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Night descends very quickly. The universe’s light simply burns out, and then it is gone. The light just goes missing here. Under a fan a slight, dark local poet sat writing, but no one in this city ever seems to read; there is not a single bookstore for a million inhabitants. Life is dragging us down. I weighed myself in a pharmacy and found I was too heavy. The delicate needle on the scale moved more and more slowly, and it was almost a minute before it finally stood still, as if my weight were increasing the longer I stood on the scale. Maybe, I thought, the scale also weighs one’s thoughts.
Werner Herzog, Belém do Pará, 30 July 1980. From: Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of ‘Fitzcarraldo’.
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The valley became barer, bleaker, progressively less inviting. Yet even here, in its upper reaches, it had a certain beauty; not its former beauty of woods and shades and gentle colours; but a bold, bizarre beauty; a kaleidoscope of strange pigments and exciting, unexpected contrasts. Soon the valley slopes fanned out, exposing new vistas: wider horizons: the whole range of the hills, startlingly detailed in the clear, hazeless air. Dead ahead there swelled up a smooth, symmetrical hummock, its slopes, flecked with mica, reflecting the sun like a massed array of heliographs. To the left rose a rugged mound of granite, smooth and scalloped as a magnified Dartmoor tor. While to the right towered a fantastic pyramid of wine-veined quartz: alternate layers of crimson, grey, and black.
The children moved slowly forward; dwarfed by the immensity of the hills.
James Vance Marshall, Walkabout
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If a book is not alive in the writer’s mind, it is as dead as year-old horseshit even if words continue to march across the page.
People generally don’t like to admit that you can love people you don’t like, but you can. It’s not ideal, in fact it’s confusing and painful, but I suspect that it happens a lot. That’s why unhappy families can hold together for years and years. You can even love people who are cruel to you, and so there are women who love violent men. And a terrible lie grew out of this – that it’s the violence they love, and not the person who inflicts it. Such women love these men in spite of the cruelty, never because of it.
Deirdre Madden, Remembering Light and Stone
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[G]ood writing is surely difficult enough without the forbidding of things that have historical grammar, and present intelligibility, and obvious convenience, on their side
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Maybe one of the hardest things is to see beyond your own society, to step out of the collective consciousness of your time, but it teaches you about things as nothing else does. You begin to see your own age not with understanding, perhaps, but with compassion. You see the weakness and smallness of things which are now great or powerful. Sights which might at other times have filled me with contempt now moved me to pity, such as the overdressed women with their jewels and their expensive clothes in the Caffè Greco, the pity you might feel for bones found in an ancient tomb, a priceless ring on each fingerbone. I pity them their deaths in a way that they do not pity themselves, and I pity them for their faith in frail mortal things, for not knowing that there will be nothing left but weeds and broken stones.
Deirdre Madden, Remembering Light and Stone (Faber and Faber, 1992)
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Some thoughts at Sentence first on singular they, singular you, peevers’ appeals to logic and tradition, and the problems with he/she and other binary-gender alternatives.
(BTW: In xkcd’s parody cartoon I wouldn’t call the listed options “ridiculous”, but they are too impractical, improbable, niche or otherwise problematic to trump singular they.)
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What we now need to discover in the social realm is the moral equivalent of war: something heroic that will speak to men as universally as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved itself to be incompatible. I have often thought that in the old monkish poverty-worship, in spite of the pedantry which infested it, there might be something like that moral equivalent of war which we are seeking. May not voluntarily accepted poverty be ‘the strenuous life,’ without the need of crushing weaker peoples?
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
Havoc’s pups were growing up fast. When first they had emerged into the daylight they had been frightened of almost everything that moved and quick to retreat to the safety of the den as soon as they sensed anything unfamiliar was approaching.
One morning we watched as they peeped very cautiously over the edge of their den, staring towards the bright orb that gradually appeared over the rim of their world. As more of the sun appeared, the pups bobbed down, only to appear again as more and more light flooded the plains. The same evening, when some clouds had drifted slowly past the huge red globe of the setting sun, the pups stared with amazed looks and ducked back into their den. Soon a whole succession of small black heads reappeared, one after the other, still staring towards the clouds.
Hugo van Lawick, Solo: The Story of an African Wild Dog
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