All artists, they say, are a little mad. This madness is, to a certain extent, a self-created myth designed to keep the generality away from the phenomenally close-knit creative community. Yet, in the world of the artists, the consciously eccentric are always respectful and admiring if those who have the courage to be genuinely a little mad.
And, oh God, in my misspent youth as a housewife, I, too, used to bake bread, in those hectic and desolating days just prior to the woman's movement, when middle-class women were supposed to be wonderful wives and mothers, gracious hostesses.... I used to feel so womanly when I was baking my filthy bread.
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She stayed beside me until I slept, waveringly, brilliantly, hooded in diaphanous scarlet, and occasionally she left an imperative written in lipstick on my dusty windowpane. BE AMOROUS! she exhorted one night and, another night, BE MYSTERIOUS! Some nights later, she scribbled: WHEN YOU BEGIN TO THINK, YOU LOSE THE POINT.
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MINISTER: All he has done is to find some means of bewitching the intelligence. He has only induced a radical suspension of disbelief. As in the early days of the cinema, all the citizens are jumping through the screen to lay their hands on the naked lady in the bathtub! AMBASSADOR: And yet, in fact, their fingers touch flesh. MINISTER: They believe they do. Yet all they touch is substantial shadow. AMBASSADOR: And what a beautiful definition of flesh! You know I am only substantial shadow, Minister, but if you cut me, I bleed. Touch me, I palpitate!
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To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man's welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. How can a bicycle ever be an implement of harm?
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Memory is the grid of meaning we impose on the random and bewildering flux of the world. Memory is the line we pay out behind us as we travel through time-it is the clue, like Ariadne's, which means we do not lose our way. Memory is the lasso with which we capture the past and haul it from chaos towards us in nicely ordered sequences, like those of baroque keyboard music.
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They had imagined too often and too much and so they had exhausted all their possibilities. When they embraced each other's phantoms, each in his separate privacy has savoured the most refined of pleasures but, connoisseurs of unreality as they were, they could not bear the crude weight, the rank smell and the ripe taste of real flesh. It is always a dangerous experiment to act out a fantasy; they had undertaken the experiment rashly and had failed...
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He is the intermediary between us, his audience, the living, and they, the dolls, the undead, who cannot live at all and yet who mimic the living in every detail since, though they cannot speak or weep, still they project those signals of signification we instantly recognize as language.
She was a Victorian girl; a girl of the days when men were hard and top-hatted and masculine and ruthless and girls were gentle and meek and did a great deal of sewing and looked after the poor and laid their tender napes beneath a husband's booted foot, and even if he brought home cabfuls of half-naked chorus girls and had them dance on the rich round mahogany dining-table (rosily reflecting great pearly hams and bums in its polished depths). Or, drunk to a frenzy, raped the kitchen-maid before the morning assembly of servants and children and her black silk-dressed self (gathered for prayers). Or forced her to stitch, on shirts, her fingers to rags to pay his gambling debts. Husbands were a force of nature or an act of God; like an earthquake or the dreaded consumption, to be borne with, to be meekly acquiesced to, to be impregnated by as frequently as Nature would allow. It took the mindless persistence, the dogged imbecility of the grey tides, to love a husband.
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For most of human history, 'literature, ' both fiction and poetry, has been narrated, not written - heard, not read. So fairy tales, folk tales, stories from the oral tradition, are all of them the most vital connection we have with the imaginations of the ordinary men and women whose labor created our world.
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People talk about mainstream fiction and sf as though they were two quite different kinds of writing, and fantasy as well, as though it was quite different. But I think this a false distinction, that it is a labelling that helps librarians, and people who know the kind of thing they like and don't want their prejudices to be disturbed.
Outside the window, there slides past that unimaginable and deserted vastness where night is coming on, the sun declining in ghastly blood-streaked splendour like a public execution across, it would seem, half a continent, where live only bears and shooting stars and the wolves who lap congealing ice from water that holds within it the entire sky. All white with snow as if under dustsheets, as if laid away eternally as soon as brought back from the shop, never to be used or touched. Horrors! And, as on a cyclorama, this unnatural spectacle rolls past at twenty-odd miles an hour in a tidy frame of lace curtains only a little the worse for soot and drapes of a heavy velvet of dark, dusty blue.
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Sad; so sad, those smoky-rose, smoky-mauve evenings of late autumn, sad enough to pierce the heart. The sun departs the sky in winding sheets of gaudy cloud; anguish enters the city, a sense of the bitterest regret, a nostalgia for things we never knew, anguish of the turn of the year, the time of impotent yearning, the inconsolable season.
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She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening. She has the mysterious solitude of ambiguous states; she hovers in a no-man's land between life and death, sleeping and waking.
She sleeps. And now she wakes each day a little less. And, each day, takes less and less nourishment, as if grudging the least moment of wakefulness, for, from the movement under her eyelids, and the somnolent gestures of her hands and feet, it seems as if her dreams grow more urgent and intense, as if the life she lives in the closed world of dreams is now about to possess her utterly, as if her small, increasingly reluctant wakenings were an interpretation of some more vital existence, so she is loath to spend even those necessary moments of wakefulness with us, wakings strange as her sleepings. Her marvellous fate - a sleep more lifelike than the living, a dream which consumes the world.
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And, conversely, she went on to herself, sneering at the Grand Duke's palace, poverty is wasted on the poor, who never know how to make the best of things, are only the rich without money, are just as useless at looking after themselves, can't handle their cash just like the rich can't, always squandering it on bright, pretty, useless things in just the same way.
She plays chess from the passions and I play it from logic and she usually wins. Once, I took her queen and she hit me.' Though, he recalled, not sufficiently brutally to require that he tie her wrists together with his belt, force her to kneel and beat her until she toppled over sideways. She raised a strangely joyous face to him; the pallor of her skin and the almost miraculous lustre of her eyes startled and even awed him.
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He was prepared to die for it, as one of Baudelaire's dandies might have been prepared to kill himself in order to preserve himself in the condition of a work of art, for he wanted to make this experience a masterpiece of experience which absolutely transcended the everyday. And this would annihilate the effects of the cruel drug, boredom, to which he was addicted although, perhaps, the element of boredom which is implicit in an affair so isolated from the real world was its principle appeal for him.
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What do you see when you see me?' She asked him, burying her own face in his bosom. 'Do you want the truth?' She nodded. 'The firing squad.' 'That's not the whole truth. Try again.' 'Insatiability, ' he said with some bitterness. 'That's oblique but altogether too simple. Once more, ' she insisted. 'One more time.' He was silent for several minutes. 'The map of a country in which I only exist by virtue of the extravagance of my metaphors.' 'Now you're being too sophisticated. And, besides, what metaphors do we have in common?
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When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stuck out like thin wire. I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.
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F.R. Leavis's "eat up your broccoli" approach to fiction emphasises this junkfood/wholefood dichotomy. If reading a novel--for theeighteenth century reader, the most frivolous of diversions--did not, by the middle of the twentieth century, make you a better person in some way, then you might as well flush the offending volume down the toilet, which was by far the best place for the undigested excreta of dubious nourishment.
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...in their millenial and long-lived patience they knew quite well how, in a hundred years, or a thousand years' time, or else, perhaps, tomorrow, in an hour's time, for it was all a gamble, a million to one chance, but all the same there was a chance that if they kept on shaking their chains, one day, some day, the clasps upon the shackles would part.
We do not go to bed in single pairs; even if we choose not to refer to them, we still drag there with us the cultural impedimenta of our social class, our parents' lives, our bank balances, our sexual and emotional expectations, our whole biographies-all the bits and pieces of our unique existences.
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Mother is in herself a concrete denial of the idea of sexual pleasure since her sexuality has been placed at the service of reproductive function alone. She is the perpetually violated passive principle; her autonomy has been sufficiently eroded by the presence within her of the embryo she brought to term. Her unthinking ability to reproduce, which is her pride, is, since it is beyond choice, not a specific virtue of her own.
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Sade has a curious ability to render every aspect of sexuality suspect, so that we see how the chaste kiss of the sentimental lover differs only in degree from the vampirish love-bite that draws blood, we understand that a disinterested caress is only quantitatively different from a disinterested flogging.
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For most of human history, 'literature,' both fiction and poetry, has been narrated, not written "" heard, not read. So fairy tales, folk tales, stories from the oral tradition, are all of them the most vital connection we have with the imaginations of the ordinary men and women whose labor created our world.
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Do not think I do not realise what I am doing. I am making a composition using the following elements: the winter beach; the winter moon; the ocean; the women; the pine trees; the riders; the driftwood; the shells; the shapes of darkness and the shapes of water; and the refuse. These are all inimical to my loneliness because of their indifference to it. Out of these pieces of inimical indifference, I intend to represent the desolate smile of winter which, as you must have gathered, is the smile I wear.
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Spindly branches of buttercups were secreted among gleaming stems still moist at the roots from last night's rain that had washedand refreshed the entire wood, had dowered it in poignant transparency, the unique, inconsolable quality of rainy countries, as if all was glimpsed through tears.
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There's a theory, one I find persuasive, that the quest for knowledge is, at bottom, the search for the answer to the question: Where was I before I was born. In the beginning was what? Perhaps, in the beginning, there was a curious room, a room like this one, crammed with wonders; and now the room and all it contains are forbidden you, although it was made just for you, had been prepared for you since time began, and you will spend all your life trying to remember it.
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His touch both consoles and devastates me; I feel my heart pulse, then wither, naked as a stone on the roaring mattress while the lovely, moony night slides through the window to dapple the flanks of this innocent who makes cages to keep the sweet birds in. Eat me, drink me; thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden, I go back and back to him to have his fingers strip the tattered skin away and clothe me in his dress of water, this garment that drenches me, its slithering odour, its capacity for drowning.
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And, indeed, is there not something holy about a great kitchen?... The scoured gleam of row upon row of metal vessels dangling from hooks or reposing on their shelves till needed with the air of so many chalices waiting for the celebration of the sacrament of food. And the range like an altar, yes, before which my mother bowed in perpetual homage, a fringe of sweat upon her upper lip and the fire glowing in her cheeks.
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I always used to suffer a great deal if I let myself get too close to reality since the definitive world of the everyday with itshard edges and harsh light did not have enough resonance to echo the demands I made upon experience. It was as if I never experienced experience as experience. Living never lived up to the expectations I had of it--the Bovary syndrome.
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