Say Yeah

Ernst Halberstadt, “Ice Skating in the Public Garden” (detail) (1973)

“Are you going to stay in town long?” asked Kitty.

“I don’t know,” he answered, not thinking of what he was saying.

The thought that if he were held in check by her tone of quiet friendliness he would end by going back again without deciding anything came into his mind, and he resolved to rebel against it.

“How is it you don’t know?”

“I don’t know why. It depends on you,” he said, and instantly he was horrified at his own words.

She either did not understand his words, or did not want to understand them, for, seeming to stumble once or twice, catching her foot, she hurriedly skated away from him. She skated up to Mlle. Linon, said something to her, and went towards the pavilion where the ladies took off their skates.

— Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Utopia – “Say Yeah”

Sure (Ulysses)

David Falconer, “One Family of Four Moved Into the Attic of Their Home…” (1973)

I was happier then. Or was that I? Or am I now I?
Twentyeight I was. She twentythree.
When we left Lombard street west something changed.
Could never like it again after Rudy.
Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand.
Would you go back to then? Just beginning then. Would you?

—James Joyce, Ulysses

Hatchie — “Sure”

Call me Ishmael.

photograph by Mark Jefferson Paraan via Unsplash

Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part.

— Melville, Moby Dick

Electric Light Orchestra – “Last Train To London”

Straight Ahead

Photograph by Easton Oliver via Unsplash

His railings and outbursts expressed not the conviction of failure but the passion for success. They touched off his disappointment, his injured self-esteem, his wounded pride, without ultimately concealing his determination to persevere — his finally unshakeable will to achieve. The strain of remonstrative self-pity and pessimism in Conrad was an overlay to the iron in him.

—Leo Gurko, “Joseph Conrad: Giant in Exile”

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

—Emerson, Self Reliance
 

Aerosmith – “Make It” (2007)

More Light

Tom Hubbard, “…Sale of Donated Books…” (1973)

For me that white figure in the stillness of coast and sea seemed to stand at the heart of a vast enigma. The twilight was ebbing fast from the sky above his head, the strip of sand had sunk already under his feet, he himself appeared no bigger than a child — then only a speck, a tiny white speck, that seemed to catch all the light left in a darkened world. . . . And, suddenly, I lost him. . . .

—Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

“More Light” – Utopia

CHAPTER 2

cf. video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay

The remote power of that voice, those old eyes full of tears, that noble and ruined face, had affected her extraordinarily she said. But perhaps what affected her was the shadow, the still living shadow of a great passion in the man’s heart.

Allegre remarked to her calmly: “He has been a little mad all his life.”

—Joseph Conrad, The Arrow of Gold

The Rubinoos – “The Girl”

CHAPTER I: Arrival

cf. John Adams Whipple, “Cornelius Conway Felton with His Hat and Coat” (detail) (ca. 1850) and
video by Activedia via Pixabay

An unassuming young man was travelling, in midsummer, from his native city of Hamburg to Davos-Platz in the Canton of the Grisons, on a three weeks’ visit.

From Hamburg to Davos is a long journey — too long, indeed, for so brief a stay…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 

“Point Of Know Return” by Kansas

I’m out here in the meadow

TV Commercial

All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a moment, exclaimed, “Sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself! Welcome home again, old neighbor—Why, where have you been these twenty long years?”

—Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle

“Meadows” – Joe Walsh

Loomings

LSE Library, “Student in the library, 1981”

CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick
 

“Keep Your Head Up” by Ben Howard

Livin’ It Up

Photograph by Paul Trienekens via Unsplash

“My sister is in the country. I have a house all to myself, wear no clothes, take 10 big baths a day, & dine on lemonade and ice-cream…”

—Letter from Henry James to his London publisher quoted in Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography

“Livin’ It Up (Friday Night)” – Bell And James

“There’s the thrush again…”

LIFE, 1965

…as he lay trying desperately to put poetry, ambition, and Fanny Brawne out of his mind, suddenly an early thrush had appeared…

Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats

“More Than a Feeling” – Boston

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Jack E. Boucher, “Visitors Enjoy The View From Clingman Dome Parking Area…” (1959)

…although it had been his grandfather’s and then his father’s and uncle’s and was now his cousin’s and someday would be his own land which he and Sam hunted over, their hold upon it actually was as trivial and without reality as the now faded and archaic script in the chancery book in Jefferson which allocated it to them…

— William Faulkner, The Old People
 

“Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell

Dream Sequence

U.S. National Archives, “St. Valentine’s Day Hop…” (detail) (1975)

“You’re wearing a new dress,” he said, as an excuse for gazing at her. And now he heard her answer.

“New? You are conversant with my wardrobe?”

“I am right, am I not?”

“Yes. I recently had it made here, by Lukaek, the tailor in the village. He does work for many of the ladies up here. Do you like it?”

“Very much,” he said, letting his gaze pass over her again before casting his eyes down. “Do you want to dance?” he added.

“Would you like to?” she asked, her brows raised in surprise, but still with a smile…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 

“Do You Want To Dance” by Bette Midler

Panic Station

cf. photograph by Andy Beales via Unsplash (edited)

It was very early in the morning, the streets were clean and deserted, I was on my way to the train station. When I compared the time on a clock tower with that on my pocket watch and realized that it was already much later than I thought, I really had to rush, the shock at this discovery made me suddenly uncertain as to the right direction, I didn’t yet know my way all that well in this city…

— Franz Kafka, “Give It Up!”

Through The Fire

I go on my way to-night, If I can; if not, to-morrow; emigrant train ten to fourteen days’ journey; warranted extreme discomfort…
I have been steadily drenched for twenty-four hours; water-proof wet through; immortal spirit fitfully blinking up in spite…
I am not beaten yet, though disappointed. If I am, it’s for good this time; you know what “for good” means in my vocabulary— something inside of 12 months perhaps; but who knows? At least, if I fail in my great purpose, I shall see some wild life in the West and visit both Florida and Labrador ere I return. But I don’t yet know if I have the courage to stick to life without it. Man, I was sick, sick, sick of this last year.

—Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin (on board s.s. “Devonia,” an hour or two out of New York, August, 1879)
 

“Through The Fire” by Chaka Khan

Charlotte’s Web

Wil Blanche, “In Battery Park, on the Lower Tip of Manhattan Island” (1973)

Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte.
I’m just about average for a pig.”

“You’re terrific as far as I’m concerned,” replied
Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts. You’re my
best friend, and I think you’re sensational. Now stop
arguing and go get some sleep!”

—E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“How would it be…if you were to pack your things tonight and be on your way with one of the scheduled express trains tomorrow morning?”

Cincinnati Magazine, 1977

“…In your twenty-fourth year, you say? Hmm … please permit me one more question, or if you will, a modest suggestion. Since your stay here appears not to be good for you — neither physically nor, if I am not mistaken, mentally — how would it be, if you were to forgo the pleasure of growing older here, in short, if you were to pack your things tonight and be on your way with one of the scheduled express trains tomorrow morning?”

“You mean I should leave?” Hans Castorp asked. “When I’ve only just arrived? But no, how can I possibly decide about that after only one day?”

And as he said it, quite by chance he caught a glimpse of Frau Chauchat in the next room…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

The White Carnelian

cf. piano photograph by Free-Photos via Pixabay

Frequently he held in his hand a little present that Fanny Brawne had given him — a small, oval, white carnelian. It was the only tangible thing left to remind him of their engagement; for he would still not have her letters opened. Words struck home to him too powerfully.

—Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats
 

Elton John – “Love Lies Bleeding”

I know I need a small vacation but it don’t look like rain.

David Falconer, “Reading and Studying by Kerosene Lamps…” (1973)

The gaslight shone yellow through the frosted transom above the door of Number 31. Gordon took out his key and fished about in the keyhole — in that kind of house the key never quite fits the lock. The darkish little hallway — in reality it was only a passage — smelt of dishwater, cabbage, rag mats, and bedroom slops. Gordon glanced at the japanned tray on the hall-stand. No letters, of course. He had told himself not to hope for a letter, and nevertheless had continued to hope. A stale feeling, not quite a pain, settled upon his breast. Rosemary might have written! It was four days now since she had written…

—George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying

The Cocktail Party

cf. LIFE, 1964

UNIDENTIFIED GUEST: Your wife has left you?

EDWARD: Without warning, of course;
Just when she’d arranged a cocktail party.
She’d gone when I came in, this afternoon.
She left a note to say that she was leaving me;
But I don’t know where she’s gone…

—T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

Washington Square

cf. Corson Hirschfeld, “Sporting Life” (Cincinnati Magazine, 1977)

Morris looked vaguely round him, and gave a deep sigh. “Well, I was in hopes that we might still have been friends.”

“I meant to tell you, by my aunt, in answer to your message — if you had waited for an answer — that it was unnecessary for you to come in that hope.”

—Henry James, Washington Square

Chapter 9

cf. Art Hanson, “Student at Work at Senior High School…” (ca. 1975)

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock…

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Chapter 4

cf. photograph by Josh Felise via Unsplash

When I came opposite her house that morning her white roadster was beside the curb, and she was sitting in it with a lieutenant I had never seen before. They were so engrossed in each other that she didn’t see me until I was five feet away…

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Chapter 6 (Continued)

cf. photograph by Peter Mason via Unsplash

What was it up there in the song that seemed to be calling her back inside? What would happen now in the dim, incalculable hours?

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
 

“Because The Night” – Patti Smith

Chapter 8 (Continued)

cf. Television Commercial

“You weren’t so nice to me last night.”

“How could it have mattered then?”

Silence for a moment. Then:

“However — I want to see you.”

“I want to see you, too.”

“Suppose I don’t go to Southampton, and come into town this afternoon?”

“No — I don’t think this afternoon.”

“Very well.”

“It’s impossible this afternoon. Various ——”

We talked like that for a while, and then abruptly we weren’t talking any longer. I don’t know which of us hung up with a sharp click, but I know I didn’t care. I couldn’t have talked to her across a tea-table that day if I never talked to her again in this world.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

Lyntha Scott Eiler, “Motorist Gets in Line for the Safety Lane at an Auto Emission Inspection Station…” (1975)

And so this storyteller will not be finished telling our Han’s story in only a moment or two. The seven days in one week will not suffice, nor will seven months. It will be best for him if he is not all too clear about the number of earthly days that will pass as the tale weaves its web about him. For God’s sake, surely it cannot be as long as seven years!

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Chapter 8

Polaroid photograph by Andrei Tarkovsky

It was dawn now on Long Island and we went about opening the rest of the windows down-stairs, filling the house with gray-turning, gold-turning light. The shadow of a tree fell abruptly across the dew and ghostly birds began to sing among the blue leaves. There was a slow, pleasant movement in the air, scarcely a wind, promising a cool, lovely day.

“I don’t think she ever loved him.” Gatsby turned around from a window and looked at me challengingly.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“It was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person…”

LIFE, 1969

…some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away…it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“You are a silly philosopher, Hans Castorp,” she said…

Photograph by Tom Eversley via Unsplash

After all, I did not really wait in vain, because you are here again, we are sitting next to one another just as then, I can hear the wonderful edge to your voice, so familiar to my ear for a very long time; and under that billowing silk are arms that I know well…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

“I refute it THUS.”

cf. Paul Stang, “Group portrait at Lushågen” (ca. 1910)

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, “I refute it THUS.”

Boswell’s Life Of Johnson

Save It For A Rainy Day

cf. “Stencil” (Japan, 19th century)

“It’s stopped raining.”

“Has it?” When he realized what I was talking about, that there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weather man, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light, and repeated the news to Daisy. “What do you think of that? It’s stopped raining.”

“I’m glad, Jay.” Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Lastly, dance records were put in…”

LIFE, 1972

Lastly, dance records were put in. There were specimens of the new imported dance, the tango, calculated to make a Viennese waltz sound sedate and grandfatherly by contrast. Two couples displayed the fashionable steps. Behrens having by now withdrawn, with the admonition that a needle should be used no more than once, and the whole instrument handled “as though it were made of eggs.” Hans Castorp took his place as operator…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 

Indeep – “Last Night A Dj Saved My Life”

The Magic Mountain

Time, they say, is water from the river Lethe…

How long had Joachim actually lived up here with him, whether measured until his wild departure or taken as a whole? What had been the date on the calendar of his first defiant departure? How long had he been gone, when had he returned, and how long had Hans Castorp himself been here when he did return and then took leave of time? How long, to set Joachim aside for now, had Frau Chauchat not been present? How long, purely in terms of years, was it now since she was back again (because she was back again); and how much earthly time had Hans Castorp spent at the Berghof until the day she came back? In response to all such questions—assuming someone had posed them to him, which, however, no one did, not even he to himself, for he was probably afraid of posing them—Hans Castorp would have drummed his fingertips on his brow and most assuredly known no definite answer: a phenomenon no less disquieting than the temporary inability to tell Herr Settembrini his own age on his first evening here; indeed, it represented a worsening of that incapacity, for he now seriously no longer knew at any time just how old he was…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 


Flip Schulke, “Youths Congregate Around the Front Steps of a Home…” (ca. 1975);
Patricia D. Duncan, “…Schoolhouse…” (1974);
David Rees, “Students Arriving by School bus at Senior High School…” (1974);
William Strode, “The Ohio River” (1972)

“The other was an earthenware pot, coarse and common, but which had preserved all its water, and its flowers remained fresh and crimson…”

Esther Bubley, “…talking with some friends near her locker…” (1943)

Sometimes, in the evening, she heard a voice, concealed beneath the wind screen of the bell tower, singing a sad, strange song, as though to lull her to sleep. The lines were unrhymed, such as a deaf person can make.

“Look not at the face, young girl, look at the heart.
The heart of a handsome young man is often deformed.
There are hearts in which love does not keep.
Young girl, the pine is not beautiful; it is not beautiful like the poplar, but it keeps its foliage in winter…”

One morning, on awaking, she saw on her window two vases filled with flowers. One was a very beautiful and very brilliant but cracked vase of glass. It had allowed the water with which it had been filled to escape, and the flowers which it contained were withered. The other was an earthenware pot, coarse and common, but which had preserved all its water, and its flowers remained fresh and crimson…

—Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

“That was the end of Zoya. She couldn’t forgive the hiccups.”

Madeleine Jeanne Lemaire, “A Gallant Suitor And His Beautiful Lady”

“Why don’t you drink some water,” Zoya counseled.

I walked up and down beside the sofa. I pressed my finger to my throat. Again, I hiccuped. Ma Chère, I was in a terrible bind! Zoya got up and went to the box. I followed. I opened the door to the box for her, hiccuped, and ran to the bar. I drank five glasses of water. The hiccups seemed to have settled down. I smoked a cigarette and headed for the box. Zoya’s brother stood and offered me his seat, a seat beside my Zoya. I sat down and immediately I hiccuped. Five minutes passed, but then I hiccuped again—a strange wheezy hiccup. I got up and went to stand by the door of the box. It is better, ma chère, to hiccup by the door rather than into the ear of a woman one loves! I hiccuped. The schoolboy in the neighboring box looked at me and laughed loudly…Cursing the impertinent schoolboy, I hiccuped again. Laughter came from the neighboring boxes.

“Encore!” hissed the schoolboy.

“What the hell is going on!” Colonel Pepsinov muttered in my ear. “You could have stayed home to hiccup, sir!”

Zoya blushed. Once again I hiccuped, and then I ran out of the box, my fists fiercely clenched. I paced up and down the hallway. I paced, and paced, and paced—and I hiccuped. The things I ate and drank to make the hiccups go away! At the beginning of the fourth act, I called it quits. I went home…

The next evening, I went to dine with the Pepsinovs, as was my habit. Zoya didn’t come down to dinner. She sent a message that she couldn’t see me. She was ill. Colonel Pepsinov gave a long speech about how certain young men do not know how to behave in public…

“Would you have given your daughter, if you had one,” Pepsinov said to me after dinner, “to a man who permits himself to engage in public belching? Well, sir?”

“I would,” I muttered.

“Then you’d be making a mistake, sir!”

That was the end of Zoya. She couldn’t forgive the hiccups. I was done for.

—Anton Chekhov, “A Confession Or, Olya, Zhenya, Zoya (A Letter)”

I’m not feelin’ too good myself…

 

“Feelin’ Alright” (Live At The Fillmore East/1970) by Joe Cocker

The Chimaera

David Falconer, “School Children…” (1974)

And Bellerophon put his faith in the child, who had seen the image of Pegasus in the water, and in the maiden, who had heard him neigh so melodiously, rather than in the middle-aged clown, who believed only in cart-horses, or in the old man who had forgotten the beautiful things of his youth…

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Chimaera

You better believe it
You know my dream’s still alive
You can love it or leave it
But I’m never gonna be 35…

The Nose

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “N.Y.C. – Bridges – Brooklyn” (1895)

As he returned, he met Madame Podtotchina with her daughter. He accosted them, and they responded very graciously. The conversation lasted a long time, during which he took more than one pinch of snuff, saying to himself, “No, you haven’t caught me yet, coquettes that you are! And as to the daughter, I shan’t marry her at all.”

After that, the Major resumed his walks on the Neffsky Avenue and his visits to the theatre as if nothing had happened. His nose also remained in its place as if it had never quitted it. From that time he was always to be seen smiling, in a good humour, and paying attentions to pretty girls…

—Nikolai Gogol, The Nose

Better forget him, him with his nose in the air…

“You always look so cool,” she repeated.

cf. Ide Collars Advertisement (ca. 1922)

“Who wants to go to town?” demanded Daisy insistently. Gatsby’s eyes floated toward her. “Ah,” she cried, “you look so cool.”

Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.

“You always look so cool,” she repeated.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”

Woodbury’s Facial Soap Advertisement (ca. 1922)

“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”

“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”

He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.

“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Into the same river you could not step twice, for other waters are flowing.”

—Heraclitus

“While our hero lies comfortably in his bed at home…”

Illustration by H. J. Ford from “The Book Of Romance” (1902)

Thus they drive on the day with such doings while our hero lies comfortably in his bed at home in clothes full rich of hue. The lady did not forget; she came to greet him; full early she was by him to change his mind. She comes to the curtain and peeps at the knight. Sir Gawain at once welcomes her worthily, and she returns his greeting right promptly, seats herself softly by his side, laughs openly, and with a lovely look addresses these words to him: “Sir, if ye be Gawain, it seems to me a very strange thing that a man of such quality should not follow the conventions of good society; and should after making acquaintance with a person cast him utterly from his mind. Thou hast already forgotten what I taught you yesterday in the best language that I knew.” “What is that?” quoth the hero. “Forsooth I know not. If what ye say be true, I am to blame.” “Yet I taught you about kissing,” replied the fair lady; “wherever a countenance is known, quickly to claim a kiss; that becomes every knight who practices courtesy…”

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

She’s turnin’ on the heat
And it’s a little too much
She’s turnin’ on the heat
And it’s a hundred above, yeah…

“Who woo’d in haste and means to wed at leisure…”

Zaida Ben-Yusuf, “Don’t you see that you are making me a great deal of trouble?” (1902)

No shame but mine: I must, forsooth, be forced
To give my hand opposed against my heart
Unto a mad-brain rudesby full of spleen;
Who woo’d in haste and means to wed at leisure.
I told you, I, he was a frantic fool,
Hiding his bitter jests in blunt behavior:
And, to be noted for a merry man,
He’ll woo a thousand, ‘point the day of marriage,
Make feasts, invite friends, and proclaim the banns;
Yet never means to wed where he hath woo’d.
Now must the world point at poor Katharina,
And say, “Lo, there is mad Petruchio’s wife,
If it would please him come and marry her!”

The Taming of the Shrew

Time Passes (To The Lighthouse)

cf. Jody Claborn, “Lover of Light…” (2016 ) and Robb Hannawacker, “NW Storm” (2014)

Time Passes

“Well, we must wait for the future to show,” said Mr. Bankes, coming in from the terrace.
“It’s almost too dark to see,” said Andrew, coming up from the beach.
“One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land,” said Prue.
“Do we leave that light burning?” said Lily as they took their coats off indoors.
“No,” said Prue, “not if every one’s in.”
“Andrew,” she called back, “just put out the light in the hall.”
One by one the lamps were all extinguished, except that Mr. Carmichael, who liked to lie awake a little reading Virgil, kept his candle burning rather longer than the rest.

So with the lamps all put out, the moon sunk, and a thin rain drumming on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. Nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers. Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say, “This is he” or “This is she.” Sometimes a hand was raised as if to clutch something or ward off something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness.

—Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
 

Chorus sine nomine: Samuel Barber – Agnus Dei (Adagio for Strings)

#9 Dream

cf. 1977 TV Commercial

…at night, if I succeeded in going to sleep, then it was as though the memory of Albertine had been the drug that had procured my sleep, whereas the cessation of its influence would awaken me. I thought all the time of Albertine while I was asleep. It was a special sleep of her own that she gave me, and one in which, moreover, I should no longer have been at liberty, as when awake, to think of other things. Sleep and the memory of her were the two substances which I must mix together and take at one draught in order to put myself to sleep.

—Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

“No, we are all as old as we feel, but no older…”

cf. LIFE, 1968

…the sight of his own sharp features and grey hair plunged him in hopeless mortification; he made desperate efforts to recover the appearance and freshness of his youth and began paying frequent visits to the hotel barber. Enveloped in the white sheet, beneath the hands of that garrulous personage, he would lean back in the chair and look at himself in the glass with misgiving.

“Grey,” he said, with a grimace.

“Slightly,” answered the man. “Entirely due to neglect, to a lack of regard for appearances. Very natural, of course, in men of affairs, but, after all, not very sensible, for it is just such people who ought to be above vulgar prejudice in matters like these. Some folk have very strict ideas about the use of cosmetics; but they never extend them to the teeth, as they logically should. And very disgusted other people would be if they did. No, we are all as old as we feel, but no older, and grey hair can misrepresent a man worse than dyed. You, for instance, signore, have a right to your natural colour. Surely you will permit me to restore what belongs to you?”

“How?” asked Aschenbach.

For answer the talker washed his client’s hair in two waters, one clear and one dark, and lo, it was as black as in the days of his youth. He waved it with the tongs in wide, flat undulations, and stepped back to admire the effect…

—Thomas Mann, Death In Venice

“For him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.”

Tom Hubbard, August Brings the “D’aug Days” to Fountain Square… (1973)

And that was the end of the attempt by the flatlands to reclaim Hans Castorp. The young man admitted quite openly to himself that such total failure, which he had seen coming, was of decisive importance for his relationship to the people down there. For the flatlands it meant a final shrug, the abandonment of any claim; for him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.

–Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

“Doctor Gordon doesn’t think you’ve improved at all…”

D Coetzee, “Neurology waiting room…” (2008)

I watched my mother grow smaller and smaller until she disappeared into the door of Doctor Gordon’s office building. Then I watched her grow larger and larger as she came back to the car.
“Well?” I could tell she had been crying.
My mother didn’t look at me. She started the car.
Then she said, as we glided under the cool, deep-sea shade of the elms, “Doctor Gordon doesn’t think you’ve improved at all. He thinks you should have some shock treatments at his private hospital in Walton.”
I felt a sharp stab of curiosity, as if I had just read a terrible newspaper headline about somebody else.
“Does he mean live there?”
“No,” my mother said, and her chin quivered.
I thought she must be lying.
“You tell me the truth,” I said, “or I’ll never speak to you again.”
“Don’t I always tell you the truth?” my mother said, and burst into tears.

—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus
You got to help me make a stand
You just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching
And my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way…

 

Fire And Rain by James Taylor

“Have you noticed a change in Steve?”

Eastman Kodak Company, “How to make good movies…” (1938)

“Have you noticed a change in Steve?
Boy, I have!
Oh, It’s wonderful, I’ll tell ya!”

–Entry from girl’s diary (ca. 1961) quoted in Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries

“So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star.”

Eastman Kodak Company, “How to make good movies…” (1938) and Timescapes 001 – YouTube

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
 

The Pursuit Of Happiness – “Pressing Lips”

“A man so afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them.”

Talking of constitutional melancholy, he observed, “A man so afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them.” BOSWELL: “May not he think them down, Sir?” JOHNSON: “No, Sir. To attempt to THINK THEM DOWN is madness. He should have a lamp constantly burning in his bed-chamber during the night, and if wakefully disturbed, take a book, and read, and compose himself to rest…”

Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
 

James McNeill Whistler, Reading in Bed (The Slipper) (1858)

“Gatsby walked over and stood beside her…”

J.B.B. Wellington, “The Toast” (ca. 1914)

Gatsby walked over and stood beside her.
“Daisy, that’s all over now,” he said earnestly. “It doesn’t matter any more. Just tell him the truth — that you never loved him — and it’s all wiped out forever.”
She looked at him blindly. “Why — how could I love him — possibly?”
“You never loved him.”
She hesitated. Her eyes fell on Jordan and me with a sort of appeal, as though she realized at last what she was doing — and as though she had never, all along, intended doing anything at all. But it was done now. It was too late.
“I never loved him,” she said, with perceptible reluctance…

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Lines on my head from that one thing she said…

 

Peter Frampton – “Lines On My Face”

“Gehen vir voinen du? In New York?”

Before her the grimy cupolas and towering square walls of the city loomed up. Above the jagged roof tops, the white smoke, whitened and suffused by the slanting sun, faded into the slots and wedges of the sky. She pressed her brow against her child’s, hushed him with whispers. This was that vast incredible land, the land of freedom, of immense opportunity, that Golden Land.
Again she tried to smile.
“Albert,” she said timidly, “Albert.”
“Hm?”
“Gehen vir voinen du? In New York?”

—Henry Roth, Call It Sleep
 


Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage (1907)

“He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city…”

Abul Haque, “Students Arriving By School Bus…” (ca. 1976)

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

A girl comes towards you
You once used to know
You reach out your hand
But you’re all alone…

“Don’t forget to return my pencil.”

cf. photograph by Paul Green via Unsplash

“Adieu, my Carnival Prince! I can predict that you’ll see a nasty rise in your fever chart this evening.”

Then she glided out of her chair, glided across the carpet to the door, where she stopped and turned halfway back to him, one bare arm raised, a hand on the hinge. Over her shoulder she said softly, “Don’t forget to return my pencil.”

And she left.

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business.”

Ferdinand Hodler, The Good Samaritan (1885)

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“Alone he stood there and empty like a castaway on the shore…”

Geo. H. Scheer, “The Road In The Sand” (ca. 1915)

Starting up from this dream, he felt encompassed by a deep sadness. Worthless, so it seemed to him, worthless and pointless was the way he had been going through life; nothing which was alive, nothing which was in some way delicious or worth keeping he had left in his hands. Alone he stood there and empty like a castaway on the shore…

—Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

“Milly drew the feet of water and…her companion floated off with the sense of rocking violently at her side.”

Popular Mechanics (1960)

Her situation, as such things were called, was on the grand scale; but it still was not that. It was her nature, once for all—a nature that reminded Mrs. Stringham of the term always used in the newspapers about the great new steamers, the inordinate number of “feet of water” they drew; so that if, in your little boat, you had chosen to hover and approach, you had but yourself to thank, when once motion was started, for the way the draught pulled you. Milly drew the feet of water, and odd though it might seem that a lonely girl, who was not robust and who hated sound and show, should stir the stream like a leviathan, her companion floated off with the sense of rocking violently at her side.

—Henry James, The Wings of the Dove

So I’d like to know where you got the notion
Said I’d like to know where you got the notion
To rock the boat,
Don’t rock the boat baby!

Uncle Vanya

VOITSKI: …I met her first ten years ago, at her sister’s house, when she was seventeen and I was thirty-seven. Why did I not fall in love with her then and propose to her? It would have been so easy! And now she would have been my wife. Yes, we would both have been waked tonight by the thunderstorm, and she would have been frightened, but I would have held her in my arms and whispered: “Don’t be afraid! I am here.” Oh, enchanting dream, so sweet that I laugh to think of it. [He laughs] But my God! My head reels! Why am I so old? Why won’t she understand me?…

–Anton Checkov, Uncle Vanya

And you can’t turn back
There is never any starting over
Parallel lines never do cross over…

 

in-the-garden-1200
Frau E. Nothmann, “In The Garden” (detail) (ca. 1896)

“You won’t like them,” she returned indirectly; “they’ve run wild…”

“You’re from the white boat that sailed in at sunset?”

“Yes,” he replied, “and I am returning immediately.”

“It was like magic! ” she continued. “Suddenly, without a sound, you were anchored in the bay.”

Even this quiet statement bore the shadowy alarm. John Woolfolk realized that it had not been caused by his abrupt appearance; the faint accent of dread was fixed in the illusive form before him.

“I have robbed you too,” he continued in a lighter tone. “Your oranges are in my pocket.”

“You won’t like them,” she returned indirectly; “they’ve run wild. We can’t sell them.”

“They have a distinct flavor of their own,” he assured her. “I should be glad to have some on the Gar.

“All you want…”

—Joseph Hergesheimer, “Wild Oranges”

young-woman-with-basket-of-oranges-and-lemons-1080

cf. Eugene de Blaas, Young Woman With Basket Of Oranges And Lemons (1902)

 

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – “Crimson and Clover”

“Ah, ha! Come, some music!”

“Specimen Of Platinotype After Development”
from “The Book Of Photography, Practical, Theoretic And Applied”, Paul N. Hasluck, Ed. (1907)

HAMLET:
O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive?

HORATIO:
Very well, my lord.

HAMLET:
Upon the talk of the poisoning?

HORATIO:
I did very well note him.

HAMLET:
Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!

Hamlet

Got one for the money
Two for the show
Three for my honey
And four to let you know that I
Let the music do the talking…

Madame Bovary

…yet all the time she was conscious of the scent of Rodolphe’s head by her side. This sweetness of sensation pierced through her old desires, and these, like grains of sand under a gust of wind, eddied to and fro in the subtle breath of the perfume which suffused her soul. She opened wide her nostrils several times to drink in the freshness of the ivy round the capitals. She took off her gloves, she wiped her hands, then fanned her face with her handkerchief, while athwart the throbbing of her temples she heard the murmur of the crowd and the voice of the councillor intoning his phrases. He said—“Continue, persevere; listen neither to the suggestions of routine, nor to the over-hasty councils of a rash empiricism…”

—Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Help me
I think I’m falling
In love again…

 
the-ball-1278

Charles Wilda, The Ball/Der Ball (1906)

“Rather, it represented his normal condition…”

cf. Julian Alden Weir, Man Reclining on a Beach (1879) and photograph by Markus Spiske via Unsplash

With Oblomov, lying in bed was neither a necessity (as in the case of an invalid or of a man who stands badly in need of sleep) nor an accident (as in the case of a man who is feeling worn out) nor a gratification (as in the case of a man who is purely lazy). Rather, it represented his normal condition. Whenever he was at home–and almost always he was at home–he would spend his time in lying on his back. Likewise he used but the one room–which was combined to serve both as bedroom, as study, and as reception-room–in which we have just discovered him. True, two other rooms lay at his disposal, but seldom did he look into them save on mornings (which did not comprise by any means every morning) when his old valet happened to be sweeping out the study. The furniture in them stood perennially covered over, and never were the blinds drawn up.

—Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov

I’m so tired
Tired of waiting
Tired of waiting for you…

“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way…”

cf. H. H. Brook, “The Warning Light” (ca. 1916)

I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone — he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward — and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“In any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.”

Martin Madl, Contrasts (2015)

After that he didn’t ask for the children to be sent to America and didn’t answer when Nicole wrote asking him if he needed money. In the last letter she had from him he told her that he was practicing in Geneva, New York, and she got the impression that he had settled down with some one to keep house for him. She looked up Geneva in an atlas and found it was in the heart of the Finger Lakes Section and considered a pleasant place. Perhaps, so she liked to think, his career was biding its time, again like Grant’s in Galena; his latest note was post-marked from Hornell, New York, which is some distance from Geneva and a very small town; in any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

“I’m sorry about the clock,” he said.

Harris & Ewing, Man and woman at punch bowl (1935 or 1936)

Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect ease, even of boredom. His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock, and from this position his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy, who was sitting, frightened but graceful, on the edge of a stiff chair.

“We’ve met before,” muttered Gatsby. His eyes glanced momentarily at me, and his lips parted with an abortive attempt at a laugh. Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place. Then he sat down, rigidly, his elbow on the arm of the sofa and his chin in his hand.

“I’m sorry about the clock,” he said.

My own face had now assumed a deep tropical burn. I couldn’t muster up a single commonplace out of the thousand in my head.

“It’s an old clock,” I told them idiotically.

I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on the floor.

“We haven’t met for many years,” said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as it could ever be…

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?
If so I can’t imagine why…

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

Thomas Hovenden, Breaking Home Ties (Oil on canvas) (1890)

APRIL 26. Mother is putting my new secondhand clothes in order. She prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels…

—James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe…”

Alfred Stieglitz, Snapshot–from my window, New York (1907)

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe…

–from Dubliners, James Joyce

Image

“She is—in you.” (“Everything I Own”)

Charles O’Rear, Mom takes a picture of the kids with railroad personnel at the Wenatchee, Washington depot (1974)

Then, quite mechanically and more distinctly, the conversation began again inside him…
“What was it all for—her struggle?”
That was his despair wanting to go after her.
“You’re alive.”
“She’s not.”
“She is—in you.”
Suddenly he felt tired with the burden of it.
“You’ve got to keep alive for her sake,” said his will in him. Something felt sulky, as if it would not rouse.
“You’ve got to carry forward her living, and what she had done, go on with it.”
But he did not want to. He wanted to give up.
“But you can go on with your painting,” said the will in him…

—D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers

Nobody else could ever know
The part of me that can’t let go…

“For a long time I had been unable to engage my home town with any degree of openness…”

photograph by Christian Spies via Unsplash

“For a long time I had been unable to engage my home town with any degree of openness. What friends I had were married, raising families, and had locked themselves, ever so tightly, behind their neat-trimmed lawns and white clapboard houses, their children cute, their wives sexless and anxious, my friends plotting their next moves to achieve the Black River Valley Club, never asking themselves what, if they achieved that—the town’s most venerable institution—could possibly be left for them. My friends and I had long proved an embarrassment to one another; I embarrassing them because I drank too much, was unreliable in my debts and working habits, and had been “hospitalized” a number of times; I embarrassed because they were. We never stopped each other on the streets without, eyes avoiding mine, their patronizing me with queries about my health. It was distressing because there was a kind of gloating—undoubtedly a good deal imagined on my part—in these encounters, as though they were telling me that getting myself proclaimed mad and dragged away a number of times was only a childish and petulant refusal to accept their way of life as the right way, that in seeking some other way I had been assuming a courage and superiority I hadn’t possessed. After a time these encounters had proved so painful that whenever I found myself compelled to move about the streets in daylight hours, I dropped my eyes to the sidewalk and charged through the streets as though in a hot-brained hurry…”

—Frederick Exley, “A Fan’s Notes”

I got my own world to live through
And I ain’t gonna copy you…

“She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little…”

Harry Wilson Watrous, Just a Couple of Girls (1915)

The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it — indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in…I enjoyed looking at her…Her gray sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming, discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before…

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

You go to my head
And you linger like a haunting refrain
And I find you spinning round in my brain
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne…

In Search Of Lost Time

cf. Michael Philip Manheim, Constitution Beach… (detail) (1973)

And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before church-time), when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the interval, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks’ windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the forms of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness. But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.

—Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Anna Karenina

Clementina Hawarden, Photographic Study (ca. 1860)

She heard the sound of his steps about the study and the dining room. At the drawing room he stood still. But he did not turn in to see her, he merely gave an order that the horse should be given to Voytov if he came while he was away. Then she heard the carriage brought round, the door opened, and he came out again. But he went back into the porch again, and someone was running upstairs. It was the valet running up for his gloves that had been forgotten. She went to the window and saw him take the gloves without looking, and touching the coachman on the back he said something to him. Then without looking up at the window he settled himself in his usual attitude in the carriage, with his legs crossed, and drawing on his gloves he vanished round the corner…

Anna Karenina

“Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight…”

Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight,
Assigning commas, setting accents right,
As once I punctuated, spelled and trimmed
When, passing in a Princeton spring—how dimmed
By this damned quarter-century and more!—
You left your Shadow Laurels at my door.
That was a drama webbed of dreams: the scene
A shimmering beglamored bluish-green
Soiled Paris wineshop; the sad hero one
Who loved applause but had his life alone;
Who fed on drink for weeks; forgot to eat,
“Worked feverishly,” nourished on defeat
A lyric pride, and lent a lyric voice
To all the tongueless knavish tavern boys,
The liquor-ridden, the illiterate;
Got stabbed one midnight by a tavern-mate—
Betrayed, but self-betrayed by stealthy sins—
And faded to the sound of violins…

—Edmund Wilson, Excerpt from the Dedication to “The Crack-Up” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1945)

I can feel it coming in the air tonight

Martinus Rørbye, View from the Citadel Ramparts in Copenhagen by Moonlight (1839)

BERNARDO:
Last night of all,
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
The bell then beating one,–

(Enter Ghost)

MARCELLUS:
Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!

BERNARDO:
In the same figure, like the king that’s dead.

MARCELLUS:
Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.

BERNARDO:
Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio.

HORATIO:
Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder.

Hamlet, Act I, Scene I

Don Quixote

Camille Corot, View of Genzano with a Rider and Peasant (ca. 1843)

Presently he broke out again, as if he were love-stricken in earnest, “O Princess Dulcinea, lady of this captive heart, a grievous wrong hast thou done me to drive me forth with scorn, and with inexorable obduracy banish me from the presence of thy beauty. O lady, deign to hold in remembrance this heart, thy vassal, that thus in anguish pines for love of thee.”

—Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

cf. Albertus H. Baldwin, Man Sitting on a Boat and Khürt Williams, Rodanthe Pier

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Bartleby, the Scrivener

cf. Frances Benjamin Johnston, Post Office Dept. – Dead Letter Office (edited)

Yet, thought I, it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here, keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great; but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous —a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage!…

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!

—Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener

“…kept with him a sense as of snow falling about him, a secret screen of new snow between himself and the world.”

—Conrad Aiken, Silent Snow, Secret Snow

Regrets (Long Day’s Journey Into Night)

TYRONE: I’d lost the great talent I once had through years of easy repetition, never learning a new part, never really working hard. Thirty-five to forty thousand dollars net profit a season like snapping your fingers! It was too great a temptation. Yet before I bought the damned thing I was considered one of the three or four young actors with the greatest artistic promise in America. I’d worked like hell. I’d left a good job as a machinist to take supers’ parts because I loved the theater. I was wild with ambition. I read all the plays ever written. I studied Shakespeare as you’d study the Bible. I educated myself. I got rid of an Irish brogue you could cut with a knife. I loved Shakespeare. I would have acted in any of his plays for nothing, for the joy of being alive in his great poetry. And I acted well in him. I felt inspired by him. I could have been a great Shakespearean actor, if I’d kept on. I know that! In 1874 when Edwin Booth came to the theater in Chicago where I was leading man, I played Cassius to his Brutus one night, Brutus to his Cassius the next, Othello to this Iago, and so on. The first night I played Othello, he said to our manager, “That young man is playing Othello better than I ever did!”
[Proudly.]
That from Booth, the greatest actor of his day or any other! And it was true! And I was only twenty-seven years old! As I look back on it now, that night was the high spot in my career. I had life where I wanted it! And for a time after that I kept on upward with ambition high. Married your mother. Ask here what I was like in those days. Her love was an added incentive to ambition. But a few years later my good bad luck made me find the big money-maker. It wasn’t that in my eyes at first. It was a great romantic part I knew I could play better than anyone. But it was a great box office success from the start-and then life had me where it wanted me-at from thirty-five to forty thousand net profit a season! A fortune in those days-or even in these.
[Bitterly.]
What the hell was it I wanted to buy, I wonder, that was worth-
Well, no matter. It’s a late day for regrets…
TYRONE: No, I don’t know what the hell it was I wanted to buy.
[He clicks out one bulb.]
On my solemn oath, Edmund, I’d gladly face not having an acre of land to call my own, nor a penny in the bank-
[He clicks out another bulb.]
I’d be willing to have no home but the poorhouse in my old age if I could look back now on having been the fine artist I might have been…

—Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

“Listen, you know what you did? You hung on, kiddo.”

“Kiddo, let me tell you a story,” Berger says. “A very simple story. About this perfect kid who had a younger brother. A not-so-perfect kid. And all the time they were growing up, this not-so-perfect kid tried to model himself after his brother, the perfect kid. It worked, too. After all, they were a lot alike, and the not-so-perfect kid was a very good actor. Then, along came this sailing accident, and the impossible happened. The not-so-perfect kid makes it. The other kid, the one he has patterned his whole life after, isn’t so lucky…Listen, you know what you did? You hung on, kiddo.

–Judith Guest, Ordinary People

There it is – way down inside me
There’s a real man

–Todd Rundgren, Real Man

“I took this!” — he triumphantly produced a 45 r.p.m. record out from under his mac — “over to her flat and taped it to her door.”

“I encountered a young husband outside the stage door of the Royal Albert Hall one night after a performance with the London Philharmonic. We stood in a misty rain. “This is my wife, Ophelia,” he said, his arm encircling a lovely young woman who smiled and said in turn, “This is Giles and Diedre,” her arm around two white-haired, rosy-cheeked English children. “I want you to know,” the young husband continued, “that eight years ago when I was in public school I had a horrible row with Ophelia here, and she cursed me and swore to never see me again.” Ophelia blushed at this and cupped her hand around her forehead. “I took this!”—he triumphantly produced a 45 r.p.m. record out from under his mac—“over to her flat and taped it to her door.” Meanwhile I stood there utterly confused. “Will you sign it for us please?” he beseeched me, brandishing a pen and pushing the plastic disc into my wet hands. In the dim light and half rain I could just make out a scratched copy of “All I Know,” recorded by Artie Garfunkel. I took another much closer look at Giles and Diedre, smiling, expectant and apparently grateful in the Knightsbridge drizzle.”

–Jimmy Webb, Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting

“Two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon…”

The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor…

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Here is a list of ten books that I either read when I was a teenager or wish I had read when I was a teenager…

Here is a list of ten books that I either read when I was a teenager or wish I had read when I was a teenager:

1. Siddhartha: An Indian Tale – Hermann Hesse

2. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character – Richard P. Feynman

3. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

4. Keep the Aspidistra Flying – George Orwell

5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig

6. Pigeon Feathers: And Other Stories – John Updike

7. Sons and Lovers – David Herbert Lawrence

8. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

9. Iron John: A Book about Men – Robert Bly

10. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

For we are always what our situations hand us – it’s either sadness (Holden Caulfield) or euphoria (Sal Paradise)

Dean and I are embarked on a tremendous season together. We’re trying to communicate with absolute honesty and absolute completeness everything on our minds. We’ve had to take benzedrine. We sit on the bed, crosslegged, facing each other. I have finally taught Dean that he can do anything he wants, become mayor of Denver, marry a millionairess, or become the greatest poet since Rimbaud. But he keeps rushing out to see the midget auto races. I go with him. He jumps and yells, excited.

One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddam window. For instance, they had this headmaster, Mr. Haas, that was the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life. Ten times worse than old Thurmer. On Sundays, for instance, old Haas went around shaking hands with everybody’s parents when they drove up to school. He’d be charming as hell and all. Except if some boy had little old funny-looking parents. You should’ve seen the way he did with my roommate’s parents. I mean if a boy’s mother was sort of fat or corny-looking or something, and if somebody’s father was one of those guys that wear those suits with very big shoulders and corny black-and-white shoes, then old Hans would just shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then he’d go talk, for maybe a half an hour, with somebody else’s parents. I can’t stand that stuff. It drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy. I hated that goddam Elkton Hills.

It was a wonderful night. Central City is two miles high; at first you get drunk on the altitude, then you get tired, and there’s a fever in your soul. We approached the lights around the opera house down the narrow dark street; then we took a sharp right and hit some old saloons with swinging doors. Most of the tourists were in the opera. We started off with a few extra-size beers. There was a player piano. Beyond the back door was a view of mountainsides in the moonlight. I let out a yahoo. The night was on. The night was getting more and more frantic…the sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining.

Anyway, I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street. I thought I’d just go down, down, down, and nobody’d ever see me again. Boy, did it scare me. You can’t imagine. I started sweating like a bastard–my whole shirt and underwear and everything. Then I started doing something else. Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.” And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner. But I kept going and all. I was sort of afraid to stop, I think–I don’t remember, to tell you the truth. I know I didn’t stop till I was way up in the Sixties, past the zoo and all. Then I sat down on this bench. I could hardly get my breath, and I was still sweating like a bastard. I sat there, I guess, for about an hour. Finally, what I decided I’d do, I decided I’d go away. I decided I’d never go home again and I’d never go away to another school again.

With the flashlight to illuminate my way, I climbed the steep walls of the south canyon, got up on the highway streaming with cars Frisco-bound in the night, scrambled down the other side, almost falling, and came to the bottom of a ravine where a little farmhouse stood near a creek and where every blessed night the same dog barked at me. Then it was a fast walk along a silvery, dusty road beneath inky trees of California – a road like in The Mark of Zorro and a road like all the roads you see in Western B movies. I used to take out my gun and play cowboys in the dark.

“Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight…”

Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight,
Assigning commas, setting accents right,
As once I punctuated, spelled and trimmed
When, passing in a Princeton spring—how dimmed
By this damned quarter-century and more!—
You left your Shadow Laurels at my door.
That was a drama webbed of dreams: the scene
A shimmering beglamored bluish-green
Soiled Paris wineshop; the sad hero one
Who loved applause but had his life alone;
Who fed on drink for weeks; forgot to eat,
“Worked feverishly, ” nourished on defeat
A lyric pride, and lent a lyric voice
To all the tongueless knavish tavern boys,
The liquor-ridden, the illiterate;
Got stabbed one midnight by a tavern-mate—
Betrayed, but self-betrayed by stealthy sins—
And faded to the sound of violins…

—Edmund Wilson, Excerpt from the Dedication to The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman…”

“…will we walk all night through solitary streets?
The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?…”

“A Supermarket in California” (excerpt), Allen Ginsberg