Recent quotes:

Running away

For four years my strategy had been deflecting and defending from my past—running away from my hometown just as I ran around a forehand. But I realized there are no rules that must be kept; you can stay the same or you can change. You’ll never be lovelier than you are now. Strategies need only be temporary.

Portraits: filling in what's missing

Writing and painting, descriptive undertakings both, rise and fall on the same ground. The basic mistake of either is to orchestrate too much. If the great insight of Close’s work has been to make portraiture vivid by removing detail, forcing viewers to contribute their own perception to the process, what I have noticed as a reader and writer is that a similar principle applies. The best you can do is provide a constellation of individual points, just enough to let the reader form an opinion of her own. This can be challenging when the writer has something certain in mind to say, but it becomes all the more difficult when there is nothing certain to say at all. A written portrait of a portrait painter is recursive from the start, but when you’re trying to get a fix on the identity of an identity fixer whose own identity is coming unfixed, the whole thing goes uroboric.

On the surface of subjectivity

Looking at a painting like “Lyle,” you see minute shades of detail: a gentle furrow in the brow, a wrinkle of amusement at the corner of the eye. This impression of detail, where no actual detail can be found on the canvas, is mesmerizing and confounding. What you are seeing isn’t really there. You are no longer looking at the actual surface of the painting, but some apparition hovering above it, a numinous specter that arises in part from the engagement of your own imagination. Through the painting, Close has accessed the perceptual center of your mind, exploiting the way we process human identity: the gaps of knowledge and the unknown spaces we fill with our own presumptions, the expectations and delusions we layer upon everyone we meet.

Hemingway As His Own Fable - 99.01

So much impulse to autobiography probably springs from some deeply uneasy sense of one's self as detached from early kindred and natural ties.

Building a Small Sailboat

And for a decade and a half TPM has been both my work, my hobby, my living, in a word, my everything. As work, it is all words and symbols. I love it. In some ways I am it. But there’s nothing physical or tactile or concrete about it. Woodworking was filling some void in me that I hadn’t known existed.

@emersonspartz gets freeze-dried

The appetizer course had not yet arrived. He checked the time on his cell phone and cleared his throat. “Every day, when I was a kid, my parents made me read four short biographies of very successful people,” he began. On this occasion, I was the only person listening to his speech, but he spoke in a distant and deliberate tone, using studied pauses and facial expressions, as if I were a video camera’s lens. When he got to the part about virality being a superpower—“I realized that if you could make ideas go viral, you could tip elections, start movements, revolutionize industries”—I asked whether that was really true. “Can you rephrase your question in a more concrete way?” he said.

Chaucer's day job

Chaucer’s London job was always a precarious one. The king’s own advisers and allies in the City of London colluded to put him there, as their fall guy in a major profiteering scheme. His job as controller of customs was to certify honesty of the powerful and influential customs collectors – including the wealthy and imperious Nicholas Brembre, long-term mayor of London – and to ensure the proper collection of duties on all outgoing wool shipments. This sounds routine enough, until we realise how much was at stake: in the 14th century, wool duties contributed one-third of the total revenues of the realm. What’s more, the collectors of customs whose activities Chaucer was expected to regulate were themselves wool shippers and wool profiteers on a grand scale, taking advantage of their positions to accumulate immense fortunes at public expense. Their wealth enabled them to become donors and lenders to the king, and to multiply their privileges and profits. As lone watchdog of customs revenues, Chaucer was hardly likely to bring them to heel. His job was, essentially, to look the other way.

French biography is a sub-species of fiction

In an interview with The New York Times in 1989, Mr. Lottman suggested that his work showed an American-like passion for hard facts that he believed some French historians and biographers ignored or fudged in favor of their own intellectual theories. Of his 17 books — published in English and translated into many languages, including French — 15 were about French intellectual, artistic and political life.“The French continue to use the a priori method, which is to know in advance what you want to say about a writer and then find anecdotes to make the story interesting,” he said in the interview with The Times. “And so, I have in front of me very fertile fields and no competition.”He added, “It may seem absurd that you can go back to the 19th century and still find virgin territory, but you do.”His method, he said, was more that of the journalist than the professor. “A lot of so-called French biographers imagine that they can invent things, dreams and thoughts of the figure they are writing about,” he told a French literary journal in 2007.
They chart my life. I don't want to sound ponderous, but they chart my intellectual life. They chart everything that I've been interested in and thought about for the whole of my reading life. So if they went I would, in a sense, lose a sense of identity. They identify me. ... Most of them I shall never read again, but you never know what you may want to go back to. And it does constantly happen to me that there's something that I suddenly think, "Oh, I've got that book, let me just look that up." I do it every day.