the child grows enormous but never grows up
theparisreview:

Our editor Lorin Stein writes a letter to the New York Times editor regarding Paul Elie’s essay “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?.”

theparisreview:

Our editor Lorin Stein writes a letter to the New York Times editor regarding Paul Elie’s essay “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?.”

coalblack:


And the days are not full enoughAnd the nights are not full enoughAnd life slips by like a field mouseNot shaking the grass - Ezra PoundIllustration by Jacob van Loon 

coalblack:

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass 

- Ezra Pound

Illustration by Jacob van Loon 

The story, Wallace’s act of anger against Elizabeth Wurtzel, ends without hope: the depressed person cannot break out of the cage of solipsism that her ‘terrible and unceasing emotional pain’ has placed her in.
D.T. Max, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story
heheheheheheheeheheheehehe:

chart re The Contemporary Short Story, a craft class by Tao Lin in Sarah Lawrence’s MFA program in fall 2012
relevant links: 2048px chart, class description, syllabus

heheheheheheheeheheheehehe:

chart re The Contemporary Short Story, a craft class by Tao Lin in Sarah Lawrence’s MFA program in fall 2012

relevant links: 2048px chart, class description, syllabus

The Malady Was Life Itself: The Origin of A David Foster Wallace Anecdote

theglancereveals:

image

Last night Harvard hosted a stimulating conversation between the literary critic James Wood and David Foster Wallace’s biographer D.T. Max. Despite my own dyspeptic ambivalence about Infinite Jest, I seem to have an endless appetite for smart people saying smart things about Wallace’s life and art, and there were a great many smart things said last night.

While Wallace’s upbringing, his intermittent struggle with depression, and his literary influences were all discussed in depth, I was surprised to learn that neither Wood nor Max could place the Kafka line that Wallace had posted to his bedroom wall in high school: “The disease was life itself.” It’s a haunting sentence, both in connection to the undeniably grim elements in Wallace’s own work, and the even grimmer conclusion to his life. It’s no surprise that this detail of adolescent wall decor made it into David Lipsky’s 2009 Rolling Stone account of Wallace’s last years, and thence into Max’s biography, tracing a wide circle across the DFW-based interweb in the meantime.

But perhaps the reason that neither Wood nor Max could recall the original Kafka sentence is because Kafka never wrote it. (A search through one database of Kafka’s works turns up no results for the phrase or its variants.) The line, according to Wallace’s sister Amy, was clipped from a magazine article on Kafka — and sure enough, in 1983 Time magazine published a review of a Kafka story collection under the headline, “The Malady Was Life Itself.” The clipped line, however, was not Kafka’s own but the invention of Time critic Stefan Kanfer:

‘Not all the sickness was psychosomatic. Kafka succumbed to tuberculosis in 1924 at the age of 40. But he regarded even real disease with paranoid suspicion: “My brain and my lungs must have conspired in secret.” He believed in “only one illness, and medicine hunts it blindly like a beast through unending forests.” The malady was life itself.’

Does it matter that it was Kanfer, not Kafka, who Wallace clipped, or that the key word was “malady,” not “disease”? Probably not. (In fact neither Lipsky or Max positively affirm that it was Kafka who wrote the sentence, although that seems to be the prevailing assumption, both at last night’s talk and around the internet.) At some level this is an even more trivial piece of literary minutiae than an account of how Raymond Chandler got his first bicycle.

image

Does it matter that because the article didn’t appear until July 1983, Wallace couldn’t have tacked it to his wall in high school, but sometime after his sophomore year at Amherst College? Probably not, either, although it might prompt a few tiny revisions in the chronology of Wallace’s adolescent and post-adolescent depression, and the way that depression swirled around DFW’s turn towards literature in his early twenties. After all, Max’s closing argument in last night’s talk was that Wallace, never much of a writer in high school or early college, embraced literary art (rather than philosophy, mathematics, etc) as the only possible intellectual remedy for existential despair. The malady, as Kafka never said, might be life itself, but the medicine was reading Kafka — and writing like him.

There is an extreme narrowness in myself that I would walk out of.
Laurie Sheck, A Monster’s Notes (via invisiblestories)
People were standing up everywhere shouting, “This is me! This is me!” Every time you looked at them they stood up and told you who they were, and the truth of it was that they had no more idea who or what they were than he had. They believed their flashing signs, too. They ought to be standing up and shouting, “This isn’t me! This isn’t me!” They would if they had any decency. “This isn’t me!” Then you might know how to proceed through the flashing bullshit of this world.
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
mianoti:

“Sometimes when I get up and emerge from the mists of slumber, my whole room hurts, my whole bedroom, the view from the window hurts, kids go to school, people go shopping, everybody knows where to go, only I don’t know where I want to go, I get dressed, blearily, stumbling, hopping about to pull on my trousers, I go and shave with my electric razor - for years now, whenever I shave, I’ve avoided looking at myself in the mirror, I shave in the dark or round the corner, sitting on a chair in the passage, with the socket in the bathroom, I don’t like looking at myself any more, I’m scared by my own face in the bathroom, I’m hurt even by my own appearance, I see yesterday’s drunkenness in my eyes, I don’t even have breakfast any more, or if I do, only coffee and a cigarette, I sit at the table, sometimes my hands give way under me and several times I repeat to myself, Hrabal, Hrabal, Bohumil Hrabal, you’ve victoried yourself away, you’ve reached the peak of emptiness, as my Lao Tzu taught me, I’ve reached the peak of emptiness and everything hurts, even the walk to the bus-stop hurts, and the whole bus hurts as well, I lower my guilty-looking eyes, I’m afraid of looking people in the eye, sometimes I cross my palms and extend my wrists, I hold out my hands so that people can arrest me and hand me over to the cops, because I feel guilty even about this once too loud a solitude which isn’t loud any longer, because I’m hurt not only by the escalator which takes me down to the infernal regions below, I’m hurt even by the looks of the people traveling up, each of them has somewhere to go, while I’ve reached the peak of emptiness and don’t know where I want to go.”
― Bohumil Hrabal, Total Fears : Letters to Dubenka
Portrait: Hrabal * in 1985, by Michal Tůma *

mianoti:

“Sometimes when I get up and emerge from the mists of slumber, my whole room hurts, my whole bedroom, the view from the window hurts, kids go to school, people go shopping, everybody knows where to go, only I don’t know where I want to go, I get dressed, blearily, stumbling, hopping about to pull on my trousers, I go and shave with my electric razor - for years now, whenever I shave, I’ve avoided looking at myself in the mirror, I shave in the dark or round the corner, sitting on a chair in the passage, with the socket in the bathroom, I don’t like looking at myself any more, I’m scared by my own face in the bathroom, I’m hurt even by my own appearance, I see yesterday’s drunkenness in my eyes, I don’t even have breakfast any more, or if I do, only coffee and a cigarette, I sit at the table, sometimes my hands give way under me and several times I repeat to myself, Hrabal, Hrabal, Bohumil Hrabal, you’ve victoried yourself away, you’ve reached the peak of emptiness, as my Lao Tzu taught me, I’ve reached the peak of emptiness and everything hurts, even the walk to the bus-stop hurts, and the whole bus hurts as well, I lower my guilty-looking eyes, I’m afraid of looking people in the eye, sometimes I cross my palms and extend my wrists, I hold out my hands so that people can arrest me and hand me over to the cops, because I feel guilty even about this once too loud a solitude which isn’t loud any longer, because I’m hurt not only by the escalator which takes me down to the infernal regions below, I’m hurt even by the looks of the people traveling up, each of them has somewhere to go, while I’ve reached the peak of emptiness and don’t know where I want to go.”

Bohumil Hrabal, Total Fears : Letters to Dubenka

Portrait: Hrabal * in 1985, by Michal Tůma *

Was everyone’s brain as unreliable as his? Was he the only one unable to see what people were up to? Did everyone slip around the way he did, in and out, in and out, a hundred different times a day go from being smart to being smart enough, to being as dumb as the next guy, to being the dumbest bastard who ever lived? Was it stupidity deforming him, the simpleton son of a simpleton father, or was life just one big deception that everyone was on to except him?
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
And it was never but once a year that they were brought together anyway, and that was on the neutral, dereligionized ground of Thanksgiving, when everybody gets to eat the same thing, nobody sneaking off to eat funny stuff—no kugel, no gefilte fish, no bitter herbs, just one colossal turkey for two hundred and fifty million people—one colossal turkey feeds all. A moratorium on the three-thousand-year-old nostalgia of the Jews, a moratorium on Christ and the cross and the crucifixion for the Christians, when everyone in New Jersey and elsewhere can be more passive about their irrationalities than they are the rest of the year. A moratorium on all the grievances and resentments, and not only for the Dwyers and the Levovs but for everyone in America who is suspicious of everyone else. It is the American pastoral par excellence and it lasts twenty-four hours.
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
He saw that everything you say says either more than you wanted it to say or less than you wanted it to say; and everything you do does either more than you wanted it to do or less than you wanted it to do. What you said and did made a difference, all right, but not the difference you intended.
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
But it could only be the voice of one person, and it could only be written.

Elaine Blair, "A New Brilliant Start"

a review of d.t. max’s david foster wallace bio

Cambridge, 15/11/2012

index-rerum:

You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the “brain” of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of “other people,” which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that is ludicrous, so ill-equipped are we all to envision one another’s interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you.

Philip Roth - American Pastorale

For the writer of fiction everything has its testing point in the eye, and the eye is an organ that eventually involves the whole personality, and as much of the world as can be got into it.
Flannery O’Connor, taken from The Cartoons
Needing people badly and not getting them may turn you in a creative direction, provided you have the other requirements.

Flannery O’Connor, 1956 letter to Betty Hester, taken from The Cartoons

the most immediately noticeable element of her comics are the characters’ sour expressions. nearly everyone’s mouth is downturned, oftentimes gruesomely so.