Friday, July 03, 2009

A conjunction of quotations #5

— edited by Ryland Walker Knight

trop petit, trop mignon
— c'etait ma vie aussi

As a child, Esther had a strange terror of the street in which she lived. She was never sure whether something dreadful had just happened there, or whether it was just going to happen. But she was always in suspense. She was tormented with the fear of knowing what went on behind those nailed shutters. She made up stories about the houses, but the stories never satisfied her. She imagined some great, vague gesture; not an incident, but a gesture; and it hung up in the air, suspended like a shadow. The gestures of people always meant more to her than their words; they seemed to have a secret meaning of their own, which the words never quite interpreted. She was always unconsciously on watch for their meaning.
Arthur Symons

Writing about photographs is a risk. The first sign of a good photograph is that it makes you want to say something about it. The second sign is that it makes whatever you say seem inadequate. The best photographs entice commentary then demean it, stimulating reaction and then cutting it off, producing noise only to extinguish it. The image actively silences the viewer.
Mark Wrigley Atley

One can never really give a proof of the reality of anything; reality is not something open to proof, it is something established. It is established just because proof is not enough. It is this characteristic of language, at once indispensable and inadequate, which shows the reality of the external world. Most people hardly ever realize this, because it is rare that the very same man thinks and puts his thought into action.
Simone Weil

For Emerson, the foundation of morality, of the expression of my freedom, can also be said to be based on a law I give to myself (as the title “Self-Reliance” at once suggests). Of course, Emerson is going to be devious or duplicitous in his formulation, out of his sense of truly satisfying words as ones that have been reclaimed from their counterfeit currency. When he says, for example, “No law can be sacred to me but that of my own nature,” and continues by saying “Good and bad are but names readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong is what is against it,” he means by “constitution,” as he always does, his private makeup as well as the Constitution of the United States, call this the expression of a universalization of that private makeup. So to consult his constitution, sacred laws to which he is subject which at the same time bind (in principle all) others in a realm of ends, is already to invoke a conversation that has to consider not only what is necessary but what is possible, given what is actual, a conversation that is simultaneously a criticism (Kant says “assessment”) of my private projects and of my society’s.
Stanley Cavell

Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.
Benjamin Franklin

I soaked in the heavy nourishing air and this befriending atmosphere like rich life-cake, the kind that encourages love and brings on a mild pain of emotions. A state that lets you rest in your own specific gravity, and where you are not a subject matter but sit in your own nature, tasting original tastes as good as the first man, and are outside of the busy human tamper, left free even of your own habits. Which only lie on you illusory in the sunshine, in the usual relation of your feet or fingers or the knot of your shoestrings and are without power.
Augie March

Rain and fire crossed that ocean
Another mad man done struck again
Otis Taylor

Where is it that we were together? Who were you that I lived with? The brother. The friend. Darkness, light. Strife and love. Are they the workings of one mind? The features of the same face? Oh, my soul. Let me be in you now. Look out through my eyes. Look out at the things you made. All things shining.
Private Edward P. Train

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut's now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.
Robert Frost

So if you can act the angry girl that's good. If you can't, you're telling us it's embarrassing to shout out in public. You're telling us two truths. You're telling us the truth about loud mouths; you're telling us the truth about embarrassment. Telling us the truth twice over. But there is a third truth. A third very mysterious truth. That is, you're not that girl. And you're not in a tea shop. You're on a stage and there are all those people out there. Now if you can manage just once, to tell the truth that you're here and they're there, you'll be a good actress.
Nathan Quellen

Nurture your mind with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes.
Benjamin Disraeli

It is part of our understanding of our world, and of what constitutes an historical event for this world, that Luther redefined the world in getting married, and Henry the Eighth—one of the last figures Shakespeare was moved to write about—in getting divorced. It has since then been a more or less open secret in our world that we do not know what legitimizes either divorce or marriage. Our genre [of the comedies of remarriage] emphasizes the mystery of marriage by finding that neither law nor sexuality (nor, by implication, progeny) is sufficient to ensure true marriage and suggesting that what provides legitimacy is the mutual willingness for remarriage, for a sort of continuous reaffirmation, and one in which the couple's isolation from the rest of society is generally marked; they form as it were a world elsewhere. The spirit of comedy in these films depends on our willingness to entertain the possibility of such a world, one in which good dreams come true.
Stanley Cavell

Henrietta Lowell: They say if you don't scratch, it itches less.
Henry Graham: Well, they're wrong. It only looks like it itches less because you're not scratching.
Elaine May

A few more words. Nicholas Ray is one of those who fight it out to the finish, and can exhaust the possibilities of a development. Everything always proceeds from a simple situation where two or three people encounter some elementary and fundamental concepts of life. And the real struggle takes place in only one of them, against the interior demon of violence, or of a more secret sin, which seems linked to man and his solitude. It may happen sometimes that a woman saves him; it even seems that she alone can have the power to do so; we are a long way from misogyny.
Jacques Rivette

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.
Peter Ustinov


  1. Hey Ryland,

    Just wanted to introduce myself and say:
    Wow. I'm really inspired/provoked/amused by these succinct compendiums of language and process, and impressed by, and appreciative of, this endeavor. I.e. I'm a fan.

    Wishing you the best,


    p.s. here's my own burgeoning collection :

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