If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.
Each of us finds lucidity only in those ideas which are in the same state of confusion as his own.
Names are of course fanciful designers; the sketches they draw of people and places are such poor likenesses that we are often struck dumb when, instead of the world as we have imagined it, we are suddenly confronted by the world as we see it (which is not the real world, of course, as the senses are not much better at likeness than the imagination; so we end up with approximate drawings of reality, which are at least as different from the seen world as the seen world was different from the imagined world).
He was aware that the diplomatist’s good opinion of him was no more than an effect of that personal idiosyncrasy which biases each of us for or against those we like or dislike, against which no qualities of intellect or sensitivity in a person who irritates or bores us will outweigh the straightforwardness and the lightheartedness we enjoy in someone else whom others would see as vacuous, flippant, and insignificant.
And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.
Long before there was the Kindle, there was the 16th-century book wheel by Italian engineer Agostino Ramelli, an ambitious reading “interface” that would allow the reader to browse and reference multiple books.
It’s like chopping down a huge tree of immense girth. You won’t accomplish it with one swing of your axe. If you keep chopping away at it, though, and do not let up, eventually, whether it wants to or not, it will suddenly topple down. When that time comes, you could round up everyone you could find and pay them to hold the tree up, but they wouldn’t be able to do it. It would still come crashing to the ground…. But if the woodcutter stopped after one or two strokes of his axe to ask the third son of Mr. Chang, “Why doesn’t this tree fall?” And after three or four more strokes stopped again to ask the fourth son of Mr. Li, “Why doesn’t this tree fall?” he would never succeed in felling the tree. It is no different for someone who is practicing the Way.
Every revolution of the past has done no more than improve the government machine, when its real task was to smite and smash it.
Nabokov shows no love for Dostoyevsky and little for Tolstoy
Why do you dislike writers who go in for soul-searching and self-revelations in print? After all, do you not do it at another remove, behind a thicket of art?
If you are alluding to Dostoevski’s worst novels, then, indeed, I dislike intensely The Karamazov Brothers and the ghastly Crime and Punishment rigmarole. No, I do not object to soul-searching and self-revelation, but in those books the soul, and the sins, and the sentimentality, and the journalese, hardly warrant the tedious and muddled search.
Great writers have had strong political and sociological preferences or ideas. Tolstoy was one. Does the presence of such ideas in his work make you think the less of him?
I go by books, not by authors. I consider Anna Karenin the supreme masterpiece of nineteenth-century literature; it is closely followed by The Death of Ivan llyich. I detest Resurrection and The Kreuzer Sonata. Tolstoy’s publicistic forays are unreadable. War and Peace, though a little too long, is a rollicking historical novel written for that amorphic and limp creature known as “the general reader,” and more specifically for the young. In terms of artistic structure it does not satisfy me. I derive no pleasure from its cumbersome message, from the didactic interludes, from the artificial coincidences, with cool Prince Audrey turning up to witness this or that historical moment, this or that footnote in the sources used often uncritically by the author.
Confusing experience with the memory of it is a compelling cognitive illusion—and it is the substitution that makes us believe a past experience can be ruined. The experiencing self does not have a voice. The remembering self is sometimes wrong, but it is the one that keeps score and governs what we learn from living, and it is the one that makes decisions. What we learn from the past is to maximize the qualities of our future memories, not necessarily of our future experience. This is the tyranny of the remembering self.
One holds every phrase, every scene to the light as one reads - for Nature seems, very oddly, to have provided us with an inner light by which to judge of the novelist’s integrity or disintegrity. Or perhaps it is rather that Nature, in her most irrational mood, has traced in invisible ink on the walls of the mind a premonition which these great artists confirm; a sketch which only needs to be held to the fire of genius to become visible. When one so exposes it and sees it come to life one exclaims in rapture, But this is what I have always felt and known and desired!
Schtitt [seemed to know that] … locating beauty and art and magic and improvement and keys to excellence and victory in the prolix flux of match play is not a fractal matter of reducing chaos to a pattern. Seemed intuitively to sense that it was a matter not of reduction at all, but — perversely — of expansion, the aleatory flutter of uncontrolled, metastatic growth.
Be quiet now and wait.
It may be that the ocean one,
the one we desire so to move into and become,
desires us out here on land a little longer,
going our sundry roads to the shore