In this thin transparent air I feel able to perceive in her unmoving form the signs of that invisible movement that reading is, the flow of gaze and breath, but, even more, the journey of words through the person . . .
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
The more our daily life appears standardised, stereotyped, and subject to an accelerated reproduction of objects of consumption, the more art must be injected into it in order to extract from it that little difference which plays simultaneously between other levels of repetition, and even in order to make the two extremes resonate—namely, the habitual series of consumption and the instinctual series of destruction and death.
Difference and Repetition
The flows of lava, biomass, genes, memes, norms, money (and other ‘stuff’) are the source of just about every stable structure that we cherish and value (or, on the contrary, that oppresses or enslaves us).
Manuel de Landa
A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History
But all at once it dawned on me that this
Was the real point, the contrapuntal theme;
Just this: not text; not the dream
But topsy-turvical coincidence,
Not flimsy nonsense, but a web of sense.
Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
Some kind of link-and-bobolink, some kind
Of correlated pattern in the game,
Plexed artistry, and something of the same
Pleasure in it as they who played it found.
Nabokov, Pale Fire (62-63)
Guy Davenport (1927-2005), The Symbol of the Archaic in The Geography of the Imagination (David R. Godine, Publisher, 1997), p. 19-20:
[..] we are alienated from all that was most familiar. Basically he [Charles Olson] meant that we no longer milk the cow, or shoot the game for our dinner, or make our clothes or houses or anything at all. Secondly, he meant that we have drained our symbols of meaning. We have religious pictures in museums, honouring a residual meaning in them, at least. We have divorced poetry from music, language from concrete particulars. we have abandoned the rites de passage to casual neglect where once we marked them with trial and ceremony.
Thirdly, he meant that modernity is a kind of stupidity, as it has no critical tools for analysing reality such as the ancient cultures kept bright and sharp. We do not notice that we are ruled by the worst rather than the best of men: Olson took over a word coined by Pound, pejorocracy. Poetry and fiction have grieved for a century now over the loss of some vitality they think they see in a past from which we are by now irrevocably alienated.
People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void, of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
After reading Theodor Adorno’s work Thomas Mann corresponded with the philosopher, leading to their collaboration on the musicological aspects of Mann’s Doctor Faustus. Adorno wrote to Mann of his admiration for several of his books, especially The Confessions of Felix Krull, Mann in turn wrote to Adorno about his ‘fascinating reading’ of Minima Moralia, which he considered magnificent. Mann also wrote of Minima Moralia:
I have held on to your book magnetically for several days; it makes, day after day, for fascinating reading, though it can only be enjoyed in small gulps, as it is the most concentrated nourishment. It is said that the composition of the planet Sirius, which is of white colour, is made of such dense matter that a cubic inch of it would, with us, weigh a ton. This is why it has such an extraordinary strong field of gravity, similar to the one that surrounds your book. And all this in the face of the homey and inviting titles above your breathtaking figures of thought. No sooner has one said to oneself, “That’s quite enough for today!,” than along comes such a nice fairy-tale heading that one delves into a new adventure.
I hadn’t expected to find much common ground with Richard Rorty beyond (some of) his literary essays, but am in sympathy with his call for an end to the postmodern, and his argument for an ongoing engagement with modernity:
It’s one of these terms that has been used so much that nobody as the foggiest idea what it means. It means one thing in philosophy, another thing in architecture and nothing in literature. It would be nice to get rid of it. It isn’t exactly an idea; it’s a word that pretends to stand for an idea. Or maybe the idea that one ought to get rid of is that there is any need to get beyond modernity.