Execrable Frippery

Move along. Nothing to see here.

500th & Final Post

   “You know what the octopus remarked when he got out of the mermaid’s kelp bed: ‘I’m not impugning your skill—quite the opposite. But you look as if you could use a little cheering up.’”
—Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator (1981)

Yet I think we all retain some suspicion of a time when things carried about with them and bore their own powers—baskets, heaps of fruit, piles of clams, the smell of cooking eel, a goose egg, a pot, or even a cast of a fishing line or a chop with a stone axe at a tree. Though if growing old has taught me anything, it is that knowledge begins precisely as we begin to suspect such suspicion.
—Samuel R. Delany, Tales of Nevèrÿon (1979)

Nonetheless Kornilov seemed the man of the moment, and he started reading books on Napoleon, always a bad sign in men of the moment.
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin (2007)

Oh, said I, my friend and lover,
   take me now that ship and sail
Outward in the ebb of hues and
   steer upon the sunset trail …
—A.E. Housman, “The Land of Biscay” (1936)

  The Western Canon is an immodest attempt to define which works are important and why. A kind of Dictionary of Cultural Literacy for folks with blue-chip college educations and/or subscriptions to The New York Review of Books, Bloom’s manifesto has a rather expansive definition of what constitutes the West. He ranges through American and European literature and touches down in Africa, India, and Australia, but skips Japan and China (too problematic). Among contemporary Americans, he provisionally nominates Gary Snyder, Cynthia Ozick, and Norman Mailer (admitting that “cultural prophecy is always a mug’s game”). Those who are out include Allen Ginsberg (“a charming person, but I don’t think his poems sustain rereading, if they are poems”), Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks (“very estimable persons, I am sure, and clearly they have good hearts, but they cannot write poetry or prose”), and Henry Miller ("It takes more art than Mr. Miller has to describe copulation in a way that makes it of literary interest").
—Rebecca Mead, “The Next Big Lit-Crit Snit,” New York Magazine (15 August 1994)

You are being sexually ravaged by a spider, and it is good. You enjoy it.
—Gavin and Yvonne Frost, Tantric Yoga (1989)

… for Peckinpah (as for many a 20th-Century American), happiness consists to some degree of getting dirty and wriggling your toes in the mud.
—Roger Ebert, “The Ballad of Cable Hogue [review]" (1 January 1970)

   Most of us live our lives in an uneasy alternation of two opposing superstitions: either everything that happens to us is arbitrary and haphazard or everything that happens to us is determined or even over-determined by fate, by heritage, by societal pressures, by economic factors, by systemic operations of one sort or another, or simply by our own characters and personalities. Most of us, when we read seriously, read as we live, in the same uneasy alternation between the notion that we choose what we read and the notion that it is chosen for us, by others or by tradition. We read seriously, then, pretty much as we dress or as we talk, following a range of conventions.
—Harold Bloom, Kabbalah and Criticism (1975)

Sometimes sleep gets to be a serious and complete thing. You stop going to sleep in order that you may be able to get up, but get up in order that you may be able to go back to sleep. …
   You don’t dream in that kind of sleep, but you are aware of it every minute you are asleep, as though you were having a long dream of sleep itself, and in that sleep you were dreaming of sleep, sleeping and dreaming of sleep infinitely inward into the center.
—Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men (1946)

Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the “Sons of God.” A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world anxious to bless the whole human race—
—Joseph Smith, Letter “[t]o the Travelling High Council and Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Great Britain" (19 October 1840)

(via autistic-scientist-deactivated2)

… I reached for the bottle on the writing table in my room at the hotel in Upton and said to Sadie, “How about a little more of the stuff that let the bars down and kicked the boards loose?”
   “What?” she asked.
   “You would not understand that to which I so grammatically refer,” I said, and poured the drink for her.
   “Oh, I forgot,” she said, “you’re the fellow who went to college.”
   Yes, I was the fellow who had gone so grammatically to college where I had not learned, I decided, all there was to know.
—Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men (1946)

"But listen here, there ain’t anything worth doing a man can do and keep his dignity. Can you figure out a single thing you really please-God like to do you can do and keep your dignity? The human frame just ain’t built that way."
—Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men (1946)

The great enemy of poetry in the Romantic tradition has never been reason, but rather those premature modes of conceptualization that masquerade as final accounts of reason in every age. It is not reason that menaces the shaping spirit, but the high priests of rationalization, the great men with the compasses who have marked out circumferences, from Descartes, Bacon, Newton, and Locke down to subtler limiters of the imaginative horizon in Hegel, Marx, Freud, and their various revisionist disciples. Romanticism, in what seems its central tradition, at least in our language, is a revolt not against orderly creation, but against compulsion, against conditioning, against all unnecessary limitation that presents itself as being necessary.
—Harold Bloom, The Ringers in the Tower (1971)

Vincent Price as Joseph Smith in Henry Hathaway’s Brigham Young (1940).

Anybody can write a short story—a bad one, I mean—who has industry and paper and time enough; but not everyone may hope to write even a bad novel. It is the length that kills.
—Robert Louis Stevenson, “My First Book” (1894)