Shakespeare's Badass Quarto

Ron Rosenbaum in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

So the Bad Quarto, like the Ghost in Hamlet, once again is stalking the battlements of Shakespeare scholarship. Despite its popular image of pedantry, textual scholarship can be dramatic and enlightening. Texts, you sometimes come to feel, develop characters of their own. Scholars now prefer to call the Bad Quarto "Q1," but I like calling it the Bad Quarto — as in delinquent, disobedient, disruptive. The Badass Quarto.

"To be a really lousy writer takes energy."

Clive James in the London Review of Books — "To be a really lousy writer takes energy. The average novelist remains unread not because he is bad but because he is flat. On the evidence of Princess Daisy, Judith Krantz deserves her high place in the best-seller lists. This is the second time she has been up there. The first time was for a book called Scruples, which I will probably never get around to reading. But I don’t resent the time I have put into reading Princess Daisy. As a work of art it has the same status as a long conversation between two not very bright drunks, but as best-sellers go it argues for a reassuringly robust connection between fiction and the reading public. If cheap dreams get no worse than this, there will not be much for the cultural analyst to complain about. Princess Daisy is a terrible book only in the sense that it is almost totally inept. Frightening it isn’t."

William James: philosopher of laughing gas

Benjamin Breen in the Paris Review — After huffing a large amount of nitrous oxide, James set out to tackle a prominent bugbear of 1880s intellectual life: Hegelian dialectics. He came up with a stream of consciousness that centered on a kind of ecstatic binary thinking:

Don’t you see the difference, don’t you see the identity? Constantly opposites united! The same me telling you to write and not to write! Extreme—extreme, extreme! Within the extensity that “extreme” contains is contained the “extreme” of intensity Something, and other than that thing! …. By George, nothing but othing! That sounds like nonsense, but it’s pure onsense! Thought much deeper than speech … ! Medical school; divinity school, school! SCHOOL! Oh my God, oh God; oh God!

Balzac on coffee

“Coffee glides into one’s stomach and sets all of one’s mental processes in motion. One’s ideas advance in column of route like battalions of the Grande Armée. Memories come up at the double, bearing the standards which will lead the troops into battle. The light cavalry deploys at the gallop. The artillery of logic thunders along with its supply wagons and shells. Brilliant notions join in the combat as sharpshooters. The characters don their costumes, the paper is covered with ink, the battle has started, and ends with an outpouring of black fluid like a real battlefield enveloped in swaths of black smoke from the expended gunpowder. Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.”

Leonard Bernstein to Kenneth Ehrman (January 17th, 1939)

"Life has been going on, as it has a way of doing. Just a series of minor catastrophes of varying kinds. Most noteworthy: I left a valuable manuscript of Copland's plus another printed piece of his plus a valuable manuscript book of mine plus a valuable fountain pen plus all of my thesis notes over which I had theoretically slaved (!) in New York on the train coming back from the City of Sin. The infallible New Haven Railroad is unable to find these things, which means I must start my thesis all over again at double speed, and type this letter, faut d'un stylo, and be generally upset at having lost Aaron's manuscript for him. He of course took it as only he could take it -- with a philosophical phrase. Good old Aaron: if it had been anyone else but he I should long ago have gone into voluntary exile."

The Point on death

Death, as Hamlet tells us, is endless silence. But it is also noise: the sounds of mourning, of a casket lowered into the ground, or—if the dead happened to be famous—of constant keyboard clatter. An actor dies and within hours eulogies fly in from all corners of the country, from Twitter effusions to highly wrought magazine elegies. Depending on your sensibilities, this media spectacle is either heartening or grimly predictable. “The words of a dead man,” Auden wrote upon the death of Yeats, “are modified in the guts of the living.” Death’s disarming vacancies are filled by the doings of the survivors. But, in the recent case of Robin Williams, the frenzied reaction seems oddly appropriate. After all, was there ever a comedian who tried harder to outstrip and outshout despair by sheer volubility?

Leon Wieseltier responds to Alain de Botton

Leon Wieseltier responds to Alain de Botton