Quote #24

“Let black, then, rather stand for hideous memory: white for blessed blank oblivion, happiest gift of the gods! For who, indeed, can say that the record of his life is not crowded with failure and mistake, stained with its petty cruelties of youth, its meannesses and follies of later years, all which storm and clamour incessantly at the gates of memory, refusing to be shut out? Leave us alone, O gods, to remember our felicities, our successes: only aid us, ye who recall no gifts, aptly and discreetly to forget.”

— Kenneth Grahame, “The White Poppy

Quote #23

peng_eliz_verseTHOMAS BASTARD (1566-1618)

“A country clergyman who made pitiably small headway in life, Bastard published his book, Chrestoleros, in 1598. It was much ridiculed, but [Sir John] Harington defended it. Bastard died, touched in his wits, in a debtors’ prison in Dorchester.”

— the biographical sketch for Thomas Bastard‘s poems in The Penguin Book of Elizabethan Verse (1965). Can’t help but suspect his surname didn’t ease his way in the world.

Quote #22

“I learned later that Rhody always automatically remembered her place in a book. She was not good with phone numbers, and even her Social Security number gave her trouble occasionally, but the page number of her current book would just come to her without effort as soon as she held it and saw the cover. the-fermataSometimes, she told me, the number would even occur to her at odd times during the day, and she would think, Two hundred fifty-four, what a mysterious and suggestive number! It would take her a second to realize that the number seemed unusually fine simply because it was where she was going to resume her reading. Nineteenth-century novels were all-important to her. It wasn’t a question of her liking them; they were a neurological necessity, like sleep. One Mrs. Humphry Ward, or a Reade, or a Trollope per week supplied her with some kind of critical co-enzyme, she said, that allowed her to organize social sense experience. It was nice if the novel was good, but even a very mediocre one would do; without a daily shot of Victorian fiction she couldn’t quite remember how to talk to people and to understand what they said. I miss her.” – Nicholson Baker, The Fermata

Quote #21

terminal-beach“Having surrendered his initiative to the dynamics of the city he was reluctant to try to win it back merely for a better cup of coffee.” – J. G. Ballard, “Billennium” — Currently I’m really digging Ballard’s collection The Terminal Beach in the ’66 Penguin edition. (Cover image here courtesy of one of my favorite websites ever, The Art of Penguin Science Fiction).

Quote #20

jacobs-room“Old Professor Huxtable, performing with the method of a clock his change of dress, let himself down into his chair; filled his pipe; chose his paper; crossed his feet; and extracted his glasses. The whole flesh of his face then fell into folds as if props were removed. Yet strip a whole seat of an underground railway carriage of its heads and old Huxtable’s head will hold them all. Now, as his eye goes down the print, what a procession tramps through the corridors of his brain, orderly, quick-stepping, and reinforced, as the march goes on, by fresh runnels, till the whole hall, dome, whatever one calls it, is populous with ideas. Such a muster takes place in no other brain.”

– Virginia Woolf, having a bit of a “Dickens moment” in the otherwise quite unDickensian Jacob’s Room

“A kind of visionary energy”

“Self-censorship is central. Writers are avoiding difficulty in the structure or surface, difficulty in the science (when there is any); they’re avoiding political or philosophical positions which might offend, characters whose strengths or eccentricities might prevent reader-identification & stories which go against the broad grain of audience expectation & preference. The reasons for it are obvious, commercial & long term; but, since the 80s, turbo-publishing has turned timidity into a technical discipline–part of the “craft” of being a writer. The result is a novel without a meaning &–worse–without the pulp vigour of genre. For me these are the real losses SF has suffered: the loss of connection to the world, the loss of something to say about it & the loss of drive & energy to make the point in cascades of live imagery. I’ve had a problematic relationship with genre all my writing life, but at its best it has a kind of visionary energy–open, untutored, uncluttered by the need to be literary or to conform to the commentariat consensus of its day. It’s a kind of trash collider where half-digested science can be smashed together with metaphysics & politics in search of exotic states–demotic ontologies and epistemologies–showers of gorgeous if shortlived intellectual & emotional sparks. I could probably name a score of authors who do that, or try to, every time they write; but against their efforts have to be balanced thousands of LFTB happymeals a year.”

– M. John Harrison, “Pink Slime Fiction” (in the comments)

Quote #19

Riddley-WalkerCounting counting they wer all the time. They had iron then and big fire they had towns of parpety. They had machines et numbers up. They fed them numbers and they fractiont out the Power of things. They had the Nos. of the rain bow and the Power of the air all workit out with counting which is how they got boats in the air and picters on the wind. Counting clevverness is what it wer.

When they had all them things and marvelsome they cudnt sleap realy they dint have no res. They wer stressing ther self and straining all the time with counting. They said, ‘What good is nite its only dark time it aint no good for nothing only them as want to sly and sneak and take our parpety a way.’ They los out of memberment who nite wer. They jus wantit day time all the time and they wer going to do it with the Master Chaynjis.

They had the Nos. of the sun and moon all fractiont out and fed to the machines. They said, ‘Wewl put all the Nos. in to 1 Big 1 and that will be the No. of the Master Chaynjis.’ They bilt the Power Ring thats where you see the Ring Ditch now. They put in the 1 Big 1 and woosht it roun there come a flash of lite then bigger nor the woal worl and it ternt the nite to day. Then every thing gone black. Nothing only nite for years on end. Playgs kilt peopl off and naminals nor there wernt nothing growit in the groun. Man and woman starveling in the blackness looking for the dog to eat it and the dog out looking to eat them the same.

– Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker. Pretty much sums us up I guess.