Zeno’s Conscience: quotes (13)

Weeping obscures our guilt and allows us to accuse fate, without contradiction. I wept because I was losing the father for whom I had always lived. No matter that I had given him scant company. Hadn’t my efforts to become a better man been aimed at affording him some satisfaction? The success I yearned for was to be my boast to him, who had always doubted me, but primarily it would be his consolation. And now, on the contrary, he could no longer wait for me and was going off, convinced of my incurable weakness. My tears were very bitter.


The Moviegoer: quotes (15)

Being a creature of habit, as regular as a monk, and taking pleasure in the homeliest repetitions, I listen every night at ten to a program called This I Believe. Monks have their compline, I have This I Believe. On the program hundreds of the highest minded people in our country, thoughtful and intelligent people, people with mature inquiring minds, state their personal credos. The two or three hundred I have heard so far were without exception admirable people. I doubt if any other country or any other time in history has produced such thoughtful and high-minded people, especially the women. And especially the South. I do believe the South has produced more high-minded women, women of universal sentiments, than any other section of the country except possibly New England in the last century. Of my six living aunts, five are women of the loftiest theosophical panBrahman sentiments. The sixth is still a Presbyterian.

If I had to name a single trait that all these people shared, it is their niceness. Their lives are triumphs of niceness. They like everyone with the warmest and most generous feelings. And as for themselves: it would be impossible for even a dour person not to like them.

Tonight’s subject is a playwright who transmits this very quality of niceness in his plays. He begins:

I believe in people. I believe in tolerance and understanding between people. I believe in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual—

Everyone on This I Believe believes in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual. I have noticed, however, that the believers are far from unique themselves, are in fact alike as peas in a pod.

I believe in music. I believe in a child’s smile. I believe in love. I also believe in hate.

This is true. I have known a couple of these believers, humanists and lady psychologists who come to my aunt’s house. On This I Believe they like everyone. But when it comes down to this or that particular person, I have noticed that they usually hate his guts.

I did not always enjoy This I Believe. While I was living at my aunt’s house, I was overtaken by a fit of perversity. But instead of writing a letter to an editor, as was my custom, I recorded a tape which I submitted to Mr Edward R. Murrow. “Here are the beliefs of John Bickerson Bolling, a moviegoer living in New Orleans,” it began, and ended, “I believe in a good kick in the ass. This—I believe.” I soon regretted it, however, as what my grandfather would have called “a smart-alecky stunt” and I was relieved when the tape was returned. I have listened faithfully to This I Believe ever since.

I believe in freedom, the sacredness of the individual and the brotherhood of man—concludes the playwright.

I believe in believing. This—I believe.


Yukio Mishima: The Death of a Man

This photo-essay by photographer Kishin Shinoyama is the first of what I anticipate will be a flurry of publications marking, come November, fifty years since Mishima’s death.


A Confederacy of Dunces: quotes (14)

“You realize, of course, that this is all your fault. The progress of my work will be greatly delayed. I suggest that you go to your confessor and make some penance, Mother. Promise him that you will avoid the path of sin and drinking in the future. Tell him what the consequence of your moral failure has been. Let him know that you have delayed the completion of a monumental indictment against our society. Perhaps he will comprehend the magnitude of your failing. If he is my type of priest, the penance will no doubt be rather strict. However, I have learned to expect little from today’s clergyman.”

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The Death of Liberalism? An Interview With Nicholas Capaldi

Zbigniew Janowski interviews Nick about his latest book (and chats about much more besides.


Zeno’s Conscience: quotes (12)

And left alone (this, too, was strange) I didn’t think about my father’s health, but instead, moved and – I may say – filled with proper filial respect, I regretted that for such a mind, aspiring to lofty goals, a finer education had not been possible. Today, as I write, approaching the age reached by my father, I know for certain that a man can feel the existence of his own lofty intelligence, which gives no other sign of itself beyond that strong feeling. Thus, you take a deep breath, you accept yourself and you admire all nature as it is and as, unchanging, it is offered to us. This is a manifestation of the same intelligence that decreed all Creation. Certainly, in the last lucid moment of his life, my father’s feeling of intelligence originated in his sudden religious inspiration, and in fact he was led to speak to me about it because I had told him of my discussion of the origins of Christianity. Now, however, I know also that this feeling of his was the first symptom of a cerebral hemorrhage.


The Moviegoer: quotes (14)

FOR SOME TIME NOW the impression has been growing upon me that everyone is dead.

It happens when I speak to people. In the middle of a sentence it will come over me: yes, beyond a doubt this is death. There is little to do but groan and make an excuse and slip away as quickly as one can. At such times it seems that the conversation is spoken by automatons who have no choice in what they say. I hear myself or someone else saying things like: “In my opinion the Russian people are a great people, but—” or “Yes, what you say about the hypocrisy of the North is unquestionably true. However—” and I think to myself: this is death. Lately it is all I can do to carry on such everyday conversations, because my cheek has developed a tendency to twitch of its own accord. Wednesday as I stood speaking to Eddie Lovell, I felt my eye closing in a broad wink.

After the lunch conference I run into my cousin Nell Lovell on the steps of the library—where I go occasionally to read liberal and conservative periodicals. Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world which is upside-down: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive.

Down I plunk myself with a liberal weekly at one of the massive tables, read it from cover to cover, nodding to myself whenever the writer scores a point. Damn right, old son, I say, jerking my chair in approval. Pour it on them. Then up and over to the rack for a conservative monthly and down in a fresh cool chair to join the counter-attack. Oh ho, say I, and hold fast to the chair arm: that one did it: eviscerated! And then out and away into the sunlight, my neck prickling with satisfaction.

Nell Lovell, I was saying, spotted me and over she comes brandishing a book. It seems she has just finished reading a celebrated novel which, I understand, takes a somewhat gloomy and pessimistic view of things. She is angry.

“I don’t feel a bit gloomy!” she cries. “Now that Mark and Lance have grown up and flown the coop, I am having the time of my life. I’m taking philosophy courses in the morning and working nights at Le Petit Theatre. Eddie and I have re-examined our values and found them pretty darn enduring. To our utter amazement we discovered that we both have the same life-goal. Do you know what it is?”


“To make a contribution, however small, and leave the world just a little better off.”

“That’s very good,” I say somewhat uneasily and shift about on the library steps. I can talk to Nell as long as I don’t look at her. Looking into her eyes is an embarrassment.

“—we gave the television to the kids and last night we turned on the hi-fi and sat by the fire and read The Prophet aloud. I don’t find life gloomy!” she cries. “To me, books and people and things are endlessly fascinating. Don’t you think so?”

“Yes.” A rumble has commenced in my descending bowel, heralding a tremendous defecation.Nell goes on talking and there is nothing to do but shift around as best one can, take care not to fart, and watch her in a general sort of way: a forty-year-old woman with a good open American face and another forty years left in her; and eager, above all, eager, with that plaintive lost eagerness American college women get at a certain age. I get to thinking about her and old Eddie re-examining their values.

“Yes, true. Values. Very good. And then I can’t help wondering to myself: why does she talk as if she were dead? Another forty years to go and dead, dead, dead.

“How is Kate?” Nell asks.

I jump and think hard, trying to escape death. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know.”

“I am so devoted to her! What a grand person she is.”

“I am too. She is.”

“Come see us, Binx!”

“I will!”

We part laughing and dead.


A Confederacy of Dunces: quotes (13)

“I also told the students that, for the sake of humanity’s future, I hoped that they were all sterile. I could never have possibly read over the illiteracies and misconceptions burbling from the dark minds of these students. It will be the same wherever I work.”

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