copyright arguments, 1863

“Nogent-Saint-Laurent, who is a member of the Committee on Literary Copyright, said that he favored perpetuity of rights. Sainte-Beuve protested violently: ‘You are paid by the smoke and noise you stir up. You ought to say, every writer ought to say: “Take it all: you’re welcome to it!” ’ Flaubert, going to the opposite extreme, exclaimed: ‘If I had invented the railways I shouldn’t want anybody to travel on them without my permission!’ Thoroughly roused, Sainte-Beuve retorted: ‘No more literary property than any other property! There should be no property at all. Everything should be regularly renewed, so that everybody can take his turn.’

In these few words, sprung from the most secret and sincere depths of his soul, I saw the fanatical revolutionary bachelor in Sainte-Beuve, and he seemed at that moment to have the character and almost the appearance of one of the levellers of the Convention. I saw the basic destructive urge in that man who, rubbing shoulders with society, money, and power, had conceived a secret hatred for them, a bitter jealousy which extended to everything, to youth, to the conquest of women, to the good looks of his neighbour at dinner, Nieuwerkerke, who had slept with real society women without having to pay.”

(Edmond & Jules de Goncourt, 14 February 1863, Pages from the Goncourt Journal, trans. Robert Baldick, p. 80.)

a lion owns a man


How does your interest in flying technology fit into your view of technology in general, which is fairly suspicious? You’ve written several times, and eloquently, about cars, for instance, about how they’ve changed our views of space, of the city, of our own bodies.


The point of view I take is the point of view of Diogenes, which is that when a man owns a lion, a lion owns a man. The thing about technology is that it owns us. I know several desperately poor people, practically beggars, who own cars. On the other hand, you have people who drive their cars to work, to make a living, or to have a delightful excursion in it with the wife and children. But the point is that all progress asks that we pay a kind of ransom or blackmail in order to have it.

(Guy Davenport interviewed by John Jeremiah Sullivan, The Paris Review, fall 2002.)


“So that the reader of these pages may be under no misapprehension I hasten to tell him that he will find in them little information. This book is the record of a journey through Burmah, the Shan States, Siam and Indo-China. I am writing it for my own diversion and I hope that it will divert also such as care to spend a few hours in reading it. I am a professional writer and I hope to get from it a certain amount of money and perhaps a little praise.”

(Somerset Maugham, The Gentleman in the Parlour, chapter IV, p. 8.)

six persons

“. . . remember that there is no language more difficult to write than English. In the long history of our literature it would be difficult to find more than six persons who have written it faultlessly.”

(Somerset Maugham, preface to The Gentleman in the Parlour, p. ix.)

the thundering of the machine

“It is not that people today are wicked or stupid; they are simply deaf. The thundering of the machine they have set in motion and which carries them toward the precipice is so loud that the far-off cries of those who have been excluded by the machine because they hold no ticket never reach the deafened ears of that joyous assemblage.”

(Pier Paolo Pasolini, “The End of a Post-War Era,” originally in La libertà d’Italia, 6 October 1950; p. 140 in Stories from the City of God: Sketches and Chronicles of Rome, 1950–1966, trans. Marina Harss.)

the names

“The names of the brothers are a matched pair of opposites. Abel comes from the Hebrew ‘hebel‘, meaning ‘breath’ or ‘vapour’: anything that lives and moves and is transient, including his own life. The root of ‘Cain’ appears to be the verb ‘kanah‘: to ‘acquire’, ‘get’, ‘own property’, and so ‘rule’ or ‘subjugate’.

‘Cain’ also means ‘metal-smith’. And since, in several languages – even Chinese – the words for ‘violence’ and ‘subjugation’ are linked to the discovery of metal, it is perhaps the destiny of Cain and his descendants to practise the black arts of technology.”

(Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines, p. 193.)


“Rereading, an operation contrary to the commercial and ideological habits of our society, which would have us ‘throw away’ the story once it has been consumed (‘devoured’), so that we can then move on to another story, but another book, and which is tolerated only in certain marginal categories of readers (children, old people, and professors), rereading is here suggested at the outset, for it alone saves the text from repetition (those who fail to reread are obliged to read the same story everywhere), multiplies it in its variety and its plurality: rereading draws the text out of its internal chronology (‘this happens before or after that’) and recaptures a mythic time (without before or after); it contests the claim which would have us believe that the first reading is a primary, naïve, phenomenal reading which we will only, afterwards, have to ‘explicate,’ to intellectualize (as if there were a beginning of reading, as if everything were not already read: there is no first reading, even if the text is concerned to give us that illusion by several operations of suspense, artifices more spectacular than persuasive); rereading is no longer consumption but play (that play which is the return of the different). If then, a deliberate contradiction in terms, we immediately reread the text, it is in order to obtain, as though under the effect of a drug (that of recommencement, of difference), not the real text, but a plural text: the same and new.”

(Roland Barthes, S/Z, trans. Richard Miller, pp. 15–16.)

swann explains the problem with newspapers

“ ‘Well, I’m sure you’re right,’ replied Swann in amazement. ‘But what I think is wrong with the newspapers is that every single day they make you take an interest in tribia. Whereas in a whole lifetime you may only read three or four books which have really essential things to say. The way people eagerly open their paper every morning makes you want to change things a bit and put in something like, say, the . . . Pensées of Pascal!’ This title he pronounced with a special ironic stress, so as to avoid appearing pedantic. He went on, expressing the disdain for fashionable society that fashionable society men sometimes affect. ‘And then, in the leather-bound tome that you read once in ten years you could put that Her Majesty the Queen of the Hellenes is visiting Cannes and that the Princess of Léon has given a fancy-dress ball. That way, people could keep a sense of proportion.’ ”

(Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way, trans. James Grieve, p. 18.)


“From the long box that was Palm cord, she drew out a second square of glass and put in in place with the other. The board changed; colors mixed and became other colors; masses changed shape, became newly related to other masses.

‘Do you see?’ she said. ‘The saints are like the slides of the System. Their interpenetration is what reveals, not the slides themselves.’

‘It’s like the saints,’ I said, ‘because they made their lives transparent, like the slides; and their lives can be placed before our own, in our remembering their stories, and reveal things to us about ourselves. Not the stories or the lives themselves, but their—’

‘Interpenetration, yes,’ Painted Red said. ‘They’re saints not because of what they did, especially, but because in the telling of it, what they did became transparent, and your own life could be seen through it, illuminated.’ ”

(John Crowley, Engine Summer, p. 412 in Otherwise.)

may 16–31, 2013


  • Maureen F. McHugh, Mothers & Other Monsters
  • Maureen F. McHugh, After the Apocalypse
  • Clancy Martin, Travels in Central America
  • John Crowley, The Translator
  • Ellen Ullman, Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents
  • Ellen Ullman, By Blood
  • Pamela Moore, The Horsy Set


  • Monsieur Fantômas, directed by Ernst Moerman
  • Drive, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Behind the Candelabra, dir. Steven Soderbergh


  • “Paul McCarthy: Life Cast,” Hauser & Wirth
  • “Mel Bochner: Proposition and Process: A Theory of Sculpture (1968–1973),” Peter Freeman, Inc.