March 2009

Robert Doisneau – Square du Vert-Galant, 1950 (via, I Shot Frida Kahlo)

Let’s be fair, the boy was well enough dressed and was sporting yellow gloves which I would have sworn belonged to his older brother, a student of law or sociology; it was pleasant to see the fingers of the gloves sticking out of his jacket pocket. For a long time I didn’t see his face, barely a profile, not stupid–a terrified bird, a Fra Filippo angel, rice pudding with milk–and the back of an adolescent who wants to take up judo and has had a scuffle or two in defense of an idea or his sister. Turning fourteen, perhaps fifteen, one would guess that he was dressed and fed by his parents but without a nickel in his pocket, having to debate with his buddies before making up his mind to buy a coffee, a cognac, a pack of cigarettes. He’d walk through the streets thinking of the girls in his class, about how good it would be to go to the movies and see the latest film, or to buy novels or neckties or bottles of liquor with green and white labels on them. At home (it would be a respectable home, lunch at noon and romantic landscapes on the walls, with a dark entryway and a mahogany umbrella stand inside the door) there’d be the slow rain of time, for studying, for being mama’s hope, for looking like dad, for writing to his aunt in Avignon. So that there was a lot of walking the streets, the whole of the river for him (but without a nickel) and the mysterious city of fifteen-year-olds with its signs in doorways, its terrifying cats, a paper of fried potatoes for thirty francs, the pornographic magazine folded four ways, a solitude like the emptiness of his pockets, the eagerness for so much that was incomprehensible but illumined by a total love, by the availability analogous to the wind and the streets.

Blow-up, Julio Cortázar


He wrapped himself in quotations – as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors.

Rudyard Kipling

The Indian social theorist Ashis Nandy writes of the two voices in Kipling, which have been called the saxophone and the oboe. The first is the hard, militaristic, imperialist writer, and the second is the Kipling infused with Indianness, with admiration for the subcontinent’s cultures. Naipaul has a saxophone and an oboe, too, a hard sound and a softer one. These two sides could be called the Wounder and the Wounded.

Wounder and Wounded, James Wood


* Rudyard Kipling, “Borrow trouble for yourself, if that’s your nature, but don’t lend it to your neighbours”

As for the boy I remember his image before his actual body (that will clear itself up later), while now I am sure I remember the woman’s body much better than the image. She was thin and willowy, two unfair words to describe what she was, and was wearing an almost-black fur coat, almost long, almost handsome. All the morning’s wind (now it was hardly a breeze and it wasn’t  cold) had blown through her blonde hair which pared away her white, bleak face — two unfair words — and put the world at her feet and horribly alone in front of her dark eyes, her eyes fell on things like two eagles, two leaps into nothingness, two puffs of green slime. I’m not describing it. And I said two puffs of green slime.

Blow-Up, Julio Cortázar

“Writing is a bottom-up process, to borrow a term from the cognitive world. One thing that’s missing from the discussion of literature in the academy is the pleasure principle. Not only the pleasure of the reader but also the pleasure of the writer. Writing is a self-pleasuring act. ”


He composed words “without a pen in my hand, framing a sentence in my mind, often losing the beginning as I reached the end, and only when the thing was secure and complete would I set it down. I would stare at it suspiciously. Did it really say what I meant? Did it contain an error or an ambiguity that I could not see? Was it making a fool of me?”

The Background Hum, Daniel Zalewski on Ian McEwan

I’m sure he knew about it long before, and was reading it behind my back. Of course I’d written: “I won’t make the mistake of letting him suspect what I’m up to.” But I was lying. I wanted him to read it. It’s true I wanted to “talk to myself”, too, but that wasn’t really why I begun keeping a diary. Being so secretive – using rice paper, sealing the book, and all that – was simply my natural way of going about it. Although he ridiculed me for it, he was just as bad. We knew we were reading each other’s diaries, and still we set up all sorts of barriers, to make it as difficult and uncertain as possible. We preferred to be left in doubt. I didn’t mind the trouble, since I was catering to both our tastes.

 The Key, Junichiro Tanizaki

I always say, keep a diary and someday it’ll keep you. 

Mae West


* Getrude Stein


“Just look down the road and tell me if you can see either of them.”
“I see nobody on the road” said Alice.
“I only wish I had such eyes to see Nobody! And at such a distance too!”

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

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