EppsNet Archive: Literature

All the Talk About Tolerance

1 Dec 2014 /

Mark Twain

All the talk about tolerance, in anything or anywhere, is plainly a gentle lie. It does not exist. It is in no man’s heart; but it unconsciously, and by moss-grown inherited habit, drivels and slobbers from all men’s lips.

Mark Twain’s Autobiography

Thanksgiving Day

28 Nov 2014 /

Mark Twain

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1

Art is Not a Brassiere

10 Nov 2014 /

Do not imagine that Art is something which is designed to give gentle uplift and self-confidence. Art is not a brassière. At least, not in the English sense. But do not forget that brassière is the French for life jacket.

— Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot

Whatever the Party Holds to Be the Truth

8 Nov 2014 /

“I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.”

— George Orwell, 1984

It Happened 100 Years Ago to Dostoevsky

5 Nov 2014 /

James Baldwin

You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.

James Baldwin, Interview with Studs Terkel, Chicago, 1961

Blondes

24 Oct 2014 /

Raymond Chandler

There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn’t care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Room and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can’t lay a finger on her because in the first place you don’t want to and in the second place she is reading The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provençal. She adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith she can tell you which one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat late. I hear Toscanini can also. That makes two of them.

— Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

I Don’t Much Care for Coincidences

19 Oct 2014 /

I don’t much care for coincidences. There’s something spooky about them: you sense momentarily what it must be like to live in an ordered, God-run universe, with Himself looking over your shoulder and helpfully dropping coarse hints about a cosmic plan. I prefer to feel that things are chaotic, free-wheeling, permanently as well as temporarily crazy — to feel the certainty of human ignorance, brutality and folly.

— Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot

The Lowlight of My Weekend

14 Oct 2014 /
Robert Hass

Robert Hass

I had lunch over the weekend with Robert Hass — Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, UC Berkeley professor and former Poet Laureate of the United States. When I say I had lunch with him, I mean he was one of five people seated at our table.

I asked to take a photo with him, which he graciously consented to. I don’t have any photos of myself with Pulitzer Prize winners and still don’t because the photo didn’t come out at all. I completely botched it somehow.

So that was probably the lowlight of my weekend, except for Cal getting blown out by Washington on the gridiron 31-7, while four Husky fans sat directly behind us screaming the whole game.

Football at Cal unfortunately is like academics at Washington: not terribly distinguished.


Books, Writers, Bookstores, Libraries

27 Jul 2014 /

Climate Change is Making People More Stupid

11 Jul 2014 /

(HealthDay News) — Add another possible woe to the growing list of consequences of climate change: Kidney stones.

A new study of American cities suggests that rising temperatures may increase the number of people who develop the painful urinary obstructions.

You have to read all the way down to the second-to-last sentence of the article to find this:

The study uncovered a connection between higher temperatures and risk of kidney stones, but didn’t prove cause-and-effect.

The article implies cause and effect only to fess up right at the end and admit that there is no cause and effect. In the absence of cause and effect, what exactly is the point?

In the epilogue of War and Peace, a peasant notices a “connection” between smoke and locomotives and infers cause and effect: the smoke causes the locomotive to move. The point being that it’s easy to infer causality from “connections” in ways that have no grounding in reality.

In other climate news, the Wall Street Journal reports that researchers have, for the first time, counted all the world’s Adélie penguins — a sprightly seabird considered a bellwether of climate change — and discovered that millions of them are thriving in and around Antarctica.

Rather than declining as feared due to warming temperatures that altered their habitats in some areas, the Adélie population generally is on the rise.

Adelie penguins


Not Enough Information?

6 Jul 2014 /

Bertrand Russell declared that, in case he met God, he would say to Him, “Sir, you did not give us enough information.” I would add to that, “All the same, Sir, I’m not persuaded that we did the best we could with the information we had. Toward the end there, anyway, we had tons of information.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

A Pug Story

30 Jun 2014 /

Lightning Epps

Hi everybody! It’s me, Lightning!

My owner read me a story by Isaac Babel:

And Mimka arrived too, curled up on the sofa and fell asleep at once. She was a terrible sleepy-head, but a wonderful dog, good-hearted, sensible, small and pretty. Mimka was a pug-dog. Her coat was light in colour. Even in old age she never grew fat or flabby, never put on weight, but remained shapely and slender. She lived with us a long time, from birth to death, the whole of her fifteen years’ doggy life, and loved us — quite plainly, and most of all Grandmother, who was stern and without mercy to anyone. What friends they were, silent and secretive, I shall tell another time. It is a very good, touching and tender story.

Actually that was only part of the story but the rest was kind of boring and I don’t really remember it.

— Lightning paw


I Was Never More Hated Than When I Tried to Be Honest

22 Jun 2014 /

I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now I’ve tried to articulate exactly what I felt to be the truth. No one was satisfied — not even I. On the other hand, I’ve never been more loved and appreciated than when I tried to “justify” and affirm someone’s mistaken beliefs; or when I’ve tried to give my friends the incorrect, absurd answers they wished to hear. In my presence they could talk and agree with themselves, the world was nailed down, and they loved it.

— Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

I Know the Feeling

20 Jun 2014 /

A leaf flattened itself against the window beside his head and leaped away into the darkness, and a feeling of profound despair came over him because everything he had done was useless. All that he believed in and had attempted to prove seemed meager, all of his life was wasted.

— Evan Connell, Mr. Bridge

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

19 Jun 2014 /

I believe what I believe, and I have not yet believed a single thing only because it was believed by others, nor do I intend to. I can be grateful for this, at least: that I have kept myself. I have not once dressed up in a costume. There may be stronger consolations, but not many. Be that as it may, I cannot live differently than I do. Whatever the reasons for this, good or bad, they exist. Evidently that is enough. So, early tomorrow, I must get up again to do what I have done today. I will get up early to do this, and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, and there is nothing to discuss.

— Evan Connell, Mr. Bridge

Small Obstinacies and a Few Proverbs

18 May 2014 /

They have dragged out their life in stupor and semi-sleep, they have married hastily, they have made children at random. They have met other men in cafes, at weddings and funerals. Sometimes, caught in the tide, they have struggled against it without understanding what was happening to them. All that has happened around them has eluded them; long, obscure shapes, events from afar, brushed by them rapidly and when they turned to look all had vanished. And then, around forty, they christen their small obstinacies and a few proverbs with the name of experience, they begin to simulate slot machines: put a coin in the left hand slot and you get tales wrapped in silver paper, put a coin in the slot on the right and you get precious bits of advice that stick to your teeth like caramels.

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Lit Quizzes

10 May 2014 /

New additions to the First Lines and Last Lines quizzes:

First Lines

These notebooks were found among the papers of Antoine Roquentin.

 

One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch’s Ponds.

Last Lines

The building-yard of the New Station smells strongly of damp wood: tomorrow it will rain in Bouville.

 

However passionate, sinning, and rebellious the heart hidden in the tomb, the flowers growing over it peep serenely at us with their innocent eyes; they tell us not of eternal peace alone, of that great peace of “indifferent” nature: they tell us, too, of eternal reconciliation and of life without end.

 

His bruised memory has subsided again and until the next full moon no one will trouble the professor—neither the noseless man who killed Hestas nor the cruel Procurator of Judea, fifth in that office, the knight Pontius Pilate.


Gabriel García Márquez, 1927-2014

19 Apr 2014 /
Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez, the influential, Nobel Prize-winning author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera,” has died, his family and officials said.

He was 87.

CNN reported the death of García Márquez with more or less equal weightiness as the following “top stories”:

I didn’t cherry-pick those stories, by the way. They were all listed as Top Stories on CNN.com.

CNN is a “serious” news outlet. García Márquez’s death was also reported in the “popular” media, amongst reality show updates, celebrity pregnancies and Kardashians.

Orwell wrote about a society in which books are banned. As it turns out, there’s no need to ban books because no one has any interest in reading one. We’re drowning in a sea of trivia.

RIP Gabriel García Márquez


Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. — Jack Kerouac


At Any Rate, That Is Happiness

1 Apr 2014 /
Field of pumpkins at harvest time

Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness: to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

— Willa Cather, My Antonia

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