ecstatic glories of the Paradiso, is to erect, as best one can, a kind of sign-post to indicate: ‘Here is beauty; make haste to learn Italian, so that you may read it for yourselves’. For when one has disposed of Dante the politician, Dante the moralist, Dante the theologian, and even of Dante ‘the most piercing intellect ever granted to the sons of men’, there remains Dante the poet, who walks equal with Homer and Aeschylus and Virgil and Shakespeare, and whose shoe’s latchet none but the very greatest is worthy to unloose.

    And, glory be! My favourite entry of all time, 'Flora's Dial', is back (it has instructions for a floral clock in which the opening and closing of individual species of flowers tells the hour).

    Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it, if moreover this intelligence were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula both the movements of the largest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.


    I read somewhere of a shepherd who, when asked why he made, from within fairy rings, ritual observances to the moon to protect his flocks, replied: ‘I’d be a damn’ fool if I didn‘t!’ These poems, with all their crudities, doubts, and confusions, are written for the love of Man and in praise of God, and I’d be a damn’ fool if they weren’t.

  22. 5 months ago

    6) Picture of Dorian Gray

    10) Confederacy of Dunces

    11) Three Men in a Boat

    13) Pale Fire

    28) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?

    70) Leaves of Grass? One of the American transcendentalists, at least.

    74) To the Lighthouse

    • 5 months ago

      A good start, mostly on the ball:

      >6) Picture of Dorian Gray
      >11) Three Men in a Boat
      >13) Pale Fire
      >70) Leaves of Grass? One of the American transcendentalists, at least.
      All correct, and all written by the actual author of the work (Pale Fire being a bit of a joke preface).

      >10) Confederacy of Dunces
      >74) To the Lighthouse
      Also correct, although these are introductions written by someone else. Maybe some other anon can say who?

      >28) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?
      Nope, a different Thompson. (And the person writing the introduction is on the borderline of "someone we might conceivably want to listen to".)

  23. 5 months ago

    Thank you for being one of the only bright spots of this board OP, you're a legend

  24. 5 months ago

    Bump. A random hint:

    The following authors are introducing their own books (* = already answered):

    King Alfred, Charlotte Bronte, Art Buchwald, Joseph Conrad, e. e. cummings, William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Harris, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Thomas Hobbes, Victor Hugo, Henry James, Tove Jansson, Jerome K. Jerome*, Jack Kerouac, Pierre Simon de Laplace, Herman Melville, John Milton, Michel de Montaigne, Vladimir Nabokov*, Isaac Newton, Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Pater, Thomas Pynchon, Francois Rabelais, Edmund Spenser, Laurence Sterne, Jonathan Swift, J. M. Synge, W. M. Thackeray, Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman*, Oscar Wilde*, P. G. Wodehouse, William Wordsworth

    Two are introducing their own translations of someone else's poetry:

    Ezra Pound, Dorothy L. Sayers

  25. 5 months ago

    18) sounds like Nietzsche

    • 5 months ago

      >18) sounds like Nietzsche
      It sure does. That's because it is. Now we just need the book...

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