Saturday, January 31, 2004

But the fact remains that, as a biographer, I have certain firm obligations. Believing as I do that every bit of information about so lofty a genius will turn out to be of value to us and to future generations, I cannot conceal something which in any case has no hope of being judged fairly and wisely until the end of time. Moreover, what right have we to condemn? Is it given to us to know, not only what intimate needs, but even what higher and wider ends may have been served by those very deeds of a lofty genius which perchance may appear to us vile? No indeed, for we understand so little of these privileged natures. “It is true,” a great man once said, “that I also have to pee, but for quite different reasons.”
Tommaso Landolfi, “Gogol’s Wife”

Friday, January 30, 2004

Haze put his head in at the window, knocking the hat accidentally straight again. He seemed to have knocked his face straight too for it became completely expressionless. “Listen,” he said, “get this: I don’t believe in anything.”
Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

Thursday, January 29, 2004

There were reactions. Some people found the balloon “interesting.” As a response, this seemed inadequate to the immensity of the balloon, the suddenness of its appearance over the city; on the other hand, in the absence of hysteria or other societally-induced anxiety, it must be judged a calm, “mature” one. There was a certain amount of initial argumentation about the “meaning” of the balloon; this subsided, because we have learned not to insist on meanings, and they are rarely even looked for now, except in cases involving the simplest, safest phenomena. It was agreed that since the meaning of the balloon could never be known absolutely, extended discussion was pointless, or at least less purposeful than the activities of those who, for example, hung green and blue paper lanterns from the warm gray underside, in certain streets, or seized the occasion to write messages on the surface, announcing their availability for the performance of unnatural acts, or the availability of acquaintances.
Donald Barthelme, “The Balloon”
There was once a red-haired man who had no eyes and no ears. He also had no hair, so he was called red-haired only in a manner of speaking.

He wasn’t able to talk, because he didn’t have a mouth. He had no nose, either.

He didn’t even have any arms or legs. He also didn’t have a stomach, and he didn’t have a back, and he didn’t have a spine, and he also didn’t have any other insides. He didn’t have anything. So it’s hard to understand whom we’re talking about.

So we’d better not talk about him any more.
Daniil Kharms, The Man With the Black Coat

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

She heard him pacing around his office. Unearthly siren-sounds converged on them from all over the night. “There is a face,” Hilarius said, “that I can make. One you haven't seen; no one in this country has. I have only made it once in my life, and perhaps today in central Europe there still lives, in whatever vegetable ruin, the young man who saw it. He would be, now, about your age. Hopelessly insane. His name was Zvi. Will you tell the ‘police,’ or whatever they are calling themselves tonight, that I can make that face again? That it has an effective radius of a hundred yards and drives anyone unlucky enough to see it down forever into the darkened oubliette, among the terrible shapes, and secures the hatch irrevocably above them? Thank you.”
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
For my part, I could not help thinking this lawyer was not such an invalid as he pretended to be. I observed he ate very heartily three times a-day, and though his bottle was marked stomachic tincture, he had recourse to it so often, and seemed to swallow it with such peculiar relish, that I suspected it was not compounded in the apothecary’s shop, or the chemist’s laboratory. One day, while he was earnest in discourse with Mrs. Tabitha, and his servant had gone out on some occasion or other, I dexterously exchanged the labels and situation of his bottle and mine; and having tasted his tincture, found it was excellent claret. I forthwith handed it about to some of my neighbours, and it was quite emptied before Mr. Micklewhimmen had occasion to repeat his draught. At length, turning about, he took hold of my bottle, instead of his own, and, filling a large glass, drank to the health of Mrs. Tabitha. It had scarce touched his lips, when he perceived the change which had been put upon him, and was at first a little out of countenance. He seemed to retire within himself, in order to deliberate, and in half a minute his resolution was taken; addressing himself to our quarter, ‘I give the gentleman credit for his wit (said he); it was a gude practical joke; but sometimes hi joci in seria ducunt mala. I hope for his own sake he has na drank all the liccor; for it was a vara poorful infusion of jallap in Bourdeaux wine; at its possable he may ha ta’en sic a dose as will produce a terrible catastrophe in his ain booels.’
Tobias Smollet, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker
He had them then into another Room where was a Hen and Chickens, and bid them observe a while. So one of the Chickens went to the trough to drink, and every time she drank she lift up her head and her eyes towards Heaven. See, said he, what this little Chick doth, and learn of her to acknowledge whence your mercies come, by receiving them with looking up. Yet again, said he, observe and look; so they gave heed and perceived that the Hen did walk in a four-fold method towards her Chickens. 1. She had a common call, and that she hath all day long. 2. She had a special call, and that she had but sometimes. 3. She had a brooding note. And 4. She had an out-cry.
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Hearhasting he, himmed reromembered all the chubbs, chipps, chaffs, chuckinpucks and chayney chimebells That he had mistributed in port, pub, park, pantry and poultryhouse, While they, thered, the others, that are, were most emulously concerned to cupturing the last dropes of summour down through their grooves of blarneying. Ere the sockson locked at the dure. Which he would, shuttinshure. And lave them to sture.
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
God’s bones, yes, by my green candle, I’d rather be poor as the skinniest mouse than rich as the cruellest cat.
Alfred Jarry, Ubu Roi
Yes, I’m tight. It’s because I’ve drunk too much champagne.
Alfred Jarry, Ubu Roi
Yes, by God, I’m perfectly satisfied. Who wouldn’t be? Captain of the Dragoons, aide de camp to King Wenceslas, decorated with the order of the Red Eagle of Poland, and ex-King of Aragon. You can’t go higher than that!
Alfred Jarry, Ubu Roi