Saturday, July 16, 2005

somewhere in eternity

AFter Babel argues that it is the constructive powers of language to conceptualize the world which have been crucial to man's survival in the face of ineluctable biological constraints, this is to say in the face of death. It is the miraculous - I don't retract the term - capacity of grammars to generate counter-factuals, 'if'-propositions and, above all, future tenses, which have empowered our species to hope, to reach far beyond the extinction of the individual. We endure, we endure creatively due to our imperative ability to say 'No' to reality, to build fictions of alterity, of dreamt or awaited 'otherness' for our consciousness to inhabit. It is in this precise sense that the utopian and messianic are figures of syntax.

George Steiner. Introduction to After Babel. 3rd ed. 1998. p. xiv.

at the foot of the table

Lastly, a true critic in the perusal of a book is like a dog at a feast, whose thoughts and stomach are wholly set upon what the guests fling away, and consequently is apt to snarl most when there are the fewest bones.

Jonathan Swift. "The Tale of a Tub". The Tale of a Tub and Other Works. 2006.

faculty lounge

There are no 'theories of literature,' there is no 'theory of criticism'. Such tags are arrogant bluff, or a borrowing, transparent in its pathos, from the enviable fortunes and forward motion of science and technology.... What we do have are reasoned descriptions of processes.

George Steiner. Introduction to After Babel. 3rd ed. 1998. p. xiv.

my mahogany desk

In time there was a day that extinguished the last eyes to see Christ; the battle of Junin and the love of Helen died with the death of a man. What will die with me when I die, what pathetic or fragile form will the world lose? The voice of Macedonio Fernándes, the image of a red horse in the vacant lot at Serrano and Charcas, a bar of sulphur in the drawer of a mahogany desk?

Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths. 1964. 243.


Full fathom five my father lies,
   Of his bones are coral made.

Those are pearls that were his eyes.
   Nothing of him doth fade

But doth suffer a sea change
   Into something rich and strange.

The Tempest. I:ii

in the live-action theme park

"Because what is truth? Truth is that thing which makes what we want to happen happen. Truth is that thing which, when told, makes those on our team look good, and inspires them to greater efforts, and causes people not on our team to see things our way and feel sort of jealous. Truth is that thing which empowers us to do even better than we are already doing, which by the way is fine, truth is the wind in our sails that blows only for us. So when a rumor makes you doubt us, us up here, it is therefore not true, since we have already defined truth as that thing which helps us win. Therefore, if you want to know what is true, simply ask what is best. Best for us, all of us. Do you get our drift?"

- George Saunders. Pastoralia. 2001.