Aspect Of The Novel Quotes

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Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Certainly the determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and novel impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion.
George Eliot (Middlemarch)
We move between two darknesses.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or six hours each day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with our fellows in a glowing exaltation of affection and make life in all its aspects seem not only worth living, but divinely beautiful and significant, and if this heavenly, world-transfiguring drug were of such a kind that we could wake up next morning with a clear head and an undamaged constitution - then, it seems to me, all our problems (and not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel pleasure) would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise.
Aldous Huxley
Expansion. That is the idea the novelist must cling to. Not completion. Not rounding off, but opening out.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Let us think of people as starting life with an experience they forget and ending it with one which they anticipate but cannot understand.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Books have to be read (worse luck, for it takes a long time); it is the only way of discovering what they contain.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
The final test of a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, and of anything else which we cannot define.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Human beings have their great chance in the novel.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Dear Collector: We hate you. Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices, personal ties, deeper relationships that change its color, flavor, rhythms, intensities. "You do not know what you are missing by your micro-scopic examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of aspects which are the fuel that ignites it. Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex its surprising textures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac elements. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood. If you nourished your sexual life with all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality, you would be the most potent man in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity, passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine. How much do you lose by this periscope at the tip of your sex, when you could enjoy a harem of distinct and never-repeated wonders? No two hairs alike, but you will not let us waste words on a description of hair; no two odors, but if we expand on this you cry Cut the poetry. No two skins with the same texture, and never the same light, temperature, shadows, never the same gesture; for a lover, when he is aroused by true love, can run the gamut of centuries of love lore. What a range, what changes of age, what variations of maturity and innocence, perversity and art . . . We have sat around for hours and wondered how you look. If you have closed your senses upon silk, light, color, odor, character, temperament, you must be by now completely shriveled up. There are so many minor senses, all running like tributaries into the mainstream of sex, nourishing it. Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.
Anaïs Nin (Delta of Venus)
I probably reread novels more often than I read new ones. The novel form is made for rereading. Novels are by their nature too long, too baggy, too full of things – you can't hold them completely in your mind. This isn't a flaw – it's part of the novel's richness: its length, multiplicity of aspects, and shapelessness resemble the length and shapelessness of life itself. By the time you reach the end of the novel you will have forgotten the beginning and much of what happens in between: not the main outlines but the fine work, the detail and the music of the sentences – the particular words, through which the novel has its life. You think you know a novel so well that there must be nothing left in it to discover but the last time I reread Emma I found a little shepherd boy, brought into the parlour to sing for Harriet when she's staying with the Martin family. I'm sure he was never in the book before.
Tessa Hadley
No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy –that is to say, has given so complete a picture of man’s life, both on its domestic and heroic side. No English novelist has explored man’s soul as deeply as Dostoyevsky. And no novelist anywhere has analysed the modern consciousness as successfully as Marcel Proust.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Scheherazade avoided her fate because she knew how to wield the weapon of suspense –the only literary tool that has any effect upon tyrants and savages.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
The human mind is not a dignified organ, and I do not see how we can exercise it sincerely except through eclecticism. And the only advice I would offer my fellow eclectics is: "Do not be proud of your inconsistency. It is a pity, it is a pity that we should be equipped like this. It is a pity that Man cannot be at the same time impressive and truthful.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
A mirror does not develop because an historical pageant passes in front of it. It only develops when it gets a fresh coat of quicksilver—in other words, when it acquires new sensitiveness; and the novel’s success lies in its own sensitiveness, not in the success of its subject matter.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
A chance word or a sigh are just as much evidence as a speech or a murder: the life they reveal ceases to be secret and enters the realm of action.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
This constant reference to genius is another characteristic of the pseudo-scholar. He loves mentioning genius, because the sound of the word exempts him from discovering its meaning.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
The old concept of chronological, orderly, symmetrical development of character died when it was discovered that the unconscious motivations are entirely at odds with fabricated conventions. Human beings do not grow in perfect symmetry. They oscillate, expand, contract, backtrack, arrest themselves, retrogress, mobilize, atrophy in part, proceed erratically according to experience and traumas. Some aspects of the personality mature, others do not. Some live in the past, some in the present. Some people are futuristic characters, some are cubistic, some are hard-edged, some geometric, some abstract, some impressionistic, some surrealistic!
Anaïs Nin (The Novel of the Future)
And that is why novels, even when they are about wicked people, can solace us: they suggest a more comprehensible and thus more manageable human race, they give us the illusion of perspicacity and of power.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
This is the thing that takes me longest of all when I'm beginning a novel, to work out what the limits are, what the powers of the narrator will be, what is the appropriate tone to take. And where do I see things from: am I watching this, as it were, from stage right or stage left? That makes a difference. Mike Alfreds is an English director who has a company called Shared Experience. They do a lot of adaptations of novels. He's discovered that when they use a narrator, if they put the narrator stage right, the audience perceives the narrator as being somehow involved, warm, part of what's going on. If he puts the narrator stage left, the audience feels the narrator to be critical, detached.... Ever since then, I have to say, whenever I do a conversation with someone on the stage, I take care to be stage right. But that's an aspect of where you're seeing it from, you see, whether the narrator is viewing the characters, as it were, sympathetically or, as it were, critically. This takes a while to discover for each book.
Philip Pullman
Rules cease to exist once they have outlived their value, but forms live on eternally. There are forms of the novel which impose on the suggested topic all the virtues of the Number. Born of the very expression and of the diverse aspects of the tale, connected by nature with the guiding idea, daughter and mother of all the elements that it polarizes, a structure develops, which transmits to the works the last reflections of Universal Light and the last echoes of the Harmony of Worlds.
Raymond Queneau
[Julie] had lived a great deal among lies, before plumping for a small life of her own, a sincere and restricted life from which all pretense, even in matters sensual, was banished. How many crazy decisions and allegiances to successive aspects fo the truth! Had she not, one day when her costume for a fancy dress had demanded short hair, cut off the great chestnut mane that fell below her waist when she let it down? 'I could have hired a wig,' she thought. 'I might also, at a pinch, have passed the rest of my life with Becker or Espivant. If it comes to that, I could also have gone on stirring puddings in a saucepan at Carneilhan. The things "one might have done" are, in fact, the things one could not do...
Colette (Gigi, Julie de Carneilhan, and Chance Acquaintances: Three Short Novels)
for the lawyers, who cared not about the moral aspect of the case, but only, so to speak, about its contemporary legal aspect.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov: A Novel in Four Parts With Epilogue)
History develops, art stands still.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
But whereas the story appeals to our curiosity and the plot to our intelligence, the pattern appeals to our aesthetic sense, it causes us to see the book as a whole.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
The story that is a story and sounded so healthy and stood no nonsense cannot sincerely lead to any conclusion but the grave.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
It was as if, because of an evil spell, the joy or sorrow of on required the sorrow or joy of the other; even our physical aspect, it seemed to me, shared in that swing.
Elena Ferrante (My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1))
One of the most wonderful things about Pride and Prejudice is the variety of voices it embodies. There are so many different forms of dialogue: between several people, between two people, internal dialogue and dialogue through letters. All tensions are created and resolved through dialogue. Austen's ability to create such multivocality, such diverse voices and intonations in relation and in confrontation within a cohesive structure, is one of the best examples of the democratic aspect of the novel. In Austen's novels, there are spaces for oppositions that do not need to eliminate each other in order to exist. There is also space - not just space but a necessity - for self-reflection and self-criticism. Such reflection is the cause of change. We needed no message, no outright call for plurality, to prove our point. All we needed was to reach and appreciate the cacophony of voices to understand its democratic imperative. There was where Austen's danger lay.
Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books)
Although there were moments even still in the grey glint of morning when the room had the agitated, stricken appearance of a person who had changed his creed a thousand times, sighed, stretched himself, turned a complete somersault, sat up, smiled, lay down, turned up his toes and died of doubts. But this aspect was reserved exclusively for the housemaids and the translucent threads of dawn.
Ronald Firbank (3 More Novels: Vainglory, Inclinations, Caprice)
If human nature does alter it will be because individuals manage to look at themselves in a new way. Here and there people — a very few people, but a few novelists are among them — are trying to do this. Every institution and vested interest is against such a search: organized religion, the State, the family in its economic aspect, have nothing to gain, and it is only when outward prohibitions weaken that it can proceed: history conditions it to that extent. Perhaps the searchers will fail, perhaps it is impossible for the instrument of contemplation to contemplate itself, perhaps if it is possible it means the end of imaginative literature — [...] anyhow—that way lies movement and even combustion for the novel, for if the novelist sees himself differently, he will see his characters differently and a new system of lighting will result.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Food, the stoking-up process, the keeping alive of an individual flame, the process that begins before birth and is continued after it by the mother, and finally taken over by the individual himself, who goes on day after day putting an assortment of objects into a hole in his face without becoming surprised or bored.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
For human intercourse, as soon as we look at it for its own sake and not as a social adjunct, is seen to be haunted by a spectre. We cannot understand each other, except in a rough and ready way; we cannot reveal ourselves, even when we want to; what we call intimacy is only a makeshift; perfect knowledge is an illusion.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
For many years, biographers and scholars, beginning with her great nephew James Austen-Leigh, presented her as a quiet, reserved, proper woman, but one has only to read her novels to realize that she was nothing so bland. Her genius, her craft, and her timeless prose are no secret, but thanks to Cassandra's scissors, most other aspects of her life will probably remain a mystery.
Beth Pattillo
A man does not talk to himself quite truly — not even to himself: the happiness or misery that he secretly feels proceeds from causes that he cannot quite explain, because as soon as he raises them to the level of the explicable they lose their native quality.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
What the story does do, all it can do, is to transform us from readers into listeners, to whom 'a' voice speaks, the voice of the tribal narrator, squatting in the middle of the cave, and saying one thing after another until the audience falls asleep among their offal and bones. The story is primitive, it reaches back to the origins of literature, before reading was discovered, and it appeals to what is primitive in us. That is why we are so unreasonable over the stories we like, and so ready to bully those who like something else. Intolerance is the atmosphere stories generate.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
I cannot love two people at once," Becky told William. "No. You can't," he said. "Well, then. That's all right, then. Of course one can't, I mean to say, I wasn't sure you hadn't mistaken any aspect of our friendship for something else." Her heart stood still and it raced, all at once. "Because you don't love him," William said.
Nancy Clark (A Way from Home: A Novel (Hill Family #2))
It is a pity that Man cannot be at the same time impressive and truthful.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
All of us, even the sophisticated, yearn for permanence, and to the unsophisticated permanence is the chief excuse for a work of art.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
For us mankind was a distant future toward which we were all journeying, whose aspect no one knew, whose laws weren’t written down anywhere.
Hermann Hesse (Demian (Dover Thrift Editions: Classic Novels))
I knew myself incapable of writing a line of a novel – by then I had written three or four – however long released from duty. Whatever inner processes are required for writing novels, so far as I myself was concerned, war now utterly inhibited. That was one of the many disagreeable aspects of war. It was not only physically inescapable, but morally inescapable too.
Anthony Powell (The Valley of Bones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #7))
On his advice I read The Craft of Fiction by Mr. Percy Lubbock, from which I learned that the only way to write novels was like Henry James; after that I read Aspects of the Novel by Mr. E. M. Forster, from which I learned that the only way to write novels was like Mr. E. M. Forster; then I read The Structure of the Novel by Mr. Edwin Muir, from which I learned nothing at all.
W. Somerset Maugham (Cakes and Ale)
The aspect of this transcendent reality upon which, both in terms of liberal morals, and of the art of the novel, Miss Murdoch lays most emphasis, is what she calls the ‘opacity of persons’.
A.S. Byatt (Degrees of Freedom: The Early Novels of Iris Murdoch)
Anomalies manifest themselves on the border between chaos and order, so to speak, and have a threatening and promising aspect. The promising aspect dominates, when the contact is voluntary, when the exploring agent is up-to-date – when the individual has explored all previous anomalies, released the “information” they contained, and built a strong personality and steady “world” from that information. The threatening aspect dominates, when the contact is involuntary, when the exploring agent is not up-to-date – when the individual has run away from evidence of his previous errors, failed to extract the information “lurking behind” his mistakes, weakened his personality, and destabilised his “world.” The phenomenon of interest – that precursor to exploratory behaviour – signals the presence of a potentially “beneficial” anomaly. Interest manifests itself where an assimilable but novel phenomenon exists: where something new “hides,” in a partially comprehensible form. Devout adherence to the dictates of interest – assuming a suitably disciplined character – therefore insures stabilisation and renewal of personality and world. Interest is a spirit beckoning from the unknown – a spirit calling from outside the “walls” of society. Pursuit of individual interest means hearkening to this spirit’s call – means journeying outside the protective walls of childhood dependence and adolescent group identification; means also return to and rejuvenation of society. This means that pursuit of individual interest – development of true individuality – is equivalent to identification with the hero. Such identification renders the world bearable, despite its tragedies – and reduces unnecessary suffering, which most effectively destroys, to an absolute minimum. This is the message that everyone wants to hear. Risk your security. Face the unknown. Quit lying to yourself, and do what your heart truly tells you to do. You will be better for it, and so will the world.
Jordan B. Peterson (Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief)
We come up against beauty here — for the first time in our enquiry: beauty at which a novelist should never aim though he fails if he does not achieve it. I will conduct beauty to her proper place later on. Meanwhile please accept her as part of a completed plot. She looks a little surprised at being there, but beauty ought to look a little surprised: it is the emotion that best suits her face, as Botticelli knew when he painted her risen from the waves, between the winds and the flowers. The beauty who does not look surprised, who accepts her position as her due—she reminds us too much of a prima donna.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Qua story, it can only have one merit: that of making the audience want to know what happens next. And conversely it can only have one fault: that of making the audience not want to know what happens next.
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Every textbook description of a disease should have, in our opinion, a section devoted to its evolutionary aspects. This section should address the following questions: 1. Which aspects of the syndrome are direct manifestations of the disease, and which are actually defenses? 2. If the disease has a genetic component, why do the responsible genes persist? 3. Do novel environmental factors contribute to the disease? 4. If the disease is related
Randolph M. Nesse (Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine)
What, in fact, is a novel but a universe in which action is endowed with form, where final words are pronounced, where people possess one another completely, and where life assumes the aspect of destiny? 3 The world of the novel is only a rectification of the world we live in, in pursuance of man's deepest wishes. For the world is undoubtedly the same one we know. The suffering, the illusion, the love are the same. The heroes speak our language, have our weaknesses and our strength. Their universe is neither more beautiful nor more enlightening than ours. But they, at least, pursue their destinies to the bitter end and there are no more fascinating heroes than those who indulge their passions to the fullest, Kirilov and Stavrogin, Mme Graslin, Julien Sorel, or the Prince de Cleves. It is here that we can no longer keep pace with them, for they complete things that we can never consummate
Albert Camus (The Rebel)
Strong women—especially if they elect to lead lives outside of the domestic sphere—are often depicted without appropriate context, are made to seem one-note (as if any of us could be defined by a single act in our personal history or a single aspect of personality), and are described with sexist labels. An intelligent, ambitious, outspoken woman is called “pushy,” “domineering,” “abrasive,” “hysterical,” “shrill,” etc., most often by men but sometimes by other women as well.
Therese Anne Fowler (A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts)
As adults we don’t play with toys anymore, but we do have to go out into the world and deal with novel situations and difficult challenges. We want to be highly functional at work, at ease and inspired in our hobbies, and compassionate enough to care for our children and partners. If we feel secure, like the infant in the strange situation test when her mother is present, the world is at our feet. We can take risks, be creative, and pursue our dreams. And if we lack that sense of security? If we are unsure whether the person closest to us, our romantic partner, truly believes in us and supports us and will be there for us in times of need, we’ll find it much harder to maintain focus and engage in life. As in the strange situation test, when our partners are thoroughly dependable and make us feel safe, and especially if they know how to reassure us during the hard times, we can turn our attention to all the other aspects of life that make our existence meaningful.
Amir Levine (Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love)
What matters is the character of...stereotypes, and the gullibility with which we employ them. And these in the end depend upon...our philosophy of life. If in that philosophy we assume that the world is codified according to a code which we possess, we are likely to make our reports of what is going on describe a world run by our code. But if our philosophy tells us that each man is only a small part of the world, that his intelligence catches at best only phases and aspects in a coarse net of ideas, then, when we use our stereotypes, we tend to know that they are only stereotypes, to hold them lightly, to modify them gladly. We tend, also, to realize more and more clearly when our ideas started, where they started, how they came to us, why we accepted them. All useful history is antiseptic in this fashion. It enables us to know what fairy tale, what school book, what tradition, what novel, play, picture, phrase, planted one preconception in this mind, another in that mind.
Walter Lippmann (Public Opinion)
I thought I was writing a story about rage. I wasn’t. There is certainly rage in this novel, but it is about more than that. In its heart, this is a story about memory, and trauma. It’s about the damage we do to ourselves and our community when we refuse to talk about the past. It’s about the memories that we don’t understand, and can’t put into context, until we learn more about the world. And I thought I was writing about a bunch of fire-breathing, powerful women. And while those women certainly are in this book, it isn’t about them. It’s about a world upended by trauma and shamed into silence. And that silence grows, and becomes toxic, and infects every aspect of life. Perhaps this sounds familiar to you now—times being what they are.
Kelly Barnhill (When Women Were Dragons)
Many aspects of positive schizotypy -magical thinking, paranoid ideation, and the tendency to form novel and unusual ideas and express them in idiosyncratic ways- can contribute to a compelling leader personality, often with religious or messianic overtones.
Marco del Giudice (Evolutionary Psychopathology: A Unified Approach)
Prose literature can reveal an aspect of the world which no other art can reveal … and in the case of the novel, the most important thing to be thus revealed, not necessarily the only thing, but incomparably the most important thing, is that other people exist.
Iris Murdoch
Could Miss Smith be truly considered as a nerd or freak? Other than the reasons she brought to Billy, there were a few more aspects of life where Emily, for some reason, differed from the majority of students. She just didn’t ever fit to match the crowd, no matter how hard she tried.
Sahara Sanders (Gods’ Food (Indigo Diaries, #1))
I want you to know I have never loved anyone like I love you. More than Darcy loved Elizabeth or Heathcliff loved Cathy. I just don’t want to make you a widow.” “I never really understood why Brontë is considered to be a romance writer. We were required to read Wuthering Heights in high school and I always believed that her novel showcased the bleakest aspects of human nature. The story provided readers with a small yet unforgettable glimpse into the depths of human cruelty. Personally, I never considered the story romantic because the love shared between Cathy and Heathcliff was fatal, not just for themselves but for those around them. Their souls were incompatible, and they were a toxic pairing. Despite their love, passion, jealousy, and desire for connection, they were unable to recognize this fact.” “I was never a fan of Victorian romance novels.” “It was never one of my favorites. It’s often viewed as one of the great romance novels of all time, but I think it represents something darker: the fatal, selfish side of love, obsession, and abuse. To this day, I have not encountered a more accurate depiction of how love can become selfish.” “Why do you say that?” Xuan asked. “Because I think you have to love someone in the way that I love you to truly understand what love means... and to understand how wrong the story is. My soul and yours are the same in a way that Catherine and Heathcliff’s could never be. Widow or not, I will never stop loving you, Xuan. You have mesmerized me. My very soul has been entangled completely by you over these past three years. If Brontë or Austen could write the greatest love story of all time they’d write our story. And whether you marry me or not, how I feel about you will never change.
Kayla Cunningham (Fated to Love You (Chasing the Comet Book 1))
There are some people about whom it is difficult to say anything which would describe them immediately and fully in their most typical and characteristic aspects; these are the people who are usually called "ordinary" and accounted as "the majority," and who actually do make up the great majority of society. In their novels and stories writers most often try to choose and present vividly and artistically social types which are extremely seldom encountered in real life, and which are nevertheless more real than real life itself. Podkolyosin, viewed as a type, in perhaps exaggerated, but he is hardly unknown. How many clever people having learned from Gogol about Podkolyosin at once discover that great numbers of their friends bear a terrific resemblance to Podkolyosin. They knew before Gogol that their friends were like Podkolyosin, except they did not know yet that that was their name... Nevertheless the question remains before us: what is the novelist to do with the absolutely "ordinary" people, and how can he present them to readers so that they are at all interesting? To leave them out of a story completely is not possible, because ordinary people are at every moment, by and large, the necessary links in the chain of human affairs; leaving them out, therefore, means to destroy credibility. To fill a novel entirely with types or, simply for the sake of interest, strange and unheard-of people, would be improbable and most likely not even interesting. In our opinion the writer must try to find interesting and informative touches even among commonplace people. When, for example, the very nature of certain ordinary persons consists precisely of their perpetual and unvarying ordinariness, or, better still, when in spite of their most strenuous efforts to life themselves out of the rut of ordinariness and routine, then such persons acquire a certain character of their own-the typical character of mediocrity which refuses to remain what it is and desires at all costs to become original and independent, without having the slightest capacity for independence.
Fyodor Dostoevsky
On Turgenev: He knew from Lavrov that I was an enthusiastic admirer of his writings; and one day, as we were returning in a carriage from a visit to Antokolsky's studio, he asked me what I thought of Bazarov. I frankly replied, 'Bazaraov is an admirable painting of the nihilist, but one feels that you did not love him as mush as you did your other heroes.' 'On the contrary, I loved him, intensely loved him,' Turgenev replied, with an unexpected vigor. 'When we get home I will show you my diary, in which I have noted how I wept when I had ended the novel with Bazarov's death.' Turgenev certainly loved the intellectual aspect of Bazarov. He so identified himself with the nihilist philosophy of his hero that he even kept a diary in his name, appreciating the current events from Bazarov's point of view. But I think that he admired him more than he loved him. In a brilliant lecture on Hamlet and Don Quixote, he divided the history makers of mankind into two classes, represented by one or the other of these characters. 'Analysis first of all, and then egotism, and therefore no faith,--an egotist cannot even believe in himself:' so he characterized Hamlet. 'Therefore he is a skeptic, and never will achieve anything; while Don Quixote, who fights against windmills, and takes a barber's plate for the magic helmet of Mambrino (who of us has never made the same mistake?), is a leader of the masses, because the masses always follow those who, taking no heed of the sarcasms of the majority, or even of persecutions, march straight forward, keeping their eyes fixed upon a goal which is seen, perhaps, by no one but themselves. They search, they fall, but they rise again and find it,--and by right, too. Yet, although Hamlet is a skeptic, and disbelieves in Good, he does not disbelieve in Evil. He hates it; Evil and Deceit are his enemies; and his skepticism is not indifferentism, but only negation and doubt, which finally consume his will.' These thought of Turgenev give, I think, the true key for understanding his relations to his heroes. He himself and several of his best friends belonged more or less to the Hamlets. He loved Hamlet, and admired Don Quixote. So he admired also Bazarov. He represented his superiority admirably well, he understood the tragic character of his isolated position, but he could not surround him with that tender, poetical love which he bestowed as on a sick friend, when his heroes approached the Hamlet type. It would have been out of place.
Pyotr Kropotkin (Memoirs of a Revolutionist)
One of the most terrifying aspects of publishing stories and books is the realization that they are going to be read, and read by strangers. I had never fully realized this before, although I had of course in my imagination dwelt lovingly upon the thought of the millions and millions of people who were going to be uplifted
Shirley Jackson (Come Along with Me: Classic Short Stories and an Unfinished Novel)
The artist, then, like the thinker or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his appeal. Impressed by the aspect of the world the thinker plunges into ideas, the scientist into facts — whence, presently, emerging they make their appeal to those qualities of our being that fit us best for the hazardous enterprise of living.
Joseph Conrad (Joseph Conrad: The Complete Novels)
To be really realistic a description would have to be endless. Where Stendhal describes in one phrase Lucien Leuwen's entrance into a room, the realistic artist ought, logically, to fill several volumes with descriptions of characters and settings, still without succeeding in exhausting every detail. Realism is indefinite enumeration. By this it reveals that its real ambition is conquest, not of the unity, but of the totality of the real world. Now we understand why it should be the official aesthetic of a totalitarian revolution. But the impossibility of such an aesthetic has already been demonstrated. Realistic novels select their material, despite themselves, from reality, because the choice and the conquest of reality are absolute conditions of thought and expression. To write is already to choose. There is thus an arbitrary aspect to reality, just as there is an arbitrary aspect to the ideal, which makes a realistic novel an implicit problem novel. To reduce the unity of the world of fiction to the totality of reality can only be done by means of an a priori judgment which eliminates form, reality, and everything that conflicts with doctrine. Therefore so-called socialist realism is condemned by the very logic of its nihilism to accumulate the advantages of the edifying novel and propaganda literature.
Albert Camus (The Rebel)
As for Proust, his contribution has been to create, from an obstinate contemplation of reality, a closed world that belonged only to him and that indicated his victory over the transitoriness of things and over death. But he uses absolutely the opposite means. He upholds, above everything, by a deliberate choice, a careful selection of unique experience, which the writer chooses from the most secret recesses of his past. Immense empty spaces are thus discarded from life because they have left no trace in the memory. If the American novel is the novel of men without memory, the world of Proust is nothing but memory. It is concerned only with the most difficult and most exacting of memories, the memory that rejects the dispersion of the actual world and derives, from the trace of a lingering perfume, the secret of a new and ancient universe. Proust chooses the interior life and, of the interior life, that which is more interior than life itself in preference to what is forgotten in the world of reality— in other words, the purely mechanical and blind aspects of the world. But by his rejection of reality he does not deny reality. He does not commit the error, which would counterbalance the error of American fiction, of suppressing the mechanical. He unites, on the contrary, into a superior form of unity, the memory of the past and the immediate sensation, the twisted foot and the happy days of times past.
Albert Camus (The Rebel)
The views he let me have of himself were like those glimpses through the shifting rents in a thick fog — bits of vivid and vanishing detail, giving no connected idea of the general aspect of a country. They fed one’s curiosity without satisfying it; they were no good for purposes of orientation. Upon the whole he was misleading. That’s how I summed him up to myself
Joseph Conrad (Joseph Conrad: The Complete Novels)
Human beings have their great chance in the novel. They say to the novelist: “Recreate us if you like, but we must come in,” and the novelist’s problem, as we have seen all along, is to give them a good run and to achieve something else at the same time. Whither shall he turn? not indeed for help but for analogy. Music, though it does not employ human beings, though it is governed by intricate laws, nevertheless does offer in its final expression a type of beauty which fiction might achieve in its own way. Expansion. That is the idea the novelist must cling to. Not completion. Not rounding off but opening out. When the symphony is over we feel that the notes and tunes composing it have been liberated, they have found in the rhythm of the whole their individual freedom. Cannot the novel be like that? Is not there something of it in War and Peace?-—the book with which we began and in which we must end. Such an untidy book. Yet, as we read it, do not great chords begin to sound behind us, and when we have finished does not every item—even the catalogue of strategies—lead a larger existence than was possible at the time?
E.M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel)
Another example is the modern political order. Ever since the French Revolution, people throughout the world have gradually come to see both equality and individual freedom as fundamental values. Yet the two values contradict each other. Equality can be ensured only by curtailing the freedoms of those who are better off. Guaranteeing that every individual will be free to do as he wishes inevitably short-changes equality. The entire political history of the world since 1789 can be seen as a series of attempts to reconcile this contradiction. Anyone who has read a novel by Charles Dickens knows that the liberal regimes of nineteenth-century Europe gave priority to individual freedom even if it meant throwing insolvent poor families in prison and giving orphans little choice but to join schools for pickpockets. Anyone who has read a novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn knows how Communism’s egalitarian ideal produced brutal tyrannies that tried to control every aspect of daily life. Contemporary American politics also revolve around this contradiction. Democrats want a more equitable society, even if it means raising taxes to fund programmes to help the poor, elderly and infirm. But that infringes on the freedom of individuals to spend their money as they wish. Why should the government force me to buy health insurance if I prefer using the money to put my kids through college? Republicans, on the other hand, want to maximise individual freedom, even if it means that the income gap between rich and poor will grow wider and that many Americans will not be able to afford health care. Just as medieval culture did not manage to square chivalry with Christianity, so the modern world fails to square liberty with equality. But this is no defect. Such contradictions are an inseparable part of every human culture. In fact, they are culture’s engines, responsible for the creativity and dynamism of our species. Just
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Sometimes the novel is not ready to be written because you haven't met the inspiration for your main character yet. Sometimes you need two more years of life experience before you can make your masterpiece into something that will feel real and true and raw to other people. Sometimes you're not falling in love because whatever you need to know about yourself is only knowable through solitude. Sometimes you haven't met your next collaborator. Sometimes your sadness encircles you because, one day, it will be the opus upon which you build your life. We all know this: Our experience cannot always be manipulated. Yet, we don't act as though we know this truth. We try so hard to manipulate and control our lives, to make creativity into a game to win, to shortcut success because others say they have, to process emotions and uncertainty as if these are linear journeys. You don't get to game the system of your life. You just don't. You don't get to control every outcome and aspect as a way to never give in to the uncertainty and unpredictability of something that's beyond what you understand. It's the basis of presence: to show up as you are in this moment and let that be enough.
Jamie Varon
The other novel aspect in the essay was the shift in his attitude toward America. No longer was he willing to take as a given that the nation’s flaws, which he acknowledged were many, added up to a totality that was deserving only of condemnation, critique, and revolution. That attitude made sense, he wrote, when you were comparing it to a socialist utopia that existed only in the imagination. It
Daniel Oppenheimer (Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century)
But at least he had grasped one small aspect of poetry then: that it was something extremely personal, almost a gift one wrapped up for oneself alone; that it was foolish to expect everyone to respond to poetry in the same way, or even to respond at all. Not a gift, it was a beautiful burden. It was a melancholy art, and what it served for best was to provide life with a certain aptitude for sadness.
Renato E. Madrid (Mass for the Death of an Enemy: A Novel)
Of course, as with belief, thought, love, hate, conviction, or even the visual aspect of material things, there are as many shipwrecks as there are men, and in this one there was something abject which made the isolation more complete — there was a villainy of circumstances that cut these men off more completely from the rest of mankind, whose ideal of conduct had never undergone the trial of a fiendish and appalling joke.
Joseph Conrad (Joseph Conrad: The Complete Novels)
A person’s average or typical level of happiness is that person’s “affective style.” (“Affect” refers to the felt or experienced part of emotion.) Your affective style reflects the everyday balance of power between your approach system and your withdrawal system, and this balance can be read right from your forehead. It has long been known from studies of brainwaves that most people show an asymmetry: more activity either in the right frontal cortex or in the left frontal cortex. In the late 1980s, Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin discovered that these asymmetries correlated with a person’s general tendencies to experience positive and negative emotions. People showing more of a certain kind of brainwave coming through the left side of the forehead reported feeling more happiness in their daily lives and less fear, anxiety, and shame than people exhibiting higher activity on the right side. Later research showed that these cortical “lefties” are less subject to depression and recover more quickly from negative experiences.29 The difference between cortical righties and lefties can be seen even in infants: Ten-month-old babies showing more activity on the right side are more likely to cry when separated briefly from their mothers.30 And this difference in infancy appears to reflect an aspect of personality that is stable, for most people, all the way through adulthood. 31 Babies who show a lot more activity on the right side of the forehead become toddlers who are more anxious about novel situations; as teenagers, they are more likely to be fearful about dating and social activities; and, finally, as adults, they are more likely to need psychotherapy to loosen up.
Jonathan Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom)
In other words, Passer domesticus has become an urban species because it was already adapted to a lifestyle that, purely by accident, prepared it for the niches that we have created in cities. The urban environment offers conditions that happen to resemble one or more aspects of a species’ way of living in pre-urban times. And it is those species that are pre-adapted to the novel niches in the city. They are the first to move in.
Menno Schilthuizen (Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution)
Anyone who has read a novel by Charles Dickens knows that the liberal regimes of nineteenth-century Europe gave priority to individual freedom even if it meant throwing insolvent poor families in prison and giving orphans little choice but to join schools for pickpockets. Anyone who has read a novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn knows how Communism’s egalitarian ideal produced brutal tyrannies that tried to control every aspect of daily life.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In the words of Emanuele Tesauro: "We enjoy seeing our own thoughts blossom in someone's mind, while that someone is equally pleased to spy what our own mind furtively conceals." I was a cipher. But, like me, everyone else was a cipher as well. Ultimately, I wanted to peer into books, places, and people because wherever I looked I was always looking for myself, or for traces of myself, or better yet, for a world out there filled with people and characters who could be made to be like me, because being like me and being me and liking the things I liked was nothing more than their roundabout way of being as close to, as open to, and as bound to me as I wished to be to them. The world in my image.All I cared for were streets that bore my name and the trace of my passage there; and all I wanted were novels in which everyone's soul was laid bare and anatomized because nothing interested me more than the nether, undisclosed aspects of people and things that were identical to mine. Exposed, everyone would turn out to be just like me. They understood me, I understood them, we were no longer strangers. I dissembled, they dissembled. The more they were like me, the more I'd learn to accept and perhaps grow to like who I was. My hunches, my insights were nothing more than furtive ways of bridging the insuperable distance between me and the world.
André Aciman (Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere)
The cloning of human genes allowed scientists to manufacture proteins-and the synthesis of proteins opened the possibility of targeting the millions of biochemical reactions in the human body. Proteins made it possible for chemists to intervene on previously impenetrable aspects of our physiology. The use of recombinant DNA to produce proteins thus marked a transition not just between one gene and one medicine, but between genes and a novel universe of drugs.
Siddhartha Mukherjee (The Gene: An Intimate History)
Growing up, his parents had written off his dreams as simply an effect of his reading too many novels, disappearing for hours - sometimes days - into fictional and fantastical worlds. In his youth, he'd seen dreams as a sign of his sensitivity to the other, that aspect of the world most people couldn't see - the one even Ned couldn't see - but that he believed in, fervently, determinedly, doggedly, right up until the day he met Kell and learned for certain that the other was real.
V.E. Schwab (A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3))
Another example is the modern political order. Ever since the French Revolution, people throughout the world have gradually come to see both equality and individual freedom as fundamental values. Yet the two values contradict each other. Equality can be ensured only by curtailing the freedoms of those who are better off. Guaranteeing that every individual will be free to do as he wishes inevitably short-changes equality. The entire political history of the world since 1789 can be seen as a series of attempts to reconcile this contradiction. Anyone who has read a novel by Charles Dickens knows that the liberal regimes of nineteenth-century Europe gave priority to individual freedom even if it meant throwing insolvent poor families in prison and giving orphans little choice but to join schools for pickpockets. Anyone who has read a novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn knows how Communism’s egalitarian ideal produced brutal tyrannies that tried to control every aspect of daily life.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In Kafka’s novel The Castle,{9} the chief character devotes his life to a frantic and desperate endeavor to communicate with the authorities in the castle who control all aspects of the life of the village, and who have the power to tell him his vocation and give some meaning to his life. Kafka’s hero is driven “by a need for the most primitive requisites of life, the need to be rooted in a home and a calling, and to become a member of a community.” {10} But the authorities in the castle remain inscrutable and inaccessible,
Rollo May (The Meaning Of Anxiety)
The formerly absolute distinction between time and eternity in Christian thought--between nunc movens with its beginning and end, and nunc stans, the perfect possession of endless life--acquired a third intermediate order based on this peculiar betwixt-and-between position of angels. But like the Principle of Complementarity, this concord-fiction soon proved that it had uses outside its immediate context, angelology. Because it served as a means of talking about certain aspects of human experience, it was humanized. It helped one to think about the sense, men sometimes have of participating in some order of duration other than that of the nunc movens--of being able, as it were, to do all that angels can. Such are those moments which Augustine calls the moments of the soul's attentiveness; less grandly, they are moments of what psychologists call 'temporal integration.' When Augustine recited his psalm he found in it a figure for the integration of past, present, and future which defies successive time. He discovered what is now erroneously referred to as 'spatial form.' He was anticipating what we know of the relation between books and St. Thomas's third order of duration--for in the kind of time known by books a moment has endless perspectives of reality. We feel, in Thomas Mann's words, that 'in their beginning exists their middle and their end, their past invades the present, and even the most extreme attention to the present is invaded by concern for the future.' The concept of aevum provides a way of talking about this unusual variety of duration-neither temporal nor eternal, but, as Aquinas said, participating in both the temporal and the eternal. It does not abolish time or spatialize it; it co-exists with time, and is a mode in which things can be perpetual without being eternal. We've seen that the concept of aevum grew out of a need to answer certain specific Averroistic doctrines concerning origins. But it appeared quite soon that this medium inter aeternitatem et tempus had human uses. It contains beings (angels) with freedom of choice and immutable substance, in a creation which is in other respects determined. Although these beings are out of time, their acts have a before and an after. Aevum, you might say, is the time-order of novels. Characters in novels are independent of time and succession, but may and usually do seem to operate in time and succession; the aevum co-exists with temporal events at the moment of occurrence, being, it was said, like a stick in a river. Brabant believed that Bergson inherited the notion through Spinoza's duratio, and if this is so there is an historical link between the aevum and Proust; furthermore this durée réelle is, I think, the real sense of modern 'spatial form,' which is a figure for the aevum.
Frank Kermode (The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction)
These simple words reveal Rahab’s amazing destiny: Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab (Matthew 1:5). In other words, Salmone and Rahab were married and had a son. The Bible gives us a glimpse into Salmone’s background through several genealogies (1 Chronicles 2:11; Ruth 4:20–21). Clearly, he comes from a highly distinguished family in the house of Judah; his father Nahshon is the leader of the people of Judah, and his father’s sister is wife to Aaron (Numbers 2:3–4). Of Salmone’s own specific accomplishments and activities nothing is known. But the verse in Matthew is still shocking. How could a man who is practically a Jewish aristocrat, significant enough to get his name recorded in the Scriptures, marry a Canaanite woman who has earned her living entertaining gentlemen? Much of this novel deals with that question. Needless to say, this aspect of the story is purely fictional. We only know that Salmone married Rahab and had a son by her, and that Jesus Himself counts this Canaanite harlot as one of His ancestors. On how such a marriage came about or what obstacles it faced, the Bible is silent.
Tessa Afshar (Pearl In The Sand)
In fact this desire for consonance in the apocalyptic data, and our tendency to be derisive about it, seem to me equally interesting. Each manifests itself, in the presence of the other, in most of our minds. We are all ready to be sceptical about Father Marystone, but we are most of us given to some form of 'centurial mysticism,' and even to more extravagant apocalyptic practices: a point I shall be taking up in my fourth talk. What it seems to come to is this. Men in the middest make considerable imaginative investments in coherent patterns which, by the provision of an end, make possible a satisfying consonance with the origins and with the middle. That is why the image of the end can never be permanently falsified. But they also, when awake and sane, feel the need to show a marked respect for things as they are; so that there is a recurring need for adjustments in the interest of reality as well as of control. This has relevance to literary plots, images of the grand temporal consonance; and we may notice that there is the same co-existence of naïve acceptance and scepticism here as there is in apocalyptic. Broadly speaking, it is the popular story that sticks most closely to established conventions; novels the clerisy calls 'major' tend to vary them, and to vary them more and more as time goes by. I shall be talking about this in some detail later, but a few brief illustrations might be useful now. I shall refer chiefly to one aspect of the matter, the falsification of one's expectation of the end. The story that proceeded very simply to its obviously predestined end would be nearer myth than novel or drama. Peripeteia, which has been called the equivalent, in narrative, of irony in rhetoric, is present in every story of the least structural sophistication. Now peripeteia depends on our confidence of the end; it is a disconfirmation followed by a consonance; the interest of having our expectations falsified is obviously related to our wish to reach the discovery or recognition by an unexpected and instructive route. It has nothing whatever to do with any reluctance on our part to get there at all. So that in assimilating the peripeteia we are enacting that readjustment of expectations in regard to an end which is so notable a feature of naïve apocalyptic. And we are doing rather more than that; we are, to look at the matter in another way, re-enacting the familiar dialogue between credulity and scepticism. The more daring the peripeteia, the more we may feel that the work respects our sense of reality; and the more certainly we shall feel that the fiction under consideration is one of those which, by upsetting the ordinary balance of our naïve expectations, is finding something out for us, something real. The falsification of an expectation can be terrible, as in the death of Cordelia; it is a way of finding something out that we should, on our more conventional way to the end, have closed our eyes to. Obviously it could not work if there were not a certain rigidity in the set of our expectations.
Frank Kermode (The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction)
Compare two commitments that will change some aspects of your life: buying a comfortable new car and joining a group that meets weekly, perhaps a poker or book club. Both experiences will be novel and exciting at the start. The crucial difference is that you will eventually pay little attention to the car as you drive it, but you will always attend to the social interaction to which you committed yourself. By WYSIATI (it's an acronym explained at the beginning of the book to explain how we only take into account minimal information of the type that we can most readily access e.g. how we're feeling right at this moment to answer how we feel about our lives in general) you are likely to exaggerate the long-term benefits of the car, but you are not likely to make the same mistake for a social gathering or for inherently attention-demanding activities such as playing tennis or learning to play the cello. The focusing illusion (your focus on something makes it feel more important than it actually is at that moment in time when you're focussing on it) creates a bias in favour of goods and experiences that are initially exciting, even if they will eventually lose their appeal. Time is neglected, causing experiences that will retain their attention value in the long term to be appreciated less than they deserve to be.
Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow)
The thought of the novelist that matters most is the thought that makes him a novelist. The thought of the novelist lies not in the remarks of his characters or even in their introspection but in the plight he has invented for his characters, in the juxtaposition of those characters and in the lifelike ramifications of the ensemble they make — their density, their substantiality, their lived existence actualized in all its nuanced particulars, is in fact his thought metabolized. The thought of the writer lies in his choice of an aspect of reality previously unexamined in the way that he conducts an examination. The thought of the writer is embedded everywhere in the course of the novel’s action. The thought of the writer is figured invisibly in the elaborate pattern — in the newly emerging constellation of imagined things — that is the architecture of the book: what Aristotle called simply “the arrangement of the parts,” the “matter of size and order.” The thought of the novel is embodied in the moral focus of the novel. The tool with which the novelist thinks is the scrupulosity of his style. Here, in all this, lies whatever magnitude his thought may have. The novel, then, is in itself his mental world. A novelist is not a tiny cog in the great wheel of human thought. He is a tiny cog in the great wheel of imaginative literature.
Philip Roth
Worse still, ‘originality’ – rather than consequence – has become the test of genius. The fact that something is ‘original’ – meaning novel, makes it praise-worthy. In fact, originality has now become indistinguishable from mere changes of fashion. In previous eras, there was not a special status given to novelty as an aspect of high quality work – but since about 1800 in the West there has been: greatness is supposedly mostly a matter of being innovative. Yet while great geniuses may innovate this is not the rule, for instance Gluck and J.C. Bach were greater innovators, but much lesser composers than, J.S. Bach and Mozart; Constable and Gainsborough were less original, but higher quality, painters than Francis Bacon or Lucien Freud.
Edward Dutton (The Genius Famine: Why We Need Geniuses, Why They're Dying Out, Why We Must Rescue Them)
Whoever looks for the writer’s thinking in the words and thoughts of his characters is looking in the wrong direction. Seeking out a writer’s “thoughts” violates the richness of the mixture that is the very hallmark of the novel. The thought of the novelist that matters most is the thought that makes him a novelist. The thought of the novelist lies not in the remarks of his characters or even in their introspection but in the plight he has invented for his characters, in the juxtaposition of those characters and in the lifelike ramifications of the ensemble they make — their density, their substantiality, their lived existence actualized in all its nuanced particulars, is in fact his thought metabolized. The thought of the writer lies in his choice of an aspect of reality previously unexamined in the way that he conducts an examination. The thought of the writer is embedded everywhere in the course of the novel’s action. The thought of the writer is figured invisibly in the elaborate pattern — in the newly emerging constellation of imagined things — that is the architecture of the book: what Aristotle called simply “the arrangement of the parts,” the “matter of size and order.” The thought of the novel is embodied in the moral focus of the novel. The tool with which the novelist thinks is the scrupulosity of his style. Here, in all this, lies whatever magnitude his thought may have. The novel, then, is in itself his mental world. A novelist is not a tiny cog in the great wheel of human thought. He is a tiny cog in the great wheel of imaginative literature. Finis.
Philip Roth
I hope I have now made it clear why I thought it best, in speaking of the dissonances between fiction and reality in our own time, to concentrate on Sartre. His hesitations, retractations, inconsistencies, all proceed from his consciousness of the problems: how do novelistic differ from existential fictions? How far is it inevitable that a novel give a novel-shaped account of the world? How can one control, and how make profitable, the dissonances between that account and the account given by the mind working independently of the novel? For Sartre it was ultimately, like most or all problems, one of freedom. For Miss Murdoch it is a problem of love, the power by which we apprehend the opacity of persons to the degree that we will not limit them by forcing them into selfish patterns. Both of them are talking, when they speak of freedom and love, about the imagination. The imagination, we recall, is a form-giving power, an esemplastic power; it may require, to use Simone Weil's words, to be preceded by a 'decreative' act, but it is certainly a maker of orders and concords. We apply it to all forces which satisfy the variety of human needs that are met by apparently gratuitous forms. These forms console; if they mitigate our existential anguish it is because we weakly collaborate with them, as we collaborate with language in order to communicate. Whether or no we are predisposed towards acceptance of them, we learn them as we learn a language. On one view they are 'the heroic children whom time breeds / Against the first idea,' but on another they destroy by falsehood the heroic anguish of our present loneliness. If they appear in shapes preposterously false we will reject them; but they change with us, and every act of reading or writing a novel is a tacit acceptance of them. If they ruin our innocence, we have to remember that the innocent eye sees nothing. If they make us guilty, they enable us, in a manner nothing else can duplicate, to submit, as we must, the show of things to the desires of the mind. I shall end by saying a little more about La Nausée, the book I chose because, although it is a novel, it reflects a philosophy it must, in so far as it possesses novel form, belie. Under one aspect it is what Philip Thody calls 'an extensive illustration' of the world's contingency and the absurdity of the human situation. Mr. Thody adds that it is the novelist's task to 'overcome contingency'; so that if the illustration were too extensive the novel would be a bad one. Sartre himself provides a more inclusive formula when he says that 'the final aim of art is to reclaim the world by revealing it as it is, but as if it had its source in human liberty.' This statement does two things. First, it links the fictions of art with those of living and choosing. Secondly, it means that the humanizing of the world's contingency cannot be achieved without a representation of that contingency. This representation must be such that it induces the proper sense of horror at the utter difference, the utter shapelessness, and the utter inhumanity of what must be humanized. And it has to occur simultaneously with the as if, the act of form, of humanization, which assuages the horror. This recognition, that form must not regress into myth, and that contingency must be formalized, makes La Nausée something of a model of the conflicts in the modern theory of the novel. How to do justice to a chaotic, viscously contingent reality, and yet redeem it? How to justify the fictive beginnings, crises, ends; the atavism of character, which we cannot prevent from growing, in Yeats's figure, like ash on a burning stick? The novel will end; a full close may be avoided, but there will be a close: a fake fullstop, an 'exhaustion of aspects,' as Ford calls it, an ironic return to the origin, as in Finnegans Wake and Comment c'est. Perhaps the book will end by saying that it has provided the clues for another, in which contingency will be defeated, ...
Frank Kermode (The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction)
DETECTIVE FRANK GEYER WAS A big man with a pleasant, earnest face, a large walrus mustache, and a new gravity in his gaze and demeanor. He was one of Philadelphia’s top detectives and had been a member of the force for twenty years, during which time he had investigated some two hundred killings. He knew murder and its unchanging templates. Husbands killed wives, wives killed husbands, and the poor killed one another, always for the usual motives of money, jealousy, passion, and love. Rarely did a murder involve the mysterious elements of dime novels and mystery stories. From the start, however, Geyer’s current assignment—it was now June 1895—had veered from the ordinary. One unusual aspect was that the suspect already was in custody, arrested seven months earlier for insurance fraud and now incarcerated in Philadelphia’s Moyamensing Prison
Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City)
It has been said that the world of Proust was a world without a god. If that is true, it is not because God is never spoken of, but because the ambition of this world is to be absolute perfection and to give to eternity the aspect of man. Time Regained, at least in its aspirations, is eternity without God. Proust's work, in this regard, appears to be one of the most ambitious and most significant of man's enterprises against his mortal condition. He has demonstrated that the art of the novel can reconstruct creation itself, in the form that it is imposed on us and in the form in which we reject it. In one of its aspects, at least, this art consists in choosing the creature in preference to his creator. But still more profoundly, it is allied to the beauty of the world or of its inhabitants against the powers of death and oblivion. It is in this way that his rebellion is creative
Albert Camus (The Rebel)
Ever since the French Revolution, people throughout the world have gradually come to see both equality and individual freedom as fundamental values. Yet the two values contradict each other. Equality can be ensured only by curtailing the freedoms of those who are better off. Guaranteeing that every individual will be free to do as he wishes inevitably short-changes equality. The entire political history of the world since 1789 can be seen as a series of attempts to reconcile this contradiction. Anyone who has read a novel by Charles Dickens knows that the liberal regimes of nineteenth-century Europe gave priority to individual freedom even if it meant throwing insolvent poor families in prison and giving orphans little choice but to join schools for pickpockets. Anyone who has read a novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn knows how Communism’s egalitarian ideal produced brutal tyrannies that tried to control every aspect of daily life.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Recently, a judge of the prestigious 2014 British Forward Prize for Poetry was moved to observe that “there is an awful lot of very powerful, lyrical, and readable poetry being written today,” but we need education, because “we have lost the sense that poetry sits halfway between prose and music—that you can’t expect to read it like a novel.” A few years ago, the New York Times published an op-ed of mine, about learning poetry by heart. The response to it confirmed that people of all ages think about poetry as a kind of inspired music, embodying beauty and insight. On one hand, poetry has always flowed from music, as rap and hip-hop remind us big-time. Rappers know how poetry walks and talks. So we have music, or deeply felt recitations of poems that belong to collective memory. On the other hand, we have overly instructive prose poems, as well as the experiments of certain critical ideologies, or conceptual performance art. These aspects seem to represent the public, Janus face of poetry.
Carol Muske-Dukes
Amongst democratic nations, as well as elsewhere, the number of official appointments has in the end some limits; but amongst those nations, the number of aspirants is unlimited; it perpetually increases, with a gradual and irresistible rise in proportion as social conditions become more equal, and is only checked by the limits of the population. Thus, when public employments afford the only outlet for ambition, the government necessarily meets with a permanent opposition at last; for it is tasked to satisfy with limited means unlimited desires. It is very certain that of all people in the world the most difficult to restrain and to manage are a people of solicitants. Whatever endeavors are made by rulers, such a people can never be contented; and it is always to be apprehended that they will ultimately overturn the constitution of the country, and change the aspect of the State, for the sole purpose of making a clearance of places. The sovereigns of the present age, who strive to fix upon themselves alone all those novel desires which are aroused by equality, and to satisfy them, will repent in the end, if I am not mistaken, that they ever embarked in this policy: they will one day discover that they have hazarded their own power, by making it so necessary; and that the more safe and honest course would have been to teach their subjects the art of providing for themselves.
Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America)
5. Move toward resistance and pain A. Bill Bradley (b. 1943) fell in love with the sport of basketball somewhere around the age of ten. He had one advantage over his peers—he was tall for his age. But beyond that, he had no real natural gift for the game. He was slow and gawky, and could not jump very high. None of the aspects of the game came easily to him. He would have to compensate for all of his inadequacies through sheer practice. And so he proceeded to devise one of the most rigorous and efficient training routines in the history of sports. Managing to get his hands on the keys to the high school gym, he created for himself a schedule—three and a half hours of practice after school and on Sundays, eight hours every Saturday, and three hours a day during the summer. Over the years, he would keep rigidly to this schedule. In the gym, he would put ten-pound weights in his shoes to strengthen his legs and give him more spring to his jump. His greatest weaknesses, he decided, were his dribbling and his overall slowness. He would have to work on these and also transform himself into a superior passer to make up for his lack of speed. For this purpose, he devised various exercises. He wore eyeglass frames with pieces of cardboard taped to the bottom, so he could not see the basketball while he practiced dribbling. This would train him to always look around him rather than at the ball—a key skill in passing. He set up chairs on the court to act as opponents. He would dribble around them, back and forth, for hours, until he could glide past them, quickly changing direction. He spent hours at both of these exercises, well past any feelings of boredom or pain. Walking down the main street of his hometown in Missouri, he would keep his eyes focused straight ahead and try to notice the goods in the store windows, on either side, without turning his head. He worked on this endlessly, developing his peripheral vision so he could see more of the court. In his room at home, he practiced pivot moves and fakes well into the night—such skills that would also help him compensate for his lack of speed. Bradley put all of his creative energy into coming up with novel and effective ways of practicing. One time his family traveled to Europe via transatlantic ship. Finally, they thought, he would give his training regimen a break—there was really no place to practice on board. But below deck and running the length of the ship were two corridors, 900 feet long and quite narrow—just enough room for two passengers. This was the perfect location to practice dribbling at top speed while maintaining perfect ball control. To make it even harder, he decided to wear special eyeglasses that narrowed his vision. For hours every day he dribbled up one side and down the other, until the voyage was done. Working this way over the years, Bradley slowly transformed himself into one of the biggest stars in basketball—first as an All-American at Princeton University and then as a professional with the New York Knicks. Fans were in awe of his ability to make the most astounding passes, as if he had eyes on the back and sides of his head—not to mention his dribbling prowess, his incredible arsenal of fakes and pivots, and his complete gracefulness on the court. Little did they know that such apparent ease was the result of so many hours of intense practice over so many years.
Robert Greene (Mastery)
Where philosophers before him had written in careful propositions and arguments, Sartre wrote like a novelist — not surprisingly, since he was one. In his novels, short stories and plays as well as in his philosophical treatises, he wrote about the physical sensations of the world and the structures and moods of human life. Above all, he wrote about one big subject: what it meant to be free. Freedom, for him, lay at the heart of all human experience, and this set humans apart from all other kinds of object. Other things merely sit in place, waiting to be pushed or pulled around. Even non-human animals mostly follow the instincts and behaviours that characterise their species, Sartre believed. But as a human being, I have no predefined nature at all. I create that nature through what I choose to do. Of course I may be influenced by my biology, or by aspects of my culture and personal background, but none of this adds up to a complete blueprint for producing me. I am always one step ahead of myself, making myself up as I go along. Sartre put this principle into a three-word slogan, which for him defined existentialism: ‘Existence precedes essence’. What this formula gains in brevity it loses in comprehensibility. But roughly it means that, having found myself thrown into the world, I go on to create my own definition (or nature, or essence), in a way that never happens with other objects or life forms. You might think you have defined me by some label, but you are wrong, for I am always a work in progress. I create myself constantly through action, and this is so fundamental to my human condition that, for Sartre, it is the human condition, from the moment of first consciousness to the moment when death wipes it out. I am my own freedom: no more, no less.
Sarah Bakewell (At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others)
For instance, emotional memories are stored in the amygdala, but words are recorded in the temporal lobe. Meanwhile, colors and other visual information are collected in the occipital lobe, and the sense of touch and movement reside in the parietal lobe. So far, scientists have identified more than twenty categories of memories that are stored in different parts of the brain, including fruits and vegetables, plants, animals, body parts, colors, numbers, letters, nouns, verbs, proper names, faces, facial expressions, and various emotions and sounds. Figure 11. This shows the path taken to create memories. Impulses from the senses pass through the brain stem, to the thalamus, out to the various cortices, and then to the prefrontal cortex. They then pass to the hippocampus to form long-term memories. (illustration credit 5.1) A single memory—for instance, a walk in the park—involves information that is broken down and stored in various regions of the brain, but reliving just one aspect of the memory (e.g., the smell of freshly cut grass) can suddenly send the brain racing to pull the fragments together to form a cohesive recollection. The ultimate goal of memory research is, then, to figure out how these scattered fragments are somehow reassembled when we recall an experience. This is called the “binding problem,” and a solution could potentially explain many puzzling aspects of memory. For instance, Dr. Antonio Damasio has analyzed stroke patients who are incapable of identifying a single category, even though they are able to recall everything else. This is because the stroke has affected just one particular area of the brain, where that certain category was stored. The binding problem is further complicated because all our memories and experiences are highly personal. Memories might be customized for the individual, so that the categories of memories for one person may not correlate with the categories of memories for another. Wine tasters, for example, may have many categories for labeling subtle variations in taste, while physicists may have other categories for certain equations. Categories, after all, are by-products of experience, and different people may therefore have different categories. One novel solution to the binding problem uses the fact that there are electromagnetic vibrations oscillating across the entire brain at roughly forty cycles per second, which can be picked up by EEG scans. One fragment of memory might vibrate at a very precise frequency and stimulate another fragment of memory stored in a distant part of the brain. Previously it was thought that memories might be stored physically close to one another, but this new theory says that memories are not linked spatially but rather temporally, by vibrating in unison. If this theory holds up, it means that there are electromagnetic vibrations constantly flowing through the entire brain, linking up different regions and thereby re-creating entire memories. Hence the constant flow of information between the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex, the thalamus, and the different cortices might not be entirely neural after all. Some of this flow may be in the form of resonance across different brain structures.
Michio Kaku (The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind)
We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science, but in a rather grisly morning-after, when it has become apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved or actually deteriorated ends. In this condition of apprehensive sobriety we are able to see that the contents of literature, art, music—even in some measure of divinity and school metaphysics—are not sophistry and illusion, but simply those elements of experience which scientists chose to leave out of account, for the good reason that they had no intellectual methods for dealing with them. In the arts, in philosophy, in religion men are trying—doubtless, without complete success—to describe and explain the non-measurable, purely qualitative aspects of reality. Since the time of Galileo, scientists have admitted, sometimes explicitly but much more often by implication, that they are incompetent to discuss such matters. The scientific picture of the world is what it is because men of science combine this incompetence with certain special competences. They have no right to claim that this product of incompetence and specialization is a complete picture of reality. As a matter of historical fact, however, this claim has constantly been made. The successive steps in the process of identifying an arbitrary abstraction from reality with reality itself have been described, very fully and lucidly, in Burtt’s excellent “Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science"; and it is therefore unnecessary for me to develop the theme any further. All that I need add is the fact that, in recent years, many men of science have come to realize that the scientific picture of the world is a partial one—the product of their special competence in mathematics and their special incompetence to deal systematically with aesthetic and moral values, religious experiences and intuitions of significance. Unhappily, novel ideas become acceptable to the less intelligent members of society only with a very considerable time-lag. Sixty or seventy years ago the majority of scientists believed—and the belief often caused them considerable distress—that the product of their special incompetence was identical with reality as a whole. Today this belief has begun to give way, in scientific circles, to a different and obviously truer conception of the relation between science and total experience. The masses, on the contrary, have just reached the point where the ancestors of today’s scientists were standing two generations back. They are convinced that the scientific picture of an arbitrary abstraction from reality is a picture of reality as a whole and that therefore the world is without meaning or value. But nobody likes living in such a world. To satisfy their hunger for meaning and value, they turn to such doctrines as nationalism, fascism and revolutionary communism. Philosophically and scientifically, these doctrines are absurd; but for the masses in every community, they have this great merit: they attribute the meaning and value that have been taken away from the world as a whole to the particular part of the world in which the believers happen to be living.
Aldous Huxley (The Perennial Philosophy: An Interpretation of the Great Mystics, East and West)
Another novel aspect of this book
How about transparency and honesty? Bill Clinton lied under oath repeatedly during the Monica investigation, to the point of being disbarred and fined. Subpoenaed legal records of Hillary Clinton turned up (too late) mysteriously in the White House. In the latest email scandal, the mystery was not that Hillary set up a stealthy private communication system to facilitate the Clinton scheme of offering foreign zillionaires the opportunity to give money to the family foundation and huge cash speaking fees for Bill, in exchange for likely favorable U.S. government decisions affecting billions of dollars in international trade and commerce — and perhaps the very security of the United States. We expected even that from Hillary Clinton the moment that she assumed office — in the manner that her husband had once pardoned convicted FALN Puerto Rican terrorists in hopes of winning bloc votes for her New York Senate campaign, in addition to snagging money from convicted felons. That Mrs. Clinton refused to sign disclosure forms and to follow government protocols about donations and correspondence, as she promised she would, was also nothing new. But what was novel was Hillary Clinton’s ability to hold a press conference and lie about every single aspect of her email crimes. Everything she said was untrue: from the nature of smart phones and email accounts, to the email habits of other cabinet officers, to the methods of securing a server, to the mix between public and private communications, to the method of adjudicating her behavior. All were untruths offered without a shred of remorse.
Sibil is a remarkable achievement, and this museum is the envy of galleries and spaces around the world because you have made your home here with us. Sincerity speaks steadily, taking a breath at each pause: You are being kind, Fernand. It is a great honor for me to work in this beautiful and prestigious building, which so captured my imagination when I was a little girl even before I saw it in mesh. It gives me deep satisfaction that my project will continue to be hosted by the European Museum, and that the museum will be a guardian of its development. Sibil will be the catalyst for a new era in the study of art. Through Sibil, we will rediscover aspects of our culture, and nature, that progress has made us forget. What better place for her to be than here? More
Katie Ward (Girl Reading: A Novel)
War and Peace has to be put in a group not with Madame Bovary, Vanity Fair, or The Mill on the Floss, but with the Iliad, in the sense that when the novel is finished nothing is finished—the stream of life flows on, and with the appearance of Prince Andrew’s son the novel ends on the beginning of a new life. All the time there are openings out of the story into the world beyond. This is a thing that had never been attempted by historical novelists before Tolstóy. As for the open form, it has often been attempted, but never so successfully. In a very different way the open form was achieved by James Joyce in Ulysses. As Tolstóy is compared with the Iliad and the Odyssey, so critics say that Joyce’s novel is of a mythological nature. John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga and Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale may also claim to belong to the category of “open” novels. No novel has received more enthusiastic praise both in Russia and England than War and Peace. John Galsworthy spoke of it as “the greatest novel ever written,” and those fine critics Percy Lubbock and E. M. Forster have been no less emphatic. In The Craft of Fiction Lubbock says that War and Peace is: “a picture of life that has never been surpassed for its grandeur and its beauty. . . . The business of the novelist is to create life, and here is life created indeed! In the whole of fiction no scene is so continually washed by the common air, free to us all, as the scene of Tolstóy, the supreme genius among novelists. “Pierre and Andrew and Natásha and the rest of them are the children of yesterday and today and tomorrow; there is nothing in any of them that is not of all time. To an English reader of today it is curious—and more, it is strangely moving—to note how faithfully the creations of Tolstóy, the nineteenth-century Russian, copy the young people of the twentieth century and of England: it is all one, life in Moscow then, life in London now, provided only that it is young enough.” E. M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel says: “No English novelist is as great
Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace)
About Tough as Silk, Escape from Beijing Uta Christensen did it again! With Tough as Fine Silk, Escape from Beijing, she wrote a most fascinating novel, so different from her other books. What impressed me first is her incredible knowledge of China. I learned so much about that part of the world—the historical, cultural and political aspects—through her wonderful and detailed expositions during that long train ride. I wondered whether she followed that route herself when she visited China. The intriguing love story that Ms. Christensen has so masterfully interwoven is a delightful contrast. It brings the reader back to reality, even though it does not feel quite real at times with all the premonitions hinting at a different outcome than desired. The betrayal was a shock, of course, but thinking about the planned future of the couple in California, it becomes clear that that kind of life would not have suited lovely Juan. She yearns for freedom, success, and independence—for a life that she can control herself. The intricate ideas Ms. Christensen brought together in this book and the easy-flowing style make the reading of the novel a true pleasure. I am happy she wrote this fine book, and I hope she will find a lot of excited readers. The finished product should make her very happy and proud.
Gisela Juengling, Assistant Professor, University of California
Much of the negation poisoning the democratic process has stemmed from a confusion of the personal and the statistical. I may hold down an excellent job, but the failure of the stimulus to meet its targets infuriates me. I may live in peaceful Vienna, Virginia, safe from harm—but a report that several Americans have died violently in Kabul appears like a fatal failure of authority. By dwelling on the plane of gross statistics, I become vulnerable to grandiose personal illusions: that if I compel the government to move in this direction or that, I can save the Constitution, say, or the earth, or stop the war, or end poverty now. Though my personal sphere overflows with potentiality, I join the mutinous public and demand the abolition of the established order. This type of moral and political displacement is nothing new. The best character in the best novel by Dickens, to my taste, is Mrs. Jellyby of Bleak House, who spent long days working to improve “the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger,” while, in her London home, her small children ran wild and neglected. Dickens termed this “telescopic philanthropy”—the trampling of the personal sphere for the sake of a heroic illusion. Mrs. Jellyby, sitting in quite a nest of waste paper, drank coffee all the evening and dictated at intervals to her eldest daughter. She also held a discussion with Mr. Quale, the subject of which seemed to be—if I understood it—the brotherhood of humanity, and gave utterance to some beautiful sentiments. I was not so attentive an auditor as I might have wished to be, however, for Peepy and the other children came flocking about Ada and me in a corner of the drawing-room to ask for another story; so we sat down among them and told them in whispers “Puss in Boots” and I don’t know what else until Mrs. Jellyby, accidentally remembering them, sent them to bed.3 The revolt of the public has had a telescopic and Jellybyan aspect to it. Though they never descended to details, insurgents assumed that, by symbolic gestures and sheer force of desire, they could refashion the complex systems of democracy and capitalism into a personalized utopia. Instead, unknowingly, they crossed into N. N. Taleb’s wild “Extremistan,” where “we are subjected to the tyranny of the singular, the accidental, the unseen, and the unpredicted.” In that unstable country, “you should always be suspicious of the knowledge you derive from data.”4 I can’t command a complex social system like the United States, but I can control my political expectations of it: I can choose to align them with reality. To seize this alternative, I must redirect the demands I make on the world from the telescopic to the personal, because actionable reality resides in the personal sphere. I can do something about losing my job, for example, but I have no clue what could or should be done about the unemployment rate. I know directly whether a law affects my business for better or worse, but I have no idea of its effect on the gross domestic product. I can assist a friend in need, but I have little influence over the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger. Control, however tenuous, and satisfaction, however fleeting, can only be found in the personal sphere, not in telescopic numbers reported by government. A
Martin Gurri (The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium)
inner-tube journey across the Rio Grande. She suddenly capsizes, is rescued, and then has adventures on the opposite bank. Makina is a Mexican of the present moment: constantly on the move, in space, in time, in cultures. That aspect of its being cosmopolitan seems to me the book’s value. Though the novel is portentous and incoherent in the way it chronicles the stoical Makina’s travels, this blurring also accurately represents the incomprehension of a Mexican migrant in the US. Herrera is deft in rendering the insights of an alien. The brother, reluctant to return home, admits his migrant confusion: “We forget what we came for.” Authority figures and officialdom are a menace throughout the book, with the paradox of Makina needing help in the strange land: “And what was the point of calling the cops when your measure of good fortune consisted of having them not know you exist.
Paul Theroux (On The Plain Of Snakes: A Mexican Journey)