Archive for July, 2020


July 30, 2020

Delacroix here — part of Napoleon’s superiority was that there was nothing of the artist in his character —

Je pense, le lendemain, qu’une partie de la supériorité de Louis-Napoléon vient sans doute de ce qu’il n’a rien de l’artiste….15 mars 1854

The Worst Man does more good than evil

July 29, 2020

“JOHNSON. ‘And really it is wonderful, considering how much attention is necessary for men to take care of themselves, and ward off immediate evils which press upon them, it is wonderful how much they do for others. As it is said of the greatest liar, that he tells more truth than falsehood; so it may be said of the worst man, that he does more good than evil.'” Life of Samuel Johnson (pp. 771), James Boswell.

July 27, 2020

nieconduct w
render an ct?s conduct c
ud otherwise be l\ \ \awful improper
n render an act?s \|\|/\\\?conduct criminal
would otherwise (0||\\\\////be lawful improper
an actor?s cond|)\\\+]}))((/ / /uct criminal even
ct would other wis”‘””'”””””””””e be lawful improper
render an act{)= ?“““`[[[““““ . >“`or?s conduct cr
otherwise/\\/\ \//\\ \– -\ \?? //?///the conduct wo
can ren The See’r “““““tombolo` ?s conduct c
the conduct would o e g h e l would otherwise
motive can rend e e s ader an actor?s
the conduc r ewli st would
renir tht i tder

Every single story had the word bird in it, for some reason

July 25, 2020

Concordance-mad person that I am, I was interested to see Lorrie Moore’s response to this question –in a Salon interview from the 90’s– about whether the bird imagery in her book of short stories “Birds of America” was planned or “had collected.” (It had collected.)

She says further that she noticed the bird imagery “as she was completing the last two stories”, which makes you wonder if those stories’ bird imagery meaningfully departs from the that of the other stories, when she was less aware of the theme (although “as she was completing” seems to indicate these stoies were in an advanced stage of composition.)

The second to last story seems to have just one glancing mention of birds, though that story’s content is so intense as to not admit much in the way of symbolic embellishment; while the last story is I believe the only one to have a bird as a pet or distinct individual — a cockatiel.

SALON, 1999

How did all the bird imagery fly into these stories — was it planned, or did you just realize at some point that the images had collected?

Lorrie Moore: It’s the latter. It was something I noticed as I was completing the last two stories. And then when I went back and read all the way through, every single story had the word bird in it, for some reason. Sometimes it’s actual birds, sometimes metaphorical birds. I was a little worried about birds as in the British slang “birds.” But it’s there for the taking, I guess.

Homais and Bournisien

July 24, 2020

From Madame Bovary. Homais and Bournisien are the chemist and priest, who, if memory serves, take excessive delight in quarreling with each other, and are here falling asleep together. Maybe Bouvard and Pecuchet prototypes.

Mdm. Bovary 3.9.458/// M. Bournisien, plus robuste, continua quelque temps à remuer tout bas les lèvres ; puis, insensiblement, il baissa le menton, lâcha son gros livre noir et se mit à ronfler.

Ils étaient en face l’un de l’autre, le ventre en avant, la figure bouffie, l’air renfrogné, après tant de désaccord se rencontrant enfin dans la même faiblesse humaine ; et ils ne bougeaient pas plus que le cadavre à côté d’eux, qui avait l’air de dormir.

July 23, 2020

a th sn f
r h e e r
p a d d e
e f g s s
n i e id h
n n t d p
e g h e l
d e e s a
c r ewli s
ir tht i t

ch lci i l
l eli k cl
e n dw o
I w i r i f
c th u t t
a a n h h
s sps s e
t on ou t
i ge up r
n ash wo
t below


July 16, 2020

Having inadvertently chanced to look upward (for this is what happened when one was composed of angles and lines, when the stack of papers of which one was composed became variously folded and flipped back: one invariably did things like step backward or look upward without knowing or intending it, he thought. Which reminded him: How foolish were geometries based on shapes not found in human bodies! Not triangles and circles and conics etc., but eye sockets and shoulder joints and rotator cuffs were the true shapes! And thoughts were like a geometer’s compass and figures, but made of blood chasing after all the shapes, blood like the lines of a pencil, which could be erased or made to wander either randomly all over or in line with certain fundamental principles. This latter thought itself made Summs think of himself as nothing but a wrist, a kind of meaty line segment, with a big pulse just now passing through, the blue pulse of thought, continuing the line past the segment’s ends on both sides to course through the larger being of which we all were part).

Having inadvertently chanced to look up, he was again reminded of his doctor (as all things high up and cheerful did remind him of that remarkable man) which inspired in him a kind of otherworldly joy for what, though entirely unprecedented, yet remained possible in this world: a world without a death, a world without age, a world without sickness, a world without greed, a world without people breathing on you and harassing you about small things, a world in which one did as one ought, which was as plain as taking a step, a world in which one was entirely comfortable around insects and thought only of people as being unclean, — a world very similar, moreover, to that portrayed in many of the science fiction shows to which he was admittedly addicted, he would sometimes reflect. (The reason those shows were so great, though, he thought, was that they showed us what truly possible.)

Rapturously, he opened his eyes to the maximum extent, thinking of the doctor. He threw his arms wide out, breathed in deeply and held his breath, making a face as if his eyes and the corners of his mouth were being drawn back through interior suction, through the strong vacuum created deep in his abdomen ironically by the increase in air. And in this deep holding of his breath he tried with all his powers of concentration to make that longed-for reasonable world be realized, as if a thought could do it; with all the power of his hope, with all the power of his breath, Summs was focused so earnestly on something behind his brow that a sort of half-humorous, high-pitched sound began unintentionally to emerge from the back of his throat, a surprising chirp, until finally he exhaled, opened his eyes and lowered his arms, which three things he had tried to do all at the same time, but found his eyelids moved so much faster than his arms, and his arms so much faster than his lungs, that it would take considerable practice to achieve such a synchronicity of movements, particularly in the case of the eyelids, since “once they were open, they were open” he remarked to himself — very difficult to open by degrees.

He had also derived a maxim from this experience (to think of all the wisdom to be found even in the briefest of experiences! he mused) — that the greatest physical exercise there is, is to hope. Not to raise bar bells, not to run miles, not to swim laps, not to climb ropes, but to hope. For as he gazed up at the ceiling, full of sincere yearning (when to his surprise that funny noise started coming from his throat, which he hadn’t even tried to make, and which might have been another instance of his body trying to “speak” with him, as a pet might “speak” with a pet owner)– while this had been going on, he had also felt himself tightening his stomach muscles, really exerting them and feeling their strength. He wished to scream it from a mountain top — how foolish were all the boring regimens and activities people put themselves through in gyms, all that money wasted, all that supremely foolish stationary cycling, when all that was required was purity of intention, purity of intention! You want to get off your butt and lose some weight, then hope! Nourish that kernel of yourself each day, he wanted to cry out. That’s what you do!

Then he caught himself looking for “the next thing” — the next thing either to do or to have happen to him, something to fill the void that was now — and he smiled to himself, for he knew that nothing ever came next and nothing Time brought ever filled Time’s void. What came next? Summs asked himself with a smile — This did — in other words, nothing did — in other words, exactly the same thing as had come before is what would come after it — that is what would come “next”. He smiled at all these conceits and folded his arms like a person not to be persuaded, no never to be persuaded, by the crass illusions of progress or Change; for everything that had happened and everything that would happen was now happening, and every location, however distant, was right here, was this location — indeed, this location was, if anything, the most distant of them all, if, in fact, it was anywhere, since it carried with it this crass illusion of being the only one–; and he stood an unmoveable smiling pylon in the seeming flux of it all, of All Being, smiling to think of what might be ‘next’ as if that were something more interesting or attractive or present or real or different than what had occurred moments or eons ago. (Were he take a step forward it would be into the same present that had always existed, he smiled, and which could never be walked around.) What was ‘next’, he had caught himself asking? What was not next, was what he really should have said. (True, he believed in his science fiction and yet such futures were not to be arrived at through progress or through nextness but through what he called “folds in history” which could only be achieved by higher consciousness.)

He felt at this moment he could determine the date of his death (closing his eyes he saw the date clearly written: July 9th, 1813), he felt he could even will himself to die, the Pylon by means of the ultimate act of self-awareness, shattering itself into splinters from within to be digested by and carried along in the apparent stream of flux; but became distracted by the appearance of his folded arms, which in turn caused him first to rejoice and grow pleasantly confused by the interplay of the angles at work there beneath him and by the discovery that the fingers of his right hand were tucked under his right bicep while the fingers of his left hand were placed over the left bicep, and that it was actually a little awkward and uncomfortable for him to do it the other way. But then, the arms’ positioning caused him displeasure and vague horror since this posture was the posture of some kind of tough guy, he thought, a none-shall-pass type of strong man, a person who was diffident in his silence, a person who would never yield or compromise or give in, which he neither was, nor wanted to be, nor wanted ever to seem to be or remotely resemble, even down to the position of his arms; and the idea of toughness and all its associations, which seemed to Summs the very opposite of what he considered most high, violently threatened to cast him back into “this” world, back into the world of “next” (“into the ‘next’ world indeed!’ sourly commented Summs, “in the world where you weren’t aware there was no “Next” and so one did indeed need to “get tough”) had he not been saved by the angles of his arms, as we say; for having been unable to decide conclusively on the question of how their crotches and their angles sit, completely unconsciously, he had raised his right foot and passed it over his left foot, entwining his legs in a way similar to the way his arms were entwined; and as soon as this new and rather silly position had been effected –for this is the wizardry of silliness– all those thoughts of the world’s tough people magically vanished, all thoughts of his own toughness or lack of it vanished also, all thoughts of what action or external exertion could achieve had become folded into a small part of his heart and he felt as if he had dodged a blow (as if the idea of his own toughness might have “gotten tough” with him, but missed or otherwise relented. Maybe his idea of his own toughness had shown it “wasn’t so tough after all”) that was how openly “silly” this new entwined position was. (Summs wasn’t afraid to look silly. Summs wasn’t afraid to seem afraid.)

Then he said “well enough of that” — which was his trick for behaving like is everyday self again. “Well enough of that” he said and uncrossing his arms and uncrossing his legs he felt as if unchained! How at liberty he felt! Not just free of the manacles of his arms and legs and free of not of his body entirely, no, but free and disentangled from the thought of it for a while, his body was now just one of many around here.

July 15, 2020

On fait souvent vanité des passions même les plus criminelles ; mais l’envie est une passion timide et honteuse que l’on n’ose jamais avouer.

We often are vain of even the most criminal passions; but envy is a shameful, timid passion we don’t dare to avow.


“Erase” and “raze” related

July 13, 2020

erase and raze related — through Latin radere “to scrape”. This exchange from the opening of Measure for Measure suggested looking it up:

Thou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate, that
went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped
one out of the table.

Second Gentleman
‘Thou shalt not steal’?

Ay, that he razed.

Kind of a weird question that the passage also suggests — did Shakespeare know the Latin word radere and it’s meaning, “to scrape”? Why would he have use that word ‘scrape’if he doesn’t know how it relates to that word ‘raze’?

Trying to get out the door then actually doing so, despite finding oneself to be ‘Thick’

July 6, 2020

I had tried three times to get out the door and each time had been rebuffed: (i) I could not find my keys (found them, then sat at the computer to check something); (ii) I couldn’t find my grocery list (found it, then sat at the computer to check something); (iii) and so on.

In Oedipal fashion, the keys and list were found to be located in various places upon my own person — front coat pocket, rear pant’s pocket– amid cries of “who has taken my keys?” etc. — and of course whatever I had checked on the computer suggested another thing that might or should be checked — and everything that I’d checked the last time, which had exhibited no change, would now need to be checked again, to see if they’d come to exhibit any change, and so on.

Finally I checked myself in the mirror and the first word that came to me was “Thick”. But I didn’t know what to think about “Thick.” Could one go out looking “thick”? One had certainly gone out looking worse than “thick” — and so one finally went out.