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Old 08-17-2008   #41
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

"It is said that neither more beautiful dreams nor another easier life will be of any use to us. It may be that all we need is an even greater turmoil of ever more ardent desires, ever more troubling questions and ever more vapid answers, whose random selection like gambling without prizes brings only torment. Yet torment too cannot last forever: It always moves toward breaking point. There is hope that the glare from which the eye loses all ability to distinguish colors and shapes will turn into the banal image of a street corner, a sign above a store, lace curtains in a window: a sight from which nothing transpires. The uproar from which the ear loses all ability to distinguish sounds will be transformed into the mild silence of waking life, the same silence that endures inside stones. The crushing pressure of thoughts that make the head throb with pain will in the end reveal a light, transparent void.

"May that void unfold inside every brick and permeate everything in the world: buildings, sun and stars, clouds in the sky, air in the lungs and the lungs themselves. Only then will the palm begin to fit the handle of the tool, the hat fit the head and the rib cage cease to separate the heart from the rest of the world. Then it will be easier to accept the obvious truth that the burden oppressing us weighs nothing at all. The city to which the tree of the world gave birth at the beginning of this story is not real, just like the tree and like us ourselves. But the life of stones, which has no care for the past or the future, existed and will continue to exist: a steadfast endurance free of any name."

-- Magdalena Tulli, Dreams and Stones (trans. Bill Johnston)
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Old 08-19-2008   #42
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

"In the fall of 1811 Noah Webster, working steadily through the C's, defined commonsense as 'good sound ordinary sense ... free from emotional bias or intellectual subtlety ... horse sense.' This is rather a flattering view of the creature, for the biography of commonsense makes nasty reading. Commonsense has trampled down many a gentle genius whose eyes had delighted in a too early moonbeam of some too early truth; commonsense has back-kicked dirt at the loveliest of queer paintings because a blue tree seemed madness to its well-meaning hoof; commonsense has prompted ugly but strong nations to crush their fair but frail neighbors the moment a gap in history offered a chance that it would have been ridiculous not to exploit. Commonsense is fundamentally immoral, for the natural morals of mankind are as irrational as the magic rites that they evolved since the immemorial dimness of time. Commonsense at its worst is sense made common, and so everything is comfortably cheapened by its touch. Commonsense is square whereas all the most essential visions and values of life are beautifully round, as round as the universe or the eyes of a child at its first circus show.

"It is instructive to think that there is not a single person in this room, or for that matter in any room in the world, who, at some nicely chosen point in historical space-time would not be put to death there and then, here and now, by a commonsensical majority in a righteous rage. The color of one's creed, neckties, eyes, thoughts, manners, speech, is sure to meet somewhere in time or space with a fatal objection from a mob that hates that particular tone. And the more brilliant, the more unusual the man, the nearer he is to the stake. Stranger always rhymes with danger. The meek prophet, the enchanter in his cave, the indignant artist, the nonconforming little schoolboy, all share in the same sacred danger. And this being so, let us bless them, let us bless the freak; for in the natural evolution of things, the ape would perhaps never have become man had not a freak appeared in the family. Anybody whose mind is proud enough not to breed true, secretly carries a bomb at the back of his brain; and so I suggest, just for the fun of the thing, taking that private bomb and carefully dropping it upon the model city of commonsense. In the brilliant light of the ensuing explosion many curious things will appear; our rarer senses will supplant for a brief spell the dominant vulgarian that squeezes Sinbad's neck in the catch-as-catch-can match between the adopted self and the inner one. I am triumphantly mixing metaphors because that is exactly what they are intended for when they follow the course of their secret connections -- which from a writer's point of view is the first positive result of the defeat of commonsense."

-- Vladimir Nabokov, "The Art of Literature and Commonsense" (from Lectures on Literature)
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Old 08-20-2008   #43
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

Quote Originally Posted by gveranon View Post
"I am triumphantly mixing metaphors because that is exactly what they are intended for when they follow the course of their secret connections -- which from a writer's point of view is the first positive result of the defeat of commonsense."

-- Vladimir Nabokov, "The Art of Literature and Commonsense" (from Lectures on Literature)

Brilliant!

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Old 08-24-2008   #44
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

"He came out into the entrance court and contemplated his bonsai.

"Early sun gold-frosted the horizontal upper foliage of the old tree and brought its gnarled limbs into sharp relief, tough brown-gray and crevices of velvet. Only the companion of a bonsai (there are owners of bonsai, but they are a lesser breed) fully understands the relationship. There is an exclusive and individual treeness to the tree because it is a living thing, and living things change, and there are definite ways in which the tree desires to change. A man sees the tree and in his mind makes certain extensions and extrapolations of what he sees, and sets about making them happen. The tree in turn will do only what a tree can do, will resist to the death any attempt to do what it cannot do, or to do it in less time than it needs. The shaping of a bonsai is therefore always a compromise and always a cooperation. A man cannot create bonsai, nor can a tree; it takes both, and they must understand each other. It takes a long time to do that. One memorizes one's bonsai, every twig, the angle of every crevice and needle, and lying awake at night or in a pause a thousand miles away, one recalls this or that line or mass, one makes one's plans. With wire and water and light, with tilting and with the planting of water-robbing weeds or heavy root-shading ground cover, one explains to the tree what one wants, and if the explanation is well enough made, and there is great enough understanding, the tree will respond and obey – almost. Always there will be its own self-respecting, highly individual variation: Very well, I shall do what you want, but I will do it my own way. And for these variations, the tree is always willing to present a clear and logical explanation, and more often than not (almost smiling) it will make clear to the man that he could have avoided it if his understanding had been better.

"It is the slowest sculpture in the world, and there is, at times, doubt as to which is being sculpted, man or tree."

-- Theodore Sturgeon, "Slow Sculpture"
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Old 09-08-2008   #45
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Re: Purple Patch Of The Day (or Week)

But the third Sister, who is also the youngest-----! Hush! whisper whilst we talk of her! Her kingdom is not large, or else no flesh should live; but within that kingdom all power is hers. Her head, turreted like that of Cybele, rises almost beyond the reach of sight. She droops not; and her eyes rising so high might be hidden by distance. But, being what they are, they cannot be hidden; through the treble veil of crape which she wears, the fierce light of a blazing misery, that rests not for matins or for vespers, for noon of day or noon of night, for ebbing or for flowing tide, may be read from the very ground. She is the defier of God. She also is the mother of lunacies, and the suggestress of suicides. Deep lie the roots of her power; but narrow is the nation that she rules. For she can approach only those in whom a profound nature has been upheaved by central convulsions; in whom the heart trembles and the brain rocks under conspiracies of tempest from without and tempest from within. Madonna moves with uncertain steps, fast or slow, but still with tragic grace. Our Lady of Sighs creeps timidly and stealthily. But this youngest sister moves with incalculable motions, bounding, and with a tiger’s leaps. She carries no key; for, though coming rarely amongst men, she storms all doors at which she is permitted to enter at all. And
her name is Mater Tenebrarum,—Our Lady of Darkness.

--Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow by Thomas De Quincey

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 09-09-2008   #46
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

A passage (read this morning), one that has deeply affected me - from a book by an author I've never heard of (title and name at the end):


Occult sighs and air came from the stalks below and the boughs above, and sometimes the grass, for no account­able reason at all, would be taken with a quiet slow-­attacking ague.

'Isn't it eerie!' broke from Anda. 'Oh, I hate it here! What can you see to like here, Laura? Why is this your favourite spot?'

'There is more to be seen here than you can see,' I answered.

'Pshaw!' she exclaimed. 'But it's easy to see that you're only thirteen, choosing an awful place like this!'

'Thirteen is not a bad age· to be!’I said.

Thirteen is not a bad age to be. You have got over the shock of hearing about sex. You have even come to see the decent fittingness of it, the dignity, the sublime outlet for tenderness. And yet, and yet, you know that nothing will ever quite take the place of the world that has gone, the world that suddenly receded when you got knowledge and so lost wisdom.

And if you are lucky-young as I was, you grasp then the shape of the battle to come. You see that the fight will not be for power or riches, beauty or learning, or a long pro­cession of lovers. You see that it is to find the way back to being a little child again.

Aye! You've got to grow up to become as a child again.

You've got to learn by unlearning: you've got to imagine, not to know!

But now I moved forward into my little paradise of a dell, and began touching the leathery mounds of leaves, and rocking the buttercups. I held my breath to see jolly crimson beetles rollicking wildly among the damp roots, winged seeds floating on the wind, pigeons' dropped feathers, and the bizarre small skeletons of mice and birds.

A kind of cosmic shorthand was written everywhere for those to decipher who would, resplendent in forgotten dew-drops, in sunstarts and wing-gleamings; in the tapestry of the rhododendrons with their strong reek; in the rustlings of rats and worms and an estrayent toad from the pond; in rain stains and drippings; in the lawless grass; in the withered bluebells that had flowed in sapphire thousands under the trees in the springtime; in the crimped and fluted leaves; in the aromatic smell of the tansies; in queer blights on tree-trunks; in cobwebs swinging between branches; in a lone fleshy marigold; in twigs and dust and moss and stones. All these things gave off messages going deeper than life.

Anda stood with her back to a tree, steadfastly refusing the spirit of the place. Robert said he couldn't make up his mind whether he got from it the atmosphere of the fen, the spinney, or the country cave, but he finally allowed that it spoke to him of all three.

Steve said nothing, but followed me about where I peered and pried and with inhuman joy became whatever I looked at. I was a blob of cuckoo-spit; a writhing spray of ivy; a very pungent smell of dockweed; a willow-leaf frizzling in the wind. I burrowed, I flew. I was beside myself. I could have stayed there for ever.

What has been broken lies in pieces. The pieces fly every­where. The kingdom that has been shattered can be picked up, piece by piece, everywhere. The success of a life lies in the number of recaptured fragments. A few lucky people go on looking for pieces till they have found them--every one. Just how long it shall take is a matter not for the parson or the philosopher to determine, but depends upon a person's own inclination and the porousness of a person's heart.

In that glade I never failed to find something of the stormed citadel, something of the Absolute, though I didn't call it so then, and it all wasn't so clearly aware to my mind. All I knew was my own joyful affection for the livingness both of sentient and inanimate things. Every clump of grass, every chirper on the wing replied to my heart. The per­sonality of a stick and a stone were more thrilling to me than the personality of a man or a woman.

'Oh, do let us get on,' wailed Anda, clasping her hands in despairing boredom.

[...]

To escape the angry pitying thoughts that had come to me, I felt the need to do something, so, sitting back on my heels, I began to pick up handfuls of a mysterious deposit of silver sand at the bole of a tree, letting the glittering stuff speed through my fingers, and trying in the touch and the look of it to forget what I had seen--and forgetting in that heavenly diffused sensation that comes when you allow yourself to pour into the element you are con­templating. And the exquisite feel of the sliding sand linked up with many another memory--the particular look of some dandelions I had had in an empty potted-meat jar--their private gold--the moss creeping between the cracks of the paving stones in the backyard at home: these things were ever so many little admittances to a plane where sorrow and anger melted right away.

I was recalled by the hollow notes of a bird. I looked up into the tree-tops and I went off on a little spree of imagin­ing how this glade would be in the grey stillness of a Christmas afternoon, in that hour just before tea when friends and relations are hurrying to the houses of their kin, their faces flushed with the cold and the prospect of gay warm rooms out of the quiet icy streets. I was picturing my glade when all that was going on, my glade shut out from all that, given over to the iron frost and the oncoming sparkling stars. I saw something sinister about its dispo­sition, about those lonely trees carbonized against a grey sky, in comparison with the lighted gold globes in cheerful rooms and the especial jollity going on in homes. I shuddered to think of the glade's unseen tenants at that time, its utter desertion, its implacable continuity.

It was then that my little brother crept up to me, nudging me sharply with his elbow and whispering bitterly:
'She hit me, she hit me--I fell down--and all you can do is to run your fingers through this sand!'

from 'A Well Full of Leaves' (1943) by Elizabeth Myers.


NOTE: The core of the passage seems to be this sentence:
"The per­sonality of a stick and a stone were more thrilling to me than the personality of a man or a woman."
Sadly, the 'were' should be 'was', no? Penguin Books proof-reader in 1943 to blame!

ANOTHER NOTE: the word 'estrayent' is an interesting one. But not a common one according to google!!

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Last edited by Nemonymous; 09-09-2008 at 11:57 AM..
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Old 09-09-2008   #47
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

Just found out that Elizabeth Myers was the sister-in-law of John Cowper Powys!

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Old 09-09-2008   #48
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

Quote Originally Posted by Nemonymous View Post
Just found out that Elizabeth Myers was the sister-in-law of John Cowper Powys!
Extraordinary! But not surprising - when I read the passage I thought it was written by a woman who liked JCP!
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Old 10-08-2008   #49
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

To my perception, the bedroom of the wife of our rich uncle - with its white lace bedcover, raspberry-coloured furniture, and glittering glass, like the paper-cover illustrations on libidinous French novels - was crammed with the oldest intentions. There was something in her room to untie chastity; the atmosphere was so loose and unlawful it seemed to dwarf your worst imagined possibilities of evil, so that nothing seemed wrong. I found there a curious lurking of revelations, of exciting parcels being undone with acute anticipation; first the glossy outer covering taken off, then the delicate white tissue paper removed, and at last the prize is revealed. Squawks of delight are given off and the cherished object curled in the arms.
--- From 'The Well Full of Leaves' (1943) by Elizabeth Myers

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Old 10-14-2008   #50
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

He had to live on himself, to feed on his own substance, like those animals that lie torpid in a hole all winter. Solitude had acted on his brain like a narcotic, first exciting and stimulating him, then inducing a langour haunted by vague reveries, vitiating his plans, nullifying his intentions, leading a whole cavalcade of dreams to which he passively submitted, without even trying to get away.

-- Against Nature by J. K. Huysmans (trans. Robert Baldick)

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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