“Speaking of novels,’ I said, ‘you remember we decided once, you, your husband and I, that Proust’s rough masterpiece was a huge, ghoulish fairy tale, an asparagus dream, totally unconnected with any possible people in any historical France, a sexual travestissement and a colossal farce, the vocabulary of genius and its poetry, but no more, impossibly rude hostesses, please let me speak, and even ruder guests, mechanical Dostoevskian rows and Tolstoian nuances of snobbishness repeated and expanded to an unsufferable length, adorable seascapes, melting avenues, no, do not interrupt me, light and shade effects rivaling those of the greatest English poets, a flora of metaphors, described—by Cocteau, I think—as “a mirage of suspended gardens,” and, I have not yet finished, an absurd, rubber-and-wire romance between a blond young blackguard (the fictitious Marcel), and an improbable jeune fille who has a pasted-on bosom, Vronski’s (and Lyovin’s) thick neck, and a cupid’s buttocks for cheeks; but—and now let me finish sweetly—we were wrong, Sybil, we were wrong in denying our little beau ténébreux the capacity of evoking “human interest”: it is there, it is there—maybe a rather eighteenth-centuryish, or even seventeenth-centuryish, brand, but it is there. Please, dip or redip, spider, into this book [offering it], you will find a pretty marker in it bought in France, I want John to keep it. Au revoir, Sybil, I must go now. I think my telephone is ringing.”
- Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (originally published 1962)
“Francoise and Jean went slowly into the empty house. Darkness was falling and a last melancholy glimmer of light lit up the silent rooms. Everything seemed so old under this venerable roof, which had provided shelter for her wretched toiling ancestors over some three centuries, that there was the same solemn atmosphere that you feel in the shadow of old village churches. The doors had been left open and a blast of wind seemed to have blown through the timbers; chairs were lying in disorder on the floor, relics of the catastrophe of the eviction. The house seemed dead.”
- Emile Zola, La Terre (trans. Douglas Parmee, 1980 )
“At this, Jesus Christ suddenly came to life. The flames of his punch were subsiding, he sat up and leant back in his chair, seeing that all the other people drinking had fallen silent and were watching how he would react.
‘The land?’ he bellowed. ‘The land doesn’t give a brass farthing for you. You’re just a slave to it, you bloody fool. It takes away all your pleasure, all your strength, your whole life… It doesn’t even make you rich! While I, who despise it and sit there with folded arms and give it a kick up the arse now and again, I live like a prince, as you can see, I just drink… Yes, bloody hell!’”
- Emile Zola, La Terre (trans. Douglas Parmee)
“On mornings when the weather was fine a pink mist would melt away, and as the sun rose higher in the limpid air, a gentle wind would blow in steady gusts, hollowing the fields out in waves which started on the skyline and swept along until they died away further on the horizon. The fields quivered and grew paler, the wheat was shot through with tints of old gold, the oats were tinged with blue whilst the rye trembled with glints of purple. And as one undulation followed the next the fields heaved ceaselessly under the ocean breath. As evening fell, the walls of the distant houses in the sun’s rays looked like white sails and the steeples reared up like masts from the folds of the earth. It grew cold and damp and the increasing gloom heightened the impression of a murmuring open sea; and a wood vanishing in the distance was like part of a sinking continent.”
- Emile Zola, La Terre (trans. Douglas Parmee)
I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and, above all, become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.
“I don’t at all like the idea of a screenplay being a cage and that inside the cage you have to direct the actors. It seems to me that a screenplay is a kind of take-off and that the best moment is to see the characters taking off. They can turn left, or right, loop the loop, whatever. And at the same time you’re always a bit afraid. As long as they don’t crash. Because if filming means you have to control everything, I’d shoot myself. You already have to control the framing, the colours, the costumes, the sets and all that. But that’s done before, the control’s done before.” — Claire Denis
“He thought the same useless thoughts - useless to a man of no great talent like himself, if not to Sophocles: how accidentally a fate is made…or how accidental it all may seem when it is inescapable.”
- Philip Roth, The Human Stain (2000)
…the songs of armies marching into battles that Time had robbed of all their pain and evil
—Arthur C. Clarke The Songs f Distant Earth
When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too: you suddenly see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can’t make head or tail: you’d make a terrible witness.
The draft in the door smelled of water, a damp steady breath. Sometimes I could put myself to sleep saying that over and over until after the honeysuckle got all mixed up in it the whole thing came to symbolise night and unrest I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of gray halflight where all stable things had become shadowy paradoxical all I had done shadows all I had felt suffered taking visible form…
“We have a few old mouth-to-mouth tales; we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers letters without salutation or signature, in which men and women who once lived and breathed are now merely initials or nicknames out of some now incomprehensible affection which sound to us like Sanskrit or Chocktaw; we see dimly people, the people in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting, in this shadowy attenuation of time possessing now heroic proportions, performing their acts of simple passion and simple violence, impervious to time and inexplicable - Yes, Judith, Bon, Henry, Supten: all of them.”
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)
Now there grows among all the rooms, replacing the night’s old smoke, alcohol and sweat, the fragile, musaceous odor of Breakfast: flowering, permeating, surprising, more than the color of winter sunlight, taking over not so much through any brute pungency or volume as by high intricacy to the weaving of its molecules, sharing the conjuror’s secret by which - though it is not often Death is told to fuck off - the living genetic chains prove even labyrinthine enough to preserve some human face down ten or twenty generations… so the same assertion-through-structure allows this war morning’s banana fragrance to meander, repossess, prevail. Is there any reason not to open every window, and let the kind scent blanket all Chelsea? As a spell, against falling objects…
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
Just started reading this book on the train home today, and though I’m slightly tired from the night before and having trouble understanding some of Pynchon’s prose, this paragraph struck me as incredibly unique! Is he comparing the movement of molecules through space to both memory and genetics?!
Gentlemen, I will now show you this text. Forgive me for using a photocopy. It’s not distrust. I don’t want to subject the original to further wear.”
“But Ingolf’s copy wasn’t the original,” I said. “The parchment was the original.”
“Casaubon, when originals no longer exist, the last copy is the original.
—Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum, Chapter 18 (via gravity-rainbow)