October 31 2017

The Mysterious Silence on Cheese

Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. Virgil, if I remember right, refers to it several times, but with too much Roman restraint. He does not let himself go on cheese. The only other poet that I can think of just now who seems to have had some sensibility on the point was the nameless author of the nursery rhyme which says: `If all the trees were bread and cheese' - which is indeed a rich and gigantic vision of the higher gluttony. If all the trees were bread and cheese there would be considerable deforestation in any part of England where I was living.

- G.K. Chesterton

October 25 2017

Who admires is never wrong . . .

Paul Claudel says somewhere, "Celui qui admire n'a jamais tort" (He who admires is never wrong). I like thinking about this sentence, so hopelessly out-of-date and so easily subject to revision. In a fundamental way, though, it tells us that in a spiritual sense, admiration and enthusiasm are far higher than criticism, sarcasm, a purely ironic stance. In English they call it debunking; we call it demystification, and it's the very air that newspapers and most books breathe.

- Adam Zagajewski

October 08 2017

Putting Up with Yourself and the Race of Man

I would always sympathize with anyone who says . . . that he can't put up with Hamlet at all. But I am afraid it is within hail of the more painful question whether you can put up with yourself and the race of man.

- William Empson

October 08 2017

The Apple Was the Greatest Pleasure

The apple was the greatest pleasure the Garden had to offer . . . Without the forbidden fruit, the place would have been a prison. One requirement of a paradise is that you can leave it when you've had enough.

- Hans Magnus Enzensberger

October 05 2017

A Thousand and One

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.​

- C.S. Lewis

September 18 2017

Hemingway on Wine

Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range of enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing that may be purchased.

One can learn about wines and pursue the education of one’s palate with great enjoyment, all of a lifetime, the palate becoming more educated and capable of appreciation and you having constantly increasing enjoyment and appreciation of wine, even though the kidneys may weaken, the big toe become painful, the finger joints stiffen, until finally, just when you love it the most, you are finally forbidden wine entirely.

Just as the eye, which is only a good healthy instrument to start with, becomes, even though it is no longer so strong and is weakened and worn by excesses, capable of transmitting constantly greater enjoyment to the brain, because of the knowledge or ability to see, that it has acquired.

Our bodies all wear out in some way and we die, and I would rather have a palate that will give me the pleasure of enjoying completely a Chateau Margaux or a Haut Brion, even though excesses indulged in, in the acquiring of it, have brought a liver that will not allow me to drink Richebourg, Corton or Chambertin, than to have the corrugated iron internals of my boyhood when all red wines were bitter except port and drinking was the process of getting down enough of anything to make you feel reckless.

The thing of course, is to avoid having to give up wine entirely, just as, with the eye, it is to avoid going blind. But there seems to be much luck in all these things and no man can avoid death by honest effort, nor say what use any part of his body will bear, until he tries it.

Ernest Hemingway

Wise: "there seems to be much luck in all these things and no man can avoid death by honest effort." 

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