Sentence first


18th April 2014


Only earth and sky matter

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)

Tagged: bookswritingliteraturelandlandscapeWyomingAmericaAmerican literatureshort storiesAnnie Proulx

17th April 2014


Serious faults in style are rarely, if ever, matters of ‘mere’ style; they embody real difficulties in conception.
— Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

Tagged: writingbooksRichard Hofstadterwriting style

3rd April 2014

Link reblogged from Wug Life with 5 notes

Not only . . . but (also) . . . →


Don’t you mean:

Not only is this post quite long and detailed, but it also lacks images…


I mean exactly what I wrote. :-)

Tagged: writinggrammarstyleconjunctionslanguageEnglishEnglish usageparallelism

30th March 2014

Post with 27 notes

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns

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)

Tagged: bookswritinglifedeathreligionphilosophymysteryJames Baldwin

6th March 2014

Link reblogged from The Electric Typewriter with 38 notes

Tense Present →


by David Foster Wallace

Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage

I like DFW, but many of his ideas about language usage are deeply and demonstrably misguided. See Language Hat for an informed dressing-down.

Tagged: grammarlanguageEnglish usagewritingDFWprescriptivism

6th March 2014


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.
— Jonathan Lethem, You Don’t Love Me Yet (2007)

Tagged: bookswritingsecretsstoriesJonathan LethemAmerican literature

1st March 2014

Post with 5 notes

Unknowable behind our airs and sardonic courtesies

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)

Tagged: bookswritingschoolfriendshipliteratureTobias Wolff

12th February 2014

Quote with 1 note

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.
— William Trevor, ‘Dempsey’

Tagged: writingwordsbooksIrish literatureshort storiesWilliam Trevor

8th February 2014


The sea, the ship and me

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)

Tagged: bookstravelwritingsailingwaterseamusicJenny Diski

30th January 2014

Post with 9 notes

Six little fish

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)

Tagged: booksliteraturewritingmetaphorsfishVirginia Woolf