(which is to say, a collection of other people’s verbal bouquets)
“[Le] péché … qui est le véritable néant, parce qu’il est contraire à Dieu, qui est le véritable être.” Blaise Pascal, from a letter of 1 April 1648 to his sister Gilberte Périer (née Pascal), in the edition of Pascal made by Michel le Guern for the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (1998, 2000), 2:9.
“Always keep the tenses straight, it’s a form of honesty.” Wallace Stegner, A Shooting Star (1961), p.340/433, 78%.
“A man in an apron is cleaning the moon. The minor gods sleep on the balconies; the chandelier has been put out.” Sarah Perry, Melmoth (2018), pp. 212-213/271, 79%.
“Les Pères … sont les maîtres de langage de toute l’Église.” Blaise Pascal, from the eighteenth Provincial Letter, in Le Guern’s Pléiade edition, vol. 1, p. 961.
“Utrumque [sc. faith & works] ergo nostrum est propter arbitrium voluntatis, et utrumque tamen datum est per spiritum fidei caritatis.” Augustine, from Retractationes 1.23.2
“Already I lived with the idea of death, the idea, impossible for a young person to possess, to hold in his heart, that one’s time on earth, one’s life, was a short thing. These ideas, of a world in decay, a world subject to constant change, and of the shortness of human life, made many things bearable.” V. S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival (1987), 26/318.
“M. Pascal disait de ces auteurs qui parlant de leurs ouvrages disent: mon livre, mon commentaire, mon histoire, etc., qu’ils sentent leurs bourgeois qui ont pignon sur roue, et toujours un chez moi a la bouche. Ils feraient mieux, ajoutait cet excellent homme, de dire: notre livre, notre commentaire, notre histoire, etc., vu que d’ordinaire il y a plus en cela du bien d’autrui que de leur.” Vignuel-Marville, reporting Pascal, quoted in Michel Le Guern’s Pléiade edition of Pascal, vol. 2, p. 1087.
“It had been discovered, to everyone’s surprise, that the author of The Elementary Particles, who throughout his life had displayed an intransigent atheism, had very discreetly been baptized, in a church in Courtenay, six months before.” Michel Houellebecq, The Map & the Territory, 202/269.
“I’m no hermit, I like the sound of voices, the refreshment of conversation and laughter. I’m very fond of stimulating exchanges with particularly fine researchers. But behind or beyond these comminglings, I have safeguarded my solitude. It is essentially intact.” Martha Cooley, The Archivist (1998), 100/326.
” … every human being, every living being in reality, in addition to everything he has to show for himself by way of material and spiritual possessions, has a style he uses to manage those possessions.” César Aira, The Literary Conference, translated by Katherine Silver (2010; first published 2006), 64/92.
“Because we want to know everything we are told nothing but lies. The President appears like one of those television commercials run over and over again. He is always typecast, wearing his make-up. The opposition always chooses the wrong vices to whisper about. If the man is a drunkard they will tell the voters that he has syphilis. The lie is the only thing we can count on in our image of the President.” Elizabeth Hardwick, “Grub Street: Washington,” in idem, The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick, selected by Darryl Pinckney (2017), 143. Essay first published in the New York Review of Books in January 1964.
“Only through minimalism is it possible to achieve the asymmetry that … is the flower of art; complications inevitably form heavy symmetries, which are vulgar and overwrought.” César Aira, The Literary Conference, translated by Katherine Silver (2010; first published 2006), 59/92.
” … it has been estimated that the [book] reviews in Time magazine have the largest number of readers, possibly nearly five million each week, and it has also been suggested that many publishers feel that the reviews in Time do not affect the sales of a book one way or another! In the face of this mystery, some publishers have concluded that Time readers, having learned Time‘s opinion of a book, feel that they have somehow already read the book, or if not quite that, if not read, at least taken it in, experienced it as a ‘fact of our time.’ They feel no more need to buy the thing itself than to go to Washington for a firsthand look at the latest works of the Republican Administration.” Elizabeth Hardwick, “The Decline of Book Reviewing,” 1959, from the penultimate paragraph –– taken from The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick, edited by Darryl Pinckney, 2017, pp.67-68.
“Omnia per ipsum facta sunt, et sine ipso factum est nihil, videte ne sic cogitetis quia nihil aliquid est. Solent enim multi male intellegentes: sine ipso factum est nihil, putare aliquid esse nihil. Peccatum quidem non per ipsum factum est, et manifestum est quia peccatum nihil est et nihil fiunt homines cum peccant.” Augustine, In Iohannis evangelium tractatus, from 1.13.
“L’habit fait la doctrine.” Pascal, Pensées, from §740 <Le Guern numbering>.
“Les preuves de Dieu métaphysiques sont si éloignées du raisonnement des hommes et si impliquées, qu’elles frappent peu; et quand cela servirait à quelques-uns, cela ne servirait que pendant l’instant qu’ils voient cette démonstration, mais une heure après ils craignent de s’être trompés.” Pascal, Pensées, from §179 <Le Guern numbering>.
“Prin. ¶J’écrirai ici mes pensées sans ordre at non pas peut-être dans une confusion sans dessein. C’est le véritable ordre et qui marquera toujours mon objet par le désordre même. ¶Je ferais trop d’honneur à mon sujet si je le traitais avec ordre puisque je veux montrer qu’il en est incapable.” Pascal, Pensées, from §472 <Le Guern numbering>.
“In the act is wedded the interior man and the man as seen.” Cormac McCarthy, Suttree (1979), p.375 of 471.
“One spring morning timing the lean near-liquid progress of a horse on a track, the dust exploding, the rapid hasping of his hocks, coming up the straight foreshortened and awobble and passing elongate and birdlike with harsh breath and slatted brisket heaving and the muscles sliding and bunching in clocklike flexion under the wet black hide and a gout of foam hung from the long jaw and then gone in a muted hoof clatter, the aging magistrate snapped his thumb from the keep of the stopwatch he held and palmed it into his waistcoat pocket and looking at nothing, nor child nor horse, said anent that simple comparison of rotary motions and in the oratory to which he was prone that they had witnessed a thing against which time would not prevail. ¶He meant a thing to be remembered, but the young apostate by the rail at his elbow had already begun to sicken at the slow seeping of life. He could see the shape of the skull through the old men’s flesh. Hear sand in the glass. Lives running out like something foul, nightsoil from a cesspipe, a measured dripping in the dark. The clock has run, the horse has run, and which has measured which?” Cormac McCarthy, Suttree (1979), pp.135-136 of 471.
“The past may or may not be a foreign country. It may morph or lie still, but its capital is always Regret, and what flushes through it is the grand canal of unfledged desires that feed into an archipelago of tiny might-have-beens that never really happened but aren’t unreal for not happening and might still happen though we fear they never will … Regret is how we back into our real lives once we find the will, the blind drive and courage, to trade in the life we’re given for the life that bears our name and ours only. Regret is how we look forward to things we’ve long lost yet never really had. Regret is hope without conviction, I said. We’re torn between regret, which is the price to pay for things not done, and remorse, which is the cost for having done them.” André Aciman, Enigma Variations (2017), pp.198-199.
“Ille est verus dominus qui nihil a nobis quaerit.” Augustine, In Epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos, from 8.14.
” … literary criticism has no method other than reading. There is nothing special about our reading, except the attention, judgment, and knowledge we bring to the task.” Toril Moi, Revolution of the Ordinary (2017), p.5.
“To turn forty is to realize that one’s limitations will last one’s whole life through, but also to know that all the time, whether one likes it or not, and whether one is aware of it or not, new layers are being added to one’s character, a type of knowledge that isn’t directed towards the future, towards what will come to pass or one day be accomplished, but towards the here and now, in the things you do every day, in what you think about them and what you understand of them.” Karl Ove Knausgaard, Autumn (2017 in English; 2015 in Norwegian), p.132
“You hateful octopus! Your sucking at the mouth of my womb makes me gasp for breath! Ah! Yes … it’s … there! With the sucker, the sucker! … There, there! … Until now it was I that men called an octopus! An octopus! … How are you able? … Oh! Boundaries and borders gone! I’ve vanished!.” Quoted from the (Japanese) text surrounding the image below, made by Hokusai Katsushika in the early nineteenth century, by Amia Srinivasan in “The Sucker, The Sucker!”, London Review of Books (7 September 2017), p.23.
“His [Lincoln’s] mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow; that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever way one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his, not at all, but, rather, its like had been felt, would yet be felt, by scores of others, in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because, in this state, he could be of no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.” George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo (2017), pp.303-304.
“ergon gar apodeixis diatheseōs” [deeds demonstrate dispositions]. Gregory Nazianzen, from the Second Oration, as quoted by Maximus the Confessor in Ambiguum 4.
“For rain-sprigged yew trees, blockish as they guard / admonitory sparse berries, atrorubent / stone holt of darkness, no, of claustral light: // for late distortions lodged by first mistakes; / for all departing, as of ourselves, from time; / for random justice held with things half-known, // with restitution if things come to that.” Geoffrey Hill, ‘Offertorium: December 2002,’ in idem, Without Title (2006), p.22.
“L’expérience sensuelle se compare encore aux Mystères en ce que la première approche fait au non-initié l’effet d’un rite plus ou moins effrayant, scandaleusement éloigné des fonctions familières du sommeil, du boire, et du manger, objet de plaisanterie, de honte, ou de terreur. Tout autant que la danse des Ménades ou le délire des Corybantes, notre amour nous entraîne dans un univers différent, où il nous est, en d’autres temps, interdit d’accéder, et où nous cessons de nous orienter dès que l’ardeur s’éteint ou que la jouissance se dénoue. Cloué au corps aimé comme un crucifié à sa croix, j’ai appris sur la vie quelques secrets qui déjà s’émoussent dans mon souvenir, par l’effet de la même loi qui veut que le convalescent, guéri, cesse de se retrouver dans les vérités mystérieuses de son mal, que le prisonnier relâché oublie la torture, ou le triomphateur dégrisé la gloire.” Marguerite Yourcenar, Mémoires d’Hadrien (1951), p.14.
“AUTOCLAPS: (Noun). Jamaican dialect. An impending disaster; Calamity; Trouble on top of trouble. Variously pronounced “attaclaps,” or (given the Jamaican tendency to add “H”s in front of vowels) “hattaclaps.” … AFTERCLAP: Noun: An unexpected, often unpleasant sequel to a matter that had been considered closed. In German, “achterklap.” … [and so] AUTOCLAPS: the collapse of the heart; a small apocalypse; the afterclap.” – Kei Miller, Augustown (2017; first published 2016), pp.157-159.
“The difficulty with goodness is that it is severely practical as far as I can see. It’s a case of practice making perfect. The daily, hourly, minutely demands that the practice of goodness must make sit athwart certain aspects of my nature and my habit. The only way for goodness to be carried out is with the unconsciousness of habit. But I cannot put my consciousness to bed under a cloth.” – Candia McWilliam, Debatable Land (1996; first published 1994), p.71.
“Since none of these men has ever spoken or written a word to explain his preferring to live unobserved and untroubled by ambition in some modestly furnished rear suite of his unremarkable house, I can only say that I sense about each of them a quiet dedication to proving that the plains are not what many plainsmen take them for. They are not, that is, a vast theatre that adds significance to the events enacted within it. Nor are they an immense field for explorers of every kind. They are simply a convenient source of metaphors for those who know that men invent their own meanings.” – Gerald Murnane, The Plains (2017; first published 1982), p.141
“A letter never sent is a kind of purgatory.” — quoted and attributed to Chekhov in Howard Norman, I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place (2013), p.11.
“I am not here, touch me … that I may be here.” — Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Opus Maximum (Princeton, 2002), pp. cxxxv, 132.
La joie parfaite exclut le sentiment même de joie, car dans l’âme, emplie par l’objet, nul coin n’est disponible pour dire ‘je’.” — Simone Weil, Oeuvres complètes, vol. 6/2 (Paris, 1997), p.251.
“Jésus-Christ pour tous / Moïse pour un peuple. Les Juifs bénis en Abraham: «Je bénirai ceux qui te béniront», mais «toutes nations bénies en sa semence» [Genesis 12:3, 22:18] … Aussi c’est à Jésus-Christ d’être universel; l’Église même n’offre le sacrifice que pour les fidèles. Jésus-Christ a offert celui de la croix pour tous.” — Pascal, from Pensée 207, Le Guern enumeration.
“Da quod iubes et iube quod vis” — Augustine, from Confessiones 10.29.40.
“Haec dicta sint ne quisquam cum de angelis apostaticis loquimur existimet eos aliam velut ex alio principio habere potuisse naturam nec eorum naturae auctorem deum. cuius erroris impietate tanto quisque carebit expeditius et facilius quanto perspicacius intellegere potuerit quod per angelum deus dixit, quando moysen mittebat ad filios israel: ego sum qui sum.” — Augustine, from De civitate dei 12.2.