Thursday, February 27, 2014

the prism (III)


On a whim you decide to read Steinbeck's final novel The Winter of Our Discontent (1961). Inside you take no notice of this:




But you remember it when, for no particular reason, you pick up Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) to read next, and inside you come across this:




Now, feeling confident that you serendipitously selected the correct book to read next, you give yourself a pat on the back and smile twinkle-eyed at the Heavens.

Then this morning you find yourself randomly thinking about Ethan Hawley, the main character in Steinbeck's novel, and while doing so you double click the Chrome icon on your desktop knowing that your old computer will still provide you with the opportunity for several more minutes of thinking-filled lull. Finally, your browser opens and you see that Google is celebrating something today. Unsure of what it is, you hover your mouse over the image, and instantly you feel like the Universe is smiling on you.




For a brief moment you think that perhaps you broke through to the secret workings of life, revealing it to be little more than the powerful projection of your imagination. Which is why you have no qualms about posting something that's so meaningless to everyone else. In more ways than one, your readers simply do not exist.


Monday, February 24, 2014

alternate definitions (II)


While reading, one of the things I like to collect are definitions―alternate, non-literal, or poetic.

Sometimes an author's words are a few steps removed from what I've fashioned out of their provisions, sometimes not. (For more on this, see my previous alternate definitions.)

Credits can be found at the end.

* * *

"Why do we call all our generous ideas illusions, and the mean ones truths? Isn't it a sufficient condemnation of society to find one's self accepting such phraseology? ...I know how names can alter the colour of beliefs." ―Lawrence Selden in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth (1905)


City: where humans re-enact the rituals of hunter-gatherers

Democracy: the offspring of literacy and ballistics

Happiness: a wraith that never bears too much questioning

Honor: excess dignity, often defended with the knife or sword

Literary theory: a glass-bead game whose reward for the ludic player is the knowledge that once he masters it, he will be admired by his peers as ludicrous

Mathematics: the madness of reason

Photograph: that which says what it has to say by being seen

Piety: 
a sense of duty that does not question what it receives as commands

Poetry: the language of language

River: a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to the insatiable sea

Grocery store: a library for the stomach

Textbook: where knowledge is presented as a commodity to be acquired rather than as a human struggle to understand; where facts are delivered anonymously and presented as immutable

Tragedy: the collision of right with right

University: where youth goes to retire





In order:

John Gray (Straw Dogs); Garret Keizer, "Loaded"; Leonora Carrington (The Hearing Trumpet); David Graeber (Debt: The First 5000 Years); Gore Vidal (Screening History); Clarice Lispecter (Água Viva); Gregory Gibson (Hubert's Freaks); Roger Scruton, "A Carnivore's Credo"; Pierre Michon (Rimbaud the Son); Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows); John Steinbeck (The Winter of Our Discontent); Neil Postman (The End of Education); John Gray paraphrasing Hegel in Straw Dogs; Mark Edmundson (Why Teach?)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014