Tuesday, April 29, 2008


A quote, from some random blog.

"Here's some advice for successfully reading a book: You need to stay focused, so try to avoid distractions. Avoid multitasking. Avoid task switching. Turn off the TV. Shift positions occasionally so you don't get cramps or backaches. Don't get too comfortable or you might fall asleep. (Interestingly, many of these same rules apply to having sex, except that you can read a book with a cat in your lap.)"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I think I'm becoming a behaviorist.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Nothing less than truly scintillating...satisfying, even electrifying"

So reads an exceedingly vapid blurb on the cover of The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster, a collection of three previous novels, City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986), and The Locked Room (1986). Although these novels were originally published separately, they constitute a thematic unity and belong together -- whether or not they constitute a diegetic unity in addition seems to me a question for the reader.

(Diegetic is a word which refers to things within the universe of a story, as opposed to narrative commentary from without. Do the three books occur in the same physical universe with shared characters, etc.? It's questionable)

I reread this work recently on the recommendation of Marina. Simply put, I was blown away. Literally. Just kidding: only figuratively. I had read it years before, but I guess it hadn't made too great an impression. Not since Lolita has any book changed so greatly in my estimation upon rereading.

It's an incredibly stimulating book, the kind that launches a thousand conversations. There's so much theoretical ground one could cover in talking about it that I feel hopelessly burdened in trying to compass it within the space of a blog-entry. Instead, I think I'm just going to copy out a long quote from the end of the first book, City of Glass, about a private investigator originally hired to investigate an eccentric who imprisoned his child in darkness as an experiment in natural language:
This period of growing darkness coincided with the dwindling of pages in the red notebook. Little by little, Quinn was coming to the end. At a certain point, he realized that the more he wrote, the sooner the time would come when he could no longer write anything. He began to weigh his words with great care, struggling to express himself as economically and clearly as possible. He regretted having wasted so many pages at the beginning of the red notebook, and in fact felt sorry that he had bothered to write about the Stillman case at all. For the case was far behind him now, and he no longer bothered to think about it. It had been a bridge to another place in his life, and now that he had crossed it, its meaning had been lost. Quinn no longer had any interest in himself. He wrote about the stars, the earth, his hopes for mankind. He felt that his words had been severed from him, that now they were a part of the world at large, as real and specific as a stone, or a lake, or a flower. They no longer had anything to do with him. He remembered the moment of his birth and how he had been pulled gently from his mother's womb. He remembered the infinite kindnesses of the world and all the people he had ever loved. Nothing mattered now but the beauty of all this. He wanted to go on writing about it, and it pained him to know that this would not be possible. Nevertheless, he tried to face the end of the red notebook with courage. He wondered if he had it in him to write without a pen, if he could learn to speak instead, filling the darkness with his voice, speaking the words into the air, into the walls, into the city, even if the light never came back again.

The last sentence of the red notebook reads: 'What will happen when there are no more pages in the red notebook?"

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Mysterious Passage

While doing research for my senior thesis, I came across this passage from Leo Strauss's 1964 book, The City and Man:

“Plato’s work consists of many dialogues because it imitates the manyness, the variety, the heterogeneity of being. The many dialogues form a kosmos which mysteriously imitates the mysterious kosmos. The Platonic kosmos imitates or reproduces its model in order to awaken us to the mystery of the model and to assist us in articulating that mystery.” (61-62)

This is perhaps the most strikingly platitudinous thing anyone has ever said about Plato.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thimply Wonderful

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan.

Here is an interesting fact about life in Thimphu:

Thimphu is the only national capital in Asia that does not have traffic lights. When local authorities installed a set of lights, people complained that they were too impersonal. The authorities gave in, and took them down. Instead of traffic lights, the city takes pride in its traffic police that directs the oncoming traffic with their dance-like movement of their arms and hands.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Against Trivia

How quickly the recitation of trivia turns to the subject of historical death-counts. Death-counts are the ne plus ultra of trivia. How many people died there.

Trivia is itself the end product of the atomization of history into a collection of unrelated "facts" whose only meaning is to be stated as quickly as possible in the greatest numbers possible. Trivia is a war against history.