William Faulkner, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down
"It’s like morphine, language is. A fearful habit to form: you become a bore to all who would otherwise cherish you. Of course, there is the chance that you may be hailed as a genius after you are dead long years, but what is that to you? There will still be high endeavor that ends, as always, with kissing in the dark, but where are you? Time? Time? Why worry about something that takes care of itself so well? You were born with the habit of consuming time. Be satisfied with that." —William Faulkner, Mosquitoes
And the Reddit community said it was good: "I think you’re extremely bloody epicly awesome. The fact that you said ’As I explain in my book…’ but you still fully answered the question, as opposed to saying ‘so go buy it’ is a cool-dude move" —FmMan3 on Reddit
First Lines from New Books Out Today: September 26, 2011
“‘So…you must like apples.’ Tell a stranger at a cocktail party that you’re a food writer working on an apple cookbook, and that’s the response you’ll likely get. And, of course, one would hope that the answer is yes, I do, very much. In fact, the more I’ve eaten them, cooked with them, learned their history, and studied their intricacies, the more passionate I’ve become.” The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso
"When I was a student, I used to go at the end of the school year to the Yale Coop to see what I could find to read over the summer. I had very little pocket money, but the bookstore would routinely sell its unwanted titles for ridiculously small sums. They would be jumbled together in bins through which I would rummage, with nothing much in mind, waiting for something to catch my eye. On one of my forays, I was struck by an extremely odd paperback cover, a detail from a painting by the surrealist Max Ernst. Under a crescnent moon, high above the earth, two pairs of legs—the bodies were missing—were engaged in what appeared to be an act of celestial coition. The book—a prose translation of Lucretius’ two-thousand-year-old poem On the Nature of Things (De rerum natura)—was marked down to ten cents, and I bought it, I confess, as much for the cover as for the classical account of the material universe.” The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
"Mother of Romans, joy of gods and men, Venus, life-giver, who under planet and star visits the ship-clad sea, the grain-clothed land always, for through you all that’s born and breathes is gotten, created, brought forth to see the sun, Lady, the storms and clouds of heaven shun you, You and your advent; Earth, sweet magic-maker, sends up her flowers for you, broad Ocean smiles, and peace glows in the light that fills the sky.” On the Nature of Things by Lucretius, Translated by Frank O. Copley
"My database on worldwide human rights prosecutions indicates that the Greeks and the Portuguese were the first in the post-World War II era to hold their own state officials criminally accountable for past human rights violations. As the earliest adopters of trials, it seemed likely that Greece and Portugal would offer crucial clues about why citizens of a country would come to believe it was possible to hold their former leaders accountable." The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics by Kathryn Sikkink
“‘I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.’ There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Abraham Lincoln’s emphatic declaration, written in April 1864, three years into the American Civil War. But as with so much of his early life, the origins of his thoughts and feelings about slavery remain shrouded in mystery.” The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner
"This book is not a political tract for or against war. It is about the inner battles soldiers wage—the moral weight of war that individual soldiers carry on their shoulders and don’t usually talk about. Soldiers go to war to fight external enemies, in Afghanistan and Iraq today, or in Europe and the Pacific in my father’s era. But most, at least the honest among them, fight inner wars as well. They wrestle with the guilt of luck and accident, and the uneasy burden of killing and leaving the killing behind." The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of Our Soldiers by Nancy Sherman
“He had read a pamphlet that said the softest and thickest towels and toilet rolls were made not from woodchips but from the ancient giants: you wiped your ass with the history of the world.”—Lydia Millet, Ghost Lights
“Moneyball, the excellent film adaptation of Michael Lewis’s even more excellent 2003 book, falls squarely into the second category of sports films: It’s a feel-bad movie, in the best of ways.”—The Atlantic reviews Moneyball
I traveled a few times with Steve Bongardt to Pakistan to meet the source. We made efforts to protect him; we didn’t want Pakistani or other intelligence agents knowing about our meetings with him. Whenever we were in the country, Pakistani agents tried to tail us. They weren’t very efficient, which made it easy to lose them. Sometimes, however, we enjoyed playing games with them to show them how ridiculous the situation was. One time, after we had finished our mission and were ready to go home the next morning, Steve and I walked out of our rooms, went to the elevator, and spotted a man who had been following us for a few days. While he claimed to be a receptionist on our floor, he repeatedly popped up wherever we were, and he didn’t wear a hotel uniform or seem to do any administrative work. As the elevator doors opened, we stepped in, and he followed us in.
"Oh, excuse me," I said out loud. "I forgot something." Steve and I stepped out of the elevator, and the "receptionist" jumped out.
"Actually, I have it," Steve said, playing along, and we both stepped back in—as did the man.
We jumped out, and he jumped out. “You’re burned,” I told him with a big smile. “Tell them they need to send someone else to follow us.” His face went red, and he walked off.
“The key to the shift lies not only in the intense, deeply informed revival of interest in the pagan deities and the rich meanings that once attached to them. It lies also in the whole vision of a world in motion, a world not rendered insignificant but made more beautiful by its transience, its erotic energy, and its ceaseless change.”—Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve
I’m writing because after seeing “Frontline" (I had never heard of you before; sorry!), I listened to you on "Fresh Air,” read your Wikipedia page, Googled you several times (sometimes I accidentally type ‘Souftan’), read the transcript of all your interviews and your 2009 and 2010New York Times editorials, then watched “Frontline” again, and then came to the conclusion that you are a stone fox.
My boyfriend is not like you at all. He makes a lot of fart jokes, and they’re really funny, but for some reason, seeing you on TV so much in the last few days, just really taking in the gravity of your life, well. It’s left me in a daze of both self-hatred and longing and I can’t laugh at fart jokes anymore. I haven’t been able to write a single Facebook update since I started liking you because I know you don’t write them. What would you say? “I look awesome in a thawb?”
There is only one thing wrong with you—other than that we are not together. That is that you sometimes use the word “myself” instead of “me,” as in, “The only ones interrogating Mohammed al-Qahtani were myself and my partner.” ‘Myself’ is not a noun. It’s a reflexive pronoun.
One day Felice came across a novel on the Recommended Fiction shelf. It was about a man who was obsessed with young girls—nymphets. Hannah had used that word. When they had Mr. Rendell for orchestra, Hannah had said, he loves nymphets—watch out. As Felice read, the book began to bother her. She was angry with the show-offy language, some of which she couldn’t follow. But the story—about this babyish girl who fell into an old man’s clutches—captivated and horrified her with near-sensory memories.
"Less Talk was actually a much more in your face affair, which took on everybody from Nazis to big oil companies, and really made the listener want to go out and free a bunch of primates from some university laboratory. All that, and it persuaded young minds to seek out P. G. Wodehouse novels, probably thinking that they were stories about killing fascists and smashing corporations.”
Check in over at Vol. 1 and share your own music-to-lit memories. As for me, The Sea and the Bells by The Rachel’s led me directly to that other punk legend, Pablo Neruda.
First Lines from New Books Out Today: September 19, 2011
"Jason McCrory and Dan Mott were the first in line. It was early Sunday evening, and McCrory pulled his rabbit fur hat tight around his ears to protect himself from the frigid March wind whipping down First Street in Washington, D.C. A security guard told the two men, both in their early twenties, where on the sidewalk to wait. They were soon joined by two men from Phoenix, who had come straight from the airport. Then three more people arrived, with heavy winter coats, thick scarves, woolen caps, and sleeping bags—everything they’d need to sleep on the street for two nights, waiting for Tuesday morning. McCrory and Mott curled up in blankets to get some sleep, but the weather made that all but impossible. It ‘was cold, cold, cold,’ McCrory recalled. ‘After about four am, it was too cold to sleep.’ Despite the chill, people kept arriving and joining the queue in front of the United States Supreme Court." "The reason scores of people were willing to camp out on the street in front of the Supreme Court like groupies at a rock concert is captured in a single word: ‘guns.’" Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America by Adam Winkler
"Latin Americans tell of when, in difficult times, a local dictator defended his rule before a skeptical nation. ‘When I took office,’ he insisted, ‘we stood on the brink of an abyss. But since then, we have taken a great leap forward!’ The bitter story circulated in the early 1980s, as Latin Americans faced the worst debt crisis in their history. Beginning around 1970, the countries of the region had borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars from banks in North America, Europe, and Japan. The frenzied borrowing kept the economies going. Brazil built up the developing world’s biggest industries; Mexico went from being an oil importer to a major oil exporter; Chile’s Pinochet dictatorship spurred the rise of huge private conglomerates. The borrowing also drove speculative bubbles in finance and real estate, but in these prosperous times some disproportionate enthusiasm was understandable." Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery by Menzie D. Chinn and Jeffry A. Frieden
"Miss Grace Spivey arrived in Threestep, Georgia, in August of 1938. She stepped off the train wearing a pair of thick-soled boots suitable for hiking, a navy blue dress, and a little white tam that rode the waves of her red hair at a gravity-defying angle. August was a hellish month to step off a train in Georgia, although it was nothing, she said, compared to the 119 degrees that greeted her when she arrived one time in Timbuktu, which, she assured us, was a real place in Africa." The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia by Mary Helen Stefaniak
I’m going out and get something. I don’t know what. I don’t care. Whatever’s out there, I’m going to get it. Look in those shop windows at boxes and boxes of Reeboks and Nikes to make me fly through the air like Michael Jordan like Magic. While I’m up there, I see Spike Lee. Looks like he’s flying too straight through the glass that separates me from the virtual reality I watch everyday on TV. I know the difference between what it is and what it isn’t. Just because I can’t touch it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. All I have to do is smash the screen, reach in and take what I want. Break out of prison. South Central homey’s newly risen from the night of living dead, but this time he lives, he gets to give the zombies a taste of their own medicine. Open wide and let me in, or else I’ll set your world on fire, but you pretend that you don’t hear. You haven’t heard the word is coming down like the hammer of the gun of this black son, locked out of this big house, while massa looks out the window and sees only smoke. Massa doesn’t see anything else, not because he can’t, but because he won’t. He’d rather hear me talking about mo’ money, mo’ honeys and gold chains and see me carrying my favorite things from looted stores than admit that underneath my Raider’s cap, the aftermath is staring back unblinking through the camera’s lens, courtesy of CNN, my arms loaded with boxes of shoes that I will sell at the swap meet to make a few cents on the declining dollar. And if I destroy myself and my neighborhood “ain’t nobody’s business, if I do,” but the police are knocking hard at my door and before I can open it, they break it down and drag me in the yard. They take me in to be processed and charged, to await trial, while Americans forget the day the wealth finally trickled down to the rest of us.
“Sex to an Italian is something like a firecracker at a children’s party; to a Frenchman, a business the relaxation from which is making money; to an Englishman, it is a nuisance; to an American, a horserace. Now which are you?”—William Faulkner, from Mosquitoes
Nicole Krauss, author of Great House and The History of Love At the End of the Story: Readings and Discussion with A.M. Homes, Nicole Krauss, and Randall Robinson. Moderated by Greg Cowles (New York Times) 10AM, St. Francis Auditorium, 180 Remsen Street
Meghan O’Rourke, author of Once and Halflife The Poetry of Loss: Panel Discussion with Mary Jo Bang, Michael Dickman, Meghan O’Rourke, and Kevin Young. Moderated by Robert Casper (Library of Congress) 12PM, Brooklyn Historical Society Main Hall, 128 Pierrepont Street
Nick Flynn, author of The Ticking is the Bomb Politics and Poetry: Panel Discussion with Timothy Donnelly, Nick Flynn, Thomas Sayers Ellis, and Evie Shockley. Moderated by Camille Rankine (Cave Canem Foundation) 2PM, Brooklyn Historical Society Main Hall, 128 Pierrepont Street
Paula Fox, author of News from the World Memories and Wayfinding: Readings and Discussion with Binyavanga Wainaina, Paula Fox, and Philip Lopate. Moderated by Pat Mulcahy. 4PM, Brooklyn Historical Society Main Hall, 128 Pierrepont Street
Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze Writing War: Readings and Conversation with Juris Jurjevics, Ron Leshem, and Maaza Mengiste. Moderated by Joel Whitney (Guernica Magazine) 5PM, Borough Hall Community Room, 209 Joralemon Street
Brooke Gladstone, author of The Influencing Machine Media Representations and Reality: Discussion with Brooke Gladstone, Patrice Evans, and Jennifer Pozner. Moderated by Juan Gonzalez (News for All the People). 5PM, Brooklyn Historical Society Main Hall, 128 Pierrepont Street
It is said that Faulkner wrote his second novel, Mosquitoes, “for the sake of writing because it was fun.” Read this passage from the book, proof he was feeling playful, wherein Faulkner has his characters talk about…well, Faulkner. It seems he didn’t leave much of an impression on them:
"He was a white man, except he was awful sunburned and kind of shabby dressed—no necktie and hat. Say, he said some funny things to me. He said I had the best digestion he ever saw, and he said if the straps of my dress was to break I’d devastate the country. He said he was a liar by profession, and he made good money at it, enough to own a Ford as soon as he got it paid out. I think he was crazy. Not dangerous: just crazy."
The niece lay quiet. She said, contemplatively: “You look like they feed you on bread and milk and put you to bed at sunset every day…What was his name? Did he tell you?” she asked suddenly.
"Yes. It was…" Jenny pondered a while. "I remembered it because he was such a funny kind of man. It was…Walker or Foster or something."
"Walker or Foster? Well, which one was it?"
"It must be Foster because I remember it by it began with a F like my girl friend’s middle name—Frances. Thelma Frances, only she don’t use both of them. Only I don’t think it was Foster, because—"
"You don’t remember it, then."
"Yes, I do. Wait…Oh, yes: I remember—Faulkner, that was it."
"Faulkner?" the niece pondered in turn. "Never heard of him." she said with finality.
At Ebbets Field, the first pitch echoed in the mitt of Mickey Owen, the catcher for the Dodgers who never let the ball escape his glove. A boy off the boat, my father shelled peanuts, waiting for Satchel Paige to steer his gold Cadillac from the bullpen to the mound, just as he would navigate the streets of Guayama. Yet Satchel never tipped his cap that day. ¿Dónde están los negros? asked the boy. Where are the Negro players? No los dejan, his father softly said. They don’t let them play here. Mickey Owen would never have to dive for The Trouble Ball.