— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
I picked up Blood Meridian as my first introduction to McCarthy. I remember, at that moment when there’s thunder on the horizon and a cloud of dusk and the horde of Apaches dressed in the blood-stained wedding garb as they thunder towards Glanton and his men, being completely overwhelmed by both the language and the horror and the beauty of the situation. I actually set the book aside after I read that passage and felt as though I’d been rewired aesthetically.
McCarthy’s is an elemental voice. In his voice I hear stone shifting, glaciers cracking open, trees moaning in the wind. The ancient cadences of his prose take on an almost otherworldly quality, a quality that transports you. I’m constantly in awe of the language and recognizing how he’s putting together his sentences so exquisitely.And maybe this is the only time this has ever happened to me—but what is revealed is even more terrifying that what I could have imagined.
As many have pointed out before me, he’s unafraid to stare into the abyss. He’s peering into the darkest corners of human existence, using a lamp with blood.
I’ve read The Road several times now, but the first time I read it was soon after my son was born. I was especially emotionally vulnerable in that moment because he was having some issues with his breathing: He ended up getting a severe case of croup that closed his throat. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance and was in the ICU for three days. They pricked him full of steroids and put him in an oxygen mask. I’ve never felt more protective, or helpless, or scraped out emotionally than I did then.
Reading this book around that time put me in a mindset that made me particularly vulnerable to the subject matter. The Road is ultimately about a father sacrificing everything for his son—keeping on and surviving despite a nightmare landscape, and only for his son’s sake. I felt plugged into that current in a way that I don’t know I would have if not a father.
The most terrifying moment in any horror story is when a noise is heard—a noise behind a closet door; a noise heard in an attic, or the basement; a noise heard in a thicket of bushes; a noise heard deep in a cave—and a person pursues the sound. We always want to yell out: Don’t go there. It’s that moment of suspense, the second before the bogeyman is revealed, that is the most gripping. After the door opens, after we shine a flashlight on whatever awaits, the audience might laugh or scream but ultimately they feel relief. Because whatever is provided by the author or filmmaker is never as bad as what we imagine ourselves.
In this particular passage, as soon as the father spots a house on the hill, we know something terrible waits inside. It takes a long time for him to approach the house, to explore its many rooms, and finally descend into the basement.He started down the rough wooden steps. He ducked his head and then flicked the lighter and swung the flame out over the darkness like an offering. Coldness and damp. An ungodly stench. He could see part of a stone wall. Clay floor. An old mattress darkly stained. He crouched and stepped down again and held out the light.
The whole time we’re yelling: Don’t go in there. But he does, of course.
Huddled against the back wall were naked people, male and female, all trying to hide, shielding their faces with their hands. On the mattress lay a man with his legs gone to the hip and the stumps of them blackened and burnt. The smell was hideous.
Jesus, he whispered.
Then one by one they turned and blinked in the pitiful light. Help us, they whispered. Please help us.
And maybe this is the only time this has ever happened to me—but what is revealed is even more terrifying that what I could have imagined. Humans are harvesting each other in order to survive. These pale, chewed-up creatures emerge from the dark and rattle their chains and moan and reach for the father. We’re afraid of them, but we’re afraid more of what might await the father upstairs—the people responsible for this.
— Victor Hugo, Les Miserables (via interruptions)
“I repeat,” the old man continued, “you’ve mentioned Louis XVII. I agree, let’s weep together for all the innocent, all the martyrs, all the children, humble as well as mighty. I’m all for that. But then, as I said, we must go further back than ‘93, and our tears must start before Louis XVII. I will weep for the children of kings with you, if you will weep with me for the children of the people.”
“I weep for them all,” the bishop said.
“Equally,” G— exclaimed, “and if the balance tips, let it be on the side of the people: They have suffered longer.”
—Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime and Punishment (via llamayveras)
— Albert Camus, The Rebel (via sunrec)
“For a moment she’d wondered if the seal around her sockets were tight enough to allow the tears simply to go on and fill up the entire lens space and never dry. She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry.”
generative book covers
what. yes yes yes yes want.
Ludwig Wittgenstein lived
In a little house
He came out
And went to live
In another house
He kept coming out
And going back in
He wrote philosophy
Books that showed
We do not know how we know
What we mean
By words like Out and In.
He was revered like a god
For showing this
And he acted like a god
He completely changed his mind.
-Kenneth Koch, “Vous Êtes Plus Beaux que Vous ne Pensiez”, No. 8
Simone de Beauvoir had introduced me to Jean Genet and Jean-Paul Sartre, whom I had interviewed. But she hesitated about being interviewed herself: “Why should we talk about me? Don’t you think I’ve done enough in my three books of memoirs?” It took several letters and conversations to convince her otherwise, and then only on the condition “that it wouldn’t be too long.”
The interview took place in Miss de Beauvoir’s studio on the rue Schoëlcher in Montparnasse, a five-minute walk from Sartre’s apartment. We worked in a large, sunny room which serves as her study and sitting room. Shelves are crammed with surprisingly uninteresting books. “The best ones,” she told me, “are in the hands of my friends and never come back.” The tables are covered with colorful objects brought back from her travels, but the only valuable work in the room is a lamp made for her by Giacometti. Scattered throughout the room are dozens of phonograph records, one of the few luxuries that Miss de Beauvoir permits herself.
Apart from her classically featured face, what strikes one about Simone de Beauvoir is her fresh, rosy complexion and her clear blue eyes, extremely young and lively. One gets the impression that she knows and sees everything; this inspires a certain timidity. Her speech is rapid, her manner direct without being brusque, and she is rather smiling and friendly.
In The Blood of Others and All Men Are Mortal you deal with the problem of time. Were you influenced, in this respect, by Joyce or Faulkner?
No, it was a personal preoccupation. I’ve always been keenly aware of the passing of time. I’ve always thought that I was old. Even when I was twelve, I thought it was awful to be thirty. I felt that something was lost. At the same time, I was aware of what I could gain, and certain periods of my life have taught me a great deal. But, in spite of everything, I’ve always been haunted by the passing of time and by the fact that death keeps closing in on us. For me, the problem of time is linked up with that of death, with the thought that we inevitably draw closer and closer to it, with the horror of decay. It’s that, rather than the fact that things disintegrate, that love peters out. That’s horrible too, though I personally have never been troubled by it. There’s always been great continuity in my life. I’ve always lived in Paris, more or less in the same neighborhoods. My relationship with Sartre has lasted a very long time. I have very old friends whom I continue to see. So it’s not that I’ve felt that time breaks things up, but rather the fact that I always take my bearings. I mean the fact that I have so many years behind me, so many ahead of me. I count them.
In the second part of your memoirs, you draw a portrait of Sartre at the time he was writing Nausea. You picture him as being obsessed by what he calls his “crabs,” by anguish. You seem to have been, at the time, the joyous member of the couple. Yet, in your novels you reveal a preoccupation with death that we never find in Sartre.
But remember what he says in The Words. That he never felt the imminence of death, whereas his fellow students—for example, Nizan, the author of Aden, Arabie—were fascinated by it. In a way, Sartre felt he was immortal. He had staked everything on his literary work and on the hope that his work would survive, whereas for me, owing to the fact that my personal life will disappear, I’m not the least bit concerned about whether my work is likely to last. I’ve always been deeply aware that the ordinary things of life disappear, one’s day-to-day activities, one’s impressions, one’s past experiences. Sartre thought that life could be caught in a trap of words, and I’ve always felt that words weren’t life itself but a reproduction of life, of something dead, so to speak.
That’s precisely the point. Some people claim that you haven’t the power to transpose life in your novels. They insinuate that your characters are copied from the people around you.
I don’t know. What is the imagination? In the long run, it’s a matter of attaining a certain degree of generality, of truth about what is, about what one actually lives. Works which aren’t based on reality don’t interest me unless they’re out-and-out extravagant, for example the novels of Alexandre Dumas or of Victor Hugo, which are epics of a kind. But I don’t call “made-up” stories works of the imagination but rather works of artifice. If I wanted to defend myself, I could refer to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, all the characters of which were taken from real life.
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