F Scott Fitzgerald on the ‘wise and tragic’

Near the end of his life, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to his daughter about the ‘wise and tragic sense of life’ which he described as “the sense that life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat, and that the redeeming things are not ‘happiness and pleasure’ but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.”


Favorite Passages – Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” (1963)


It would mean getting up at seven and cooking him eggs and bacon and toast and coffee and dawdling about in my nightgown and curlers after he’d left for work to wash up the dirty plates and make the bed, and then when he came home after a lively, fascinating day he’d expect a big dinner, and I’d spend the evening washing up even more dirty plates till I fell into bed, utterly exhausted. This seemed a dreary and wasted life for a girl with fifteen years of straight A’s, but I knew that’s what marriage was like, because cook and clean and wash was just what Buddy Willard’s mother did from morning till night, and she was the wife of a university professor and had been a private school teacher herself.

I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow, the million moving shapes and cul-de-sacs of shadow. There was shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and tree Continue reading

Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) – Favorite Passages


The words pursued Dr. Juvenal Urbino on the drive home: “this death trap of the poor.” It was not a gratuitous description. For the city, his city, stood unchanging on the edge of time: the same burning dry city of his nocturnal terrors and the solitary pleasures of puberty, where flowers rusted and salt corroded, where nothing had happened for four centuries except a slow aging among withered laurels and putrefying swamps. In winter sudden devastating downpours flooded the latrines and turned the streets into sickening bogs. In summer an invisible dust as harsh as red-hot chalk was blown into even the best protected corners of the imagination by mad winds that took the roofs off the houses and carried away children through the air. On Saturdays the poor mulattoes, along with all their domestic animals and kitchen utensils, tumultuously abandoned their hovels of cardboard and tin on the edges of the swamps and in jubilant assault took over the rocky beaches of the colonial district. Until a few years ago, some of the older ones still bore the royal slave brand that had been burned onto their chests with flaming irons. During the weekend they danced without mercy, drank themselves blind on home-brewed alcohol, made wild love among the icaco plants, and on Sunday at midnight they broke up their own party with bloody free-for-alls. During the rest of the week the same impetuous mob swarmed into the plazas and alleys of the old neighborhoods with their stores of  everything that could be bought and sold, and they infused the dead city with the frenzy of a human fair reeking of fried fish: a new life.

Independence from Spain and then the abolition of slavery precipitated the conditions of honorable decadence in which Dr. Juvenal Urbino had been born and raised. The great old families sank into their ruined palaces in silence. Along the rough cobbled streets that had served so well in surprise attacks and buccaneer landings, weeds hung from the balconies and opened cracks in the whitewashed walls of even the best-kept mansions, and the only signs of life at two o’clock in the afternoon were languid piano exercises played in the dim light of siesta. Indoors, in the Continue reading

Favorite Passages: Osamu Dazai – No Longer Human (1948)


I took from my bookshelf a volume of Modigliani reproductions, and showed Takeichi the familiar nudes with skin the color of burnished copper. “How about these? Do you suppose they’re ghosts too?”

“They’re terrific.” Takeichi widened his eyes in admiration. “This one looks like a horse out of hell.”

“They really are ghosts then, aren’t they?”

“I wish I could paint pictures of ghosts like that,” said Takeichi.

There are some people whose dread of human beings is so morbid that they reach a point where they yearn to see with their own eyes monsters of ever more horrible shapes. And the more nervous they are — the quicker to take fright — the more violent they pray that every storm will be. Painters who have had this mentality, after repeated wounds and intimidations at the hands of the apparitions called human beings, have often come to believe in phantasms — they plainly saw monsters in broad daylight, in the midst of nature. And they did not fob people off with clowning; they did their best to depict these monsters just as they had appeared. Takeichi was right: they had dared to paint pictures of devils. These, I thought, would be my friends in the future. I was so excited I could have wept.


“Don’t be silly. They’re useless. Schools are all useless. The teachers who immerse themselves in  Nature! The teachers who show profound sympathy for Nature!”

I felt not the least respect for his opinions. I was thinking, “He’s a fool and his paintings are rubbish, but he might he a good person for me to go out with.” For the first time in my life I had met a Continue reading

Favorite Passages: Bernie Sanders – Where Do We Go From Here (2018)


On mobilizing and re-invigorating
“As I have said many times, elections are not going to be won unless there is excitement on the ground, unless ordinary people become involved. In 2014, when Republicans won landslide victories, the national voter turnout was the lowest since World War II, with only 37 percent of the people voting. People were disillusioned, mistrustful, and alienated from the political process.” -321

Israel Question
“My friends, the issues that we are dealing with are enormously complicated. Nobody I know has any simple or magical answers to them, and real solutions will require a great deal of hard work. But what I do know is that the United States of America should lead the world with a foreign policy which emphasizes the need to bring nations together, which focuses on diplomacy and international cooperation, rather than a foreign policy that emphasizes the continued use of military force.

And let me also say this. As someone who believes absolutely and unequivocally in Israel’s right to exist, and to exist in peace and security, as someone who as a young man lived in Israel for a number of months and is very proud of his Jewish heritage, as someone who is deeply concerned about the global rise of anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, we must say loudly and clearly that to oppose the reactionary policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make us anti-Israel.” -329

Supreme Court’s Recent Failings
“In the past decade, a right-wing Supreme Court has issued some incredibly destructive decisions, often by a 5–4 vote, that have had a profound impact upon every man, woman, and child in America. Just a few examples:

The Supreme Court has helped create a corrupt campaign finance system that substantially benefits the rich and the powerful against the needs of working people. Whether you are a progressive or a conservative or somewhere in between, you know that there is something profoundly wrong when a small number of billionaires can spend many hundreds of millions of dollars to try to buy elections. That is not what American democracy is supposed to be about, and the American people know it.

What most Americans don’t know, however, is that this situation was created by a 5–4 Supreme Court vote in the Citizens United case of 2010, which struck down parts of the comprehensive bipartisan Continue reading

Favorite Passages – Thomas Merton’s ‘Seven Storey Mountain’ (1948)


My father and mother were captives in that world, knowing they did not belong with it or in it, and yet unable to get away from it. They were in the world and not of it-not because they were saints, but in a different way: because they were artists. The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it.(3)

It seems strange that Father and Mother, who were concerned almost to the point of scrupulosity about keeping the minds of their sons uncontaminated by error and mediocrity and ugliness and sham, had not bothered to give us any formal religious training. The only explanation I have is the guess that Mother must have had strong views on the subject. Possibly she considered any organized religion below the standard of intellectual perfection she demanded of any child of hers. (9)
That summer was full of low sand dunes, and coarse grasses as sharp as wires, growing from the white sand. And the wind blew across the sand. And I saw the breakers of the grey Continue reading