“I start a book and I want to make it perfect, want it to turn every color, want it to be the world. Ten pages in, I’ve already blown it, limited it, made it less, marred it. That’s very discouraging. I hate the book at that point. After a while I arrive at an accommodation: Well, it’s not the ideal, it’s not the perfect object I wanted to make, but maybe – if I go ahead and finish it anyway – I can get it right next time. Maybe I can have another chance.”
“Be contemporary. Have impact. Strive for it. Be of the world. Move it. Be bold, don’t hold back. Then the moment you think you’ve been bold, be bolder. We are all alive today, ever so briefly here now, not then, not ago, not in some dreamworld of a hypothetical future. Whatever you do, you must make it contemporary. Make it matter now. You must give us a new path to tread, even if it carries the footfalls of old soles. You must not be immune to the weird urgency of today.”
—Ian Bogost, who’s addressing graduate students here, but whose advice, I think, has broad applicability
“It is remarkable, that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society.”
—Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Posted in books, quotes
“Hard sciences are successful because they deal with the soft problems; soft sciences are struggling because they deal with the hard problems.”
—Heinz von Foerster, Understanding Understanding
“When I am writing, each morning at around eight o’clock I am at my desk with a tray of muffins and a thermos filled with hot coffee at my side, and I sit working for four hours and then leave for a quick lunch at a coffee shop, followed perhaps by a set or two of tennis. By 4:00 p.m. I am back at my desk revising, discarding, or adding to what I had written earlier. At 8:00 I am contemplating the numbing predinner delight of a dry gin martini.”
—Gay Talese, A Writer’s Life
Previous Gay Talese posts: Gay Talese’s Office, Dressed for a Dungeon, “I Don’t Use Notebooks. I Use Shirt Boards,” and The Species of Tailoring Is Threatened by the Outside World.
“I like bars just after they open for the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny and the barkeep is giving himself that last look in the mirror to see if his tie is straight and his hair is smooth. I like the neat bottles on the bar back and the lovely shining glasses and the anticipation. I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and put the little folded napkin beside it. I like to taste it slowly. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar – that’s wonderful.”
—Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
(Quote via Coudal. Image by Robert S. Donovan.)
“‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.”
From “Creative People Say No,” a piece you shouldn’t say no to.
“I can build a motorcycle, I can fly a model airplane, I can throw somebody out of a bar, I can wrestle a pig and I can program a computer. I’m a strange duck, that’s for sure.”
—Iowa pig farmer Carl Edgar Blake II
(Via A Continuous Lean.)
Related post: Specialization Is for Insects
“He told me about attending a party of Columbia graduate students in sociology, and his account of it seemed to sum up the impasse he had reached with the academic side of his profession. ‘I simply sat in a chair in a corner,’ he said, ‘and one by one these guys would come up to me, sort of like approaching the pariah – curiosity stuff. They were guys working on their Ph.D.’s, you see, and after they’d introduced themselves I’d ask, “What are you working on?” It would always be something like “The Impact of Work-Play Relationships among Lower Income Families on the South Side of the Block on 112th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway.” And then I would ask –’ Mills paused, leaned forward, and his voice boomed, ‘Why?’”
—Dan Wakefield on C. Wright Mills
Related post: Do It Big.
“Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group … We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation. ”