Monthly Archives: August 2015

The dreams of moths and lettuces

“Sometimes, seeing one of these moths that have met their end in my house, I wonder what kind of fear and pain they feel while they are lost. As Alphonso had told him, said Austerlitz, there is really no reason to suppose that lesser beings are devoid of sentient life. We are not alone in dreaming at night for, quite apart from dogs and other domestic creatures whose emotions have been bound up with ours for many thousands of years, the smaller mammals such as mice and moles also live in a world that exists only in their minds whilst they are asleep, as we can detect from their eye movements, and who knows, said Austerlitz, perhaps moths dream as well, perhaps a lettuce in the garden dreams as it looks up at the moon by night.”

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

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Where do characters in novels come from?

‘If you read my books, those are all bits of myself. Some of the characters may start as people I’ve known, but they’re all dressed up out of my unconscious. But in general I only choose characters that I think I can understand through something in myself as well as my experience of life and those people of that kind.’ Patrick White

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Love stories

The stories we sit up late to hear are love stories. It seems that we cannot know enough about this riddle of our lives. We go back and back to the same scenes, the same words, trying to scrape out the meaning. Nothing else could be more familiar than love. Nothing could elude us so completely.

Jeanette Winterson, The Powerbook

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The little details and the big picture

I think nothing is more boring than to spend your time figuring out how to make a thing absolutely beautifully. I think you should make a thing as well as you need to make it, to make it carry across the thing you’re trying to make clear and no better.   . . . If you get interested in the making more than in the thing you’re making . . . then you’re becoming a craftsman. And a craftsman is fine but an artist is a different creature . . . The worst possible thing you can do is to waste your energy trying to get all the little tiny bits and pieces right because when you get all those right the important things are wrong. So whenever I make something I just try to get the big issues roughly correct. I have no interest in getting the little things all precise. . . .                 Richard Benson (American photographer and printer of photographs) (from here)

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A young mathematics teacher whom I befriended showed me one of his poems. It was a poem about a man who tries in vain to climb out of a dark well. In the end, it turns out that this man is the son of the one who built the well.                                                                                         Czeslaw Milosz Notebook

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On not being able to find words to write

When I took up my pen, however, I was scarcely able to compose the simplest of sentences. I wrote a sentence then crossed it out and sat a while, then wrote another and looked at it. But it too made little sense to me and I crossed it our also. There was a stubborn silence in me that refused to yield up my emotions and my thoughts in words. My subject was closed to me. Why? It was as if my mind—my unconscious, I suppose I must say—had decided that this thing was not to be written but that something else was required from me on this occasion. Not writing, but action. It was not a time for words. But what action lay open to me?             Alex Miller Landscape of Farewell

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Desire for the perfect gift

[Laura has made a cake for her husband’s birthday]

What Laura regrets, what she can hardly bear, is the cake. It embarrasses her, but she can’t deny it. It’s only sugar, flour, and eggs – part of a cake’s charm is its inevitable imperfections. She knows that, of course she does. Still she had hoped to create something finer, something more significant than what she’s produced, even with its smooth surface and its centered message. She wants (she admits to herself) a dream of a cake manifested as an actual cake; a cake invested with an undeniable and profound sense of comfort, of bounty. She wants to have a cake that banishes sorrow, even if only for a little while. She wants to have produced something marvelous, something that would be marvelous even to those who do not love her.

Michael Cunningham,The Hours 1999 Fourth Estate London

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Inside and outside the story

The storyteller is, equally, in the story and outside it. All art perhaps involves moving between one or two or several “places.” You’re inside what you’re drawing, and you are outside the drawing, watching it. Simultaneously in two places. The artist is never in a single place–and in this he’s like a foreigner, trying maybe to create a temporary home.

True drawing (which is not what I claim to achieve) is to do with touching. Touching the subject (whether it is figurative or not) and touching the paper.

I don’t believe–insofar as art is concerned–in “new ideas”; I believe in the urgent need to discover what is already there, but has not been seen (at least by oneself). Again the masters help us–not to do what they did–but to have the courage to see what is waiting to be seen.

John Berger (from here)





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Unwrapping The Mona Lisa


Photograph by Pierre Jahan/Archives des museés nationaux

(from here)

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Somebody watching

. . in every art, including the art of fiction, there’s always somebody watching. . . . The question is: In what way are two people more satisfactorily alone when somebody else is present? What on earth does this mean? I have always felt there is a triangular quality to every love affair. There are two lovers and a third element – the idea of being in love itself. I wonder if it is possible to fall in love without this third presence, an imaginary witness to love as a thing of wonder, cast in the glow of our deepest stories about ourselves.                                                            Siri Hustvedt A Plea For Eros

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