Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yoko Tawada – Where Europe Begins Quotes

Sometimes other people’s skulls look transparent. At such moments I fall in love.

They say hair is the part of the skin that has died and hardened. Part of my body is already a corpse.

I was trying to preserve my body from death by burning it onto paper.

People’s mouths fell open like trash bags, and garbage spilled out. I had to chew the garbage, swallow it, and spit it back out in different words. Some of the words stank of nicotine. Some smelled like hair tonic.

No work is more exhausting than sleep.

…My mother asked, “Why don’t you cut your hair? They say the god of death can grab hold of long hair.”

I am a transparent coffin.

The moon no one sees belongs to yesterday.

Something no one sees can’t be wrong.

Perhaps some books do scream when they’re torn apart.

When a person smells different, it’s as if she’s altogether a stranger, and one becomes a little shy.

It’s strange the way the expression of a foreigner’s face is often compared to a mask. Does this comparison conceal a wish to discover a familiar face behind the strange one?

Sometimes two people sat down next to each other in a café, and thus, briefly, formed a word. Then they separated, in order to go off and form other words.

I wish I were made of raisins. In the language of raisins I say: do not call me by a place name. Do not give me women’s shoes.

The claim that a person who writes is not truly living can only be made by someone who sees a person and his life as subject and object. He might say the most important thing is to live one’s life. I would say: I live and my life lives as well. Even my writing lives.

There are people, though, who assume that everyone is given an original text at birth. They call the place where these texts are stored a soul.

In a book about Indians I once read that the soul cannot fly as fast as an airplane. Therefore one always loses one’s soul on an airplane journey and arrives at one’s destination in a soulless state… In any case, this is the reason why travelers most often lack souls. And so tales of long journeys are always written without souls.

To cut off a person from the world, you must first destroy not his mouth but his ear.

How strange! In order to read, I have to look at the text. But to avoid stumbling, I have to pretend the letters don’t exist. This is the secret of the alphabet: the letters aren’t there any longer, and at the same time they haven’t yet vanished.

The books can never forget their readers, though the readers have no doubt forgotten all about the books’ contents.

I had always found it unpleasant to have guests in my apartment. They filled up my rooms with strange sentences I would never have formulated in such a way.

For me, my apartment had the function of a skin. No one could observe it from the inside.

Buy the book: Where Europe Begins (New Directions Paperbook)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Anton Chekhov - Quotes

Flies purify the air, and plays -- the morals.

In all the universe nothing remains permanent and unchanged but the spirit.

Try to be original in your play and as clever as possible; but don't be afraid to show yourself foolish; we must have freedom of thinking, and only he is an imancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish things.

One usually dislikes a play while writing it, but afterward it grows on one. Let others judge and make decisions.

It's curious that we can't possibly tell what exactly will be considered great and important, and what will seem paltry and ridiculous. Did not the discoveries of Copernicus or Columbus, let us say, seem useless and ridiculous at first, while the nonsensical writings of some wiseacre seemed true?

When one sees one of the romantic creatures before him he imagines he is looking at some holy being, so wonderful that its one breath could dissolve him in a sea of a thousand charms and delights; but if one looks into the soul -- it's nothing but a common crocodile.

Brevity is the sister of talent.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Langston Hughes - Thank You M' am

She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails. It had a long strap, and she carried it slung across her shoulder. It was about eleven o’clock at night, and she was walking alone, when a boy ran up behind her and tried to snatch her purse. The strap broke with the single tug the boy gave it from behind. But the boy’s weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance so, intsead of taking off full blast as he had hoped, the boy fell on his back on the sidewalk, and his legs flew up. the large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.
After that the woman said, "Pick up my pocketbook, boy, and give it here." She still held him. But she bent down enough to permit him to stoop and pick up her purse. Then she said, "Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?"
Firmly gripped by his shirt front, the boy said, "Yes’m."
The woman said, "What did you want to do it for?"
The boy said, "I didn’t aim to."
She said, "You a lie!"
By that time two or three people passed, stopped, turned to look, and some stood watching.
"If I turn you loose, will you run?" asked the woman.
"Yes’m," said the boy.
"Then I won’t turn you loose," said the woman. She did not release him.
"I’m very sorry, lady, I’m sorry," whispered the boy.
"Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?"
"No’m," said the boy.
"Then it will get washed this evening," said the large woman starting up the street, dragging the frightened boy behind her.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Quotes About Humor

A joke is a very serious thing.
Winston Churchill

A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road.
Henry Ward Beecher

A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles.
Mignon McLaughlin

A sense of humor is the ability to understand a joke - and that the joke is oneself.
Clifton Paul Fadiman

A sense of humor... is needed armor. Joy in one's heart and some laughter on one's lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.
Hugh Sidey

A taste for irony has kept more hearts from breaking than a sense of humor, for it takes irony to appreciate the joke which is on oneself.
Jessamyn West

A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.
William A. Ward

Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it. E. B. White

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Edith Wharton - The Triumph of Night




It was clear that the sleigh from Weymore had not come; and the shivering young traveller from Boston, who had counted on jumping into it when he left the train at Northridge Junction, found himself standing alone on the open platform, exposed to the full assault of night-fall and winter.
The blast that swept him came off New Hampshire snow-fields and ice-hung forests. It seemed to have traversed interminable leagues of frozen silence, filling them with the same cold roar and sharpening its edge against the same bitter black-and-white landscape. Dark, searching and sword-like, it alternately muffled and harried its victim, like a bull-fighter now whirling his cloak and now planting his darts. This analogy brought home to the young man the fact that he himself had no cloak, and that the overcoat in which he had faced the relatively temperate air of Boston seemed no thicker than a sheet of paper on the bleak heights of Northridge. George Faxon said to himself that the place was uncommonly well-named. It clung to an exposed ledge over the valley from which the train had lifted him, and the wind combed it with teeth of steel that he seemed actually to hear scraping against the wooden sides of the station. Other building there was none: the village lay far down the road, and thither--since the Weymore sleigh had not come--Faxon saw himself under the necessity of plodding through several feet of snow.
He understood well enough what had happened: his hostess had forgotten that he was coming. Young as Faxon was, this sad lucidity of soul had been acquired as the result of long experience, and he knew that the visitors who can least afford to hire a carriage are almost always those whom their hosts forget to send for. Yet to say that Mrs. Culme had forgotten him was too crude a way of putting it Similar incidents led him to think that she had probably told her maid to tell the butler to telephone the coachman to tell one of the grooms (if no one else needed him) to drive over to Northridge to fetch the new secretary; but on a night like this, what groom who respected his rights would fail to forget the order?


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Book Choice: The Age of Innocence

Friday, March 13, 2009

Theophile Gautier - A Night with Cleopatra


About eighteen hundred years ago from the moment we write these lines, a cange
magnificently gilded and painted came down the Nile with all the rapidity which can be got from fifty long flat oars crawling on the scratched water like the feet of a gigantic scarabæus beetle.
This cange was narrow, elongated in shape, tilted at the two ends in the form of a crescent moon, slim in its proportions, and marvellously fashioned for speed; a ram’s head surmounted by a golden ball armed the point of the prow, and showed that the craft belonged to a personage of royal rank.
In the centre of the boat was erected a cabin with a flat roof, a kind of naos, or tent of honour, coloured and gilded, with a moulding of palm leaves, and four little square windows.
Two rooms, covered in the same way with hieroglyphics, occupied the ends of the crescent; one of them, bigger than the other, had, juxtaposed, a story of less height, like the châteauxgaillards of those quaint galleys of the sixteenth century drawn by Della Bella; the smaller, which served as quarters for the pilot, ended in a triangular poop-rail.
The rudder was made of two immense oars, set on many-coloured posts, and trailing in the water behind the bark like the webbed feet of a swan; heads adorned with the pschent and wearing on the chin the allegorical horn, were sculptured by handfuls along those great oars which the pilot manœuvred standing erect on the roof of the cabin.
He was a sunburnt man, fawn-coloured like new bronze, with blue glistening high-lights, his eyes tilted at the corners, his hair very black and plaited into little strings, his mouth wide spread, his cheek-bones prominent, his ears sitting out from his skull, the Egyptian type in all its purity. A narrow loin-cloth tied on his hips, and five or six twists of glass beads and amulets, composed all his costume.

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Book Choice: My Fantoms (New York Review Books Classics)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

H.G. Wells - A Moonlight Fable

There was once a little man whose mother made him a beautiful suit of clothes. It was green and gold and woven so that I cannot describe how delicate and fine it was, and there was a tie of orange fluffiness that tied up under his chin. And the buttons in their newness shone like stars. He was proud and pleased by his suit beyond measure, and stood before the long looking-glass when first he put it on, so astonished and delighted with it that he could hardly turn himself away.
He wanted to wear it everywhere and show it to all sorts of people. He thought over all the places he had ever visited and all the scenes he had ever heard described, and tried to imagine what the feel of it would be if he were to go now to those scenes and places wearing his shining suit, and he wanted to go out forthwith into the long grass and the hot sunshine of the meadow wearing it. Just to wear it! But his mother told him, "No." She told him he must take great care of his suit, for never would he have another nearly so fine; he must save it and save it and only wear it on rare and great occasions. It was his wedding suit, she said. And she took his buttons and twisted them up with tissue paper for fear their bright newness should be tarnished, and she tacked little guards over the cuffs and elbows and wherever the suit was most likely to come to harm. He hated and resisted these things, but what could he do? And at last her warnings and persuasions had effect and he consented to take off his beautiful suit and fold it into its proper creases and put it away. It was almost as though he gave it up again. But he was always thinking of wearing it and of the supreme occasion when some day it might be worn without the guards, without the tissue paper on the buttons, utterly and delightfully, never caring, beautiful beyond measure.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Leo Tolstoy - Little Girls Wiser Than Men

IT WAS AN EARLY EASTER. Sledging was only just over; snow still lay in the yards; and water ran in streams down the village street.
Two little girls from different houses happened to meet in a lane between two homesteads, where the dirty water after running through the farm-yards had formed a large puddle. One girl was very small, the other a little bigger. Their mothers had dressed them both in new frocks. The little one wore a blue frock the other a yellow print, and both had red kerchiefs on their heads. They had just come from church when they met, and first they showed each other their finery, and then they began to play. Soon the fancy took them to splash about in the water, and the smaller one was going to step into the puddle, shoes and all, when the elder checked her:
'Don't go in so, Malásha,' said she, 'your mother will scold you. I will take off my shoes and stockings, and you take off yours.'
They did so, and then, picking up their skirts, began walking towards each other through the puddle. The water came up to Malásha's ankles, and she said:
'It is deep, Akoúlya, I'm afraid!'
'Come on,' replied the other. 'Don't be frightened. It won't get any deeper.'
When they got near one another, Akoúlya said:
'Mind, Malásha, don't splash. Walk carefully!'
She had hardly said this, when Malásha plumped down her foot so that the water splashed right on to Akoúlya's frock. The frock was splashed, and so were Akoúlya's eyes and nose. When she saw the stains on her frock, she was angry and ran after Malásha to strike her. Malásha was frightened, and seeing that she had got herself into trouble, she scrambled out of the puddle, and prepared to run home. Just then Akoúlya's mother happened to be passing, and seeing that her daughter's skirt was splashed, and her sleeves dirty, she said:
'You naughty, dirty girl, what have you been doing?'
'Malásha did it on purpose,' replied the girl.

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Book Choice: Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy (Perennial Classics)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hitomi Kanehara – Snakes and Earrings Quotes

Search Amazon.com for Hitomi Kanehara “Think about it. God has to be a sadist to give people life.”
“So I guess you’re saying Mary was a masochist?”
“Yeah. Guess so.”

I wanted to live recklessly and leave nothing behind but ashes in this dark, dull world.

All I wanted was to be part of an underground world where the sun doesn’t shine, there are no serenades, and the sound of children’s laughter is never, ever heard.

I flipped through brain-dead variety shows and comatose documentaries for a while before turning the TV off.

I often like to think that if sunlight reached into everywhere on the entire planet, I’d find a way to turn myself into a shadow.

With Ama’s words, the atmosphere quickly returned to normal. Well, at least as normal as it could be considering I was sitting between a guy who’d beat someone beyond recognition for me and another who wanted to kill me.

…there’s no point in me waiting for a solution when I don’t even have a problem in the first place. Life just seemed so empty, that’s all.

…whenever a tiny seed of hope took root in me and began to grow, it was always crashed by a heavy downpour of self-loathing.

I wondered which would be better-to work as a prostitute to live, or to die rather than work as one? I’d say the latter answer would be the one chosen by the healthy mind, but then again, there’s not really anything healthy about being dead.

What does go through someone’s mind when they kill someone anyway? Do they think about the future? The people they care about? Their life all the way up to that moment? And how could I even begin to guess? I was a person who could see no future for myself; a person who cared about no one.

All I could do was escape from reality, but every time I tried to escape from the pain, that same pain told me that I had probably been falling in love with him.

Screw you. Go to hell, you fuckers. I wish I had a great vocabulary to fully express the extent of my pain and hatred. But I don’t. I’m just pathetic. That’s all I am.

Buy the book: Snakes and Earrings

Friday, March 6, 2009

James Joyce - The Sisters

THERE was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly... but there was something queer... there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion...."He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms; but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery."I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those ... peculiar cases .... But it's hard to say...."

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Minister's Black Veil

THE SEXTON stood in the porch of Milford meetinghouse, pulling busily at the bell rope. The old people of the village came stooping along the street. Children, with bright faces, tripped merrily beside their parents, or mimicked a graver gait, in the conscious dignity of their Sunday clothes. Spruce bachelors looked sidelong at the pretty maidens, and fancied that the Sabbath sunshine made them prettier than on weekdays. When the throng had mostly streamed into the porch, the sexton began to toll the bell, keeping his eye on the Reverend Mr. Hooper's door. The first glimpse of the clergyman's figure was the signal for the bell to cease its summons.

"But what has good Parson Hooper got upon his face?" cried the sexton in astonishment.

All within hearing immediately turned about, and beheld the semblance of Mr. Hooper, pacing slowly his meditative way toward the meetinghouse. With one accord they started, expressing more wonder than if some strange minister were coming to dust the cushions of Mr. Hooper's pulpit.

"Are you sure it is our parson?" inquired Goodman Gray of the sexton.

"Of a certainty it is good Mr. Hooper," replied the sexton. "He was to have exchanged pulpits with Parson Shute, of Westbury; but Parson Shute sent to excuse himself yesterday, being to preach a funeral sermon."


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Book Choice: The Scarlet Letter

Monday, March 2, 2009

Willa Cather - Coming, Aphrodite!

Don Hedger had lived for four years on the top floor of an old house on the south side of Washington Square, and nobody had ever disturbed him. He occupied one big room with no outside exposure except on the north, where he had built in a many-paned studio window that looked upon a court and upon the roofs and walls of other buildings. His room was very cheerless, since he never got a ray of direct sunlight; the south corners were always in shadow. In one of the corners was a clothes closet, built against the partition, in another a wide divan, serving as a seat by day and a bed by night. In the front corner, the one farther from the window, was a sink, and a table with two gas burners where he sometimes cooked his food. There, too, in the perpetual dusk, was the dog's bed, and often a bone or two for his comfort.
The dog was a Boston bull terrier, and Hedger explained his surly disposition by the fact that he had been bred to the point where it told on his nerves. His name was Caesar III, and he had taken prizes at very exclusive dog shows. When he and his master went out to prowl about University Place or to promenade along West Street, Caesar III was invariably fresh and shining. His pink skin showed through his mottled coat, which glistened as if it had just been rubbed with olive oil, and he wore a brass-studded collar, bought at the smartest saddler's. Hedger, as often as not, was hunched up in an old striped blanket coat, with a shapeless felt hat pulled over his bushy hair, wearing black shoes that had become grey, or brown ones that had become black, and he never put on gloves unless the day was biting cold.
Early in May, Hedger learned that he was to have a new neighbour in the rear apartment--two rooms, one large and one small, that faced the west. His studio was shut off from the larger of these rooms by double doors, which, though they were fairly tight, left him a good deal at the mercy of the occupant. The rooms had been leased, long before he came there, by a trained nurse who considered herself knowing in old furniture. She went to auction sales and bought up mahogany and dirty brass and stored it away here, where she meant to live when she retired from nursing. Meanwhile, she sub-let her rooms, with their precious furniture, to young people who came to New York to "write" or to "paint"--who proposed to live by the sweat of the brow rather than of the hand, and who desired artistic surroundings.

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