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Evil is even, truth is an odd number and death is a full stop. When a dog barks late at night and then retires again to bed, he punctuates and gives majesty to the serial enigma of the dark, laying it more evenly and heavily upon the fabric of the mind. Sweeny in the trees hears the sad baying as he sits listening on the branch, a huddle between the earth and heaven; and he hears also the answering mastiff that is counting the watches in the next parish. Bark answers bark till the call spreads like fire through all Erin. Soon the moon comes forth from behind her curtains riding full tilt across the sky, lightsome and unperturbed in her immemorial calm. The eyes of the mad king upon the branch are upturned, whiter eyeballs in a white face, upturned in fear and supplication. His mind is but a shell.
Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)
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Gos cocked his head on one side and stared at the water. Odd, he was saying to himself, probably dangerous, but yet I like it. What is it? He put in his beak, leaning forward with every precaution, to see what it tasted of. (Hawks were one of the few creatures which did not regularly drink water except as a laxative: none needed to be provided for them in the mews.) It did not taste of anything, so he put in his beak again. Curious. He looked over his shoulder at the bigger bit of the stuff behind him, roused his feathers with a rattle, inspected the reeds, the landing stage, me motionless. He thought of flying to the landing stage, less than a yard away, and then gave up the idea. He walked down the slope of the plank into the water. All the time I did not know whether he would accept a bath or not.
T. H. White, The Goshawk (1951)
Delighted to announce we’ve resurrected the great (Northern) Irish literary journal The Honest Ulsterman at http://www.humag.co/
Over the next few days, I’ll write about the contributors, the featured work (from James Joyce to the devil), the history and spirit of the journal and our exciting future plans. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading it.
Onwards and upwards.
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Dangerous and indifferent ground: against its fixed mass the tragedies of people count for nothing although the signs of misadventure are everywhere. No past slaughter nor cruelty, no accident nor murder that occurs on the little ranches or at the isolate crossroads with their bare populations of three or seventeen, or in the reckless trailer courts of mining towns delays the flood of morning light. Fences, cattle, roads, refineries, mines, gravel pits, traffic lights, graffiti’d celebration of athletic victory on bridge overpass, crust of blood on the Wal-Mart loading dock, the sun-faded wreaths of plastic flowers marking death on the highway are ephemeral. Other cultures have camped here a while and disappeared. Only earth and sky matter. Only the endlessly repeated flood of morning light. You begin to see that God does not owe us much beyond that.
Annie Proulx, ‘People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water’, from Close Range: Wyoming Stories (1999)
Serious faults in style are rarely, if ever, matters of ‘mere’ style; they embody real difficulties in conception.
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Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death — ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)
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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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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