“It is odd enough that my own individual taste is for quite another class of novels than those which I myself am able to write. If I were to meet with such books as mine by any other writer, I don’t believe I should be able to get through them. Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope? They precisely suit my taste; solid and substantial, written on strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale, and just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth, and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were made a show of.”—Nathaniel Hawthorne on Anthony Trollope
“Sunday came. The sun baptised the sea. O tireless, sleepless sun! It burned and kissed things. It baked the ship into a loose, disjointed state. Only the brave hoarse breezes at dusk prevented it from leaving her so. It refused to keep things glued. It fried sores and baked bunions, browned and blackened faces, reddened and blistered eyes. It lured to the breast of the sea sleepy sharks ready to pounce upon prey.”—Eric Walrond, Tropic Death
“The best career choices for goats? Actor, gardener, or beachcomber. Let’s consider these options for Newt the goat, just in case things don’t pan out for him in this year of the dragon.”—Yunte Huang in The Week
First Lines from New Books Out Today, January 30, 2012
"On October 13, 1991 my grandparents killed themselves. It was a Sunday. Not really the ideal day of the week for suicide." An Exclusive Love: A Memoir by Johanna Adorjan, translated by Althea Bell
"By the time he received the Nobel Prize in 1975, Eugenio Montale was widely recognized as a poet who had revolutionized the art in his native Italy, and whose voice reverberated among the great international moderns: Eliot, Pound, and Valery, along with Yeats and Cavafy." The Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale, 1925 - 1977 translated by William Arrowsmith and edited by Rosanna Warren
"This book has been written for anyone who has to deal with people on a daily basis. Whether you are a teacher, a professor, a pilot or a top manager, you will be confronted by the same questions time and again: How do I make the right decision? How can I motivate myself or my team? How can I change things? How can I work more efficiently? And on a more personal: What do my friends reveal about me? Do I live in the here and now? What do I want?" The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler
"I live in a lovely place. It is a small farm, just a few acres, but it is beautiful. I created this farm over many years, and it is still evolving, and will continue to for many years hence. I never intended to be a farmer and yet it feels right. I enjoy a connection to the land, to the animals here, and I am endlessly thrilled to make food; to feed people." Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land by Kurt Timmermeister
From her window marshland stretched for miles. If not for egrets and gulls, it reminded her of the moors behind the parsonage, how the fog often hovered and descended as if sheltering some sweet compulsion the age was not ready to see. On clear days the jagged skyline of Atlantic City was visible—Atlantic City, where all compulsions had a home.
"Everything’s too easy now," she said to her neighbor, “nothing resisted, nothing gained.” Once, at eighteen, she dreamed of London’s proud salons glowing with brilliant fires and dazzling chandeliers. Already her own person—passionate, assertive— soon she’d create a governess insistent on rights equal to those above her rank. “The dangerous picture
of a natural heart,” one offended critic carped. She’d failed, he said, to let religion reign over the passions and, worse, she was a woman. Now she was amazed at what women had, doubly amazed at what they didn’t. But she hadn’t come back to complain or haunt. Her house on the bay was modest, adequate.
It need not accommodate brilliant sisters or dissolute brothers, spirits lost or fallen. Feminists would pay homage, praise her honesty and courage. Rarely was she pleased. After all, she was an artist; to speak of honesty in art, she knew, was somewhat beside the point. And she had married, had even learned to respect
the weakness in men, those qualities they called their strengths. Whatever the struggle, she wanted men included. Charlotte missed reading chapters to Emily, Emily reading chapters to her. As ever, though, she’d try to convert present into presence, something unsung sung, some uprush of desire frankly acknowledged, even in this, her new excuse for a body.
James Barr has written a history of the rivalry between France and Britain for dominance in the Middle East as framed by the First and the Second World Wars…
And there he keeps us for the next 30 years, not hovering with the historians in high Olympic judgement on the fates of nations, but with the journalists and spies at the very grubby coalface of foreign policy, made up of threat and counter-threat, hidden dreams, desire for revenge, inter-departmental rivalry and the jealousy of the bureaucratic chiefs in the capitals for their men on the ground. I found the entire book most horribly addictive, even if the ultimate picture it paints of the actions of the two Western powers is sordid, muddled and hypocritical
“Instantly I felt that old surge come back, that seizing of my own life on my own terms. It is such a physical thing, like the time I had my forearm shattered and the nurse came in every four hours on the dot to give me a shot of morphine—that’s how physical—and I look down at the glacier and the ice-ridged peaks that go on forever behind it and say, Remember this remember this remember this the next time you think it’s over, because some man, or some hope, or some life takes away instead of gives. Remember this and get on an airplane, a small one if possible, because it always works.”—Pam Houston, Contents May Have Shifted
"There is always a moment, after having met someone, when they do or say some telltale thing that reveals their character, their understory, or at least implies it. If you pay attention you won’t miss these when they are offered. Writing great characters seems to me about giving them those tiny gestures, some offhand line of dialogue, something they wear or eat, that gestures pointedly at their understory. John Updike was a master at this. If you study his short stories you will see what I mean."
“Internet executives like Mark Zuckerberg like to argue that ‘privacy’ is an outdated concern. But when people talk about privacy, what they’re really talking about is freedom: the freedom to be in charge of their own information. Guaranteeing the freedom of information online entails not only questions of flow but also questions of control. Frankly, it sometimes seems like Silicon Valley is more interested in the freedom of data than in the freedom of people.”—Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Piracy and privacy (via ayjay)
The text in bold is a sentence from John D’Agata’s essay “What Happens There" published in The Believer in January 2010 and later published in the book-length work About a Mountain. After the bold type, confirmation from The Believer's fact-checker Jim Fingal.
On Feb. 27, Norton will publish The Lifespan of a Fact which asks the question: how negotiable is a fact in nonfiction? In the book, Fingal fact-checks every sentence (sometimes even individual words) in a tug of war with D’Agata over fact, fiction, and the very definition of literary nonfiction.
“He tells me we’ve been put on earth to crack each other open, and then to stick around long enough to watch the thing that, having been cracked open, suddenly shines.”—Pam Houston, Contents May Have Shifted
First Lines from New Books Out Today: January 23, 2012
"More than forty years ago, a wave of popular fascination with a musical group distinguished by youth, charm, great talent, and exceptional hair was dubbed a form of ‘mania’ by the press. We have not seen such a case of mania again…until recently, with the emergence of ‘Dudamania,’ which concerns another musical phenomenon with ferocious talent, abundant charm, and—yes, exceptional hair." Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music by Tricia Tunstall
"Margaret Fuller was, in her time, the best-read woman in America and the one most renowned for her intelligence. She was the leading figure in the New England movement known as transcendentalism. She edited the first avant-garde intellectual magazine in America. She was the first regular foreign correspondent, male or female, for an American newspaper. As a literary critic, she was rivaled in her era only by Edgar Allan Poe. Three years before the convention that is usually regarded as the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the United States, she wrote a groundbreaking book demanding legal equality for women. And yet, if the ordinary person today knows only one thing about Margaret Fuller, that particle of knowledge is likely not to concern any of her achievements, but how her life came to an end." The Lives of Margaret Fuller: A Biography by John Matteson
"The first thing you must know about me is that I am colossally fat. When I knew you I was what one might call plump but I am no longer plump. I eat what I want and furthermore I eat whenever I want. For years I have made very little effort to reduce the amount that I eat for I have seen no cause to. Despite this I am neither immobile nor bedridden but I do feel winded when I walk more than six or seven steps, and I do feel very shy and sort of encased in something as if I were a cello or an expensive gun." Heft: A Novel by Liz Moore
"In first grade, I won a dead frozen rabbit at school for making up the best poem for my teacher’s husband’s frozen foods packing company, Pel-Freez, up on Zero Mountain, where everybody says the Satan worshippers are supposed to be." Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl by Stacy Pershall
"For the past quarter century I have had the marvelous privilege of being able to work in the emerging field of cognitive neuroscience. This book is a distillation of a large chunk of my life’s work, which has been to unravel—strand by elusive strand—the mysterious connections between brain, mind, and body." The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human by V. S. Ramachandran
Don’t let your hand brush back the bang of hair that veils your cherub brow. It too speaks of you; on my road, it’s my whole horizon, my only light, it and the jades circling your wrist; the curtain your dispensations spread in the tumult of sleep; the wing on which you move unharmed, transmigratory Artemis among the wars of the stillborn. And if, now, the background blooms with airy down, it’s you, suddenly descending, you’re there to marble it, your restless brow fuses with the dawn, darkens it.
“It’s not that British women are acquisitive; it’s that they’re so straitlaced he can’t stand to be on the phone with them, and indeed, at times, goes to the length of simply leaving the receiver off of the hook so he can’t be reached. The verse-length instrumental interlude that at this point ensues gives the listener time to reflect on this scenario, and it also expresses his silence.”—From Joshua Cody’s meditation on the Mick Jagger persona Some Girls, Orson Welles and Don Giovanni in [sic]
First Lines from New Books Out Today: January 17, 2012
"Dear Resia, I want to answer your letter as promptly as you wrote it—if not more so, seeing as it’s Sunday, and there’s little to do. When I wrote my last letter to ask you if I might come, that wasn’t a serious inquiry: you shouldn’t take everything seriously. I am a sworn enemy to etiquette." Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters translated and edited by Michael Hofmann
"In the winemaking mecca on Argentina’s western edge, the landscape is harshly photogenic. A desert slope pressed into the rain shadow of the Andes, Mendoza and its fellow Argentine wine capitals of Salta and San Juan look like the set of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. These oases beneath the cordillera are happy accidents, precarious outposts that, save for the lucky nutrition provided by Andean snow runoff, would be little more than places where dirt goes to die." The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec by Ian Mount
"I feel driven to inform you personally that Paris is the capital of the world, and that you must come here. Whoever has not been here is only half a human, and no sort of European. Paris is free, intellectual in the best sense, and ironic in the most majestic pathos. Any chauffeur is wittier that our wittiest authors. We really are an unhappy bunch. Here everyone smiles at me, I fall in love with all the women, even the oldest of them, to the point of contemplating matrimony. I could weep when I cross the Seine bridges, for the first time in my life I am shattered by the aspect of buildings and streets, I feel at ease with everyone, though we continually misunderstand each other in matters of practicalities, merely because we so delightfully understand each other in matters of nuance. Were I a French author, I wouldn’t bother printing anything, I would just read and speak. The cattle drovers with whom I eat breakfast are so cultivated and noble as to put our ministers of state to shame, patriotism is justified (but only here!), nationalism is an expression of a European conscience, any poster is a poem, the announcements in a magistrates court are as sublime as our best prose, film placards contain more imagination and psychology than our contemporary novels, soldiers are whimsical children, policemen amusing editorialists. You must come here!”
Three days after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, performer Nina Simone and her band played at the Westbury Music Festival on Long Island, N.Y. They performed “Why? (The King of Love is Dead),” a song they had just learned, written by their bass player Gene Taylor in reaction to King’s death.
“I begin to have intimations, now, of a return to some deep self that has been too absorbed and too battered to function for a long time. That self tells me that I was meant to live alone, meant to write the poems for others.”—May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude
“As a personal, intimate, and non marketable commodity, commercialized sex illustrated one significant conquest of the market in nineteenth-century America. And perhaps the ultimate lesson of this story is that whenever a civilization relies upon the market to determine its major priorities, the social by-products are never “free” or without cost.”—from the introduction to City of Eros, by Timothy J. Gilfoyle
“"A Clockwork Orange” is a brilliant novel. In young Alex, Anthony Burgess has created the most interesting delinquent since Pinky in Graham Green’s “Brighton Rock.” Alex is vicious, depraved, anarchic, a pure little monster, and the purity of his dedication to evil keeps lighting his deeds like some grotesque halo.”—From the NYT review of A Clockwork Orange, March 19, 1963
How do you avoid the artificial endings that so often characterize otherwise good poems?
I’ll give you a glib answer: You’ve got to be good. You incorporate over your lifetime of reading and writing a good internal editor. You trust that editor more and more. I have a pretty good internal editor, but I’m often wrong. My presumption is that a good poem is a very difficult thing to write. I don’t mind going back to it again and again. Over time, I’ve learned to resist smart endings or even good endings.
Joseph Roth, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down
"My mistrust kills all warmth, as bleach kills most germs. I no longer understand the forms of human intercourse. A harmless conversation chokes me. I am incapable of speaking an innocent word. I don’t understand how people utter banalities. How they manage to sing. How they manage to play charades. If only the traditional forms still applied! But the new informality in Germany kills everything. I can’t participate."