"A Cat in a Knot in a Tree"
|—||Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (via invisibleforeigner)|
|—||Don DeLillo, White Noise (via mattdpearce)|
Robert Doisneau Juliette Gréco, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris 1947
"A photographer who made a picture from a splendid moment, an accidental pose of someone or a beautiful scenery, is the finder of a treasure." Robert Doisneau
Franz Kafka’s signature in a letter to Milena Jesenská. It reads:
Franzwrong, Fwrong, Yourswrong
nothing more, calm, deep forest
Prague, July 29, 1920.
The CampMor catalog hand-drawn product illustrations are everything to me
I have no
life but this
-Emily Dickinson, The Gorgeous Nothings, as penciled on an envelope scrap, p. 54-55.
We disparage ourselves endlessly, sometimes with reason… but more often, and more damningly, with a kind of black clarity of judgment that reaches right past all that we have or have not done, reaches past any insight or diagnosis that psychology can offer, and fingers us at the heart of what we are. Wrongness, call it. A stark and utter saturation of self:
God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me.
The poet Christian Wiman in My Bright Abyss; the final lines are from Gerard Manley Hopkins. "Self" here has a particular definition established in earlier chapters; it is a conception of individual existence which contrasts indifferently with the word "soul,"
My Bright Abyss is dense with such astute and precise humanity —in its poems, both Wiman’s and those he quotes, and its prose descriptions of lived experience— that one’s own lack of religiosity seems hardly important, no more important than faithlessness in a cathedral of tremendous beauty or incredulity amidst Buddhist monks quietly and carefully transcribing their texts. It is certainly the best introduction to poetry I’ve read, but also the most universalizing account of belief:
Quoting any part of the book is acutely frustrating; as Andrew Sullivan wrote after confessing that he read it “in a great rush of exhilaration” that kept him awake into the night, “It is no exaggeration to say that I’ve waited my entire adult life to read a book like this. It is impossible to summarize or even categorize.” And so it is. Perhaps the clearest thing I can say about it is that it seems to come from a time before the degradation and quiet collapse of art and literature, before noncommercial and nonsocial meaning itself was rendered absurd. Sullivan compares it to Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace, and Weil —a hero of mine in every sense— also seemed rather like an emissary from a vastly more serious and honest time. The introspection on which Wiman and Weil alike base much of their work has nothing of the performativity that ensnares our introspection, to note one difference among many. Sullivan again:
For me, the caliber, depth, and intensity of his honesty is a bracing artistic achievement rare if not absent among contemporary writers, into whose most intimate prose creeps a pathetic public deference, a political sort of compromise, as though while making love they are wondering how their form will be judged, pretending to enjoy that which they do not. They are oppressed by the imperative to conform to a zeitgeist which insists it is not fashion but moral truth, as though any era is anything but transiently mistaken, soon to be misunderstood by generations who judge it ethically wanting, intellectually primitive, socially disgraceful. Do you think you are not a slaveholder, in your way? Do you think you will carry the approval of your peers with you into the dark earth?
I peer at Wiman’s sentences, trying to determine how he managed to get off stage in order to think and write just so, how he managed to create without hearing the carping of the crowds we all now carry. I will never not hear them, never not seek to anticipate them and defend myself. Wiman quotes Rilke’s Seventh Duino Elegy, which I read and ignored in school:
It is hard to keep a sense of oneself, but even in the filthiest streets of the city our veins flow with being. My Bright Abyss helps me remember what matters and what does not.(via mills)