A classic is a book that survives the circumstances that made it possible yet alone keeps those circumstances alive.
Modern American literature was born in protest, born in rebellion, born out of the sense of loss and indirection which was imposed upon the new generations out of the realization that the old formal culture ? the New England idea ?could no longer serve.
A thinker (like [Ralph Waldo Emerson]) misleads us as soon as he promotes harmony as the exclusive goal, and especially misleads us when he preaches harmony as a method. Man?s life is full of contradiction and he must be; we see through a glass darkly ? we want more than we can have; we see more than we can understand. But a contradiction that is faced leads to true knowledge? Contradictions are on the surface, the symbols of deeper and more fertile forces that can unleash the most marvelous energy when they are embraced. Never try to achieve ?order,? sacrifice symmetry ? seek to relate all these antagonistic forces, not to let the elimination of one to the other. The idea of ?God? as perfect order is perilous to man as an ideal, for us to follow?
One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time and in others' minds.
A year after Hemingway died on the front page, Faulkner went off after a binge, as if dying was nobody's business but his own.
Only power can get people into a position where they may be noble.
Altogether beautiful in the power of its feeling. As beautiful as anything in Thoreau or Hemingway.
Power beyond reason created a lasting irrationality.
Brooklyn Heights itself is a window on the port. Here, where the perspective is fixed by the towers of Manhattan and the hills of New Jersey and Staten Island, the channels running between seem fingers of the world ocean. Here one can easily embrace the suggestion, which Whitman felt so easily, that the whole American world opens out from here, north and west.
The conviction of tragedy that rises out of his [John Dos Passos's] work is the steady protest of a sensitive democratic conscience against the tyranny and the ugliness of society, against the failure of a complete human development under industrial capitalism.
But the ?modern? epoch is precisely that in which each of us must discover our gods for ourselves. This is why so much in our language reverts to the idea of a fall, a descent. As Satan fell, to rise again as a prince of life, so we fall into this maelstrom, this madness ? this world in which nothing any longer is given to us ? to discover, in pain and awe, our own sacred objects.
The critical imagination is distinguished by its voracious curiosity? This retreat from curiosity, from interest in the outside would as continuously interesting, comes from our lack of politics, our lack of faith in the possibility of change.
Everything seems so small here now, old, mashed-in, more rundown even than I remember it, but with a heartbreaking familiarity at each door that makes me wonder if I can take in anything new, so strongly do I feel in Brownsville that I am walking in my sleep.
The other day? I suddenly realized, with a shudder almost? how easy it is to fall into the other-imposed trap of trying endlessly to correct and reform oneself, in accordance with this and that, one?s idea of the right person to be, when all the time, one is not merely ?stuck? with oneself, as one is rightly enough, but one suffers from constrictedness, from reaction, from the million-and-one reasons, so boringly personified around one in one?s contemporaries and half-friends and stupid, genteel colleagues, who are always telling us over again that man is bad and sinful!
History has become more important than ever because of the to unprecedented ability of the historical sciences to take in man's life on earth as a whole.
The problem, of course, is not to go too far the other way into introversion. And probably the safest path is always to think of the observer as a developing, living, growing agent, so that the self that is engaged in thinking out the world will feel itself growing only as the thoughts grow. But meanwhile, the day, the living day, the actual moment, the pang of real life, ? to be faithful to this, one must always pay attention, one must never dismiss anything a priority as too trivial. Nothing is too trivial, for what the writer may make of it.
How alive the city is, how alive, how alive, how alive. Each of those windows has someone behind it, each of these streets is a current under my feet. A network of people, a living field ? each grass a soul, each grass alive. So let us give thanks after all, and be glad, and rejoice. To be in life with so many people!
Trust to the contradictions and see them all. Never annul one force to give supremacy to another. The contradiction itself is the reality in all its manifoldness. Man from his vantage point can see reality only in contradictions. And the more faithful he is to his perception of the contradiction, the more he is open to what there is for him to know. ?Harmony? as an absolute good is for the gods, not for man.
I had to admit that in his old-fashioned way O'Hara was still romantic about sex; like Scott Fitzgerald, he thought of it as an upper-class prerogative.
Walking I am unbound, and find that precious unity of life and imagination, that silent outgoing self, which is so easy to loose, but which a high moments seems to start up again from the deepest rhythms of my own body. How often have I had this longing for an infinite walk - of going unimpeded, until the movement of my body as I walk fell into the flight of streets under my feet - until I in my body and the world in its skin of earth were blended into a single act of knowing.
I liked reading and working out my ideas in the midst of that endless crowd walking in and out of the (library) looking for something. I, too, was seeking fame and fortune by sitting at the end of a long golden table next to the sets of American authors on the open shelves.
We never know how much has been missing from our lives until a true writer comes along.
If we practiced medicine like we practice education, we'd look for the liver on the right side and left side in alternate years.
What happens whenever we convert a writer into a symbol is that we lose the writer himself in all his indefeasible singularity, his particular inimitable genius.
In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings gratifications, is a curious anticlimax.