G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Shining Nothingness? Maybe. Thank You Nonetheless, Gore Vidal

Recently I read in Lapham’s Quarterly, Angela Serratore's article about Hamilton-Burr duel which took place on July 11, 1804 and killed Alexander Hamilton, America's founding father and her first treasury secretary.

Picture courtesy: Lapham’s Quarterly

I immediately remembered Gore Vidal not just for his novel "Burr: A Novel" but his combative nature.

Dueling Gore Vidal is now dead.

I love almost all the non-fiction Mr. Vidal has written. (I have still not read any of his fiction.)

How lyrical he could get...sample this:

“This is, suddenly, in the midst of the turbulent Greco-Roman world, the calm voice of Krishna. All is illusion for the enlightened. Plainly, Cavafy, himself no Arjuna, did achieve something very like that ultimate state of enlightenment where, not fooled by words, he was able to so order them as to make our common voyage, viewed from his unique angle, seem beautiful, even consoling, in its shining nothingness.”

(from foreword to “Before Time Could Change Them: The Complete Poems of Constantine P. Cavafy,”)

He could be so scathing...

“I've said that the fact that people seldom read anymore, particularly in the great Republic to the east of us. Readers are few. All these literary prizes should go to the readers: "Nobel Prize for the best reader in Milwaukee." And you know, we must honor them because they are so few. Since literature means nothing to the general public and they don't know the names, really, of any of the writers, nor would they dream of reading them... I've never been a journalist which means that I don't use opinions as facts. And this is unknown to journalists everywhere at any time; I don't do that at all.”

About America...

“Well, I say that eternity is a very long time, if it could be called time, and that the human race is just a passing fancy. We were preceded by viruses, it looks like the viruses will probably kill us all. Bacteria of some kind -- they have long, long lives, along with cockroaches, and ... I was never one to take the idea of the human race at all seriously. To me we're just another form of rather chattering monkeys. I don't believe in afterlife, but that's why I believe all the more deeply in this life, being the one thing that we can fix. And why I am in a state of continuous high blood pressure, outrage, at how badly we screw everything up in the United States, which is basically the most blessed of countries -- Native Americans to one side, -- but it was a fairly empty place for a lot of Europeans and Asians to come to -- How we could have come to this, all because of the theater of something called the Cold War and the profits they have made, the Defense industry, is a tragedy that I have lived through in my life. I have seen -- I saw the High Noon. I got out of the Army in 1946, I was in the Pacific, I remember '45 as the moment when we were the great and first global empire, and we were absolutely unbeatable: the greatest economy, and here we sit 50 years later, and look at us. All I hope is that something will happen that will change it for the better, and that is somebody who is maybe listening to us now.”

On Media...

“Put bluntly, who collects what money from whom in order to spend on what is all there is to politics, and in a serious country should be central preoccupation of the media.”

On Kennedys...

“The Kennedys were an eighteenth-century amoral couple, together for convenience…..Even now the photogenic charm of the couple at the center of so much corruption and incompetence still casts its spell.”

I don't know if it is the beginning or the end of his famous rivalries. (Norman Mailer allegedly head-butted Vidal in December 1971.)

While I love Mr. Vidal's lyricism I also have a soft-corner for head-butting since 2006 football world cup final.

Artist: Jack Ziegler, The New Yorker, Jan 1 1979