The unknownness of my needs frightens me. I do not know how huge they are, or how high they are, I only know that they are not being met. If you want to find out the circumfrence of an oil drop, you can use lycopodium powder. That’s what I’ll find. A tub of lycopodium powder, and I’ll sprinkle it on my needs and find out how large they are. Then when I meet someone I can write up the experiment and show them what they have to take on. Except they might have a growth rate I can’t measure, or they might mutate, or even disappear. One thing I am certain of, I do not want to be betrayed, but that’s quite hard to say, casually, at the beginning of a relationship. It’s not a word people use very often, which confuses me because there are different kinds of infidelity, but betrayal is betrayal, wherever you find it. By betrayal, I mean promising to be on your side, then being on somebody else’s.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson


‘The whole beauty of the Film,’ I announced to my mother and Richard next morning at breakfast, ‘is that is has a certain fixed speed.’ The way you see it is mechanically conditioned. I mean, take a painting — you can just glance at it, or you can stare at the left hand top corner for half an hour. Same thing with a book. The author can’t stop you from skimming it, or staring at the last chapter and reading backwards. The point is, you choose your approach. When you go into a cinema it’s different. There’s the film, and you have to look at it the way the director wants you to look at it. He makes his points, one after another, and he allows you a certain number of seconds or minutes to grasp each one. If you miss anything he won’t repeat himself, and he won’t stop to explain. He can’t. He’s started something and he has to go through with it… You see, the film is really like a sort of infernal machine–‘

I stopped abruptly, with my hands in the air. I had caught myself in the middle of one of Bergmann’s most characteristic gestures.

Prater Violet, Christopher Isherwood

I think there are two different kinds of lectures on craft, the first more useful than the second. The first is solid and practical: it concerns the technical craft of certain novels, and is best given by critics and academics qualified in their field. The second type is given by novelists, with the hope they will draw on their practical knowledge and say something intelligent about the way they write. At this point—in my experience—a disconnect occurs. For though I have a private language for the way I write, as every writer does, as I’m sure all of you do, it’s not particularly intelligent—in fact, it’s rather banal. It feels strange, airing it in public, inadequate, unfit for a classroom. I think even if I had been crafting away at a novel for ten years, and then, on the final day, an email arrived asking me to give a lecture on “some aspect of craft,” I still wouldn’t quite feel qualified to give it. Craft is too grand and foreign a word to describe what gets done most days in your pajamas. So naturally the temptation is to gussy it up a bit, to find a garment to dress your private language in, something suitable. You borrow the quantifying language of the critic, maybe, or the conceptual analysis of the academic. And then, with a queasy, fraudulent feeling, you try and pass this off as an accurate representation of what it is to write a novel. The result is convincing and has every rhetorical advantage, except one: it isn’t true.


As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.

Something Fresh, P.G. Wodehouse (via litblog.com)

Don Bachardy: Christopher Isherwood, Ink wash and graphite on paper, 1976

I personally believe that there is a part of one’s subconscious will that directs one’s life, that there is a part of me that is carrying out long-range schemes. I believe that this part of my will also knows when I shall die, and how much time I’ve got and everything else. I believe it has schemes which often, in my ignorance, I frustrate — schemes which are not always necessarily for the best.

Christopher Isherwood, Paris Review, Spring 1974

Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy: Chris & Don