Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Quote of the Day (Saul Bellow, on a ‘Great, Great Crowd’ Thronging Midcentury Broadway)

“On Broadway it was still bright afternoon and the gassy air was almost motionless under the leaden spokes of sunlight, and sawdust footprints lay about the doorways of butcher shops and fruit stores. And the great, great crowd, the inexhaustible current of millions of every race and kind pouring out, pressing round, of every race and genius, possessors of every human secret, antique and future, in every face the refinement of one particular motive or essence - I labor, I spend, I strive, I design, I love, I cling, I uphold, I give way, I envy, I long, I scorn, I die, I hide, I want. Faster, much faster than any man could make the tally.”— American novelist Saul Bellow (1915-2005), Seize the Day (1956)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Quote of the Day (Vivian Gornick, on the Healing Power of a Walk Through the City)

“As I saw myself moving ever farther toward the social margin, nothing healed me of a sore and angry heart like a walk through the city. To see in the street the fifty different ways people struggle to remain human—the variety and inventiveness of survival techniques—was to feel the pressure relieved, the overflow draining off. I felt in my nerve endings the common refusal to go under.”—American critic, journalist, essayist, and memoirist Vivian Gornick, The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir (2015)

This week seven years ago, I took the picture accompanying this post while walking through the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn—a section of the New York borough filled with tree-lined streets and brownstones. At least for me, it held some of the restorative powers that Ms. Gornick praises.

Monday, September 25, 2023

TV Quote of the Day (‘The Odd Couple,’ As Felix Explains Why He Worries About Oscar’s Health)

Felix Unger [played by Tony Randall] [on why he’s concerned about the health of slob roommate Oscar Madison]: “I watched him eat eight hot dogs today and only saw him chew two.”—The Odd Couple, Season 2, Episode 8, “Fat Farm,” original air date Nov. 12, 1971, teleplay by Albert E. Lewin, directed by Mel Ferber

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Ann Patchett, on Religion and Storytelling)

“I suppose my ability to tell a story came from my good nature and a desire to keep everyone [in the family] together. Catholicism also was the perfect prep. Religion, in general, is story-based and teaches you to believe in what you can't see, and I did.”—American novelist and bookstore owner Ann Patchett, quoted by Marc Myers, “House Call: Ann Patchett—A Late Reader, She Made Up Stories,” The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 25, 2023

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Song Lyric of the Day (Don Henley, on Love in ‘A Graceless Age’)

“We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive
In such a graceless age?”—American rock ‘n’ roll singer-songwriter Don Henley, “The Heart of the Matter,” from his CD, The End of the Innocence (1989)
The Eagles’ current "Long Goodbye" retirement tour—and the advancing age of the band’s surviving members—means that, though we may continue to hear from Don Henley at the occasional concert or even CD, our opportunities to hear his unique perspective on the world will inevitably diminish.
Even aside from Henley’s essential contributions to one of the most successful bands of the rock ‘n’ roll era, his solo work from the Eighties will continue to reverberate in our minds—including the question he posed in the quote above.
Sadly, not merely love, but also friendship and even elementary courtesy, face increasingly dire prospects in the “graceless age” already far along when Henley wrote these lyrics—and even worse now.
(The image of Don Henley accompanying this post was taken Dec. 2, 2008, by Steve Alexander.)

Quote of the Day (Edna St. Vincent Millay, with a Different Experience of Fall)

“In the fall of the year, in the fall of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The rooks went up with a raucous trill.
I hear them still, in the fall of the year.
He laughed at all I dared to praise,
And broke my heart, in little ways.”—Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), “The Spring and the Fall,” in The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1922)
A century ago this month, Edna St. Vincent Millay became the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. “The Spring and the Fall” was part of the collection that won her the honor.
This poem, which I came across in a school reader from 70 years ago, reminded me of why I have enjoyed Millay. Read in its entirety, it touches on the “ecstatic passion [and] skepticism of enduring love” that, New Yorker reviewer Maggie Doherty wrote in May 2022, represented the “great themes” of the lyric poet.

Over the last century, she has somewhat fallen out of favor with critics, despite Nancy Milford’s well-received 2001 biography, selections from the poet’s diaries published last year, and the heroic efforts of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society to preserve Steepletop, her longtime home in Austerlitz, NY.
No matter. Millay may be one of those authors, like the novelist Thomas Wolfe, who survive, barely, on high school and college curricula, but continue to find readers somehow.

You can find many interesting posts on Millay on the blogosphere, but you might find especially thoughtful this February 2021 post from the Farnsworth Art Museum that feature Maine poets reading letters and poems that focus on Millay’s exploration of loss and renewal—as well as their own poems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, personal loss, and the threat of global climate change. 

It’s a welcome reminder that, despite the intensely intimate nature of Millay’s early, best-known work, she became increasingly engaged with national and world issues as time went on.)

Friday, September 22, 2023

Quote of the Day (Brooke Shields, Suffering a Case of Massively Mistaken Identity)

“The other day, I was in the airport and the flight attendant came up to me and said, ‘Oh my God, you’re Caitlyn Jenner!’”—Actress Brooke Shields, during her debut show at Manhattan’s CafĂ© Carlyle, quoted by Jacob Bernstein, “‘Fame Is Weird,’ and She Knows It,” The New York Times, Sept. 21, 2023

(The accompanying picture of Brooke Shields was taken Feb. 21, 2018, by Greg2600.)