the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for January, 2011

quotes: barthelme on connection

Posted by rigorousm on January 23, 2011

Although you do not know me my name is Jane. I have seized your named from the telephone book in an attempt to enmesh you in my concerns. We suffer today I believe from a lack of connection with each other. That is common knowledge, so common in fact, that it may not even be true. It may be that we are overconnected, for all I know. However, I am acting on the first assumption, that we are underconnected, and thus have flung you these lines, which you may grasp or let fall as you will. But I feel that if you neglect them, you will suffer for it. That is merely my private opinion. No police power supports it I have no means of punishing you Mr. Quistgaard, for not listening, for having a closed heart. There is no punishment for that, in our society. Not yet. But to the point. You and I, Mr. Quistgaard, are not in the same universe of discourse. You may not have been aware of it previously, but the fact of the matter is, that we are not. We exist in different universes of discourse. Now it may have appeared to you, prior to your receipt of this letter, that the universe of discourse in which you existed, and puttered about, was in all ways adequate and satisfactory. It may never have crossed your mind that other universes of discourse distinct from your own existed, with people in them, discoursing. You may have, in a commonsense way, regarded your own u. of d. as a plenum, filled to the brim with discourse. You may have felt that what already existed was a sufficiency. People like you often do. That is certainly one way of regarding it, if fat self-satisfied complacency is your aim. But I say unto you, Mr. Quistgaard, that even a plenum can leak. Even a plenum, cher maitre, can be penetrated. New things can rush into your plenum displacing old things, things that were formerly there. No man’s plenum, Mr. Quistgaard, is impervious to the awl of God’s will. Consider then your situation now. You are sitting there in your house on Neat Street, with your fine dog, doubtless, and your handsome wife and tall brown sons, conceivably, and who knows with your gun-colored Plymouth Fury in the driveway, and opinions passing back and forth, about whether or not the Grange should build a new meeting hall or not, whether the children should become Thomists or not, whether the pump needs more cup grease or not. A comfortable American scene. But I, Jane Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, am in possession of your telephone, Mr. Quistgaard. Think what that means. It means that at any moment I can pierce your plenum with a single telephone call, simply by dialing 989-7777. You are correct, Mr. Quistgaard, in seeing this as a threatening situation. The moment I inject discourse from my u. of d. into your u. of d., the yourness of yours is diluted. The more I inject, the more you dilute. Soon you will be presiding over an empty plenum, or, rather, since that is a contradiction in terms, over a former plenum, in terms of yourness. You are, essentially, in my power. I suggest an unlisted number.

Yours faithfully,


– Donald Barthelme, Snow White, pp. 44-46


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quotes: flaubert on distance

Posted by rigorousm on January 23, 2011

…the picking apart of those we love always alienates us from them. One must not touch one’s idols, a little of the gilt always comes off on one’s fingers.
— Flaubert, Madame Bovary, p. 205

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quotes: deleuze and parnet on writing

Posted by rigorousm on January 23, 2011

The collective assemblage is always like a murmur from which I take my proper name, the constellation of voices, concordant or not, from which I draw my voice…. To write is perhaps to bring this assemblage of the unconscious to the light of day, to select the whispering voices, to gather the tribes and secret idioms from which I extract something I call my self.
— Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues, pp. 84.

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quote: kafka on individuals

Posted by rigorousm on January 23, 2011

Everyone carries a room about inside him. This fact can even be proved by means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and one pricks up one’s ears and listens, say in the night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.
— Franz Kakfa, The First Notebook

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poetry: ammons on celebration

Posted by rigorousm on January 23, 2011

so what is it to be while we are here
in the splendid (America) place:

must we be only splendid and, if not,
trash: can’t we be young if not

eternally young…

-A. R. Ammons, ‘Strip,’ Glare p 2.

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quotes: bourgeois on nostalgia

Posted by rigorousm on January 23, 2011

Milan Kundera has said that when you leave your childhood, your relationship to what you have left becomes very important. You develop a certain attachment to it. To affirm your identity, you make the past—which in certain ways you hate—into a beautiful thing. But when you go back and see the actual scene of the crime—I’m joking now—the actual scene of your early years, you don’t recognize it. Either you have embellished it, or you have torn it apart, or you have murdered it, or you have made it into a pie-in-the-sky. Whatever you did, you don’t recognize it.
— Louise Bourgeois in interview with Lawrence Rinder, Louise Bourgeois: Drawings & Observations, pp. 24-25.

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quote: golsan on imitation

Posted by rigorousm on January 23, 2011

[The desire to become another] can never be satisfied, of course, because even in possessing the object, individuals can only be disappointed. Others are not divinities after all, and possessing them or the objects they desire can never truly transform the being of desiring individuals.

— Richard Golsan, Rene Girard and Myth: An Introduction, p 13.

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quotes: kahn on desire

Posted by rigorousm on January 23, 2011

I don’t believe in need as a force at all. Need is a current, everyday affair. But desire — that is something else again. Desire is the forerunner of a new need. It is the yet not stated, the yet not made which motivates.

— Louis I. Kahn, in conversation, 1973

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quote: lopate on the new yorker

Posted by rigorousm on January 22, 2011

I’ve always felt that there was a connection between The New Yorker and depression. Depression as an aesthetic. There’s the recessive quality of the first-person pronoun in much New Yorker writing. It’s genteel, not in your face. Reserved. Taking in the world and being reflective without getting too excited, too parvenu. It’s a depressive stance, and it’s a mark of a certain social status. You know, it’s not a working-class disease.

— Philipp Lopate on The New Yorker

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poetry: wray on love

Posted by rigorousm on January 22, 2011

In a small house under a long bridge lived a hermit with purple teeth and wild yellow hair.

At night he howled at the moon and in the morning he drank coffee.

Afternoons were spent in green grass with a thick book.

He liked to eat toads and fuzzy chicks, stole potatoes from the farmer and drank gasoline from a neighbor’s tractor.

His breath smelled of rotten dill pickles and under all his nails lived crumbly villages of dirt. In some of these villages were ants. He was crawling with lice too, and spiders made webs in his hair.

His girlfriend was called Charlie and she was made of stone. He fashioned her from lime rock and kept her in a box in the bathroom.

One day he took her to the grass where he read aloud from a letter he’d written.

“I love you more than cake,” it said, “more than thunder and more than snow.”

She stared at him with a face like pavement.

“More than a hundred bees,” he said, “more than all the crabs in Maryland.”

He kissed her and pushed so hard his lip split open onto hers.

He loved her more than air but his house was in need of repairs, so with active hands he hacked her to gravel, took her home, and fashioned her to the walls.

At night he ran his fingers over the doorjambs and thought he felt them shiver.

– Tara Wray, “The Hermit”

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