Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Bellow - Seize the day.

“When it came to concealing his troubles Tommy Wilhelm was not less capable than the next fellow.” (Bellow, 1956, p.3).

“He liked to wear good clothes, but once he had put it on, each article appeared o go its own way.” (Bellow, 1956, p.6).

“He had put forth plenty of effort, but that was not the same as working hard, was it?” (Bellow, 1956, p.7).

“And then, when he was best aware of the risks and knew a hundred reasons against going and had made himself sick with fear, he left home. (…) Ten such decisions made up the history of his life. He had decided that it would be a bad mistake to go to Hollywood, and then he went.” (Bellow, 1956, p.23).

“In any moment of quiet, when sheer fatigue prevented him from struggling, he was apt to feel this mysterious weight, this growth or collection of nameless things which it was the business of his life to carry about.” (Bellow, 1956, p.39).

“And Wilhelm though, Once a guy starts to slip, he figures he might as well be a clunk. A real big clunk. He even takes pride in it.” (Bellow, 1956, p.47).

“Don’t talk to me about being free. A rich man may be free on an income of a million net. A poor man may be free because nobody cares what he does. Bu a fellow in my position has to sweat out until he drops dead.” (Bellow, 1956, p.49).

“the business of life, the real business – to carry his peculiar burden, to feel shame and impotence, to taste these quelled tears – the only important business, the highest business was done. Maybe the making of mistakes expressed the very purpose of his life and the essence of being here.” (Bellow, 1956, p.56).

Monday, 27 December 2010

Arden . Whatever you think, think the opposite.

“It’s not because you are making the wrong decisions, it’s because you are making he right ones. We try to make sensible decisions based on the facts in front of us. The problem with making sensible decisions is that so is everyone else.” (Arden).

“Even if we want to be timid and play it safe, we should pause for a moment to imagine what we might be missing.” (Arden, p.27).

“Whatever decision you make is the only one you could make. Oherwise you would make a different one. Everything we do w choose. So what is there to regret? You are the person you chose to be.” (Arden).

“Experience. He knows the downside, what happens if it goes wrong, which makes him more cautious. The young player is either ignorant or reckless o caution. That is is his edge.” (Arden, p.44).

“Too many people spend too much time to perfect something before the actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run whith what you’ve got and fix it as you go.” (Arden, p.53).

“If you want to be interesting be interested. (…) In an interview it is better to listen carefully to what the interviewers have tosay than put on a show of your own brilliance.” (Arden, p.59).

“The effort of coming to terms with things you don’t understand makes them all the more valuable to you when you graps them.” (Arden, p.85).

“Even a bad idea executed is better than a good idea undone. The longer it is used, the better the idea is considered to be. That is why the wheel is reckoned to be the best idea ever.” (Arden, p.90).

“Select only things to steal from that speaks directly to our soul. If you do this, yourwork (and theft) will be authentic.” (Arden, p.94).

Philip Roth - Nemesis

Book by Roth that uses the story around the polio epidemic around 1940s in New Jersey to deal with the topic of freedom, but much more interesting thatn Franzen.

This is a book about what an medical epidemic (polio) does to people, and how people deal with the situation, even before they are stricken. The book shows in detail how we make our lives hell, if we assume that everything is based on cause and effect and hence desperately search for someone responsible even for the worst things in life. And make him responsible. Similarly to Girard’s scapegoat theory, the responsible party in this book starts from the Italians, moves on to the Jews, a mentally challenged kid etc. Yet, the worst is still to come and at the end, as he runs out of options the main character has no other choice but to make himself responsible for taking the virus to a summer camp and punishes himself for the rest of his life. Being stuck in a wheelchair due to polio he again tries to take responsibility once more and leaves his fiancĂ©, so she can find someone ‘better’ – despite her wanting no one else but him.

“”I love you too.” It was difficult to tell her that because he ahd disciplined himself – sensible, he thought – not to pine for her too much while she was away.” (Roth, 2010, p.32).

“Why did Alan get polio? (…) Can there be a cleaner household than this one? Can there be a woman who keeps more spotless house than my wife? (…) Could there be a boy who looked after his room and his clothes and himself any better than Alan did? Everything he did, he did right the first time, And always happy.Always with a joke. So why did he die?” (Roth, 2010, p.46-7

After hearing that one kid died: “Mr. Cantor rushed down the basement hall o the washroom that was used by the playground bys, and, a the mercy of his grief, with no idea what to do with his misery, he grabbed the janitor’s mop, a bucked of water, and a gallon can of disinfectant and swabbed the entire floor, profusely sweating while he worked.” (Roth, 2010, p.62).

The father of his girlfriend, a well respected Doctor in the beighbourhood, gives him advise to show the kids not to fear the polio: “I’m against frightening of Jews, period. That was Europe, that’s why Jews fled. This is America. The less fearthe better. Fear unmans us. Fear degrades us. Fostering less fear – that’s your job and mine.” (Roth, 2010, p.106).

“But now that he was no longer a child he was capable of understanding why things couldn’t be otherwise was because of God.” (Roth, 2010, p.126).

On diving or the obsession with sports in general: “He filled his lungs with the harmless clean air of the Pocono Mountains, then bounded three steps forward, took off, and, in control of every inch of his body throughout the blind fligjht, did a simple swan dive into water he could see only the instant before his arms broke neatly through and he plumbed the cold purity of the lake to its depths.” (Roth, 2010, p.157).

“He has to convert tragedy into guilt. He has to find a necessity for what happens. There is an epidemic and he needs a reason for it. He has to ask why. Why? Why? (…) This is nothing more than stupid hubris, not the hubris of will or desire, but the hubris of fantasical childish religious interpretation” (Roth, 2010, p.265).

“Such a person is condemmed. Nothing he does matches the ideal in him. He never knows where his responsibility ends. (…) Such a person’s greates triumph is sparing his beloved from having a crippled husband, and his heroism consists of denying his deepest desire by relinquishing her.” (Roth, 2010, p.273).

Die Familie Schneider - Gregor Schneider

This is the book about an art exhibition that I, unfortunately failed to go.

„Die Familie Schneider was open by appointment only. (…)From the outside, 14 and 16 Walden Street looked the same, down to the white net curtains in the ground floor windows. One visitor entered 14 Walden Street alone, whilst the other visitor entered next door the same time. After a eriod of up to ten minutes or so inside the house, the visitors exchanged keys and went into thesecond house for a further period. At no time was there ever more than one visitor in each house.” (Lingwood, p.114).
“It is not easy to describe the heightening of sensation, the existential anxiety, which many visitors felt as they put the key in the door and crossed the threshold from the street to the inside. (…) The house brought on conflicting feelings of attraction and repulsion, of wanting to go further in, and wanting to get out” (Lingwood, p.114).

“Stepping into the second house brought on the perplexing realisation that it was an exact double of the first. The entrance hall and stairs had the same brown carpet, the same wallpaper, the same yellow light (…) the same middle-aged woman washing dishes in the kitchen and the same naked man in the bathroom and the same small figure with legs protruding from underthe black garbage bag in the corner of the cream bedroom that you had just seen un the other house.” (Lingwood, p.114).

“Seeing all this for the second time offered the opportunity for a different register of experience – less an immediate psychological challenge, more of a philosophical enquiry about memory and experience. The visitor was compelled to try and match what he or she was seeing with what they remembered just having seen. As GregorSchneider noted”The visitor by necessity observes himself. He is beside himself. He walks through the house next to himself.”” (Lingwood, p.115).

“The identical inhabitants in each house made no attempt to interact with or acknowledge in any way the presence of the visitor. They did not speak, even when spoken to.” (Lingwood, p.115).

“The rooms, already small, had been made slightly smaller to the specifications of the artist. Probably this was imperceptible to the hunan eye, but the body somhow knew that the proportions of the rooms were not quite right.” (Lingwood, p.115).

“Die Familie Schneider was all interior to an almost suffocating degree. Being inside, it felt as if there was no outside, But on being outside, the visitor realised how little access t ohat was going on inside the really had.” (Lingwood, p.115).

Andrew O’Hagan
“One doesn’t feel with the family Schneider that one is seeing ghosts – no, one feels that one is a ghost oneself, haunting these people in the middle of their heartbreaking routines.” (O’Hagan, p.157).

“Connecting the routines, you find yourself embarrassed, for what is more embarrassing than being a spectator to the incidentals of other people’s loneliness? Standing there, eyeing the green soap, I thought what a prison we make of the objects that surround us.” (O’Hagan, p.158).

“I swear there was something murderous in those houses. From the gloss paint-work, the locked doors, the efforts at comfort which only vonveyed discomfort – coal fires, convector heaters, a gas fire, and central heating, in each of the houses – one felt that there was something in the atmosphere that was bots terrible familiar and deeply grotesque.” (O’Hagan, p.159).

“The power of the piece is to make you create narratives for these images to occupy.” (O’Hagan, p.159).

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

John Kay - Obliquity

In obliquity John Kay argues that most goals are achieved not by directly aiming to achieve them, but by aiming at something else.

“Obliquity describes the process of achieving complex objectives indirectly. In general, oblique approaches recognise that complex objectives tend to be imprecisely defined and contain many elements that are not necessarily or obviously compatible with each other (Kay, 2010, p. 4).

For example happiness is not achieved by trying to be happy, but by doing something that one enjoys for its own sake. Similarly, quoting the book “Built to Last”, Kay argues that the most profitable companies are not the most profitoriented ones, but the ones with a purpose.

Accordingly he argues against conscious design and for adoption to the complex environment and trial and error: “Adaptation is smarter than you are.” (Kay, 2010, p. 140).

“In obliquity we learn about the structure of a problem by the process of solving it. (…) Whenfaced with a task that daunts you, a project that you find difficult, begin by doing something” (Kay, 2010, p. 175).

Can't say I enjoyed the book very much, but it does look sleek and elegant.

The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy,Gentleman – Laurence Stern

This is a fascinating book about writing a book and the impossibility of trying to capture the world or one’s own thoughts. The more one thinks and wants to explain the more happens and the more there is to write.

For example Mr. Shandy wrote a book how to educate his son Tristram: “Tristra-paedia: at which (as I said) he was three years and something more, indefatigably at work, and at last, had scarcely completed, by his own reckoning, one half of his undertaking: the misfortune was, that I was all that time totally neglected and abandoned to my mother; and what was almost as bad, by the very delay, the first part of the work, upon which my father had spend the most of his pains, was rendered entirely useless, - every day a page or two became of no consequence” (Stern, 1759, p.338).

Yet, “digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; - they are the life, the soul of reading; --- take them out of this book for instance, -- you might as well take the book along with them; - one cold eternal winter would reign in every page of it.” (Stern, 1759, p.64).

Without struggling against this impossibility to write Sterne simply gets on with writing and makes the impossibility the topic of his writing. And most importantly makes fun about how easy it is to write despite the theoretical impossibility to write.

“That of all the several ways of beginning a book which are now in practice throughout the known world, I am confident my own way of doing it is the best – I’m sure it is the most religious – for I begin with writing the first sentence – and trusting to Almighty God for the second” (Stern, 1759, p.490).

“Amen: said my mother, piano.
Amen; cried my father, fortissimo.” (Stern, 1759, p.558).