Life: The writer edition

“Isabella, if you really want to devote yourself to writing, or at least to writing something others will read, you’re going to have to get used to sometimes being ignored, insulted, and despised and to almost always being considered with indifference. It’s an occupational hazard.”

—Daivd Martín in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Angel’s Game

Life: The novel edition

“It would seem that fiction writing is trying to satisfy two needs that are at loggerheads: to tell and not tell.”

—Tim Parks, Where I’m Reading From; out of context the quote seems almost nonsensical, but in context it is brilliant. The book itself is brilliant too, and I may write a longer post covering it, if I can get past how much I have to say about it.

Art is filled with weird paradoxes and contradictions, which is one reason it’s so hard to talk meaningfully about it.

Life: The life of the artist edition

I lived for a considerable time with an older, extremely talented actress. She scorned my cleanliness theory and maintained that theatre is shit, lust, rage and wickedness. ‘The only boring thing about you, Ingmar Bergman,’ she said, ‘is your passion for the wholesome. You should abandon that passion. It’s false and suspect. It sets limits you daren’t exceed. Like Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, you should seek out your syphilitic whore.

Perhaps she was right, perhaps it was all romantic drivel in the wash of pop art and shady drug scenes. I don’t know. All I know is that this beautiful and brilliant actress lost her memory and her teeth and died at fifty in a mental hospital. That’s what she got for expressing her feelings. (35)

—Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern, which should be bad but isn’t. Consider it recommended. I think like the actress yet live closer to Bergman.

How many actresses have lived like the actress but not got what she got “for expressing her feelings?” Be reluctant to generalize from anecdote!

From 2015 many things stand out, among them corporal punishment, the prevalence of disease, the need to make music when it cannot be effectively recorded and played back at will, and relentless reading in a land without TV.

Life: The purpose of life edition

“I may think socializing is a way to waste time,” Zhang says. “Also, maybe I’m a little shy.” [. . .]

Seven days a week, he arrives at his office around eight or nine and stays until six or seven. The longest he has taken off from thinking is two weeks. Sometimes he wakes in the morning thinking of a math problem he had been considering when he fell asleep. Outside his office is a long corridor that he likes to walk up and down. Otherwise, he walks outside.

“What is the purpose of life” is a question everyone answers with their life.

The blockquote is from “The Pursuit of Beauty: Yitang Zhang solves a pure-math mystery,” and the article is itself beautiful and brilliant. Edward Frenkel gets name checked, and his book Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality could be profitably read in tandem.

Sometimes when I read articles about income distribution and fights over slicing up the massive economic pie I think of articles like “The Pursuit of Beauty.” What would a world in which people signaled less and did more look like? But the preceding sentence is itself signaling, so I’m part of the problem by saying so.

Life: Laughter and “Rapture” edition

“They were both laughing. Laughing made everything harmless and carefree and sweet. That’s the sort of idiot she was, taken by an easy laugh. Laughter took danger out of it. It was one way to get a woman: make her laugh. It disarms her and distracts her from the perils that may, and most likely do, lie ahead. Laughing throws a person’s balance off, and in that state she is more easily toppled.”

—Susan Minot, Rapture; I find the book funny although I’m not sure most people would. “thought it was funny” may be the ultimate subjective assertion. Rapture is available for $4 on Amazon, and for that price you should definitely read it if you think you’ll at all enjoy the subject matter. The product description makes it sound more gimmicky than it actually is.

The quote above is on page 17 and to me is the key to the novel.

Life: Transience edition

“Reflect often on the speed with which all things in being, or coming into being, are carried past and swept away. Existence is like a river in ceaseless flow, its actions a constant succession of change, its causes innumerable in their variety: scarcely anything stands still, even what is most immediate. Reflect too on the yawning gulf of past and future time, in which all things vanish. So in all this it must be folly for anyone to be puffed with ambition, racked in struggle, or indignant at his lot—as if this was anything lasting or likely to trouble him for long.”

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations; Lil’ Jon alludes to and was inspired by Aurelius in “Turn Down for What.” Note too that I’m not convinced the premise of the passage necessarily or sufficiently supports the conclusion.

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