“Monks, prisoners, conscripts, have the support of rule: they live as they are ordered to. The exile has nothing but himself to depend on. If he chooses to lie on the ground and yell, he may be a nuisance but he is not an offender. If he he tries to be a model exile, he makes a rope of sand. His conformity is of no account, and is based on guesswork, anyway. Accident may tell him he has guessed wrong, experiment on experiment may lead him to guess right. But that, too, is by accident. He plays a kind of Hunt the Thimble without knowing what a thimble looks like.”
- “The Climate of Exile” by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing back
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road–
Only wakes upon the sea.
- Antonio Machado
“A reason knowledge/learning in general is so unpopular with so many people is because very early we all learn there is a phenomenologically unpleasant side to it: to learn anything entails the fact that there is no way to escape learning that you were formerly ignorant, to learn that you were a fool, that you have already lost irretrievable opportunities, that you have made wrong choices, that you were silly and limited. These lessons are not pleasant. The acquisition of knowledge–especially when we are young–again and again includes this experience.
“Thus most people soon actively desire to stay clear of the whole process, because by the time we are seven or eight we know exactly what the repercussions and reactions will be. One moves toward knowledge through a gauntlet of inescapable insults–the most painful of them often self-tendered.”
- Samuel R. Delany, About Writing
“For me the daylight world is but an illusion; the dreams of a night are real. That is where my true life lies.” – Edogawa Rampo
“Also in Raissa, city of sadness, there runs an invisible thread that binds one living being to another for a moment, then unravels, then is stretched again between moving points as it draws new and rapid patterns so that at every second the unhappy city contains a happy city unaware of its own existence.”
“Afterward I remembered these things very clearly, with that longing we feel sometimes to recover a state of life that we have lost for ever, though perhaps that we have lost it is all its value.”
Google keeps a gallery of all their homepage “doodles” from around the world. I hadn’t seen the Stanislaw Lem one (above). It’s even interactive, which is fun since deskwarming and all. Not that it’s appropriate for today, but we take what we can get in this world.
“The reason, if I can put it this way, is simply because it would be awkward for me to get into my bed of creation wearing heavy boots of realism. Solaris is about love and the mysterious ocean, and that is what is important about it. As to how the protagonist actually got to the planet, I pretend that I do not know.”
- Stanislaw Lem
1. A shop with its own weather, the Thousand Spiders was a place of gut-turning symmetries and the slap of palpable etheric manipulation. In fact it was impossible to tell whether you really wanted to buy what you bought there.
2. In the past everyone had feared Dumbar because his head was actually a chrysalis for another animal. In recent times his face had been almost transparent and they could see something bustle and shift behind it. Finally he’d stopped short in the middle of a conversation and opened his mouth, from which a bunch of fiddling spider legs fanned. Everything else followed and he was speechless and shaking, the only one without a scream to offer as the dog-sized bug quivered into a corner and stayed there to dry off.
3. ‘Oh I heard the voice of God once,’ Edgy told him. ‘Yeah, I was at a buffet, you know? And I was going for the chicken, and this voice from above said, “Take the ham.” So that’s what I did.’
‘Take the ham? And that’s the only time God ever chose to give you advice?’
‘Correct. I can only conclude that in every other area of my life I’ve been right on the money.’
- All from Only An Alligator by Steve Aylett
This one got passed to me by someone in Korea. My wife is a fan of Kundera. Or was, before I ruined her taste with comic books and Fritz Leiber.
The Joke details several “jokes”, none of which are the haha kind. The first one is a postcard written by Ludvik Jahn when he was a student that caused him to be sentenced to the coal mines. This event propels the plot in so much as the plot is about Ludvik’s quest for revenge fifteen years later. In the ways his plan gets fulfilled and in the ways others react to it provides the rest of the “jokes”.
“When it is postponed, vengeance is transformed into something deceptive, into a personal religion, into a myth that recedes day by day from the people involved, who remain the same in the myth though in reality (the walkway is in constant motion) they long ago became different people: today another Jahn stands before another Zemanek, and the blow that I still owe him can be neither revived nor reconstructed, it is definitely lost.”
Ludvik’s a rather unpleasant and bitter guy, but in him we can see a thwarted hero. His path suggests an anti-bildungsroman where the youth does not mature by overcoming adversity but instead grows cynical when he encounters the injustices of the world. For awhile I was at a bit of a remove while reading it, waiting for it to transcend its “Soviet-style bureaucracies are never good” message. But by its end The Joke is less about any particular course of action or desire the characters have and more about the way history (and historic events) undermines all our expectations — and discovering redemption despite this. It’s a great book as long as you don’t mind your existentialism mixed with a blend of male chauvinism.