She wore an open dressing-gown, that showed under the shawl-shaped collar a pleated blouse with three gold buttons. Her belt was a corded girdle with great tassels, and her small wine-red slippers had a large knot of ribbon that fell over her instep. She had bought herself a blotter, writing-case, pen-holder, and envelopes although she had no one to write to; she dusted her shelf, looked at herself in the mirror, picked up a book, and then, dreaming between the lines, let it drop on her knees. She longed to travel or to go back to her convent. She wanted to die, but she also wanted to live in Paris.
—Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, part 1, ch. 9 (trans. Paul de Man; p. 43 in ISBN 0-393-09608-4)
About seven years ago the wickedness of all this suddenly “rose from [my] mind’s abyss, like an unfather’d vapour”—as the poet once said. We were in fact discussing that very poet, Wordsworth, and that very passage in the Prelude. The class was talking in such animated ways about what it might mean that I began to feel they were losing hold of the poem’s words as they raised up and tracked through great thickets of ideas. So I called a halt and asked a bright student to help clear the air. “George, read the passage for the class.”
It was appalling. He stumbled across that splendid set of lines like “one that hath been stunn’d / And is of sense forlorn”—wrecking the phonemes, the phrasings, the entire play of the metrical scheme in its unfolding grammatical order. He couldn’t read the poem. He could “read off” the poem and generate all sorts of ideas. But the oral delivery? It was a total crack-up.
—Jerome McGann, Radiant Textuality, ch. 1 (p. 31 in ISBN 1-4039-6436-X)
Married to the Sea, 11 January 2014
Really? No formatting of any kind is available on “quote” posts? REALLY?
Books never contain italics, for instance? Is that the idea? What kind of plain-text-only world are we supposed to be quoting here, exactly?
I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader’s mind. No matter how many times we reopen ‘King Lear,’ never shall we find the good king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes forgotten, at a jolly reunion with all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally, revived by the sympathetic salts in Flaubert’s father’s timely tear. Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them. Thus X will never compose the immortal music that would clash with the second-rate symphonies he has accustomed us to. Y will never commit murder. Under no circumstances will Z ever betray us. We have it all arranged in our minds, and the less often we see a particular person the more satisfying it is to check how obediently he conforms to our notion of him every time we hear of him. Any deviation in the fates we have ordained would strike us as not only anomalous but unethical. We would prefer not to have known at all our neighbor, the retired hot-dog stand operator, if it turns out he has just produced the greatest book of poetry his age has seen.
—Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, ch. 27 (p. 265 in ISBN 0-679-72316-1)
The true soothsayers of our time are not hairy, howling outcasts luridly foretelling the death of capitalism, but the experts hired by the transnational corporations to peer into the entrails of the system and assure its rulers that their profits are safe for another ten years.
—Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right, ch. 4 (p. 66 in ISBN 978-0-300-18153-1)
“A big leather-bound volume makes an ideal razorstrap. A thin book is useful to stick under a table with a broken caster to steady it. A large, flat atlas can be used to cover a window with a broken pane. And a thick, old-fashioned heavy book with a clasp is the finest thing in the world to throw at a noisy cat.”
It is a common sentence that Knowledge is power; but who hath duly considered or set forth the power of Ignorance? Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down. Knowledge, through patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of it; Ignorance, wanting its day’s dinner, lights a fire with the record, and gives a flavour to its one roast with the burnt souls of many generations. Knowledge, instructing the sense, refining and multiplying needs, transforms itself into skill and makes life various with a new six days’ work; comes Ignorance drunk on the seventh, with a firkin of oil and a match and an easy ‘Let there not be’—and the many-coloured creation is shrivelled up in blackness. Of a truth, Knoweldge is power, but it is a power reined by scruple, having a conscience of what must be and what may be; whereas Ignorance is a blind giant who, let him but wax unbound, would make it a sport to seize the pillars that hold up the long-wrought fabric of human good, and turn all the places of joy dark as a buried Babylon. And looking at life parcel-wise, in the growth of a single lot, who having a practiced vision may not see that ignorance of the true bond between events, and false conceit of means whereby sequences may be compelled—like that falsity of eyesight which overlooks the gradations of distance, seeing that which is afar off as if it were within a step or a grasp—precipitates the mistaken soul on destruction?
—George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, ch. XXI (p. 199 in ISBN 978-0140431209)