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Old 08-25-2008   #1
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Black Humour Passage of the Day

Not just wicked, no, I never even managed to become anything: neither wicked nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent man of the nineteenth century must be and is morally obliged to be primarily a characterless being; and a man of character, an action figure--primarily a limited being. This is my forty-year-old conviction. I am now forty years old, and, after all, forty years--is a whole lifetime; after all, it's the most extreme old age. To live beyond forty is indecent, banal, immoral! Who lives beyond forty--answer me sincerely, honestly? I'll tell you who does: fools and scoundrels do. I'll say it in the faces of all the elders, all these venerable elders, all these silver-haired and sweet-smelling elders! I'll say it in the whole world's face! I have the right to speak this way, because I myself will live to be sixty. I'll live to be seventy! I'll live to be eighty!... Wait, let me catch my breath...

-- Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky)

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 08-25-2008   #2
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

"I tell you, no one worships this city as I do. Especially its witticisms of proximity, one strange thing next to another, adding up to a greater strangeness. One of the more grotesque examples of this phenomenon occurs when you observe that a little shop whose display window features a fabulous array of prosthetic devices is right next-door to Marv's Second Hand City. Then there are those places - you've noticed them, I'm sure - that are freakishly suggestive in a variety of ways. One them is that pink and black checkerboard box on Bender Boulevard that calls itself Bill's Bender Lounge, where a garish marquee advertises Nightly Entertainment. And if you stare at that legend long enough, the word 'Nightly' will begin to connote more than the interval between dusk and dawn. Soon this simple word becomes truly evocative, as if it were code for the most exotic and unspeakable entertainments of the infinite night. And speaking of entertainment, I should cite that establishment whose owner, no doubt an epicure of musical comedy, gave it the title of Guys and Dolls, Inc. What a genius of vulgarity, considering that this business is devoted solely to the sale and repair of mannikins. Or is it really a front for a bordello of dummies? No offense intended, Rosalie."
Thomas Ligotti - "The Chymist"

"What does it mean to be alive except to court disaster and suffering at every moment?"

Tibet: Carnivals?
Ligotti: Ceremonies for initiating children into the cult of the sinister.
Tibet: Gas stations?
Ligotti: Nothing to say about gas stations as such, although I've always responded to the smell of gasoline as if it were a kind of perfume.
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Old 08-26-2008   #3
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

When the rest of them turned away and began to head back to town, I stayed behind. Another town manager would arrive before long, and I did not wish to see what form the new administration would take. This was the way it had always been--one town manager succeeding another, each of them exhibiting signs of greater degeneracy, as if they were festering away into who knows what. And there was no telling where it would all end. How many others would come and go, taking with them more and more of the place where I had been born and was beginning to grow old? I thought about how different that place had been when I was a child. I thought about my youthful dream of having a home in The Hill district. I thought about my old delivery business.

Then I walked in the opposite direction from the town. I walked until I came to a road. And I walked down that road until I came to another town. I passed through many towns, as well as large cities, doing clean-up work and odd jobs to keep myself going. All of them were managed according to the same principles as my old home town, although I came upon none that had reached such an advanced stage of degeneracy. I had fled that place in hopes of finding another that had been founded upon different principles and operated under a different order. But there was no such place, or none that I could find. It seemed the only course of action left to me was to make an end of it.

Not long after realizing the aforementioned facts of my existence, I was sitting at the counter of a crummy little coffee shop. It was late at night, and I was eating soup. I was also thinking about how I might make an end of it. The coffee shop may have been in a small town or a large city. Now that I think of it, the place stood beneath a highway overpass, so it must have been the latter. The only other customer in the place was a well-dressed man sitting at the other end of the counter. He was drinking a cup of coffee and, I noted, directing a sidelong glance at me every so often. I turned my head toward him and gave him a protracted stare. He smiled and asked if he could join me at my end of the counter.

"You can do whatever you like. I'm leaving."

"Not just yet," he said as he sat down at the counter stool next to mine. "What business are you in?"

"None in particular. Why?"

"I don't know. You just seem like someone who knows his way around. You've been some places, am I right?"

"I suppose so," I said.

"I thought as much. Look, I'm not just interested in chit-chat here. I work on commission finding people like you. And I think you've got what it takes."

"For what?" I asked.

"Town management," he replied.

I finished off the last few spoonfuls of my soup. I wiped my mouth with a paper napkin. "Tell me more," I said.

It was either that or make an end of it.

-- "The Town Manager" by Thomas Ligotti

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 08-26-2008   #4
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

From one moment to the next I hated my piano, my own, couldn't bear to hear myself play again; I no longer wanted to paw my instrument. So one day I visited the teacher to announce my gift to him, my Steinway, I'd heard his daughter was musically gifted, I said to him and announced the delivery of my Steinway to his house. I'd convinced myself just in time that personally I wasn't suited for a virtuoso career, I said to the teacher, since I always wanted only the highest in everything I had to separate myself from my instrument, for with it I would surely not reach the highest, as I had suddenly realized, and therefore it was only logical that I should put my piano at the disposal of his gifted daughter, I wouldn't open the cover of my piano even once, I said to the astonished teacher, a rather primitive man who was married to an even more primitive woman, also from Neukirchen near Altmunster. Naturally I'll take care of the delivery costs! I said to the teacher, whom I've known well since I was a child, just as I've known his simplicity, not to say stupidity. The teacher accepted my gift immediately, I thought as I entered the inn. I hadn't believed in his daughter's talent for a minute; the children of country schoolteachers are always touted as having talent, above all musical talent, but in truth they're not talented in anything, all these children are always completely without talent and even if one of them can blow into a flute or pluck a zither or bang on a piano, that's no proof of talent. I knew I was giving up my expensive instrument to an absolutely worthless individual and precisely for that reason I had it delivered to the teacher. The teacher's daughter took my instrument, one of the very best, one of the rarest and therefore also most expensive pianos in the world, and in the shortest period imaginable destroyed it, rendered it worthless. But of course it was precisely this destruction process of my beloved Steinway that I had wanted. Wertheimer went into the human sciences, as he always used to say, I entered my deterioration process, and in bringing my instrument to the teacher's house I had initiated this deterioration process in the best possible manner.

-- Thomas Bernhard, The Loser (trans. Jack Dawson)
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Old 08-26-2008   #5
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

I was waiting for gveranon to post a passage by Bernhard. No one does black humour quite like him.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 08-27-2008   #6
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

Oh, if I were doing nothing only out of laziness. Lord, how I'd respect myself then. Respect myself precisely because I'd at least be capable of having laziness in me; there would be in me at least one, as it were, positive quality, which I myself could be sure of. Question: who is he? Answer: a lazybones. Now, it would be agreeable to hear that about myself. It means I'm positively defined; it means there's something to say about me. "Lazybones!" --now, that is a title and a mission, it's a career, sirs. No joking, it really is. By rights I'm then a member of the foremost club, and my sole occupation is ceaselessly respecting myself.

-- Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky)

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 08-27-2008   #7
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

For gveranon, our resident Bernhardian:

My parents made me, and when they saw what they had made they had a shock and would have preferred to unmake me. And as they could not put me in their safe they thrust me into that black hole of childhood, from which I could not emerge while they were alive. Parents invariably produce their children in an irresponsible manner, and when they see what they have produced they have a shock, that is why, whenever children are born, we see only shocked parents. To produce a child and, as the hypocritical phrase goes, bring it into the world is nothing other than bringing grave unhappiness into the world and it is this grave unhappiness that always shocks them anew. Nature has ever made fools of parents, he said, and out of those fools it produces unhappy children in dark holes of childhood. Without any embarrassment people say they have had a happy childhood, whereas in fact they had an unhappy one, from which they only escaped by a supreme effort, and for this reason they say they had a happy childhood, because they escaped from the hell of childhood. To have escaped from one's childhood is nothing other than to have escaped from hell, and then people say they had a happy childhood in order to spare their progenitors, their parents, who should not be spared. To say that one has had a happy childhood in order to spare one's parents is nothing but a piece of sociopolitical villainy, he said. We spare our parents instead of charging them, lifelong, with the crime of procreation of humans, he said yesterday.

-- Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard (trans. Ewald Osers)

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 09-01-2008   #8
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

"Schopenhauer's Reprieve", a poem by Will Stone (from Glaciation, his debut collection):
They had assured him of silence,
but he was disturbed.
Roaring, he burst through like a train
and following a tussle
threw the still chattering woman
headfirst down the stairs.
At first I judged such a harsh penalty
grossly disproportionate to the offence.
But having read with much enthusiasm
'The Will to Live' and 'On the Vanity of Existence'
I think his action perfectly legitimate.
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Old 09-06-2008   #9
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

... Is it idle talk, or is Ombindi really trying to hustle Enzian here? Enzian's got to be sure before he moves. If he comes out sez, "This is a hustle, right?" and turns out it isn't, well -- But the alternative is so strange, that Enzian is, in some way, being
SOLD ON SUICIDE
Well, I don't care-for, th' things I eat,
Can't stand that old boogie-woogie beat --
But I'm sold, on, suicide!

You can keep Der Bingle too, a-
And that darn "bu-bu-bu-boo,"
Cause I'm sold on suicide!

Oh! I'm not too keen on ration stamps,
Or Mothers who used to be baby vamps,
But I'm sold, on, suicide!

Don't like either, the Cards or Browns,
Piss on the country and piss on the town,
But I'm S.O.S yes well actually this goes on, verse after verse, for quite some time. In its complete version, it represents a pretty fair renunciation of the things of the world. The trouble with it is that by Godel's Theorem there is bound to be some item around that one has omitted from the list, and such an item is not easy to think of off the top of one's head, so that what one does most likely is go back over the whole thing, meantime correcting mistakes and inevitable repetitions, and putting in new items that will surely have occurred to one, and -- well, it's easy to see that the "suicide" of the title might have to be postponed indefinitely!

-- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
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Old 09-08-2008   #10
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Re: Black Humour Passage of the Day

"Please contact the Administrator if your date of birth has changed."

-- Dr. Bantham (presumably) in the Edit Your Details section of the User Control Panel
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