Execrable Frippery

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Sooner or later, somehow, anyhow, I was bound to write a novel. It seems vain to ask why.
—Robert Louis Stevenson,”My First Book” (1894)

One cannot be too careful with words, they change their minds just as people do.
—José Saramago, Death with Interruptions (2008)

"vital sounds and monitory gleams / Of high astonishment and pleasing fear"

In my hands, the canon found a friend dear,
I pray; my memory-stained evening candle
fanned the fire Cervantes lit, and Shakespeare,
and Dante and Keats, all who’d manhandle
trivial fate in its fiendish sparks of life.
It was not a consumptive Mann I met
on that Magic Mountain, or in the strife
of Venice, where death was the strangest fete.
No, it was a summer shower, when Wilde
whispered in praise of my fleshy memory:
You’ll have prophesied our God-wounds, dear child,
you’ll have lost our collective victory.
Oh, count me your strong acolyte, your fan!
I’ve shadowed the lively symbol’s wing span.
If I’ve lived at all, I’ve counted my breaths,
as each day I’ve murdered my sad Macbeths.
—Anis Shivani, "Harold Bloom’s Old Age"

Could a more fearsome agon be carried on with Wordsworth’s “Though narrow be that old Man’s cares”? No, not now that the poetic stance articulated by rhyming “candle” & “manhandle” has been permanently usurped.

(Source: grandhotelabyss)

Stevens, a pupil of George Santayana, wars poetically with metaphysics; Frost, tutored by William James, with epistemology.
—John Hollander, “Foreword” to Richard Poirier, Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing (1990)

Biography may be my favorite genre, because it is so effective at breaking down the usual distinction between thought and banal/sordid everyday life. How does philosophy emerge from schools and brothels and poker games? … It’s fascinating to watch this happen.
—Graham Harman, “Derrida biography" (21 November 2012)

“I don’t care what you want to be. If you want to get rich, read the biographies of people who got rich. If you want to be a famous entertainer, read the biographies of people who got to be famous entertainers.”
—Newt Gingrich; qtd. in Joan Didion, “The Teachings of Speaker Gingrich" (10 August 1995)

From a book like this, one also can’t help but draw certain conclusions about the French academic system. That system is peerless in its production of abundant talent in the humanities, and I mean independent-minded talent. Yet it also clearly leaves scars on those who pass through it. More than that, it feels a bit stifling even to read about– the outside world tends to disappear from view even when you just read about students preparing for the various competitions and digesting feedback from the judges. It must be a tiring and stressful way to spend one’s youth, though in many respects it’s hard to argue with the results.
—Graham Harman, “Derrida at the ENS" (22 November 2012)

   There are no educators.—As a thinker, one should speak only of self-education. The education of youth by others in either an experiment, conducted on one as yet unknown and unknowable, or a leveling on principle, to make the new character, whatever it may be, conform to the habits and customs that prevail: in both cases, therefore, something unworthy of the thinker—the work of parents and teachers, whom an audaciously honest person has called nos ennemis naturels.
   One day, when in the opinion of the world one has long been educated, one discovers oneself: that is where the task of the thinker begins; now the time has come to invoke his aid—not as an educator but as one who has educated himself and thus has experience.
—Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (1880)

The Mormon faith is the science fiction version of Abrahamic religion extending an evolutionary bridge from man to God—a path of practical divinization.
—Nick Land, “Regime Redecoration Randoms" (6 November 2012)

"Today I minced parsley with a cleaver. Look: no Band Aids."
   At the mention of Band Aids, Mrs. Kelso’s face grew wistful. “If only Fluffy were here to enjoy all this.” She withdrew a handkerchief from the crocodile bag Irving had brought her from Florida and blew her nose. That done, she briskly returned to her accustomed brass tacks.
—John Ashbery & James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies (1969)

   “It’s certainly not the same around here without Fabia,” Betty Burgoyne said cheerfully.
   “You said that last week,” Marshall grumbled. “Or maybe it was last month.” He did not look up from the L.L. Bean catalogue through which he was slowly making his way.
   Betty sighed in a way that somehow indicated pity for Marshall rather than chagrin at the rebuke. “If no one ever repeated themselves, precious little work would get done,” she suggested lightly.
   “Work doesn’t get done,” a new voice said, “one abandons it.” This version of Valéry’s dictum was spoken by Fabia, who had just entered the office arm in arm with Alice.
   “Why, we were just talking about you,” Betty gasped.
   “Yes,” Marshall said, closing the catalogue after a lingering look at a suit of thermal underwear.
—John Ashbery & James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies (1969)

   Mrs. Bridgewater, who a few moments ago had held the threads of life in a steady hand, reverted. “Oh dear,” she said, “I hope Victor won’t become enmeshed in the material side of things.” Like the Lady of Shalott, she rose up from her embroidery frame. “I never dreamed of a military connection!”
—John Ashbery & James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies (1969)

   “Women and children first,” Irving cried as he whisked the lid from a steaming casserole.
   “A New England boiled dinner!” Mrs. Turpin exclaimed shrilly. “I haven’t had one since we left Honolulu.”
—John Ashbery & James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies (1969)

   “I certainly wish Alice were here,” Fabia said. “She at least has some get-up-and-go to her.”
   “That she certainly has,” Mrs. Bridgewater said. “In fact, I expect we’ll be running into her any day now—loping along the Champs Elysées with that peculiarly aggressive gait of hers.” Victor looked inscrutable.
—John Ashbery & James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies (1969)

   “America and her tragic suburbs!” Claire fetched a sigh. “However, I was somewhat relieved to learn that the population of Vermont—perhaps my favorite of the continental states—is shrinking.”
—John Ashbery & James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies (1969)

A thing so complete has its own beauty.
—Sherwood Anderson, “Death in the Woods” (1933)

"We’ll have favourable winds, a quick passage, and not the least difficulty in finding the spot, and money to eat, to roll in, to play duck and drake with ever after.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1883)