Sunday, January 20

"I open this book and smoke pours out, I open this book and a bad sleet slices my face, I open this book: brass knuckles, I open this book: the spiky scent of curry, I open this book and hands grab forcefully onto my hair as if in violent sex, I open this book: the wing beat of a seraph, I open this book: the edgy cat-pain wailing of the damned thrusts up in a column as sturdy around as a giant redwood, I open this book: the travel of light, I open this book and it's as damp as a wound, I open this book and I fall inside it farther than any physics, stickier than the jelly we scrape from cracked bones, cleaner than what we tell our children in the dark when they're afraid to close their eyes at night."
 - Albert Goldbarth
from Library
Saving Lives

Saturday, January 19

"When we read, we are not looking for new ideas, but to see our own thoughts given the seal of confirmation on the printed page. The words that strike us are those that awake an echo in a zone we have already made our own - the place where we live - and the vibration enables us to find fresh starting points within ourselves."
 - Cesare Pavese
This Business of Living

Friday, January 18

"The whole business of what's reality and what isn't has never been solved and probably never will be. So I don't care to be too definite about anything. I have a lot of edges called Perhaps and almost nothing you can call Certainty. For myself, but not for other people. That's a place you just can't get into, not entirely anyway, other people's heads. I'll just leave you with this. I don't care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It's enough to know that for some people they exist, and that they dance."
 - Mary Oliver

Thursday, January 17

" ... for just as the universal family of gifted writers transcends national barriers, so is the gifted reader a universal figure, not subject to spatial or temporal laws. It is he - the good, the excellent reader - who has saved the artist again and again from being destroyed by emperors, dictators, priests, puritans, philistines, political moralists, policemen, postmasters, and prigs. Let me define this admirable reader. He does not belong to any specific nation or class. No director of conscience and no book club can manage his soul. His approach to a work of fiction is not governed by those juvenile emotions that make the mediocre reader identify himself with this or that character and 'skip descriptions.' The good, the admirable reader identifies himself not with the boy or the girl in the book, but with the mind that conceived and composed that book. The admirable reader does not seek information about Russia in a Russian novel, for he knows that the Russia of Tolstoy or Chekhov is not the average Russia of history but a specific world imagined and created by individual genius. The admirable reader is not concerned with general ideas: he is interested in the particular vision. He likes the novel not because it helps him to get along with the group (to use a diabolical progressive-school cliché); he likes the novel because he imbibes and understands every detail of the text, enjoys what the author meant to be enjoyed, beams inwardly and all over, is thrilled by the magic imageries of the master-forger, the fancy-forger, the conjuror, the artist. Indeed, of all the characters that a great artist creates, his readers are the best."
 - Vladimir Nabokov

Tuesday, January 15

"Of all man's instruments, the most wondrous, no doubt, is the book. The other instruments are extensions of his body. The microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his sight; the telephone is the extension of his voice; then we have the plow and the sword, extensions of the arm. But the book is something else altogether: the book is an extension of memory and imagination."
 - Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, January 14

"There is something else which has the power to awaken us to the truth. It is the works of writers of genius, or at least those with genius of the very first order and when it has reached its full maturity. They give us, in the guise of fiction, something equivalent to the actual density of the real, that density which life offers us every day but which we are unable to grasp because we are amusing ourselves with lies."
 - Simone Weil

Sunday, January 13

"Where words come from, into consciousness, baffles me. Speaking or writing, the words bounce instantaneously into their context, and I am victimized by them, rather than controlling them. They do not wait for my selection; they volunteer. True, I can reject them, but my whole way of writing induces easy acceptance - at first - of any eager volunteer. I want to talk about these volunteers, but first want to consider another reason for trying carefully to set the record straight, about attitudes toward language. The point concerns how a writer feels about language, in general. Many opine that a writer, and particularly a poet, for some reason, must love language; often there is even a worshipful attitude assumed. I have noticed this assumption with particular attention because it happens that insofar as I can assess my own attitudes in relation to others I have an unusually intense distrust of language. What people say or write comes to me attenuated or thinned by my realization that talk merely puts into the air an audio counterpart of mysterious, untrustworthy, confused events in the creature making the sounds. Truth, or wonder, or any kind of imaginative counterpart of absolute realities - these I certainly do not expect in human communication."
 - William Stafford
Writing the Australian Crawl

Saturday, January 12

"I will read long books and the journals of dead writers. I will feel closer to them than I ever felt to people I used to know before I withdrew from the world. It will be sweet and cool this friendship of mine with dead poets, for I won't have to touch them or answer their questions. They will talk to me and not expect me to answer. And I'll get sleepy listening to their voices explaining the mysteries to me. I'll fall asleep with the book still in my fingers, and it will rain."
 - Tennessee Williams
27 Wagons Full of Cotton

Friday, January 11

"I have just stood before the open window of my bedroom and I have breathed in deeply all the honeysuckle-perfumed air, the sunshine, the snowdrops of winter, the crocuses of spring, the primroses, the crooning pigeons, the trills of the birds, the entire procession of soft winds and cool smells, of frail colors and petal-textured skies, the knotted snake greys of old vine roots, the vertical shoots of young branches, the dank smell of old leaves, of wet earth, of torn roots, and fresh-cut grass, winter, summer, and fall, sunrises and sunsets, storms and lulls, wheat and chestnuts, wild strawberries and wild roses, violets and damp logs, burnt fields and new poppies."
 - Anaïs Nin
The Diary of Anaïs Nin
Volume 1

Thursday, January 10

"Bear with me, wise readers, in that I've chosen no form for the Book of Mind Because everything has no form, and when you've finished reading this book you will have had a glimpse of everything, presented in the way that everything comes: in piecemeal bombardments, continuously, rat tat tatting the pure pictureless liquid of Mind essence."
 - Jack Kerouac

Wednesday, January 9

"When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognize and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception."
 - Zadie Smith
advice to writers

  • ". . . as I have said often enough, I write for myself in multiplicate,
    a not unfamiliar phenomenon on the horizon of shimmering deserts."
    - Vladimir Nabokov