“About halfway through reading this collection of essays I had one of those hall-of-mirrors moments. These are mostly book reviews, you see: high-toned, long-form New York Review of Books-type review-essays, given — but book reviews nevertheless. There I was, dutifully noting what David Lodge wrote about what Martin Stannard had to say about Muriel Spark, for instance. At once I found myself entertaining the baseless, pleasing notion that, some years from now a collection of my own book reviews would appear in an edition called something awful like Writing Things Down or Twelve-Point Garamond. And that in due course some whey-faced stripe would, in The Spectator’s books pages, apply himself to noting what Sam Leith wrote about what David Lodge wrote about what Martin Stannard had to say about Muriel Spark. And that in due course, whey-face would publish his own collected — Wheys of Seeing, or similar — and The Spec would assign it to Streaky O’Piss for review, and so on and so on.”—I’ve written before about the ouroboric development of book reviewers reviewing book reviews. In TheSpectator, Sam Leith uses a new book by David Lodge as a reason to ask: where will it all end? (via millionsmillions)
“The irony, of course, is that the more data we mine, and the closer we come to determining a precise calculus of sharing, the less likely it will be for what we know to remain true. If emotion and arousal are key, then, in a social application of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, we may be changing what will become popular even as we’re studying it. “If everyone is perfectly implementing the best headline to pass on, it’s not as effective any more,” [University of Pennsylvania marketing professor Jonah] Berger says. “What used to be emotionally arousing simply isn’t any longer.””—
“Faith, in its broadest sense, is about far more than belief in the existence of God or the disregard of scientific evidence. Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand. Faith is the belief in things larger than ourselves. Faith is the ability to honor stillness at some moments and at others to ride the passion and exuberance that is the artistic impulse, the flight of the imagination, the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.”—Alan Lightman on science and spirituality – absolutely beautiful, necessary read. (via explore-blog)
It is my guiding thesis that people who claim a serious interest in America but consider racism to be a niche topic are divided against themselves. You can’t understand American politics, without understanding the Civil War. You can’t understand the suburbs, without understanding redlining. You can’t understand the constitution, without understanding slavery. In effect if you are an American who avoids understanding the force of racism, you are avoiding an understanding of yourself and your country.
The estimated nightly homeless population in NYC rose from 13,000 to 52,000 in the last 20 years. … When I lived in NYC I tutored homeless folks: smart, motivated, cruelly unlucky, often abandoned by both family and society. More than I can count were left homeless by healthcare bills or kicked out of their houses for being queer.
We need systemic change, but in the meantime compassion will do. The homeless are human; when you see them, see them. I mean: be human too.
“I have built my life in such a way that my many side jobs still allow me time to write fiction. No great hand reached down from the sky and made me a writer. I made myself one, by writing. So if this book doesn’t sell, or if it sells and nobody reads it, I’ll write another. And another. And another. Until I write a book that feels truly necessary, that people read not because I want them to, but because it gives them some news about the human heart they can’t get any other way. And then what will I do? That’s easy. I’ll start writing another one.”—Act Two: A Young Playwright Grows Up by Michael Bourne (via millionsmillions)
“As you have it in your power, sir, to do some service to letters, I implore you not to clip the wings of our writers so closely, nor to turn into barn-door fowls those who, allowed a start, might become eagles; reasonable liberty permits the mind to soar — slavery makes it creep.”—Voltaire, born on this day in 1694, on censorship – fantastic 1733 letter to a government official (via explore-blog)
“If it did—if I truly believed that being a corpse was not only a possible future but my only guaranteed future—I’d do all kinds of things differently. I’d get rid of my iPhone, for starters. Lead a different sort of life.”—A thought experiment by Zadie Smith. Full text here.
“But what I like best of all about my matchbox is that it is an empty one.”—"Late-1946, English novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner received a Christmas present from friend and fellow writer, Alyse Gregory, that was to inspire what must surely be one of the most exquisite thank you letters ever written. The gift in question was an empty matchbox” Full text here.