Friday, September 30, 2022

Quote of the Day (Gail Collins, on Candidates’ Desperate Fundraising Campaigns)

“Cynics might presume that no candidate has ever, in history, actually reached a fund-raising goal. Really, do you ever remember getting a note saying: ‘Thanks, guys! We’ve got all the money we need now! Give to your pet shelter.’

“You do have to feel some sympathy — Senate campaigns are wicked expensive. The question is whether you should respond to this barrage of email requests for donations. The downside, as you probably suspect, is that it will make you an even more popular target.”—Political commentator Gail Collins, “Do You Think Your Newfound Popularity Has Something to Do With Politics?” The New York Times, Sept. 8, 2022

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Quote of the Day (Miguel de Cervantes, on How Don Quixote Went Mad)

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.” —Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605)

Miguel de Cervantes—born on this day in 1547—is lucky to have stayed alive long enough to write his masterpiece. At the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, he suffered three grave wounds—two gunshot wounds to the chest and another that completely maimed his left hand.

As if that weren’t enough, he was captured by pirates and imprisoned for five years, then jailed on two more occasions owing money to the treasury from a shortage in his accounts.

Maybe Cervantes needed to find a laugh somehow, somewhere to get his mind off his terrible situation. In any case, he came up with one of the great satires in world literature: a parody of chivalric romances.

In the process, he offered the world one of the most indelible depictions of the clash between illusion and reality, in this scene that has become immortal:

“Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth."

"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza.

"The ones you can see over there," answered his master, "with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long."

"Now look, your grace," said Sancho, "what you see over there aren't giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone."

"Obviously," replied Don Quijote, "you don't know much about adventures.”

Cervantes, the greatest writer in the Spanish language, died in April 1616 on the same day as William Shakespeare, arguably the greatest writer in the English language.

(The image accompanying this post comes from the film adaptation of Man of La Mancha, with Peter O’Toole as Don Quixote.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Quote of the Day (Christopher Marlowe, on the Mistaken Belief That ‘A Sound Magician is a Mighty God’)

“O, what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,
Is promis'd to the studious artizan!
All things that move between the quiet poles
Shall be at my command: emperors and kings
Are but obeyed in their several provinces,
Nor can they raise the wind, or rend the clouds;
But his dominion that exceeds in this,
Stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man;
A sound magician is a mighty god:
Here, Faustus, tire thy brains to gain a deity.”—English playwright-poet Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), Doctor Faustus (ca.  1589-1592)

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Quote of the Day (John Milton, on the Need for Vigorous Debate in Speech and the Press)

“Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.” —English poet John Milton (1608-1674), Areopagitica: A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, to the Parliament of England (1644)

Monday, September 26, 2022

Quote of the Day (Hugh Grant, on His ‘Horrible’ Experience as a Film Producer)

“I did a bit of that [producing], and it’s actually horrible. I don’t know if you’ve done it, but it’s like driving a car from the back seat. You’re just tearing your hair out while someone else is driving, saying, ‘No, no, no, slower, go right.’”—English actor Hugh Grant quoted in Lacey Rose, ““No One Wants to Be the Good Guy’”:Hugh Grant, Richard Madden, Billy Porter and The Hollywood Reporter Drama Actor Roundtable,” The Hollywood Reporter, June 5, 2019

(The image accompanying this post, of Hugh Grant at a charity fundraiser held in South Bank, London, was taken Mar.15, 2011, by Julien Rath. Judging from Grant's smile, his producing experience was long behind him by this point.)

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Spiritual Quote of the Day (John Dominic Crossan, on God’s ‘Collaboration’ With Us)

“You have been waiting for God, [Jesus] said, while God has been waiting for you. No wonder nothing is happening. You want God’s intervention, he said, while God wants your collaboration. God’s kingdom is here, but only insofar as you accept it, enter it, live it, and thereby establish it.”—Irish-American theologian and scholar John Dominic Crossan, The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer (2010)

(The accompanying photo of John Dominic Crossan was taken during a lecture at Bellarmine University on Nov. 8, 2008 by Donald Vish.)

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Quote of the Day (Hal Borland, on Autumn, ‘The Eternal Corrective’)

“Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?” — American writer, journalist and naturalist Hal Borland (1900-1978), Sundial of the Seasons (1964)

I took the attached photo of a scene from Ringwood Manor here in New Jersey back in November 2015. We’re still nowhere near the colorful landscape I marveled at back then. But dropping temperatures in this area like we’ve had the last couple of days and nights will bring us closer to that point.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Quote of the Day (Roy Blount Jr., on Southern and Northern Manners of Speaking)

“The salesperson in Atlanta may give you just as glazed a look as the one in Boston. But the former is more likely to say, ‘These overalls are going to make your young one look cute as a doodlebug’s butt.’ Southerners still derive energy from figures of speech, as plants do from photosynthesis….

“[In one form of Northern hospitality], you walk into a dry cleaner’s for the 30th time, and the proprietor, recognizing you at last, says, ‘You again!’ If you are willing to accept that he is never going to welcome you, then you’re welcome. The advantage of this form of Northern hospitality is that it works irritation right into the equation, up front. Let’s face it: People irritate one another.”—Southern humorist Roy Blount Jr., in Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations (2016)

(Photo of Roy Blount Jr. taken at the 2007 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, Nov. 3, 2007, by Larry D. Moore.)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Quote of the Day (Alan Bennett, on ‘The Best Moments in Reading’)

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” —English actor, author, playwright and screenwriter Alan Bennett, The History Boys: A Play (2004)

(The accompanying photo of Alan Bennett was taken in London in 1973 by Allan Warren.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Photo of the Day: Petting Zoo, Fall Festival, Englewood NJ

This past Sunday, my hometown of Englewood, NJ, held what it called its “Fall Festival.” There are those—high-school students and their parents, I would guess, most prominently—who see the period immediately after Labor Day as the fall.

I still hold out for the date of the traditional autumnal equinox—i.e., tomorrow. Pushing for any earlier date ignores not only that celestial fact, but the gradual but real increase in September temperatures over the last few decades.

Well, even if my city’s sense of seasons might be a bit off, its sense of what will bring out crowds isn’t. This past summer, the festival featured roughly 50 merchants and information vendors promoting their businesses in Depot Square.

But I couldn’t help but smile at the free petting zoo. Its creatures certainly appealed to me—a big reason why I took this photograph.

Quote of the Day (Jojo Moyes, on How Music Can ‘Unlock Things in You’)

“I hadn’t realized that music could unlock things in you, could transport you to somewhere even the composer hadn’t predicted. It left an imprint in the air around you, as if you carried its remnants with you when you went.” — English journalist, novelist and screenwriter Jojo Moyes, Me Before You (2012)

(The accompanying photo of Jojo Moyes at the Salon Livre Paris was taken by Claire Onirik on Mar. 25, 2017.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Quote of the Day (Ogden Nash, on the Echoing ‘Footsteps’ of Fiorello La Guardia)

“When the valid votes are counted,
Will his future be feast or faminy?
Will he eat his lunch in a one-arm joint,
Or in a swell estaminet?
For Fiorello’s footsteps
Still echo in the corridor;
Reform is a horrid word enough,
But Fusion is even horrider.” —American light-verse poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971), “Don’t Bite the Hand That Puts the Foot in Your Mouth” in Everyone But Thee And Me (1962)

Seventy-five years ago today, Fiorello La Guardia—the “Little Flower” of New York City—died of pancreatic cancer. Having guided New York through the Great Depression and World War II, he had stepped down as mayor after three terms less than two years before, utterly exhausted—and, after so much time in the public eye and more than a little irascibility, the city had grown tired of him, too, according to public opinion polls.

By the time Ogden Nash recalled his legacy 15 years after his death, La Guardia had recovered his popularity. The musical Fiorello! won the Tony and Pulitzer Prizes in 1959, and the mayor was posthumously hailed for his attempts to root out corruption. And in 1961, Mayor Robert Wagner Jr. had turned decisively against the Tammany Hall political machine that had sustained his own rise—and that had been the object of La Guardia’s tireless (and noisy) anti-corruption efforts.

La Guardia had won his first campaign for mayor by campaigning on the “Fusion” ticket (primarily GOP-backed, with additional support by breakaway Democrats and independents). By the time Wagner ran for a third term, the “Reform” movement, which had sprung up among Manhattan insurgents three years before, was now spelling a threat to the power that Tammany Hall had enjoyed again after La Guardia’s departure.

Wagner’s defeat—and the fall from power of Tammany boss Carmine deSapio—proved in the end that Reform was, Nash’s contention to the contrary, “horrider” than Fusion to the old political machine.

Monday, September 19, 2022

TV Quote of the Day (‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ on a Disastrous Combo of News Footage and Ted Baxter)

Lou Grant [played by Ed Asner]: “Explain to me why, while I was hearing Ted's voice describing the arrival of the new water buffalo at the Minneapolis zoo, I was watching film of the vice president returning from his trip, and Ted's voice saying, ‘And here's the big ox now, lumbering down the ramp with his handler.’” —The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 3, Episode 13, “Operation: Lou,” original air date Dec. 9, 1972, teleplay by Elias Davis and David Pollock, directed by Jay Sandrich

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Pope Francis, on the Parable of the Merciful Father)

“I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the father’s house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance. He goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the father. Yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the father’s house and he goes back. And the father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar; he was waiting for him every hour of every day. The son was always in his father’s heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The father, with patience, love, hope, and mercy had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: his son has returned! And that is the joy of the father. In that embrace for his son is all this joy: he has returned! God is always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope—always!” —Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy (2014)

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Quote of the Day (John Cheever, on a Frequent Occurrence in a Suburban Party)

“At the tag end of nearly every long, large Saturday night party in the suburb of Shady Hill, when almost everybody who was going to play golf or tennis in the morning had gone hours ago and the ten or twelve people remaining seemed powerless to bring the evening to an end although the gin and whiskey were running low, and here and there a woman who was sitting with her husband would have begun to drink milk; when everybody had lost track of time, and the babysitters who were waiting at home for these diehards would have long stretched out on the sofa into a deep sleep, to dream about cooking-contest prizes, ocean voyages, and romance; when the bellicose drunk, the crapshooter, the pianist, and the woman faced with the expiration of her hopes had all expressed themselves; when every proposal — to go to the Farquarsons for breakfast, to go swimming, to go and wake up the Townsends, to go here and go there — died as soon as it was made, then Tracy Bearden would begin to chide Cash Bentley about his age and thinning hair.”—American novelist and short-story writer John Cheever (1912-1982), “O Youth and Beauty!”, originally published in The New Yorker, Aug. 22, 1953, reprinted in The Housebreaker of Shady Hill and Other Stories (1958)

Friday, September 16, 2022

Quote of the Day (Colin Jost, on Bus Rides Home From NYC During High School)

“I was always on edge when I travelled home alone late at night. I was very conscious of never smiling, because I was afraid that if I smiled someone would punch me. I actively tried to look sad, and, in keeping with my slow-to-talk, living in-my-head approach to life, I would invent awful things that had happened to me to tell a robber so that he would feel guilty and then not rob me. Like, I expected a robber to say, ‘I’m so sorry, Colin. I was going to steal your ten dollars, but after hearing that your cat killed your sister I cannot in good conscience take your money. In fact, here’s five dollars from me. In memory of your sister, Noxzema.’”—Saturday Night Live writer and “Weekend Update” co-anchor Colin Jost, “Commuting,” The New Yorker, Mar. 16, 2020

(The accompanying photo of Colin Jost—cropped from another showing him with Michael Che—was taken at Citi Field, Oct. 12, 2015, by Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr.)

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Quote of the Day (Walter Lippmann, on ‘Victims of Agitation and Propaganda’)

“Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo…can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information.”—Pulitzer Prize-winning American reporter and political commentator Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), Liberty and the News (1920)

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Quote of the Day (Joan Didion, on Character)

“Character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.”—American essayist-novelist Joan Didion (1934-2021), Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Quote of the Day (Laura Lippman, on Fiction Detailed About Work and Place)

“I like books steeped in the quotidian — details about work and place. You can learn how to run a chicken-and-waffle restaurant by reading ‘Mildred Pierce.’ And I like fiction about money. I wish there were more novels inspired by the economy, from the micro (Jess Walter’s ‘The Financial Lives of the Poets’ and Eliot Perlman’s ‘Three Dollars’) to the macro (John Lanchester’s ‘Capital,’ Adam Haslett’s ‘Union Atlantic’). I am leery of writers who are too in love with their protagonists and assemble choruses of secondary characters to sing their praises. She’s so beautiful! She’s so smart! Nancy Drew is a prime example, but it happens in literary fiction too.”—American crime fiction writer Laura Lippman, “Laura Lippman: By the Book,” The New York Times Book Review, February 16, 2014

(Photo of Laura Lippman taken at the 2015 Library of Congress National Book Festival, Sept. 6, 2015, by fourandsixty.)

Monday, September 12, 2022

Quote of the Day (Evelyn Waugh, on Teacher-Student Relations in an English ‘Public’ School)

“‘Prendy’s not so bad in his way,’ said [Captain] Grimes, ‘but he can’t keep order. Of course, you know he wears a wig. Very hard for a man with a wig to keep order. I’ve got a false leg, but that’s different. Boys respect that. Think I lost it in the war. Actually,’ said the Captain, ‘and strictly between ourselves, mind, I was run over by a tram.’” —English novelist Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), Decline and Fall (1928)

(The image accompanying this post shows Douglas Hodge as Captain Grimes in the BBC’s 2017 miniseries adaptation of Waugh’s classic satire.)

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on God’s Love)

“There is nothing you can do that will make God love you less. There is nothing you can do that will make God love you more. God’s love for you is infinite, perfect and eternal.”—South African Anglican Archbishop, human-rights advocate, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu (1931-2021), An African Prayer Book (1995)

(Photo of Archbishop Tutu taken by Elke Wetzig at the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag in Cologne, Germany, in 2007.)

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Quote of the Day (F. Scott Fitzgerald, With Good Words to Live By)

"In any case you mustn’t confuse a single failure with a final defeat."—American novelist and short-story writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), Tender Is the Night (1934)

Song Lyric of the Day (John Lennon and Paul McCartney, on the People and Places ‘In My Life’)

“All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all.”—John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “In My Life,” performed by the Beatles on their LP Rubber Soul (1965)
Even with their very different sensibilities, John Lennon and Paul McCartney both cited “In My Life” as among their favorite Beatles songs.
It may be a product of advancing years, but the same goes for me.
It’s hard to believe that two young men, still only in their mid-20s, could create a tune of quiet reflection and affection for what had passed out of their lives. But, I guess, Joni Mitchell did much the same thing with “Both Sides Now.”

Friday, September 9, 2022

Movie Quote of the Day (‘Crossing Delancey,’ As a Young Woman Meets a Matchmaker)

Isabelle “Izzy” Grossman [played by Amy Irving] [Objecting to a surprise appointment with a matchmaker]: “Excuse me, but I don't know what you think you're doing.”

Bubbie Kantor [played by Reizl Bozyk]: “First you'll listen, then you'll talk.”

Hannah Mandelbaum [played by Sylvia Miles]: “Very nice, very nice girl. She lives by her parents?”

Bubbie: “Naaaah, they live in Florida with Red Buttons. All the social security checks under one roof—you can have it!”

Hannah: “So, Isabella, you got your own apartment?”

Bubbie: “Naaaaah, she lives alone in a room, like a dog. A dog should live alone, not people... a dog!”

Isabelle: “It is not a room, it's an apartment, a very nice apartment. You know, you've been there, there's a bedroom, a bathroom...”

Bubbie: “Sure, with bars on the windows like a prison. Someone should crawl in at night, I'm always thinking!”

Isabelle: “Stop thinking!”Crossing Delancey (1988), screenplay by Susan Sandler, directed by Joan Micklin Silver

One of the best parts of the offbeat rom-com Crossing Delancey was the performance of Sylvia Miles (far left, seated next to Amy Irving), who practically walked off with the picture as matchmaker Hannah Mandelbaum.

But then again, it wasn’t the first time that the actress—born on this day 98 years ago in New York as Sylvia Scheinwald —made a major impression in a subsidiary role. She was nominated twice for Best Supporting Actress Oscars in dramatic roles—as an aging kept woman in Midnight Cowboy and as an alcoholic in Farewell, My Lovely.

Yet for as long as she lived—until her death two years ago—she couldn’t help mourning the roles that got away—including the role of sitcom writer Sally Rogers, which she played in a pilot but lost out to Rose-Marie for the regular run of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Quote of the Day (John Milton, on a Carefree State)

“Come, and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastic toe,
And in thy right hand lead with thee,
The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty;
And if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreproved pleasures free;
To hear the lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-tower in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise.” —English poet John Milton (1608-1674), “L'Allegro,” in The Complete Poems, edited by John Leonard (1999)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Quote of the Day (Somerset Maugham, on ‘Unmerciful’ Tropical Rain)

“Dr. Macphail watched the rain. It was beginning to get on his nerves. It was not like our soft English rain that drops gently on the earth; it was unmerciful and somehow terrible; you felt in it the malignancy of the primitive powers of nature. It did not pour, it flowed. It was like a deluge from heaven, and it rattled on the roof of corrugated iron with a steady persistence that was maddening. It seemed to have a fury of its own. And sometimes you felt that you must scream if it did not stop, and then suddenly you felt powerless, as though your bones had suddenly become soft; and you were miserable and hopeless.”—English man of letters W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), “Rain,” originally published in The Smart Set, April 1921, republished as part of Maugham’s short-story collection The Trembling of a Leaf: Little Stories of the South Sea Islands (1921)

These last several days, rain—the lack of it and the overabundance of it alike—has been at the heart of the drumbeat of the news, locally, nationally and internationally. In an age of climate change, the kind of soft, steady rain, falling consistently, that many of us recalled from younger days seems to be, more and more, a thing of the past.

The weather forecasters have taken increasingly to warning we’re in for flooding, particularly after a series of consecutive days of high temperatures coupled with humidity.

Still, no matter how much we brace ourselves, though, those of us in the Northeast are unlikely to be mentally prepared for rain as a “malignancy of the primitive powers of nature” that Maugham evoked in this classic tale of the South Seas.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

TV Quote of the Day (‘Friends,’ As Joey Acts 19)

[Joey comes out from his room wearing ridiculous clothes. He has to look nineteen for an audition].

Joey [played by Matt LeBlanc]: “'Sup? 'Sup, dude?”

Chandler [played by Matthew Perry] [putting his hands up]: “Take whatever you want, just please don't hurt me.”

Joey: “So, you're playing a little Playstation, huh? That's whack. Playstation is whack. 'Sup with the whack Playstation, 'sup? Huh? Come on, am I nineteen or what?”

Chandler: “Yes, on a scale from one to ten, ten being the dumbest a person can look, you are definitely nineteen.” —Friends, Season 7, Episode 1, “The One With Monica's Thunder,” original air date Oct. 12, 2000, teleplay by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, directed by Wil Calhoun

Monday, September 5, 2022

Quote of the Day (Garry Wills, on a Summer Lesson in Work and Leadership)

“I had a chip on my shoulder, since my father had left my mother to marry a (much younger) Hollywood model. While I was in California for a high school contest, he asked me to work at his nascent business for the rest of the summer. But for that offer, I would not have stayed—I needed a job in any event. He knew that the way to recruit a resisting son-employee was to give me independence—not only in things like deliveries, but in sales and purchasing of household equipment. If I failed, that might break down my resistance. If I didn't, pride in the work might renew a bond that had been broken. Paradoxically, by giving me independence he got me to do his will. That is the way leadership worksreciprocally engaging two wills, one leading (often in disguised ways), the other following (often while resisting). Leadership is always a struggle, often a feud.”—Historian-journalist Garry Wills, “What Makes a Good Leader,” The Atlantic Monthly, April 1994

Happy Labor Day, friends—and remember the inherent value of work (even, God help us, Judge Reinhold's job at Captain Hook Fish and Chips in Fast Times at Ridgemont High).

(Photo of Garry Wills by Lauren Gerson, taken on March 10, 2015 at the LBJ Presidential Library, where he was joining the Friends of the LBJ Library to discuss his book, The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis.)

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Eamon Duffy, on Saints)

“The saints are also, importantly, beyond us, visible signs of a call to transcend the ordinariness of our lives, and evidence of the possibility of heroism and wonder.” —Irish church historian Eamon Duffy, Faith of Our Fathers: Reflections on Catholic Tradition (2004)

The photo of Eamon Duffy accompanying this post was taken Apr. 24, 2010, by Fr. James Bradley from Southampton, UK.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Quote of the Day (Simon Schama, on ‘Supremely Accomplished Art’)

“A great deal of supremely accomplished art has been created by artists who have preferred self-effacement to heroic self-dramatization, and who have wanted more modest goals for their work: the imitation of nature, the representation of beauty, or both at the same time.”— English historian Simon Schama, The Power of Art (2006)

(Photograph of Simon Schama at Strand Book Store, New York City. taken August 15, 2006, by David Shankbone)

Friday, September 2, 2022

Quote of the Day (Erma Bombeck, on Kids’ Uncanny Sense Around a Kitchen)

“Kids were equipped with radar long before it went commercial. They knew when there were bananas hidden behind the popcorn popper in the pantry. They knew when there was a candy bar in the meat keeper in the refrigerator. It was not possible for a leftover piece of pie to survive a child in search of breakfast. When a dish rattled, they heard it, no matter where they were.”— American humorist Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing From America's Favorite Humorist (1996)

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Quote of the Day (Henry James, on a Room as a Stand-In for a Miserable Father)

“She waited, Kate Croy, for her father to come in, but he kept her unconscionably, and there were moments at which she showed herself, in the glass over the mantel, a face positively pale with the irritation that had brought her to the point of going away without sight of him. It was at this point, however, that she remained; changing her place, moving from the shabby sofa to the armchair upholstered in a glazed cloth that gave at once—she had tried it—the sense of the slippery and of the sticky. She had looked at the sallow prints on the walls and at the lonely magazine, a year old, that combined, with a small lamp in colored glass and a knitted white centre-piece wanting in freshness, to enhance the effect of the purplish cloth on the principal table; she had above all, from time to time, taken a brief stand on the small balcony to which the pair of long windows gave access. The vulgar little street, in this view, offered scant relief from the vulgar little room; its main office was to suggest to her that the narrow black house-fronts, adjusted to a standard that would have been low even for backs, constituted quite the publicity implied by such privacies. One felt them in the room exactly as one felt the room—the hundred like it, or worse—in the street. Each time she turned in again, each time, in her impatience, she gave him up, it was to sound to a deeper depth, while she tasted the faint, flat emanation of things, the failure of fortune and of honour. If she continued to wait it was really, in a manner, that she might not add the shame of fear, of individual, personal collapse, to all the other shames. To feel the street, to feel the room, to feel the table-cloth and the centre-piece and the lamp, gave her a small, salutary sense, at least, of neither shirking nor lying. This whole vision was the worst thing yet—as including, in particular, the interview for which she had prepared herself; and for what had she come but for the worst? She tried to be sad, so as not to be angry; but it made her angry that she couldn’t be sad. And yet where was misery, misery too beaten for blame and chalk-marked by fate like a ‘lot’ at a common auction, if not in these merciless signs of mere mean, stale feelings?” —American expatriate novelist-essayist Henry James (1843-1916), The Wings of the Dove (1902)

James never tells exactly why Kate Croy’s father Lionel has left her so bitter and emotionally—and financially—impoverished. That ambiguity has furnished a free hand to filmmakers. (In the 1997 movie adaptation starring Helena Bonham Carter, Lionel—played by Michael Gambon—is an opium addict who’s stolen from his wife.)

But the carefully chosen adjectives here (e.g., "sallow, shabby," "vulgar") add up to an alliterative pronouncement all the more devastating for being non-specific: “the faint, flat emanation of things, the failure of fortune and of honour.”