We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
I repeat to myself this D. H. Lawrence quote often. Several times a day, whenever a new sky falls. And skies don’t fall in a good way. Which reminds me of my grandmother, who had a peculiar saying. She probably didn’t invent it, but I never heard anyone else say it. It translates poorly, but it roughly says He who craps himself will have the crapper falling on his head. It means that when you’re in bad luck, you can expect more bad luck. My grandmother wasn’t very encouraging. Here’s a picture of a sky falling.
Today’s (un)inspiring task inspires the worst in me. I’m kidding only in part. That is, in part one of the statement: I do in fact appreciate the prompts, inspiring or not. Part two of the claim is no kidding. Expect the worst from me.
Today’s task is to preface your post with an epigraph in the form of a block quote. Inadvertently, I’ve been doing the very same a lot in my recent posts. Quotes are nice and all that, but I favour the bleakest kind of them. So, when I’m asked to elaborate on a quote of my choice, what can possibly go wrong? Everything.
Let’s get the shitstorm started. If you pardon my language. I promise I won’t choose any more quotes that contain heavy slang and four-letter words. Such as the four-letter word word, for example. Also, my promise only extends to this particular post. I’ll start niceish.
Literature: Transcendence, Epiphanies and Poor Choices
If literature matters today, it is chiefly because it seems to many conventional critics one of the few remaining places where, in a divided, fragmented world, a sense of universal value may still be incarnate; and where, in a sordidly material world, a rare glimpse of transcendence can still be attained.
Terry Eagleton, a foremost literary critic, is often quoted but this quote of his isn’t drawn attention to too often. It’s a shame because it attempts to answer the ultimate question of literature: What is it even good for? I hand-picked this quotation directly from one of Eagleton’s books I’ve read and enjoyed.
I’ve had transcendental experiences with literature of my own. I even had an epiphany. Ages ago, I was sitting on a bench somewhere in Edinburgh, during my literature summer school, and it was manifested to me that what I wanted to do in life was Scottish literature. True story.
Cute, right? I did go on to get a doctorate in ScotLit—in case I don’t mention it often enough, but you know, bragging rights. And then I had another epiphany. It was manifested to me that I needed to do something for a living. So, cheers, literature, RIP.
WYWI(N)WYG: What You Want Is (Not) What You Get
What each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed.
My last triumphant achievement in the literature field was smuggling Marx and Engels into my dissertation and getting away with it. So, be not surprised that I seamlessly integrated randomly threw in some Engels in here too, for a good measure.
I happen to be a theoretical socialist. It means I think the idea of economic equality is cool, but it quickly becomes a mess when someone tries to apply it in real life. And why, no, I don’t have a better suggestion; if I had, I’d have written The Capital Revis(it)ed.
Freud: That’s What Everything Boils Down To
When one doesn’t have what one wants, one must want what one has.
Engels and Freud implicitly agree on that you’re not going to get what you want. I also agree, though no one is quoting me on it—you can be the first. Freud is my favourite and I find him extremely fascinating. That’s not hugely surprising, given that I’m a psychiatric patient, hence I have the unique opportunity to test Freud’s psychiatric hypotheses on myself.
This quote by Freud, you must admit, is however very sensible and universally acceptable. He might have been the first positive psychologist with this positive affirmation—they are conventionally called positive affirmations, aren’t they, because I just noticed that this naming is a prime example of tautology. That’s probably the idea.
If I am asked to share one poem, which happens to be the weekend assignment for Writing 201, I cannot but come up with lines that have in them darkness, originality and – women’s emancipation (or suppression). The quote above is to me one of the best lines in poetry of all times: the rhymes, rhythm, structure, word choice, all converge to create an emotionally powerful yet also intellectually sound and artistically well-crafted piece of work.
Sylvia Plath, “Cut”
What a thrill–
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge
A flap like a hat,
Then that red plush.
The Indian’s axed your scalp.
Your turkey wattle
Straight from the heart.
I step on it,
Clutching my bottle
Of pink fizz.
A celebration, this is.
Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.
Whose side are they on?
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to kill
The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux Klan
Darkens and tarnishes and when
Pulp of your heart
Confronts its small
Mill of silence
How you jump–
I have no complaints against monkeys, but it seems that many other people do. See below for a Polish proverb about monkeys that nobody wants, a German proverb about a dead monkey and finally a song involving a dying monkey. Let’s kill some monkeys then? *evil laugh*
While this will sound ridiculously sentimental, I hazard to say that Alasdair Gray is the single writer whose books had any practical impact on my life. In so far as “practical” is the best word for my turning to ScotLit and embarking on an academic career. Here’s a few reasons why you’d want to read him:
Black humour: “I believe that under the surface we are very like how we appear above it, which is why so many surfaces last a lifetime without cracking.”
Reserved optimism: “Listen come alive for gods [sic] sake work as if you were in the early days of a better nation.”
Frightening insight: “If you lobotomised half the nation it would carry on as usual. The politicians do our thinking for us. No they don’t.”
All quotes are from his novel 1982, Janine (1984), possibly my favourite book ever and one with which I connected so completely that it scared me. The brief review below links to my Goodreads page, where you can explore my and other people’s recommendations in books.
It is, I think, an indisputable fact that Americans are, as Americans, the most self-conscious people in the world, and the most addicted to the belief that the other nations of the earth are in a conspiracy to undervalue them.