"Virginia Woolf? Snob! Richard Wright? Sexist! Dostoyevsky? Anti-Semite!"

“I think we’d all be better readers if we realized that it isn’t the writer who’s the time traveler. It’s the reader. When we pick up an old novel, we’re not bringing the novelist into our world and deciding whether he or she is enlightened enough to belong here; we’re journeying into the novelist’s world and taking a look around.”

[…] “And maybe, without overlooking or forgetting about Wharton’s blind spots, we’d be able to appreciate the riches she had to offer — her aphoristic wit; her astonishingly well-wrought sentences; her subtle sense of how moral strength and weakness coexist in each of us; her criticisms of the cruelties of her historical moment, which are not unlike the cruelties of ours.”

(Brian Morton for the New York Times)

"...the Hemingway-Copland-Steinbeck-Ives America I loved..."

George Saunders in the preface to CivilWarLand

“In retrospect I was lucky—lucky to have my lame, black-and-white, museumish idea of literature, in which it was always 1931, denied me. This sent me in search (in spite of myself) of a prose style that wasn’t full of shit given the life I was leading, a style that felt truly American— that took into account the Hemingway-Copland-Steinbeck-Ives America I loved (red, white, and blue bunting draped above a white-painted porch, a marching band playing in the distance) but also this new America in which I was just becoming a full participant: a place where paucity reduced a person, fear of failure produced neuroses, where everyone became a freak via material obsession, where there were no artifacts of previous cultures, no ancient ruins, just expedience-formed vistas (the old mill was now a Starbucks, and when the Starbucks kids went out for a smoke, they did so leaning against the fence of the pioneer graveyard, the shadow of a tall stone angel slicing across the parking stripes), a style as angular, comic, dorky, and heartfelt as the Rochesterians I saw falling asleep on the bus, or living up near Kodak Park in the shadow of the methylene chloride pipes, or plunking around in their snowy yards wielding roof rakes as I sped by on the canal path in my goggles and spaceman boots.”

Randall Jarrell on Yvor Winters

From David Yezzi in the New Criterion:

“From one side of his mouth he pronounced in The New York Times that “Winters’ clear, independent and serious talent has produced criticism that no cultivated person can afford to leave unread.” And from the other, in an unpublished lecture lately exhumed for an issue of The Georgia Review, Jarrell suggests that Winters’s criticism

should be classified, in his own terms, as a startlingly neoprimitive variety of neoclassicism, since in it he pretends to a simplicity, a simple-mindedness, that is not naturally his but that has been imported from another age at the great cost of everyone concerned. Mr. Winters’ critical method reminds me of Blake and his wife sitting naked in their garden, pretending to be Adam and Eve.

Of Winters’s “The Experimental School in American Poetry,” which Jarrell notes has “been praised as the critical feat of the time,” he gripes, “There is a sort of brutal frivolity about it: it is so disorganized, arbitrary, and obviously inadequate as to be unworthy both of the subject and Mr. Winters.”

"You may also like..."

Justin E. H. Smith for The Point — “It is one thing to target infants with material that presumes no well-constituted human subject as its viewer; it is quite another when thirty-somethings with Ph.D.s are content to debate the merits of the Marvel vs. the DC Comics universe or whatever. If I were an algorithm, and I encountered an adult human happily watching Spiderman, I would greet that human with a “You may also like…” offer to next watch “Johnny Johnny Yes Papa” on a ten-hour loop. That is how worthless and stunting I think this particular genre of cultural production is.”

Further reading: Smith’s follow-up to critics.

The café: not to be noticed, but remembered

“What is yet unpredicted has to consolidate into something obvious, so obvious that the guest may ask: for this you really needed an architect? Which indeed is the greatest compliment possible. After all, a café is not to be noticed, but remembered. It should be precisely to the point, and not annoy by pretentious ambitions.”

—Hermann Czech, in Christoph Grafe and Franziska Bollerey (Ed.): Cafés and Bars. The Architecture of Public Display; New York-London (Routledge) 2007, p. 94-96.

Nietzsche on the New Year

From Die fröhliche Wissenschaft — "I still live, I still think; I must still live, for I must still think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. Today everyone takes the liberty of expressing his wish and his favourite thought: well, I also mean to tell what I have wished for myself to day, and what thought first crossed my mind this year, a thought which ought to be the basis, the pledge and the sweetening of all my future life! I want more and more to perceive the necessary characters in things as the beautiful: I shall thus be one of those who beautify things. Amor fati: let that henceforth be my love! I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers. Looking aside, let that be my sole negation! And all in all, to sum up: I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yes sayer!"

"At 58, Bobby Fischer is frighteningly strong at blitz."

From Martin Krabbé’s open chess diary, 2001. Fischer is supposed to have given up chess long before 2000; rumors have circulated that Fischer secretly competed online against highly ranked opponents.

Nothing more refreshing than a change of opinions, or as a friend of mine says: "I take back everything I said and claim the opposite." 

There were two candidates who could be the mysterious guest who beats masters and grandmasters with his sick openings - Fischer and a computer. In item 134, I said he couldn't be Fischer, but in the meantime, I found convincing evidence that he is not a computer. 

I found this evidence in a series of twenty-five 3-minute blitz games that 'guest71' played on 24 April 2001 against 'Beber', the French IM Robert Fontaine, who had then an ICC rating of 2827, and who has now a FIDE-rating of 2452. guest71, always with absurd openings, won 20 games, lost 3, and two games were drawn. 


To think that a computerized impostor would sometimes take a minute for a forced move to suggest that he's Bobby Fischer, would be too far-fetched. He must be Fischer, and he does this kind of thing to increase the odds he's already giving with his openings; he's also known to have added time to his opponents' clocks.

At 58, Bobby Fischer is frighteningly strong at blitz.