16 September 2014

from Terry Southern's The Sun and Still-Born Stars


Sid and Sarah were of a line of unimaginative, one-acre farmers who very often had not owned the land they worked, and whose life’s spring was less connected to the proverbial love of the land than twisted somehow around a vague acceptance of work, God’s will and the hopeless, unsurprising emptiness of life. The only book in their little house was the Bible, which they never read.

10 September 2014

07 September 2014

05 September 2014

04 September 2014

Should Literature Be Considered Useful? from the New York Times

To reduce literature to its usefulness is to miss the verbal texture, the excess, the sheer pleasure of word and sound, that make it literature in the first place. The idea of literature as equipment for living seems puritanically utilitarian — as if you were to listen to a symphony in order to sharpen your hearing, or look at a painting to improve your vision.

Yet there is a persistent impulse in our culture to offer such pragmatic excuses for art, as if only something that helped us gain an advantage in the struggle for life were worthy of respect. Nearly a century ago, the critic I. A. Richards advanced a psychological argument that reading poetry improved the responsiveness and organization of the brain. Today, the same argument is often made in Darwinian terms. There is a whole school of Darwinian aesthetics that explains art as a useful adaptation, which historically must have helped those who made it or those who enjoyed it to improve their chances at reproduction.

Adam Kirsch

Literature is life’s long-lost twin, its evil double, its hidden velvet lining, its mournful ghost. The relationship between the two can be expressed only as a metaphor, permanently equivocal and impossible to pin down. But whatever genetic mutation (or angelic blessing, or demonic curse) gave rise to this human drive to recreate our lived experience in language and share that creation with our fellow hairless primates, we’re stuck with it now. Literature may not be in a strict sense useful — may even, by its nature, mock “usefulness” as a category, allying itself first with pleasure, idleness and play — but its necessity seems self-evident from the mere fact of its continued existence, so inextricably bound up with our species’ own.

Dana StevensContinue r

01 September 2014

Naturalism

When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.  

[...]


    A man said to the universe: 
    "Sir, I exist!" 
    "However," replied the universe, 
    "The fact has not created in me 
    A sense of obligation." 


— Stephen Crane

Feedback from a peer in my summer workshop.

"A redhead would NEVER wear red or orange. EVER. At least the ones I’ve known, anyway."

28 August 2014

from Amy Hempel's In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Burried

What seems dangerous often is not—black snakes, for example, or clear-air turbulence While things that just lie there, like this beach, are loaded with jeopardy. A yellow dust rising from the ground, the heat that ripens melons overnight—this is earthquake weather. You can sit here braiding the fringe on your towel and the sand will all of a sudden suck down like an hourglass. The air roars. In the cheap apartments on-shore, bathtubs fills themselves and garden roll up and over like green waves. If nothing happens, the dust will drift and the heat deepen till fear turns to desire. Nerves like that are only bought off by catastrophe.