Loving Acts

I don’t have a problem with death. No more than anyone else has. My problem is living. […] I look at my dead friend and all I want to do is understand why, if his death is so absolute, my life can’t be absolute, too. I want to know why I can’t be wholly living. Christ, it would take so little, so fucking little to do it, to let me be here properly. […] And don’t say that I should not look for contentment outside myself. Don’t fucking say it, because no one who fucking suggests that knows the first fucking thing about being lonely. A human fucking being cannot do everything entirely fucking alone, we’re not made to be sealed units, we’re meant to look outside ourselves, we’re meant to find joy in that, If there’s agod, he fucking made us that way. And don’t even start to tell me that was a loving act.

from A. L. Kennedy’s amazing novel Everything You Need.

When Genius Goes Poof!

With High Castle, and Martian Time-Slip, I thought I had bridged the gap between the experimental mainstream novel and science fiction. Suddenly I’d found a way to do everything I wanted to do as a writer. I had in mind a whole series of books, a vision of a new kind of science fiction progressing from those two novels. Then Time-Slip was rejected by Putnam’s and every other hardcover publisher we sent it to. My vision collapsed. I was crushed. I had made a miscalculation somewhere, and I didn’t know where. The evaluation I had made of myself, of the marketplace, went poof! I reverted to a more primitive concept of my writing. The books that might have followed Time-Slip were gone.

Philip K. Dick in the Rolling Stone, 1975. (via, via)


She showed me a photograph: it was Ros on her hands and knees, looking over her shoulder at her raised bum – or rather, not a bum at all, but a rich banker, a snowman capitalist with greedy black-button eyes on each pale cheek, a carrot-nose stuck in her anus, top hat perched on top, and a wet bearded mouth about to ingest a shining gold rod.

from Robert Coover’s novel Gerald’s Party


Her hair was well brushed that day and sheened darkly in contrast with the lusterless pallor of her neck and arms. She wore the striped tee shirt which in his lone fantasies he especially liked to peel off her twisting torso. The oilcloth was divided into blue and white squares. A smear of honey stained what remained of the butter in its cool crock.
She looked at him. A fiery droplet in the wick of her mouth considered him. A three-colored velvet violet, of which she had done an aquarelle on the eve, considered him from its fluted crystal. She said nothing. She licked her spread fingers, still looking at him.

from Nabokov’s masterful Ada, or Ardor.


Her hair was well brushed that day and sheened darkly in contrast with the lusterless pallor of her neck and arms. She wore the striped tee shirt which in his lone fantasies he especially liked to peel off her twisting torso. The oilcloth was divided into blue and white squares. A smear of honey stained what remained of the butter in its cool crock.
She looked at him. A fiery droplet in the wick of her mouth considered him. A three-colored velvet violet, of which she had done an aquarelle on the eve, considered him from its fluted crystal. She said nothing. She licked her spread fingers, still looking at him.

from Nabokov’s masterful Ada, or Ardor.

There and back again

“It’s weird like you can see the cruelest part of the world, the cruelest part…but then on the other side you see the most beautiful part ….do you know? It’s like you go from one extreme to the next….and they’re both worth it cause you wouldn’t see the other without the other one. But that cruel part is damn cruel and you’ll never forget it. But that heaven….is heaven. And it’s like….I’ve been to both places.”

Britney Spears: On the Record

About Chuck

Thinking back, actually, ‘self-infatuation’ strikes me as a rather ill-chosen word. It isn’t so much that I like or love myself. Rather, I’m sentimental about myself. (I say, is this normal for someone my age?) What do I think of [myself]? I think: ‘Charles Highway? Oh, I like him. Yes, I’ve got a soft spot for old Charles. He’s all right is Charlie. Chuck’s…okay.’

from Martin Amis’ The Rachel Papers.


The wonderful Andrew Gelman annotates his use of ‘Kafkaesque’ in the main body of a post of his with this great footnote-ish statement:

I think I am ideally qualified to use the term Kafkaesque, having never read anything by Kafka except the first two pages of that story they give you to read in high school, where Gregor Samsa wakes up as a bug. I’ve read too much Orwell to be comfortable with “Orwellian.”

He’s right, you know.

Es wird nichts geheilt.

Mich wundert, daß er das Haus will. Diesen Ort, als wäre es ein noch unberührter Ort, der zu seiner Geschichte gehört. Als wäre das Alter und die Traurigkeit dorthin nicht vorgedrungen. Die Traurigkeit und das Entsetzen, daß es keinen Ort gibt, der unberührt geblieben ist, von der Wahrheit, der Kälte. […] Wir Juristen sind rückwirkend immer Historiker einer als gerecht gedachten Geschichte, einer Rechtlichkeit, die objektiv ist. […] Wenn es schon den Engel der Geschichte nicht gibt, nicht wahr, dann muß doch wenigstens etwas anderes zuverlässig sein. Gut, das finde ich auch. Aber warum kann es nicht der schiere Gegenwert von etwas sein? Warum auf dem bestehen, was verloren ist, warum darauf, daß etwas geheilt wird? Es wird nichts geheilt.

aus Katharina Hackers Roman Die Habenichtse

"Hope is the thing with feathers"

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

– Emily Dickinson


But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don’t think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful.

from Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray

Wer Schuld hat

Mögen die Juden nicht, die Ravensburger. Seitdem sie den Kindermordprozeß gehabt haben und ihre Juden gemartert, gebrannt und geplündert, hassen sie uns mehr als das ganze andere Schwaben. Das sind jetzt dreihundert Jahr. Heute hat man humanere Methoden, weniger komplizierte, dem Juden sein Geld zu stehlen. Aber wenn man solches Unrecht getan hat, versteht sich, daß man weiter gegen den gereizt ist, auch nach dreihundert Jahr. Nun, wir werden’s überleben.

aus Lion Feuchtwangers großem Roman Jud Süss


Although the heat had not yet broken she began that week to sleep inside, between white sheets, hoping dimly that the white sheets would effect some charm, that she would wake in the morning and find them stained with blood. She did this in the same spirit that she had, a month before, thrown a full box of Tampax into the garbage: to be without Tampax was to insure bleeding, to sleep naked between white sheets was to guarantee staining. To give the charm every opportunity she changed the immaculate sheets every morning. She wore white crêpe pajamas and no underwear to a party.

from Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays

On Revolution

Why don’t they know that this is impossible to do without, that this really must be accomplished, that it certainly will be – so that no one will ever be poor or unhappy again? Isn’t this what they’re all saying? No, they feel sorry, but they really think things will always stay just the way they are – maybe a little better, but still much the same. […] Yes, it’ll be wonderful when there are no more poor people, when no one can coerce anyone else.

– Nikolai Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done? (trans. Michael R. Katz)

"Senile Selbstbefriedigung": Kertész über Kunst

Der wunderbare Imre Kertész:

Wäre es das, was die Literaten “Begabung” nennen? Ich glaube kaum. Mit keiner meiner Taten, Worte, Äußerungen habe ich je ein Zeichen irgendeiner Begabung oder Originalität gegeben – allenfalls damit, daß ich am Leben blieb. Ich habe mich nicht in erfundene Geschichten hineingeträumt; ich mußte nicht einmal etwas mit dem anzufangen, was mir widerfuhr. Die erlösende Stimme der Berufung drank kein einziges Mal an mein Ohr, die Summe meiner Erfahrungen konnte nur meine Überflüssigkeit bestätigen, nie meine Wichtigkeit. Das erlösende Wort war mir nicht zu eigen; Vollkommenheit hat mich nicht interessiert, und auch nicht Schönheit, von der ich nicht einmal weiß, was das ist. Den Gedanken an Ruhm halte ich für senile Selbstbefriedigung, den an Unsterblichkeit einfach für lächerlich.

– Imre Kertész, Fiasko (trans. György Buda)

On thinking

“You think of yourself as an open-minded pluralist – but you’ve got a single compact little philosophy of life, all unified, all tied up comfortably together, a few soothing ideas which let you off thinking! But we must think – and that’s what’s such hell, philosophy is hell, it’s contrary to nature, it hurts so, one must make a shot at the whole thing and that means failing too, not really being able to connect, and not pretending that things fit when they don’t – and keeping hold of the things that don’t fit, keeping them whole and clear in their almost-fittingness – oh God, it’s so hard -“

Iris Murdoch, The Book and the Brotherhood


Zwei Zitate aus Leben und Abenteuer der Trobadora Beatriz nach Zeugnissen ihrer Spielfrau Laura von Irmtraud Morgner

Der Soldat vergaß nicht zu erwähnen, daß Manöver und Rüstung entbehrlich wären, sobald die Ausbeutung des Menschen durch den Menschen in allen Ländern abgeschafft wäre. “Und die Ausbeutung der Frau durch den Menschen.” sagte Beatriz. “Wie”, sagte der Soldat. Sein Unverständnis erklärte sich Beatriz mit den idealen Zuständen seiner Heimat.


Als neulich unsere Frauenbrigade im Espresso am Alex Kapuziner trank, betrat ein Mann das Etablissement, der meinen Augen wohltat. Ich pfiff also eine Tonleiter rauf und runter und sah mir den Herrn an, auch rauf und runter. Als er an unserem Tisch vorbeiging, sagte ich “Donnerwetter”. Dann unterhielt sich unsere Brigade über seine Füße, denen Socken fehlten, den taillenumfang schätzten wir auf siebzig, Alter auf zweiunddreißig […] Wegen schlechter Haltung der schönen Schultern riet ich zu Rudersport. Da der Herr in der Ecke des Lokals Platz genommen hattem mußten wir sehr laut sprechen. Ich ließ ihm und mir einen doppelten Wodka servieren und prostete ihn zu, als er der Bedienung ein Versehen anlasten wollte. Später ging ich zu seinem Tisch, entschuldigte mich, sagtem daß wir uns von irgendwoher kennen müßten, und besetzte den nächsten Stuhl. Ich nötigte dem Herrn die Getränkekarte auf und fragte nach seinen Wünschen. Da er keine hatte, drückte ich meine Knie gegen seine, bestellte drei Lagen Sliwowitz und drohte mit vergeltung für den Beleidigungsfall, der einträte, wenn er nicht tränke. Obwohl der Herr weder dankbar noch kurzweilig war, sondern wortlos, bezahlte ich alles und begleitete ihn aus dem Lokal. In der Tür ließ ich meine Hand wie zufällig über seine Hinterbacke gleiten, um zu prüfen, ob die Gewebestruktur in Ordnung wäre. Da ich keine Mängel feststellen konnte, fragte ich den Herrn, ob er heute abend etwas vorhätte, und lud ihn ein ins Kino. Eine innere Anstrengung, die zunehmend sein hübsches gesicht zeichnete, verzerrte es jetzt grimassenhaft, konnte die Verblüffung aber endlich lösen und die Zunge, also daß der Herr sprach: “Hören Sie mal, Sie haben ja unerhörte Umgangsformen.” “Gewöhnliche”, antwortete ich, “Sie sind nur nichts Gutes gewöhnt, weil Sie keine Dame sind.”

On Marxism

“I don’t know whether Crimond is “really” a Marxist, or what that means now, they don’t know themselves. I suppose he’s a sort of maverick Marxist, as their best thinkers are. The only good Marxist is a mad Marxist. It’s not enough to be a revisionist, you’ve got to be a bit mad too – to be able to see the present world, to imagine the magnitude of what’s happening.”

Iris Murdoch, The Book and the Brotherhood

stuff white people like: grammar

Stuff White People Like
#99 Grammar

White people love rules. It explains why so they get upset when people cut in line, why they tip so religiously and why they become lawyers. But without a doubt, the rule system that white people love the most is grammar. It is in their blood not only to use perfect grammar but also to spend significant portions of time pointing out the errors of others.


I am growing extremely weary from writing about politics. My brain has become a steam-vat; my body is turning to wax and bad flap; impotence looms; […].
People are beginning to notice, I think, but fuck them. I’m beginning to notice some of
their problems, too.

from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

Nattering Nabobs

Once again, listening to Clinton, who says that she alone can deliver the white worker vote, the part of the vote, she maintains, that really counts, it’s then-and-now time:

“He’d be a fine President,” they say, But of course he can’t possibly win.”
Why not?
Well, […] their reasoning appears to be rooted in the hazy idea that the people who could make McGovern President – that huge & confused coalition of students, freaks, blacks, anti-war activists & dazed dropouts – won’t even bother to register, much less drag themselves to the polls on Election Day.
Maybe so…but it’s hard to recall many candidates, in recent history, who failed to move what is now called “The McGovern Vote” to the polls
if they actually represented it.

from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

A Change is gonna come?

In light of current discussions in this year’s primaries, especially as far as they concern Obama’s (the ‘Change’ candidate) problems to really sway blue collar voters, the following passage from Thompson’s campaign notes from 1972 struck me as oddly interesting:

“I’ve always thought that the blue-collar vote had to be a source of his strength. […] It always seemed to me that McGovern – not as the anti-war candidate but as the ‘change’ candidate – would appeal more to Middle America than to any other group. They’re the ones with the most to gain from change and they’re the ones who get screwed by the way we do business in this country.”

from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

"beef and pork are very big here"

Milwaukee is owned by old Germans who moved out of the suburbs about thirty years ago and hired Polaks to run the city for them. The German presence is very heavy here, the pace is very orderly. Even on totally empty downtown streets, nobody crosses against the Red Light. […] There is no room in the good German mind for flashes of personal anarchy.

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

Democrats campaigning like Republicans

Reading HST’s 1972 campaign notes, I have to think of remarks as in this Dowd column. Here’s Thompson on covering Ed Muskie:

That scene was pure Nixon – so much like a pep rally set at a Young Republican Club that I was reminded of a conversation I’d had earlier with a reporter from Atlanta. “You know,” he said. “It’s taken me half the goddamn day to figure out what it is that bothers me about these people.” He nodded toward a group of clean-cut young Muskie staffers at the other end of the car. “I’ve covered a lot of Democratic campaigns,” he continued. “But I’d never felt out of place before […].”
“I know what you mean,” I said.
“Sure,” he said. “It’s obvious – and I’ve finally figured out why.” He chuckled and looked at the Muskie people again. “You know what it is?” he said. “It’s because these people act like goddamned Republicans! That’s the problem. It took me a while but I finally figured it out.”

from Hunter S. Thompson’s incredible Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72


Der Pilger sollte ausreichend Geld für seine Familie hinterlassen, und keine Schulden; selbst wenn sein Nachbar Not leidet, sagt ein Hadith, muß er die Reise aufschieben. […] Am wichtigsten aber ist, daß der Gläubige sich vorab von seinen Lastern und Schwächen befreit. Die Hadsch wird ihn zwar von allen Sünden reinigen, aber sie wird nicht einen besseren Menschen aus ihm machen. Wer als Lügner oder Heuchler aufbricht, wird als Lügner oder Heuchler heimkehren. Die Hadsch ist kein Selbstzweck, sie wirkt nicht an sich.

aus Ilija Trojanows Büchlein “Zu den heiligen Quellen des Islam: Als Pilger nach Mekka und Medina” Malik, 2004.

Science and Metaphor

In addition to serving a rhetorical and heuristic role, metaphors play a cognitively significant role in scientific reasoning as well. Theories and theoretical explanation are shot through and through with metaphors. The view that scientific theories must be literal accounts in order to do their job, I argue, rests on a mistaken picture of the nature of reality and the relation of our theories to it.

Quoth Michael Bradie (in an oldish (1998) essay called “Models and Metaphors in Science”).

On Auden

Archbishop Rowan Williams on Auden

If I had to find one word for Auden’s poetry, it might be “satisfying” – not remotely in the sense of comfortable, but full of that sense of creative necessity that poetry conveys when it is most itself: this is how it must be said, this is (borrowing Geoffrey Hill’s language) a poetry of “atonement” where something is at the same time finished and set free in the fabric of the words.

Today’s Quote (4)

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — “I refute it thus.”

Boswell/Life Of Johnson

Zitat des Tages (3)

“Wie kannst du wissen, daß ein Stil per se faschistisch ist? Oder ein Geist. Komm mir nicht mit solchen Angebereien.”
Ich war versucht, ihm zu antworten und dabei seine Redeweise zu imitieren: ‘Wenn du das nicht nach ein paar Seiten Text oder einer halben Stunde Bekanntschaft mit jemandem kapieren kannst, dann hast du nicht die leiseste Scheißahnung von Literatur oder von Menschen.’ Doch ich dachte ein wenig nach […]. Ja es war tatsächlich nicht einfach das Wie zu erklären, worin genau dieser Geist und dieser Stil mit ihren so vielfältigen Gesichtern bestanden, aber ich wußte sie sogleich zu erkennen, oder so glaubte ich damals, oder womöglich war es wirklich Angeberei. Von ein paar Seiten Text und von einer halben Stunde zu reden […] war natürlich Angeberei gewesen […]. Es sind vielleicht Tage und Wochen oder Monate und Jahre, manchmal sieht man etwas klar in dieser ersten halben Stunde, um dann zu erleben, wie es verschwimmt, und es aus dem Blick zu verlieren und erst nach einem Jahrzehnt oder dem halben Leben wieder zu erfassen, oder es kommt niemals wieder. Bisweilen ist es nicht gut, die Zeit verstreichen zu lassen und zu erlauben, daß uns die verstrickt, die wir gewähren, und die verwirrt, die man uns gewährt. Es ist nicht gut, daß sie uns blendet, was die Zeit immer versucht und währenddessen geht sie vorbei. Es ließ sich auch nicht mehr einfach definieren, was faschistisch war, es verwandet sich allmählich in eine antiquierte, oft unpassende und zwangsläufig ungenaue Bezeichnung, obwohl ich sie gewöhnlich in umgangssprachlichem und wahrscheinlich analogem Sinn gebrauche, und in diesem Sinn und bei diesem Gebrauch weiß ich genau, was sie bedeutet und weiß, daß ich mich nicht irre.

aus Dein Gesicht Morgen: Fieber und Lanze
von Javier Marías
ISBN 3-608-93636-X

"Of what use are the humanities"

Stanley Fish reviewed a new book on the subject and concluded his essay with the following wonderful paragraph.

To the question “of what use are the humanities?”, the only honest answer is none whatsoever. And it is an answer that brings honor to its subject. Justification, after all, confers value on an activity from a perspective outside its performance. An activity that cannot be justified is an activity that refuses to regard itself as instrumental to some larger good. The humanities are their own good. There is nothing more to say, and anything that is said – even when it takes the form of Kronman’s inspiring cadences – diminishes the object of its supposed praise.

Today’s Quote (3)

Evidence, there was never enough evidence. He swam in it. That was it – physical training, it was the way he stayed in shape. That has to be it. You ate your heart out to keep the revolutionary tension. […] The implication of all the things he used to flaggelate himself was that American democracy wasn’t democratic enough. He continued to be astonished, insulted, outraged, that it wasn’t purer, freer, finer, more ideal. Finding proof of it over and over again […] like a guy looking for confirmation. How much confirmation did he need? Why did he expect so much of a system he knew by definition could never satisfy his standards of justice? […] And it was more than strategy […], it was passion.

E. L. Doctorow, The Book of Daniel

On Debating (I love Stephen Fry)

Here’s Stephen Fry’s blog entry on a debate he’s had on Global Warming and he starts it off with a reflection of the culture of debate in his country and the total lack of understanding for this way to lead a debate in the US. I felt, I don’t know, I love, admire and cherish Mr. Fry, and I guess I felt sort of vindicated, because I tend to get, er, similar reactions when I get into a heated debate, as some of you well know. People tend to carry a grudge for quite a while, as you can see by reading scrupeda’s rather unfair comment under my Open Letter Post. Here’s Fry’s complete opening paragraph

[W]hen I get into a debate I can get very, very hot under the collar, very impassioned, and I dare say, very maddening, for once the light of battle is in my eye I find it almost impossible to let go and calm down. I like to think I’m never vituperative or too ad hominem but I do know that I fall on ideas as hungry wolves fall on strayed lambs and the result isn’t always pretty. This is especially dangerous in America. I was warned many, many years ago by the great Jonathan Lynn, […] that Americans are not raised in a tradition of debate and that the adversarial ferocity common around a dinner table in Britain is more or less unheard of in America. When Jonathan first went to live in LA he couldn’t understand the terrible silences that would fall when he trashed an statement he disagreed with and said something like “yes, but that’s just arrant nonsense, isn’t it? It doesn’t make sense. It’s self-contradictory.” To a Briton pointing out that something is nonsense, rubbish, tosh or logically impossible in its own terms is not an attack on the person saying it – it’s often no more than a salvo in what one hopes might become an enjoyable intellectual tussle.

But to be fair, we don’t get a snippet of Fry’s way of debating here. He may well sound far less arrogant or prickish than I do, or less ego jerk-off. I don’t know. However, as it is, I’m sitting here, getting ill (why OH why? got so much to do. go away, I tell ye, wicked cold!) and smiling. Thank you Stephen, once again.

Zitat des Tages (2)

Niemand muß dich extra zwingen
wenn du selber mitmachst
niemand muß dich gleichschalten
wenn du dich selber gleichsetzt
um auf dem Markt zu konkurrieren
und dich vergleichen zu können
um zu den Siegern und nicht
zu den Verlieren zu gehören

Aus dem Song Der Tausch (Verschwörung aller gegen alle) von Egotronic feat. classless Kulla.

Das ist eine außergewöhnlich gute und genaue Feststellung, daß eben nicht die anderen (die da oben!) Schuld haben und man selbst Opfer oder wenigstens innocent bystander ist. So ist es eben nicht. Aber es hat sich so in alle Diskurse gefressen, daß alles, was man dagegen sagt, wie Worte in den Wind zu sprechen ist. Diese Haltung sorgt dann auch dafür, daß die großen Problemfelder der Gegenwart, wie class, race und gender, davon weitgehend unberührt geblieben sind. Streckenweise wird es klar nur noch bei Leuten wie Butler, Gilroy, Müller und Roediger. Für den, der es lesen kann. Kann das überwunden werden? Und was danach?
“Plonger […] [a]u fond de l’inconnu, pour trouver du nouveau!”

Das Wort "Holocaust"

Wenn dagegen mit dem Begriff ‘Holocaust’ eine auch nur entfernte Verbindung zwischen Auschwitz und biblischem olah, zwischen dem Tod in den Gaskammern und der “vollkommenen Hingabe an heilige und höhere Ziele” hergestellt wird, dann kann das nur wie Hohn klingen. Dieser Ausdruck schließt nicht nur einen unannehmbaren Vergleich von Krematorien und Altären ein, sondern auch eine von Anfang an antijüdisch gefärbte Bedeutungsgeschichte. […] Wer ihn weiterhin verwendet, beweist Unwissenheit oder Mangel an Sensibilität oder beides.

Giorgio Agamben, Was von Auschwitz bleibt: Das Archiv und der Zeuge (Homo Sacer III)

Zitat des Tages (1)

Natürlich läßt sich nicht alles auf die Dummheit schieben, wovon ein so vollmenschliches Anliegen, wie es die Kunst ist, verunstaltet wird; es muß, wie besonders die Erfahrungen der letzten Jahre gelehrt haben, auch für die verschiedenen Arten der Charakterlosigkeit Platz bleiben.

Robert Musil (Aus dem Vortrag “Über die Dummheit”.)