It's not easy: they teach us to read as children, and for the rest of our lives we remain the slaves of all the written stuff they fling in front of us. I may have had to make some effort myself, at first, to learn not to read, but now it comes quite naturally to me. The secret is not refusing to look at the written words. On the contrary, you must look at them, intensely, until they disappear.
If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, Italo Calvino
It's true what they say, that a baby gives you a reason to live. But also, a baby is a reason that it is not permissible to die. There are days when this does not feel good.
Oh, I thought, for the first time: children are pregnant with themselves.
Little Labors, Rivka Galchen
Take a shower. Use nice-smelling soap. Put on a clean, soft bathrobe. I suggest slipper socks as well - the ones with little rubber dots on the bottom. Make another breakfast2. Maybe a poached egg, or slice of quiche. Brew a fresh pot of tea. Read the news or twitter or the next chapter in a book.
How to spend a day at home, Mouse Reeve
Death is not dark but a red siren
who will not blow breath into your open mouth, arrested
like a heart
Nightstick [A Mural for Michael Brown], Kevin Young
A garden is not an object but a process.
Ian Hamilton Finlay
Poetry is the only art form where the space for breath is built right in.
with the animals dying around us our lost feelings we are saying thank you with the forests falling faster than the minutes of our lives we are saying thank you with the words going out like cells of a brain with the cities growing over us we are saying thank you faster and faster with nobody listening we are saying thank you we are saying thank you and waving dark though it is
Thanks, W.S. Merwin
Get better every day through fast, frequent improvements. Optimize for performance. Features are the enemy. Design is code/code is design. Assume all users are smart. Constrain scope, except when you shouldn’t. Minimalism. Ship.
I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.
In all jazz, and especially the blues, there is something tart and ironic, authoritative and double-edged. White Americans seem to feel that happy songs are happy and sad songs are sad, and that, God help us, is exactly the way most white Americans sing them—sounding, in both cases, so helplessly, defenselessly fatuous that one dare not speculate on the temperature of the deep freeze from which issue their brave and sexless little voices. Only people who have been “down the line,” as the song puts it, know what this music is about. White Americans do not understand the depths out of which such an ironic tenacity comes, but they suspect that the force is sensual, and they are terrified of sensuality, and do not any longer understand it. The word “sensual” is not intended to bring to mind quivering dusky maidens or priapic black studs. I am referring to something much simpler and much less fanciful. To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread.
It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be. One can give nothing whatever without giving oneself–that is to say, risking oneself. If one cannot risk oneself, then one is simply incapable of giving.
The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
Thinking about what I should say to you made me think about what we learn in college; and what we unlearn in college; and then how we learn to unlearn what we learned in college and relearn what we unlearned in college, and so on. And I thought how I have learned, more or less well, three languages, all of them English; and how one of these languages is the one I went to college to learn ...
It is a language always on the verge of silence and often on the verge of song.
Bryn Mawr Commencement Speech, Ursula Le Guin
There are two fundamental rules of taxes:
SEA BEARS FOAM, SLEEP BEARS DREAMS. BOTH END IN THE SAME WAY CRASSSH!
Link's Awakening, Nintendo
The majority of VCs deserve neither criticism or praise, but the majority want praise without exposure to criticism.
There has been much criticism of our approach. There will be more. A competitive league like the NBA necessitates a zig while our competitors comfortably zag. We often chose not to defend ourselves against much of the criticism, largely in an effort to stay true to the ideal of having the longest view in the room. To attempt to convince others that our actions are just will serve to paint us in a different light among some of our competitors as progressives worth emulating, versus adversaries worthy of their disdain. Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes the optimal place for your light is hiding directly under a bushel.
To do this requires you to divorce process from outcome. You can be right for the wrong reasons. In our business, you’re often lionized for it. You can be wrong for the right reasons. This may well prove to be Joel Embiid.
Letter of Resignation, Sam Hinkie
I want to have married a man who wanted to be in a body, who wanted to live in it so much that he marked it up like a book, underlining, highlighting, writing in the margins, I was here.
Indigo, Ellen Bass
She was the first “nice” girl he had ever known. In various unrevealed capacities he had come in contact with such people, but always with indiscernible barbed wire between. He found her excitingly desirable. He went to her house, at first with other officers from Camp Taylor, then alone. It amazed him — he had never been in such a beautiful house before, but what gave it an air of breathless intensity, was that Daisy lived there — it was as casual a thing to her as his tent out at camp was to him. There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms up-stairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors, and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor-cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered.
Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Make sure that by the time the fisherman returns you are gone.
Shake the Dust, Anis Mojgani
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
All labor has dignity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
So, I’ll pick up a book, put it down. Someone says, “How long did it take you to read that book?” And I’ll say, “Fifty-two years,” because I’ve been reading since I was three, and that’s the correct answer. People don’t get that. It took me 52 years to read that book. So I’m not a fast reader. I’m a very, very slow reader. You’re just mis-measuring the unit if you think I read something quickly.
Conversations with Tyler, Tyler Cowen
Laws aren't ghosts in this country, they walk around with the smell of earth on them.
Everybody who tells you how to act has whiskey on their breath.
The past was a vine hanging on by just these five tendrils and it tore away easily, leaving her clean and blue and blank.
He feels the truth: the thing that has left his life has left irrevocably; no search would recover it. No flight would reach it. It was here, beneath the town, in these smells and these voices, forever behind him. The fullness ends when we give Nature her ransom, when we make children for her. Then she is through with us, and we become, first inside, and then outside, junk.
Rabbit, Run, John Updike
This question—“Does it hold up?”—permeates our cultural discourse these days. I don’t say that judgmentally. It’s a question we ask ourselves and each other because we’re self-conscious. En route to a screening of When Harry Met Sally last Valentine’s Day, an old friend told me she thought the gender politics of the movie aged horribly. To watch it made her uncomfortable and sad. It didn’t hold up. I felt my cheeks flush with anger. Of course it didn’t hold up. It wasn’t made to hold up. It was made as it was, with care and concern and whip-smart jokes.
Hold Up, They Don't Love You Like I Love You, Fran Hoephner
Every time I'm in an airport, I think I should drastically change my life: Kill the kid stuff, start to act my numbers, set fire to the clutter and creep below the radar like an escaped canine sneaking along the fence line. I'd be cable-knitted to the hilt, beautiful beyond buying, believe in the maker and fix my problems with prayer and property. Then, I think of you, home with the dog, the field full of purple pop-ups-- we're small and flawed, but I want to be who I am, going where I'm going, all over again.
The Problem with Travel, Ada Limon
You don’t realize how much of your sense of self is bound up in how you use your time until you have a lot of it. An important part of myself had been propped up not on a title or a vocation but on a hundred quiet daily rites from which I was now an apostate: Slack chats, email exchanges, mid-afternoon coffees, bags of Haribo, glasses of warm vodka drunk after work at a friend’s desk
Milling Time, Max Read
"It’s not disillusion, sir. I see now, though I hadn’t considered the matter before, that there are two different ways of writing history: one is to persuade men to virtue and the other is to compel men to truth. The first is Livy’s way and the other is yours: and perhaps they are not irreconcilable."
I feel: the grass is sad everywhere, but at least we can kiss?
So Sad Today, Melissa Broder
Recently, a friend observed that watching this show, often enough, we do not laugh anymore. I supposed that was right, and we wondered why, agreeing that its humor had not diminished with age. “It’s like being with an old friend,” I ventured. “With whom you can be comfortable in silence.”
“No,” he said, making a face. It wasn’t like that at all.
“Well, what then?” I said. “It’s like something.”
“Yes,” he said. “Do you know what it’s like? It’s something like being home.”
What Nothing Means, Chris Pomorski
I find it helpful to think of algorithms as a dim-witted but extremely industrious graduate student, whom you don't fully trust. You want a concordance made? An index? You want them to go through ten million photos and find every picture of a horse? Perfect.
You want them to draw conclusions on gender based on word use patterns? Or infer social relationships from census data? Now you need some adult supervision in the room.
Like a lot of nerdy kids of my generation, I spent half adolescence at the library, or at home reading library books. Along with schoolbooks and crappy 90's TV, the Glenview Public Library was my window on the world.
I never reflected on why this unremarkable suburban library existed, who funded it, where its values had come from, or how long it would be around. It was as immutable a part of the world to me as Lake Michigan.
But it taught me that like everyone else, I had a right to learn and was welcome. That I could ask questions, and learn how to find my way to the answers. It taught me the importance of being quiet in public places.
My dream for the web is for it to feel like big city. A place where you rub elbows with people who are not like you. Somewhere a little bit scary, a little chaotic, full of everything you can imagine and a lot of things that you can't. A place where there’s room for chain stores, room for entertainment conglomerates, but also room for people to be themselves, to create their own spaces, and to learn from one another.
Deep Fried Data
The easiest response to all this, to the yelling and the lying and the pain, the natural response, is apathy. To lie down in a pastel heap of heavy blankets and sleep this whole thing away like Rip Van Winkle. But you remember what happens to Rip Van Winkle. He comes home to find his house in ruins. So we don't get to sleep. We have to fight to keep our eyes open, and we have to take small victories, and we have to stay engaged in making society function.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Kaleb Horton
Romance is a grotto of eager stones / anticipating light, or a girl whose teeth / you can always see.
And Then It Was Less Bleak Because We Said So, Wendy Xu
The abnormality of our time, that which makes it contrary to nature, is its deliberate and stated determination to make the working life of men & the product of their working hours mechanically perfect, and to relegate all the humanities, all that is of its nature humane, to their spare time, to the time when they are not at work.
Now the chief and, though we betray our personal predilection by saying so, the most monstrous characteristic of our time is that the methods of manufacture which we employ and of which we are proud are such as make it impossible for the ordinary workman to be an artist, that is to say a responsible workman, a man responsible not merely for doing what he is told but responsible also for the intellectual quality of what his deeds effect
An Essay on Typography, Eric Gill
Now, I / demand a love that is stupid and beautiful / like a pilot turning off her engines mid-flight / to listen for rain on wings.
Pavlov was the Son of a Priest, Paige Lewis
We know what we are, that we walk like we are not long for this world, that this world has never longed for us.
I did not know then that this is what life is - just when you master the geometry of one world, it slips away, and suddenly again, you're swarmed by strange shapes and impossible angles.
The Beautiful Struggle, Ta-Nehisi Coates
As a minority, no sooner do you learn to polish and cherish one chip on your shoulder than it’s taken off you and swapped for another. The jewellery of your struggles is forever on loan.
Typecast as a Terrorist, Riz Ahmed
Be patient, don't give up, and always be learning. You can turn even the most crappy situation into valuable lessons. Teach them to others. Be happy with what you have yet always strive to improve things. Don't let people flatter you into playing their games. When things get weird, keep a log. Love and respect good people. Learn to keep the assholes at a distance. Don't get hung-up on the past. Be nice to people, even those trying to hurt you. Speak up when things are bad, and tell the truth. Trust your emotions yet check where they come from. Don't be afraid of taking risks, and learn to identify and manage risks. Solve one problem at a time. Be generous. Teach others whenever you can. Remember Sturgeon's Law.
Confessions of a Necromancer, Pieter Hintjens
“What if the cat wants in when we’re gone?” he asks. There is no cat, like there is no raven, like there is no one-eyed dog. But she knows the right answer.
“You carved him a door.”
He knows the name of the moment to come, like the baby knew the name of the crow. To die is to simply remember how to die.
Meaning is like music; it catches and is carried. It returns. Refrains, phrases, the names of passing boats. Stuck in my head, it’s stuck in my head. The way stories fasten themselves to words, words fasten themselves to vulnerable rhythms, impressionable tunes. Ann is skilled in the archaeology of carried music. It holds on like fear, like love.
Idaho, Emily Ruskovich
This is about hope, sure, but not in the way that it is often packaged as an antithesis to that which is burning.
This is the difficult work: convincing a room full of people to set their sadness aside and, for a night, bring out whatever joy remains underneath—in a world where there is so much grief to be had, leading the people to water and letting them drink from your cupped hands.
First leave nothing to the imagination, and then leave everything to the imagination.
It is a luxury to see some violence as terror and other violence as necessary.
They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib
I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable—if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.
An ad that pretends to be art is—at absolute best—like somebody who smiles warmly at you only because he wants something from you. This is dishonest, but what’s sinister is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect facsimile or simulacrum of goodwill without goodwill’s real spirit, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defenses even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill. It makes us feel confused and lonely and impotent and angry and scared. It causes despair.
A Supposedly Fun Thing That I'll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace
War is conducted with a fury that requires abstraction—that turns a planeful of peaceful passengers, children included, into a missile the faceless enemy deserves.
Tuesday and After, John Updike
The stories Chance tells, they all suggest he understands his unique position, his purpose, and perhaps even his duty. But even if he’s seen and done a lot, all roads lead back home. It’s what Jeremih meant on “Summer Friends”: “Even when I change, a nigga never changed up / I always bring my friends, my friends, my friends, my friends up.” This album isn’t just the story of Chance, it’s the story of his people, a love letter to his neighborhood. He knows he’s blessed, so much so he said it twice. But he also knows he’s no more special than the people he grew up around; he simply is the one who lived to tell everyone’s story.
Listening to Chance's Mixtape About Home at Home, Rembert Browne
Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
Bird by Bird, Anne Larnott
I drove away from the house of Mable Jones thinking of all of this. I drove away, as always, thinking of you. I do not belive that we can stop them, Samori, because they must ultimately stop themselves. And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all. The Dream is the same habit that endangers the planet, the same habit that sees our bodies stowed away in prisons and ghettos. I saw these ghettos driving back from Dr. Jones’s home. They were the same ghettos I had seen in Chicago all those years ago, the same ghettos where my mother was raised, where my father was raised. Through the windshield I saw the marks of the ghettos—the abundance of beauty shops, churches, liquor stores, and crumbling houses—and I felt the old fear. Through the windshield I saw the rain coming down in sheets.
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
I think it's one of the most beautiful pieces of jazz ever composed. Listening to it is like watching snow through a window. The room is warm, something is roasting in the oven, and outside the flakes are falling faintly through the universe and upon the trees, the hedges, the rain gutters, the telephone poles, and the rooftops of a thousand apartment buildings in a very big city. This is where you want to be forever. This is Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here." It opens with a trembling bass, like someone coming out of the cold, stamping their feet, brushing the snow off their shoulders, hanging up their winter coat, rubbing and blowing on numb fingers, and entering the living room where there is a window for watching the flakes falling faintly upon all the buildings of the living.
The Unlikely Story of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charles Mudede
Many things which appear of little imp⟨ortance in⟩ themselves and at the beginning, may have ⟨great and⟩ durable consequences from their having be⟨en establis⟩hed at the commencement of a new general ⟨Govern⟩ment. It will be much easier to comme⟨nce the adm⟩inistration, upon a well adjusted system ⟨built on⟩ tenable grounds, than to correct errors or alter inconveniences after they shall have been confirmed by habit. The President in all matters of business & etiquette, can have no object but to demean himself in his public character, in such a manner as to maintain the dignity of Office, without subjecting himself to the imputation of superciliousness or unnecessary reserve. Under these impressions, he asks for your candid and undisguised opinions.
Letter to John Adams, George Washington
Early malaria cures included:
Tonic Water, Camper English
Nowadays, companies hang flat screen TVs hanging on the walls, all them running 24/7 to display a variety of charts. Most everyone ignores them. The spirit is right, to be transparent all the time, but the understanding of human nature is not. We ignore things that are shown to us all the time. However, if once a month, a huge packet of charts dropped on your desk, with a cover letter summarizing the results, and if the CEO and your peers received the same package the same day, and that piece of work included charts on how your part of the business was running, you damn well paid attention, like any person turning to the index of a book on their company to see if they were mentioned. Ritual matters.
A good line graph is a fusion of right and left brain, of literacy and numeracy. Just numbers alone aren't enough to explain the truth, but accurate numbers, represented truthfully, are a check on our anecdotal excesses, confirmation biases, tribal affiliations.
Remove the Legend to Become One, Eugene Wei
But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it.
We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain—not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
The Historical Point of View, put briefly, means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true. He asks who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books, and what phase in the writer’s development, or in the general history of thought, it illustrates, and how it affected later writers, and how often it has been misunderstood (specially by the learned man’s own colleagues) and what the general course of criticism on it has been for the last ten years, and what is the ‘present state of the question’. To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledge—to anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or your behaviour—this would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded.
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
If she asks you, you will tell her what you know. You do not lie. But do not say he was murdered or he was killed. Yes, I know that he was, but that is not what you say. You say that he died; that is the part that you saw and that you know. When she asks if he felt any pain, you must be very careful. If he did not, you assure her quickly. If he did, you do not lie. But his pain is over now. Do not ever say he was lucky that he did not feel pain. He was not lucky. She is not lucky. Don’t make that face. The depth of the stupidity of the things you will say sometimes is unimaginable.
How To Tell A Mother Than Her Child Is Dead, Naomi Rosenberg
Pale Fire is a Jack-in-the-box, a Faberge gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem, an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game, a do-it-yourself novel. It consists of a 999-line poem of four cantos in heroic couplets together with an editor's preface, notes, index, and proof-corrections. When the separate parts are assembled, according to the manufacturer's directions, and fitted together with the help of clues and cross-references, which must be hunted down as in a paper-chase, a novel on several levels is revealed, and these "levels" are not the customary "levels of meaning" of modernist criticism but planes in a fictive space, rather like those houses of memory in medieval mnemonic science, where words, facts, and numbers were stored till wanted in various rooms and attics, or like the Houses of astrology into which the heavens are divided.
Bolt from the Blue, Mary McCarthy
We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing. We take it for granted so simply that in a sense, by the very act of brutish routine acceptance, we undo the work of the ages, the history of the gradual elaboration of poetical description and construction, from the treeman to Browning, from the caveman to Keats. What if we awake one day, all of us, and find ourselves utterly unable to read? I wish you to gasp not only at what you read but at the miracle of its being readable (so I used to tell my students).
Zembla, a distant northern land.
Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
I asked her whether she would mind telling me about the incident, and her face took on a look of alarm. She put her hands to her throat, where two blue veins stood out.
‘Bloke jumped out of a bush,’ she squawked. ‘Tried to strangle me.’
She hoped I would understand, she added, but despite what she’d said earlier she was in fact trying not to talk about it any more. She was trying her very best to sum it up. Let’s just say that drama became something real to me that day, she said. It ceased to be theoretical, was no longer an internal structure in which she could hide and look out at the world. In a sense, her work had jumped out of a bush and attacked her.
Outline, Rachel Cusk
Language is what eases the pain of living with other people, language is what makes the wounds come open again. I have heard that anthropologists prize those moments when a word or bit of language opens like a keyhole into another person, a whole alien world roars past in some unarranged phrase. You remember Proust so appalled when Albertine lets fall “get her pot broken.” Or you hear a Berliner say “squat town”—and suddenly see sunset, winter, lovers cooking eggs in a grimy kitchen with the windows steaming up, river runs coldly by, little cats go clicking over the snow. You can fill your district notebook with these jottings, exciting as the unwary use of a kinship term.
Plainwater, Anne Carson
The men stood and watched the spectacle, eyes bright. When the geese had all departed, they saw the reason they had left; a herd of giant deer had come to the lake to drink. The stags had huge racks of antlers. They stared across the water at the men, vigilant but undeterred. For a moment, all was still. In the end the giant deer stepped away. Reality awoke again. “All sentient beings,” said I-Chin, who had been muttering his Buddhist sutras all along. Kheim normally had no time for such claptrap, but now, as the day continued, and they hiked over the hills on their hunt, seeing great numbers of peaceful beaver, quail, rabbits, foxes, seagulls and crows, ordinary deer, a bear and two cubs, a slinky long-tailed gray hunting creature, like a fox crossed with a squirrel—on and on—simply a whole country of animals, living together under a silent blue sky—nothing disturbed, the land flourishing on its own, the people there just a small part of it—Kheim began to feel odd. He realized that he had taken China for reality itself. Taiwan and the Mindanaos and the other islands he had seen were like scraps of land, leftovers; China had seemed to him the world. And China meant people. Built up, cultivated, parceled off ha by ha, it was so completely a human world that Kheim had never considered that there might once have been a natural world different to it. But here was natural land, right before his eyes, full as could be with animals of every kind, and obviously very much bigger than Taiwan; bigger than China; bigger than the world he had known before. “Where on Earth are we?” he said to I-Chin. I-Chin said, “We have found the source of the peach-blossom stream.”
The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson
The Soviets set out to find evidence that did not exist and, when they failed to find it, assumed this must be proof of how well that evidence had been hidden.
A Spy Among Friends, Ben Macintyre and John le Carré
What can you expect from a pyre but a pyre?
When My Brother Was an Aztec, Natalie Diaz
And though your joined personal histories are supposed to save you from misunderstandings, they usually cause you to understand all too well what is meant.
Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine
As a writer, I have mistaken how to use words. I write too much. I write like some people talk to fill silence. When I write, I am trying through the movement of my fingers to reach my head. I’m trying to build a word ladder up to my brain. Eventually these words help me come to an idea, and then I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite what I’d already written (when I had no idea what I was writing about) until the path of thinking, in retrospect, feels immediate. What’s on the page appears to have busted out of my head and traveled down my arms and through my fingers and my keyboard and coalesced on the screen. But it didn’t happen like that; it never happens like that.
The Folded Clock: A Diary, Heidi Julavitz
With great and solemn portent, my teacher announced she would tell us something that her teacher had told her, and that her teacher’s teacher had told him, and so on, back to Yeats: The thing to remember is that no one ever finds out that you don’t know what you’re doing.
300 Arguments, Sarah Manguso
Please do not misunderstand. We had been mothers, fathers. Had been husbands of many years, men of import, who had come here, that first day, accompanied by crowds so vast and sorrowful that, surging forward to hear the oration, they had damaged fences beyond repair. Had been young wives, diverted here during childbirth, our gentle qualities stripped from us by the naked pain of that circumstance, who left behind husbands so enamored of us, so tormented by the horror of those last moments (the notion that we had gone down that awful black hole pain-sundered from ourselves) that they had never loved again. Had been bulky men, quietly content, who, in our first youth, had come to grasp our own unremarkableness and had, cheerfully (as if bemusedly accepting a heavy burden), shifted our life’s focus; if we would not be great, we would be useful; would be rich, and kind, and thereby able to effect good: smiling, hands in pockets, watching the world we had subtly improved walking past (this empty dowry filled; that education secretly funded). Had been affable, joking servants, of whom our masters had grown fond for the cheering words we managed as they launched forth on days full of import. Had been grandmothers, tolerant and frank, recipients of certain dark secrets,who, by the quality of their unjudging listening, granted tacit forgiveness, and thus let in the sun. What I mean to say is, we had been considerable. Had been loved. Not lonely, not lost, not freakish, but wise, each in his or her own way. Our departures caused pain. Those who had loved us sat upon their beds, heads in hand; lowered their faces to tabletops, making animal noises. We had been loved, I say, and remembering us, even many years later, people would smile, briefly gladdened at the memory.
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders.
It smelled of coffee—of the striving toward consciousness.
The Idiot, Elf Batuman
“Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.
Adam said, “Do you believe that, Lee?”
“Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?”
Adam said, “Do you mean these Chinese men believe the Old Testament?”
Lee said, “These old men believe a true story, and they know a true story when they hear it. They are critics of truth. They know that these sixteen verses are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race. They do not believe a man writes fifteen and three-quarter verses of truth and tells a lie with one verb. Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this—this is a ladder to climb to the stars.” Lee’s eyes shone. “You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness.”
Adam said, “I don’t see how you could cook and raise the boys and take care of me and still do all this.”
“Neither do I,” said Lee. “But I take my two pipes in the afternoon, no more and no less, like the elders. And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed— because ‘Thou mayest.’”
East of Eden, John Stenbeck
We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.
Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
The willow branches swayed in the early-summer breeze. In a small dark room, somewhere inside Kino, a warm hand was reaching out to him. Eyes shut, he felt that hand on his, soft and substantial. He’d forgotten this, had been apart from it for far too long. Yes, I am hurt. Very, very deeply. He said this to himself. And he wept.
All the while the rain did not let up, drenching the world in a cold chill.
Kino, Haruki Murakami
Do not wander. We are all apportioned a certain measure of stillness.
Bestiary: Poems, Donika Kelly
And suddenly his soul was filled with joy, and for a moment he had to pause to recover his breath. “The past,” he thought, “is linked to the present by an unbroken chain of events all flowing from one to the other.” And it seemed to him that he had just seen both ends of the chain, and when he touched one end the other trembled.
You found yourself breathing deeply, and you imagined that somewhere else, somewhere beneath the sky and above the treetops, somewhere in the open fields and the forests far from the town—somewhere there the spring was burgeoning with its own mysterious and beautiful life, full of riches and holiness, beyond the comprehension of weak, sinful man.
And for some reason you found yourself wanting to cry.
Forty Stories, Anton Chekhov
I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.
But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. “Love is not consolation,” she wrote. “It is light.”
All right then, let me try to rephrase. When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light.”
Bluets, Maggie Nelson
This is another way in which he is an admirable person. If he notices something is broken, he will try to fix it. He won’t just think about how unbearable it is that things keep breaking, that you can never fucking outrun entropy.
But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be.
Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill
The body was made soft / to keep us / from loneliness. / You said that / as if the car were filling / with river water.
Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn. / Say autumn despite the green / in your eyes. Beauty despite / daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn / mounting in your throat. / My thrashing beneath you / like a sparrow stunned / with falling.
Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong
If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
The only proof he needed of the existence of God was music.
The wonderful writer Albert Murray, who is a jazz historian among other things, told me that, during the era of slavery in this country, an atrocity from which we can never fully recover, the suicide rate per capita among slave owners was much higher than the suicide rate among slaves. Al Murray says he thinks this was because slaves had a way of dealing with depression, which their white owners did not. They could play the blues.
He says something else which also sounds right to me. He says the blues can’t drive depression clear out of a house, but they can drive it into the corners of any room where they are being played.
Graduation Speech, Kurt Vonnegut
All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who's over me? Truth hath no confines.
The whole he can endure; at the parts he baulks.
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.
This is Water, David Foster Wallace
7 A.M. first frost, the nurse who works all night / walks home, feet splayed gingerly in two directions. / Last night the old man who sells papers by day and flowers by night / sold us roses, five for a dollar. And the world / sways a little on its stem at how people have to shuffle / to survive.
The History of Roses, Jim Moore
Her head is turned sharply to the left, her line of sight passing right over the woman's bowed head in the direction of some unseen source of light—I always thought it was a window, but who's to say it's not a mirror? I see that now. Face beaming or reflecting from the depths of resignation, with a small exhausted smile of utmost sweetness, an unmistakable expression of gladness toward the outer world, the sight of things exactly as they are, and expressing the sum of all knowledge regarding that world: it is still there. I gaze at her as in a mirror. This world was here before me, is now here, and will be when I am not. There is no sadness in my face, not my true face. My blanket is green, with here and there patches of brown showing through. So the grave has come into the bedroom. I am sitting up in my grave, I knew it. It comes right up to my waist; but it is not covering my face. It is still very far from covering my face.
The Window, Franz Wright
In my version of you there is winter with a perfect hiding place. I don't see any obvious rules to a river. I'm watching seagulls dizzy themselves over half a bagel thrown in the parking lot. I'm always embarassed to say I think it's beautiful. Or hoping it is. Other birds, the more sophisticated ones, form a circle in the back of the buildings. I can't say what they are doing or what I am doing. I am looking for someone to say I know better than this, instead unexpected wind gets blown apart against its own trophy speed. In every field I walk in, is a bigger field I've been.
Fire Sign, Katherine Osborne
Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels, and even then it’s only possible because someone senior to you — most likely your manager — has been putting in long hours to build up the social structures in your group that let you focus on code.
So, about this Googler's manifesto, Yonatan Zunger
A flower is beauty. But it's just a beauty flower - nothing more. There is nothing special around it. You are a human who can program. Maybe you are good. There is nothing special around you. You are of the same kind as I am or all the others on this planet. You need to go in the loo and you need to eat. Of course you need to sleep. After (hopefully) a long time you will die and everything you have created will be lost. Even pyramids get lost, after a long time. Do you know the names of the people who build up a pyramid? And if you do, is it important that you know? It's not. Pyramids are there, or not. Nothing special.
The ten rules of a zen programmer
It’s too easy to continue doing what we’ve always done. I want to question all the constants in my programming career. The things that are already status quo are don’t need cheerleading: they’re already winning. But the weird ideas, the undersung ones, those are the ones we should be championing.
Mythology, Khan Lou
I unapologetically think a bias in favor of boring technology is a good thing, but it's not the only factor that needs to be considered. Technology choices don't happen in isolation. They have a scope that touches your entire team, organization, and the system that emerges from the sum total of your choices.
Choose Boring Technology, Dan McKinley