Evidence of Austen's theological contribution--and of my thesis--is strongest in Mansfield Park. When Austen wrote about it in a letter (to her sister Cassandra, January 29, 1813), she said she intended "to write of something else;--it shall be a complete change of subject--Ordination." Indeed, that is its unlikely focus. As a result, Mansfield Park, frequently despised as Austen's worst novel, is in fact her greatest and most important, though admittedly far from the most entertaining. Moreover, the novel presents one of the most searching and provocative accounts of modern individualism to be found in fiction. It is a thick description of the kinds of habits of speech and personal conduct, motivations and intentions, political and social views that emerge from uncontrolled individualism. And it traces this insidious individualism precisely to the marginalization of the Church in the life of England, the failure of clergy to be the makers of English manners, and the consequent intrusion of other forces as the makers of manners.
Austen describes this kind of individualism, its origins and effects, without ever using the words "individual" or "individualism." Individualism probably did not exist as a word (Tocqueville said in the 1830s that it was newly minted), and the word "individual" earlier meant "indivisible." Instead, Austen, like Shakespeare, explores the phenomenon of individualism using the trope of "acting." In a play, only the worst actors (like Bottom) want to change roles. The good actor has been assigned his role and does not want to become somebody else. If he did so, the play would fall apart. If Laertes suddenly became Hamlet or Oedipus changed places with Tiresias, that would, to put it mildly, disrupt the play--though, as Tom Stoppard has realized, if Rosencrantz changed places with Guildenstern nobody would notice (not even the characters). In a traditional society, the goal of life is to act well in the assigned role--to say your lines properly, to do what your role assigns to you. Everybody has a "fixed fate" set (perhaps) by his birth, and his purpose is not to find a new fate, but to adjust to it. In such a traditional society, ethics is bound up with playing the role well; the question "What shall I do?" always presupposes an answer to the question "What place do I have here? Who am I?"
"Donaldson is doubtless right that Wodehouse was "socially incompetent." He was also one of the most accomplished prose writers of the century. High praise. But it is entirely in keeping with the encomia Wodehouse's work has elicited over the years. In a radio broadcast from 1934, Hilaire Belloc called him "the best writer of English now alive . . . the head of my profession." That remark loosed an avalanche of inquiries: What could Belloc have meant by such extravagant commendation for a writer of what, after all, are only light comedies? A few years later, in a preface for a chrestomathy called Week-end Wodehouse (1939, and still in print), Belloc elaborated: ｴWriting is a craft, like any other: playing the violin, skating, batting at cricket, billiards, wood carving . . . ; and mastership in any craft is attainment of the end to which that craft is devoted. . . . The end of writing is the production of a certain image and a certain emotion. And the means towards that end are the use of words in any particular language; and the complete use of that medium is the choosing of the right words and the putting of them into the right order. It is this which Mr. Wodehouse does better, in the English language, than anyone else alive.ｴ"
Christopher Plummer as Nabokov on Kafka
The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Don't Haunt This Place"
A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move."
"Just count the infelicities here. A voice doesn't speak --a person speaks; a voice is what a person speaks with. "Chillingly close" would be right in your ear, whereas this voice is fifteen feet away behind the thundering gate. The curator (do we really need to be told his profession a third time?) cannot slowly turn his head if he has frozen; freezing (as a voluntary human action) means temporarily ceasing all muscular movements. And crucially, a silhouette does not stare! A silhouette is a shadow. If Sauni鑽e can see the man's pale skin, thinning hair, iris color, and red pupils (all at fifteen feet), the man cannot possibly be in silhouette."
"And so I kept reading, collecting clues, following the voices of this generation of forgotten poets as Bolaﾃｱo embodies each of them and hoping there was something at the end. Hoping this was not one of those novels without a punch-line. Fortunately, when everything came together at the end, a pun-like solution emerged from a clever covering. It was brilliant. I couldn窶t stop laughing. It was a game but also a joke, a humongous joke. I felt gratified. I was anxious to read more from him. I needed a new hit, so I went to the library and took one of his first books at random, Llamadas telefﾃｳnicas, a short story collection, and it didn窶t suprise me at all when in one of the stories I met Arturo Belano once again. He looked younger but he was exactly the same. He was living at that time in Spain, near Barcelona. He was hiding, writing, and working as a watchman of a tedious camping club in the Costa Brava. He seemed unaware of what was waiting for him."
"I used to work in the Rose Reading Room of the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library, pictured here. The library was built upon what used to be the city's main drinking source, a massive reservoir that stretched from 40th to 42nd Streets, and 5th to 6th Avenues. (The two stone lions, which now reside on the other side of the library's stairs, used to "guard" the reservoir.) Once you know that fact, it's hard not to imagine either the books underwater, or people drinking them."
"At 6:20 P.M., with the sun low in the west, the Conquerant and the Guerrier, the leaders of the French van, opened fire on the two foremost British ships, the Goliath and the Zealous, while the mortars on the island began throwing shells. The Goliath's captain, sounding as he came, found that there was room for him to cross the Guerrier's bows without running on the shoal, and then, setting his topgallant sails again, he did so, raking the Frenchmen with his broadside as he crossed. He had meant to anchor by the stern and batter her yardarm-to-yardarm on her larboard side, there being depth enough for him to do so. But his anchor did not bring him up directly, and he moved on to the next 74, the Conquerant, while the Zealous took her place alongside the Guerrier, hitting her so hard that her foremast came down within five minutes."
"I don't think in any language. I think in images. I don't
believe that people think in languages. They don't move their
lips when they think. It is only a certain type of illiterate
person who moves his lips as he reads or ruminates. No, I think
in images, and now and then a Russian phrase or an English
phrase will form with the foam of the brainwave, but that's
"Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war. The human beauty we're talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings' reconciliation with the fact of having a body."
I attended to this video fifteen followed times.
"I think it would be more correct to say that had I not
written Lolita, readers would not have started finding
nymphets in my other works and in their own households. I find
it very amusing when a friendly, polite person says to me--
probably just in order to be friendly and polite-- "Mr.
Naborkov," or "Mr. Nabahkov," or "Mr. Nabkov" or "Mr.
Nabohkov," depending on his linguistic abilities, "I have a
little daughter who is a regular Lolita." People tend to
underestimate the power of my imagination and my capacity of
evolving serial selves in my writings."
"Two Cities also possesses one virtue shared by very few of Dickens' novels: it's short."
"But this, you will be nauseated to learn, is a tale of redemption. In about my 13th year, it so happened that a copy of Galahad at Blandings by PG Wodehouse entered my squalid universe, and things quickly began to change. From the very first sentence of my very first Wodehouse story, life appeared to grow somehow larger. There had always been height, depth, width and time, and in these prosaic dimensions I had hitherto snarled, cursed, and not washed my hair. But now, suddenly, there was Wodehouse, and the discovery seemed to make me gentler every day."