“Don’t yell at them for daydreaming. If you date a writer, you will sometimes think that they have suffered brain damage. You will bring them to your cousin’s wedding and they will spend the whole time staring at a styrofoam bird on a cake. Many writers were picked on as children. Why? Because they were weird from the get-go. They were often to be found at the back of the class smelling erasers, or talking to caterpillars, or walking down the street with an encyclopedia balanced on their head. They cannot help it.”—
“I was lucky to grow up in a house full of books, lucky to be taken to the library, and lucky to have parents who were great readers and always read to me. It instilled in me a love that will last my whole life. Reading will be my longest relationship.”—
“Robert Hughes once referred to Matisse’s ‘The Dance’ as one of the few wholly convincing modern depictions of divine frenzy, and Hughes is characteristically spot on. But for the master, there was no intoxicated abandon. Matisse’s portrayals of possession were always achieved with gritted teeth, clenched fist. Put less melodramatically, Matisse evoked ecstasy or sensual repose, but he did so with discipline, ferocity and a certain ruthlessness. Yes, he said he wanted his artworks to be like an armchair after a hard day’s work. But Matisse was not a Jason recliner kind of man. He was intense, obsessive, passionate. He once said that he felt like strangling someone just before working. He had within him some font of violence, which often took him from his wife, children and grandchildren, or had them tip-toeing around him. This was the savagery genteel Victorians saw in his early work, when he was allied with the Fauves. But this fury and lust were bridled with a bourgeois discipline – a physical and psychological strength that kept him working almost every day of his long life. This is what directed his intense, immense drives, and kept him creating and destroying, draft after draft. To make works of decadent carnality and overflowing joy of life, Matisse was ascetic.”—
Essay first published in UK poetry magazine Agenda. (Links to the translations follow the essay).
Dear Rilke. If he were not a great poet, he might be one of the most purely annoying figures in the literary pantheon. Few poets have been responsible for as much bilge as Rilke has: he seems to be a magnet for a certain kind of literary narcissism. His invocations to self-insight and solitude can be easily softened into exhortations to mere self-regard or soft-centred spirituality, in the same way that Hollywood celebrities assure themselves that God loves them personally through determinedly vague readings of the Zorah. And Rilke’s moments of self-pity or mere fatuousness can seem to confirm your worst suspicions about the self-indulgence and preciousness of poets.
Not all of this is Rilke’s fault (although some of it is). Moreover, who of us could survive intact the reverent mythologising that has haunted Rilke’s legacy? And how many could survive his naivety? For one of his greatest strengths is his refusal to eschew what William Carlos Williams called “the essential naivety of the poet”. No one, not even a great poet, can survive this naivety without appearing at some point to be a fool. And perhaps only the very best and the very worst poets have the strength of mind to continue with that naivety once the world begins to mock it: the best because they see quite clearly that they have no choice but to seem foolish if they place their faith in poetry, and the worst because the world’s base mockery confirms them in their vain purity.
“The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups. Add to that the e-book’s ease of transport, its international vocation (could the Iron Curtain have kept out e-books?), its indestructibility (you can’t burn e-books), its promise that all books will be able to remain forever in print and what is more available at reasonable prices, and it becomes harder and harder to see why the literati are not giving the phenomenon a more generous welcome.”—
From the New York Review of Books blog - thanks to @textpublishing on Twitter for the link.
This is a neat tie-in with what I read yesterday in the latest Meanjin, a beautifully written essay by Ivor Indyk meditating on (among other things) these notions of fetishisation and cupidity amongst book collectors.
I think I like Ivor’s better:
Books are particularly suited to express the pathology of hoarding because each contains a world, the idea of which may be cherished without ever being realised…The physical presence of the unread or the once-read book, which is what makes it so attractive as a sign of unspent potential, reveals its morbid aspect when present in large numbers. The overstocked library or bookshop resembles a graveyard. All those obsolete and unwanted books in their rows. Inert, uncirculating.
But read it all, here. (Up today at Meanjin’s website? Ironically, I had a lovely time reading this article in hard copy in a bar on Collins Street last night, after Michael Sharkey’s book launch. Things could indeed be worse.)
What makes McKinty a cut above the rest is the quality of his prose. His driven, spat-out sentences are more accessible than James Ellroy's edge-of-reason staccato, and he can be lyric. The sound of a riot is “the distant yelling like that of men below decks in a torpedoed prison ship”.
Bound to be of interest is this set of small interviews with ‘Atlantic-based’ songwriters at Salty Ink, a blog devoted to Canadian fiction and poetry by Chad Pelley.
The experience of viewing this man’s work in that space was deeply reflective and calming, even on the second last viewing day when there was a gentle babble of visitors’ voices drifting down the immense concrete floored space.
…Mr Abbott showed what he didn’t know about the National Disability Insurance Scheme when he said it’s $6 billion and we’ve got to get back in surplus.
If he’d read the Productivity Commission report, and to be fair he may well have – it was a long report and he might have missed this table. The Productivity Commission proposed setting up a series of layers – so this figure of $6 billion, as posited by the Productivity Commission, is a figure which arrives in 2018.
This idea that this nation is too poor and it’s too hard to find a solution is a copout, and I think there’ll be a lot of people with disabilities and their carers who’ll be contacting the Libs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a policy backflip from the Liberals in the course of the next 12 months. Because when they get out back to their electorates after saying how wonderful Mr Abbott’s negativity is, there’ll be a lot of people with disability and carers saying hang on, the Labor side, they’re saying they’ve got a plan, they’ve got stages – they’re going to do it. The Liberal side are saying well maybe we’ll have a look at it depending on whatever else.
People with disability have had enough weasel words for decades.
In her graphic memoir-cum-biography, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, Mary M Talbot, an academic, tells Lucia’s tale in all its misery. For her, though, this interest is personal: Talbot is the daughter of the eminent Joyce scholar James S Atherton (his The Books at the Wakeis still the best guide to the literary allusions in Joyce’s final work), and Joyce’s intense relationship with Lucia – there are good grounds for calling his daughter his muse – therefore played a significant role in Mary’s childhood.
Atherton was a difficult, obsessive man whose scholarly interests meant that he was most often to be found locked behind his study door (“tap, tap, tap”, went his typewriter, forbiddingly). Sometimes, he was funny and poetic, just like his literary hero. But sometimes, especially if he was interrupted, he would explode. His bookish daughter was afraid of his foul temper. How would she ever live up to his expectations?
The thing is, Mr Abbott, fixing the broken disability system we have in this country isn’t like saving all your pocket money until you could finally afford that CD player you desperately wanted when you were 12. It’s not a luxury item that we can simply do without until there’s some spare cash floating around. What you said yesterday made it very clear that you see improving the living conditions of people with disabilities and our families as an indulgence.
This is beyond alarming. Whether or not we have the money, this can’t wait. The seven-year timeline outlined by the Gillard Government is already far too long for many people with disabilities and our families. If you were really interested the quality of our lives (and our votes) as citizens, your speech would have been a commitment to making this happen sooner.
"As far as I’m concerned, there should never be first and second-class Australians based on where they were born, how they worship, or the length of time their forbears have been here," you said. But your relegation of the NDIS to the if-we-have-the-spare-cash basket would rather suggest that you find the idea of a second-class based on whether or not you were born with a disability to be perfectly acceptable.
Are you hoping to delay fixing the system for long enough that we’ll all just go away and forget about it? We’re not going to.