I guess the best secrets from yourself are the ones that even if someone else tells them to you, you still don’t know them.
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The history of art is almost three times longer than that of writing, and the relationship between the two types of expression can be seen in the earliest forms of writing, such as the Egyptian hieroglyphics. However, very few people treat art as a system of communication which is historically linked with language. If more people were to take this view they would find that their approach to art would change. Man is used to the fact that there are languages which he does not at first understand and which must be learned, but because art is primarily visual he expects that he shouild get the message immediately and is apt to be affronted if he doesn’t.
Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension: An anthropologist examines man’s use of space in public and private (1966)
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We were almost at the end of our years together, and without ever fighting or deviling each other as most other roommates did, we were farther from being friends than on our first day. We had made ourselves unknowable behind our airs and sardonic courtesies, and the one important truth I’d discovered about him we’d silently agreed never to acknowledge. Many such agreements had evolved between us. No acknowledgement of who we really were — of trouble, weakness, or doubt — of our worries about the life ahead and the sort of men we were becoming. Never; not a word. We’d kept everything witty and cool, until the air between us was so ironized that to say anything in earnest would have been a breach of manners, even of trust.
Tobias Wolff, Old School (2003)
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Skating to Antarctica,
Desolation island –
A place apart where
The wasteland ends;
Soul on ice into
The silent land
The other side of you.
[more of my book spine poems]
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There was an overall smell but you could separate them out the way a prism separated light. There was a smell of bark, of green branches, of nettles, of dung, of fresh earth, and stinking earth, of fungi and the Elder flower that grew profusely and was one of the chief components for the home-made wine…
The flutter of the leaves brought on your trance. Hundreds of thousands of sycamore leaves all obeying the same wind, their wide green palms opening then tightening, letting in and keeping out the light changing the prospect from indoor to outdoor to indoor, forever altering. It was the most lonesome hour just before dusk with all the colours going, all the streamers, the pinks and reds, and violets and indigoes and blues, the lovely laneways of vanquishing light.
Edna O’Brien, A Pagan Place (1970). One of the best novels about childhood (and memory, and Ireland) that I’ve ever read.
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It is important to bear in mind that there were no computers in the late 1950s, only primitive photocopying machines (not accessible to us), and very little at all to take the pain out of the collecting of the evidence. A retired schoolteacher from Faversham in Kent, Mr R. A. Auty, undertook the task of reading the entire works of James Joyce, except for Finnegans Wake. Like a medieval scribe he copied in his own handwriting many thousands of 6 × 4 inch slips on which he entered illustrative examples for any word or meaning that occurred in Joyce and was not already entered in the [Oxford English] Dictionary.
Robert Burchfield on compiling the Supplement to the OED, in ‘Linguistic Milestones’, part 1 of the T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures, 1988, published in Unlocking the English Language (1989).
One of the excitements of archaeological prehistory [is] that the past which seemed for ever gone can be brought back by the skilled use of archaeological reconnaissance, excavation, and interpretation. We are now accustomed to learn of whole civilizations being recovered from the speechless past — the Minoan and Harappan are two that come immediately to mind. We are even accustomed by now to recover the faces of the past: the dead in the Scythian barrows at Pazyrik and in the Danish peat-bog at Tollund live again after hundreds of years. But these enormous possibilities had to be learned, and the apprehension by the scholars and public of the [eighteen] seventies that Troy and Mycenae could be made to live again by the spade is one of the great moments of the development of an idea of prehistory.
Glyn Daniel, The Idea of Prehistory (1962)
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Often he felt when he spoke to her that for her the words came physically from his lips, that they were things she could examine after he’d ejected them, in order to assess their truth.
The rolling had begun in earnest and the ship was pitching up and down, not roughly, but in a prolonged surging rhythm. My bunk was at right angles to the length of the ship, so that I felt the stern to bow rocking laterally, across my body, like being swayed from side to side in a hammock. It was a kind of dance my body was doing to the music of the ship, which itself was dancing to the rhythm of the sea. A three-part syncopation: the sea, the ship and me, moving separately but in tune. With concentration, I could isolate the movement of each of those elements, feeling one of them as central, then another. When I focused particularly on the movement of my body and let sea and ship fade into the background, it felt like I was drifting gently, unaided, through the air, the way the sea birds do, catching billows of wind, rising on one and then falling on to the next, which lifts them up again.
Jenny Diski, Skating To Antarctica (1997)
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Whatever sentence I extract whole and entire from this cauldron is only a string of six little fish that let themselves be caught while a million others leap and sizzle, making the cauldron bubble like boiling silver, and slip through my fingers.
Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)
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