[Americans] are conscious of their differences. I noticed this in my first teaching appointment at UCLA. I was in the history department through the academic year and within a couple of months I knew the religious affiliation of practically every member of the department. I had never asked or sought this information, which was really of no interest; but I just knew it because it was part of the common knowledge in the department. I had been teaching in an English university for seventeen years before that without knowing the religious or sectarian affiliations of my English colleagues. It wasn’t an issue and nobody gave a damn.
– Bernard Lewis (with Buntzie Ellis Churchill), Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian (2012)
For as long as black people have been visible to the Western eye, our collective role has been that of the entertainer. From being ogled at in the human zoos of the nineteenth century, to now, where our television sets still mostly show us in limiting, stereotypical roles: the thug, the hooker, the fresh-off-the-boat minister, there is much fun to be had observing our queer, primitive ways.
The only way to control this gaze is to indulge in the role of the performer. To entertain is a passive process, it happens whether we wish it to or not. Whereas to perform implies the intent to entertain. And as anyone who has been to a black family gathering before will know, we are excellent performers.
– Varaidzo, “A Guide to Being Black,” The Good Immigrant (2016)
Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
To return one last time to the image of Thor’s hammer with which I launched all this, it strikes outward at the trolls, or inward when the trolls have made incursions, not blindly in all directions. It smashes to construct. Most artists will no doubt claim they do just that, and most critic’s will no doubt claim that they praise only artists who, in one way or another, fight for the good. Some artists and critics tell the truth; some lie. The business of civilization is to pay attention, remembering what is central, remembering that we live or die by the artist’s vision, sane or cracked.
– John Gardner, On Moral Fiction (1978)
Some people seem to think that BAME writers, coloured folk, are all in some clique, saluting our saviour Zadie Smith, sipping coconut water and sharing jerk chicken sauce recipes. That is not true. And neither is it true that BAME writers write with BAME readerships in mind. It also isn’t true that all our books solely contain stories for each other, about each other, and about our roots, like travel diaries, tales that will only interest other homesick BAME people. I call bullshit on all of that.
– Salena Godden, “Shade,” The Good Immigrant (2016)
I shook my head and made Hugh Grant noises.
– Riz Ahmed, “Airports and Auditions,” The Good Immigrant (2016)
Woolf: “Anybody who has had the temerity to write about Jane Austen is aware of two facts: First, that of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness; second, that there are 25 elderly gentlemen living in the neighborhood of London who resent any slight upon her genius as if it were an insult offered to the chastity of their aunts.”
Wars come and go, but my moustache stays eternal.
“If you can judge a man by his enemies then Wyndham Lewis ranks highly: Sacheverell Sitwell called him ‘a malicious, thwarted and dangerous man’ and Ernest Hemingway described him as having ‘the eyes of an unsuccessful rapist.’ E M Forster was more nuanced, discerning in him ‘a curious mixture of insolence and nervousness.'”
Chuck Wendig’s guide to staying motivated in this era of epic stupid.
Rachel Bowlby: “Alongside Shakespeare, Woolf is a literary celebrity, to be found in every corner of cultural consciousness and public or private space: from mugs to T-shirts to films and plays. On the purely textual front, as with him, there is a steady output of Woolf books and articles. No other non-male writer has received anything like this degree of recognition and attention. It is not clear whether this is more of a consummation or an irony, but without a doubt Woolf has herself become Shakespeare’s sister.”
A look inside James Baldwin’s FBI file.
I was recently in a roomful of young women and was struck by how much of the conversation was about men – what terrible things men had done to them, this man cheated, this man lied, this man promised marriage and disappeared, this husband did this and that.
And I realized, sadly, that the reverse is not true. A roomful of men do not invariably end up talking about women – and if they do, it is more likely to be in objectifying flippant terms rather than as lamentations of life.
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017)
It goes almost without saying that gibberish—or something that at first glance looks like gibberish—is one of the most interesting things an artist can create. That statement will not seem curious to the experienced reader, but it is interesting and a little surprising to notice that hacks and primitive artistic dabblers—always so quick to steal true art’s devices—almost never use gibberish. It veers too close to true poetry, to the absolute seriousness of the divinely mad. For true poetry it has always been one of the noblest inventions, now riddling, now oracular, now heightening a dramatic effect in Dostoevski, Dickens, or Melville. Shakespeare made it his specialty, not only in the ravings and ramblings of characters like Lear and Hamlet, the pointed lunacy of fools and bumpkins, but also in more out-of-the-way places, like the syntactically blurry underwater song “Full Fathom Five.” In modern fiction seeming gibberish provides some of the most moving and thought-provoking passages in the work of Joyce, Dos Passos, Anderson, Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, William Burroughs, John Hawkes, William Gaddis, and Joyce Carol Oates—to name only the most obvious.
– John Gardner, On Moral Fiction (1978)
Emily Harnett: “What does the myth of relatability really do, then, besides sell us things? One answer is that it embroiders our own self-image as much as the celebrity’s. The famous are never relatable when they’re abandoning their pet monkeys or chucking their cell phones at secretaries—that is, when they exhibit the deeply relatable quality of human unkindness. It’s only when they’re being funny on talkshows or cute with children that we wish to see ourselves reflected in the surface of fame.”
How many habitable planets are there in the universe?
“It is hard not to feel some sympathy for the BBC, the only major broadcaster that has to name those earning over £150,000 in a hugely competitive market in which its rivals tend to pay more.”