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“There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies.” - Joseph Conrad 

February 17, 2018 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

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“Though I am sure you would enjoy a visit as much as I did, I think that, in the long run, the Scandinavian sanity would be too much for you, as it is for me. The truth is, we are both only really happy living among lunatics.” - W.H. Auden 

February 16, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

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“Mr. Hemingway’s style, this prose stripped to its firm young bones, is far more effective, far more moving, in the short story than in the novel. He is, to me, the greatest living writer of short stories; he is, also to me, not the greatest living novelist.” - Dorothy Parker

February 5, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

“…building chicken coops, or possibly, bungalows…

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This is pretty cool: when George Ade, the wildly popular Chicago-based humorist of the late 19th Century, left that city to return to his native Indiana, he built Hazelden Farm along the banks of the Iroquois River, near the village of Brook. The farm included a top-notch golf course. Today, the course still exists, as Hazelden Country Club, as does his house, which is maintained by Newton County as an event facility. Also, adjacent to the property is the George Ade Memorial Health Care Center. And I never realized, until just now, that Ross-Ade Stadium at Purdue University (his alma mater) is co-named in his honor – certainly a very rare distinction for an American writer.

No less of an authority than William Dean Howells was once convinced of Ade's great potential as a fiction writer. From Donald L. Miller's City of the Century:

For a time, Howells believed George Ade might be the one to produce the "great American novel," but Ade squandered his promise by going after the money. In 1900 he left the Record, where he made sixty dollars a week, and began writing fables in slang for a syndicate "wizard," earning over a thousand dollars a week as his "share of the conspiracy." He became further sidetracked when he began writing successful dramatic comedies for the Broadway stage. "The show shops had me hooked," he wrote, "and the syndicate wouldn't let go of me, and between the two I was constantly incited and urged to do the most dreadful things to the English language."

Poignantly, in his later years he reflected on the literary success of his fellow Hoosier, Theodore Dreiser, while downplaying his own material success:

"While some of us have been building chicken coops, or possibly, bungalows, Mr. Dreiser has been creating skyscrapers."

Adjusted for inflation, his $1,000 per week in 1900 is equivalent to $1.4 million per year today. For that kind of cash, I would bet that even Dreiser would have been tempted to forsake serious fiction.

February 5, 2018 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

“...various winding, enchanted-looking initials...”

Eudora Welty, from One Writer's Beginnings:

My love for the alphabet, which endures, grew out of reciting it but, before that, out of seeing the letters on the page. In my own story books, before I could read them for myself, I fell in love with various winding, enchanted-looking initials drawn by Walter Crane at the heads of fairy tales. In "Once upon a time," an "O" had a rabbit running it as a treadmill, his feet upon flowers. When the day came, years later, for me to see the Book of Kells, all the wizardry of letter, intial, and word swept over me a thousand times over, and the illumination, the gold, seemed a part of the word's beauty and holiness that had been there from the start.

The book is a collection of three lectures which Welty gave at Harvard University in 1983. I'm enjoying it quite a bit - I love the gentle sweetness of her voice, which is even more prominent in memoir than in her fiction. I'm reading the book as a warmup for my next Welty novel, Delta Wedding. I'm intent on completing my reading of her five novels by the end of next year; after Delta Wedding, there are just two more: The Robber Bridegroom and Losing Battles. The latter figured prominently in What There Is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell, which I read and loved last year.

February 1, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

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“To me, being a citizen is a high political and spiritual responsibility. It means holding one’s nation to the highest ethical and moral standards. It also means being constantly vigilant on freedom, liberty and the moral rights of ourselves and our fellow citizens, no matter who they might be; and the upholding of our neighbours’ rights, even if we disagree with them, or if their faith or political persuasion is different from ours. It is a commitment of our souls to the enrichment of the human race.” - Ben Okri

January 31, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

“...this cruelty too will end...”

I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.

Anne Frank wrote these optimistic words less than three weeks before she and her family were discovered and taken away by the Nazis, after more than two years in hiding. I finally read The Diary of a Young Girl after my seventeen-year-old daughter Maddie repeatedly took me to task for never having read it. I’m very glad she did. Simply unforgettable.

January 30, 2018 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

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“I despise your order, your laws, your force-propped authority. Hang me for it!” - Louis Lingg

”The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.” - August Spies

”Will I be allowed to speak, O men of America? ... Let me speak ...” - Albert Parsons

Lingg, Spies, Parsons and two other defendants were convicted, without evidence, of the infamous Haymarket bombing in 1887. Lingg killed himself before he could be executed, and the other four were hung, on November 11, 1887. 

January 28, 2018 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

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“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.” - Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness is next on my list. 

January 27, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

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“What is reading but silent conversation?” - Walter Savage Landor

January 25, 2018 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)