Commonplace Book: T.E. Lawrence on Arab zeal

Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany. Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances. For years we lived anyhow with another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven. By day the hot sun fermented us; and we were dizzied by the beating wind. At night we were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of stars. We were a self-centred army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom, the second of man’s creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all our strength, a hope … Continue reading Commonplace Book: T.E. Lawrence on Arab zeal

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Commonplace Book/Translation Tuesdays: Elias Canetti on minds and monsters

Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany. I admire those very broad people who through the decades become broader and broader yet do not give in. But the unyieldingly narrow are horrible. [1957 – 1959] A ceremonial beast, assembled from tiaras. [1960] That the behavior of dictators is perfidious is no longer surprising. But that mankind still craves authoritarianism, despite their appalling record of failure, is incomprehensible. With these monstrous examples right before our eyes, how are we so stupid, and how it is possible, faced with all that has happened, for us to lie to ourselves … Continue reading Commonplace Book/Translation Tuesdays: Elias Canetti on minds and monsters

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Short Takes III: John Updike

Fun-sized distillations of prose and poetry.  Self-contained nuggets of literary craft. Oliver’s Evolution His parents had not meant to abuse him; they had meant to love him, and did love him.  But Oliver had come late in their little pack of offspring, at a time when the challenge of child-rearing was wearing thin, and he proved susceptible to mishaps.  A big fetus, cramped in the mother’s womb, he was born with in-turned feet, and learned to crawl with corrective casts up to his ankles.  When they were at last removed, he cried in terror, because he thought those heavy plaster … Continue reading Short Takes III: John Updike

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