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Showing posts from October 24, 2021

Diaries, letters and novels

  Virginia Woolf once began a diary entry by saying that the day had been dreary and that nothing happened. Then she reproached herself: this was no way for a writer to treat even a day on which nothing seemed to happen. She compared such days to trees in winter. The glory of the tree, the leaves, have fallen, and all that is left are bare branches and the trunk. One tends not to see the tree, then. And yet it is in this state that you can most see the tree, its growth against the damage of insect, lightning strike, impoverished soil, and weather – in short, what it had become. I think that is a rather brilliant comparison, even though writing for others is all about brilliant and hyperreal days, where the criminal is escaping the police, where the adulterous love affair begins to germinate at the party, where Madame Bovary takes poison and spontaneous cumbustion claims the ragman. But the forest in which these events take place is vast, and consists of dreary or happy days where not

Hazlitt's body under the bed

  Two images of the artist’s posterity – that shaky successor of the afterlife. Not that, as is generally said in an overview of this type, the afterlife is dead. I think that, on the contrary, the vast majority in all regions of the World still believe in some kind of afterlife. But among the makers of public opinion – the college educated, the managerial, the “creatives” – the afterlife, like a lightbulb left on too long, has gone out. Yet among that same group, it is easy to get a contest going by, for instance, proposing a list of names of the contemporary philosophers who will be remembered – or artists, or poets, or actors, etc. Being remembered/being the greatest – this is both a parlour game and the serious business of culture, which is not only a matter of social reproduction but of memory reproduction. Two images, then; The first is from Diderot, who staked out a strong pro-posterity position. He claimed, in a series of letters to an artist named Falconet, that posterity

A morning prayer - poem by Karen Chamisso

    The perfection of the egg is to break just so Otherwise, a rotting comes slo mo   Over its potential and its peepers Which we can weep over, jeepers creepers.   For humans, for chickens, for sharks in the sea All eggs must crack for future eggs to be.   Yet this is not how my eggs were broken For breakfast in Decatur when I was a girl.   It was Leila, who with a firm abortionist’s tap Could break egg and spill without the sap   Of the yolk being broke – it went into the bowl Clean and without fragments of the shell   Which was always my awkwardness when I tried Not that I was planning on cooking fried   Or scrambly, or making a cake. I just wanted an egg to break.     Leila’s job was as important as any other Said no less an authority than my mother   (Mama was not like some of her friends Who treated the help as means and not ends).   O Leila, from the bosom of your God above Still my shaking morning fingers, and let