He [H.G. Wells] became, even more than Verne, a Schoolteacher Absolute, a fate that would befall so many later SF writers—Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Le Guin, Delany—that it must be considered an occupational hazard.
—Thomas M. Disch, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (1998)
(The tightropes of prose prophecy & phantasmagoric vision are hard ones for novelists to walk. At least there’s a net, even if it is pedantry.)
There are no coincidences.
—Thomas S. Monson; qtd. in Heidi S. Swinton, “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?” Ensign (March 2012)
(Study this carefully.)
The primary outcome of popular pressure is not so much to shift policy as to shift public presentation of policy.
—Nulle Terre Sans Seigneur, “Rough edges of the New Deal revolution,” Carlsbad 1819 (19 August 2017)
(If you made it through the Bush & Obama presidencies, the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, et. al., without some variant of this insight rooting itself in your parahippocampal gyrus, please commit the above to memory. Policy is an increasingly hyperreal object that “condemn[s]” the voice of democratic subjects “to futility, to obsolescence, and … to obscenity.”)
The Tower and The Winding Stair, despite the vagaries of New Criticism an the scholarship on Yeats done under its egregious influence, will be studied increasingly as what they are, as much monuments of Romanticism in English poetry as are Jerusalem, The Prelude, Prometheus Unbound, The Fall of Hyperion, or later, Look! We Have Come Through!, The Bridge, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction.
—Harold Bloom, Yeats (1970)
(Another good English Romanticism reading list from Bloom. [Previous list at Ss-34/10,000.] This one, fellow pedagogues, is a teachable sequence. It’s also particularly helpful if you were, as I was, wondering on which of Lawrence’s three great volumes of poetry—Look! We Have Come Through!; Birds, Beasts and Flowers; & Last Poems—to focus your limited time.)
Can it be that there is an intrinsic, causal connection between long poems and wide open spaces?
—Thomas M. Disch, “Onegin’s Children [Review of David Budbill’s Judevine, Mark Jarman’s Iris, Charlotte Mandel’s The Marriages of Jacob, Les Murray’s The Boys Who Stole the Funeral, & Frederick Pollack’s The Adventure],” The Castle of Indolence: On Poetry, Poets, and Poetasters (1995)
(Disch answers this, his question, in the affirmative:
The example of Vikram Seth notwithstanding, I think it more than likely. Country living promotes longer thoughts and patient, sustained achievement, such as gardeners undertake. City life is noted for its speed, excitement, and variety, and while these virtues are not antithetical to a long poem [Ashbery’s Flow Chart is a quintessential long poem in the urban manner], they may well make it harder for the urban poet to pursue the sober, steadfast pace that a long narrative poem requires. This difference is likely to be exacerbated by the different reading habits associated with the city, with its flow of new magazines, new faces, new lingos, and the country, where one may, at last, settle down with the Aeneid in all its rival translations. As we read, so may be aspire to write. Indeed, for someone harboring the ambition of writing a long poem, I can think of no more practical starting point than to change one’s address to somewhere in RFD. [emphasis mine])
Agency and intelligence are the same thing.
—@rec0nciler, , (20 July 2017)
[h/t @Outsideness. That tweet disappeared as I was making this post. Most Mormons, given our religion’s emphasis on agency & intelligence, would recognize this identity as expressing a very deep insight. A Mormon better drilled in our orthodoxy than I would be able to refine the overlap between the two through scriptural exegesis, probably citing these two verses somewhere along the way, but I am not that Mormon. I’ll just point—👇—to this sentence’s alphanumeric sum.]
Mountains are great poets, and one glance at this fine cliff scene undoes a great deal of prose, & reinstates us wronged men in our rights.
——Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Journal R (1842-1843), in Selected Journals 1841-1877 (ed. Lawrence Rosenwald)
There are simply too many poets and too little time to read them all.
—Thomas M. Disch, “Death and the Poet [Review of Peter Whigham’s Things Common, Properly: Selected Poems 1942-1980],” The Castle of Indolence: On Poetry, Poets, and Poetasters (1995)
(Here, a supplement to Ss-35/10,000 & a reminder that even if you don’t stray from the page, the work is never done.)
One of morality’s dirtiest and most harmful little secrets is that it only constrains power where power is already weak for other reasons.
—Justin Murphy, “Feminism and the problem of supertoxic masculinity,” jmrphy.net (13 July 2017)
But the movie can’t escape that curse endemic to big-budget Hollywood sci-fi movies: The worlds they create on screen are almost always exponentially more interesting than the stories they tell.
—Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, “The ambitious War For The Planet Of The Apes ends up surrendering to formula,” avclub.com (7 July 2017)
(A follow up to Ss-35/10,000: even in the realm of screened media, the tension between watching & reading is becoming one of antithesis. Some further qualification—
Screen mediums oriented toward the presentation of worlds, like SF films or slow TV, and so made for watching or viewing, can be distinguished, à la Cavell, from those that, like live TV or streaming, present “event[s] standing out from the world,” open to a certain kind of reading: monitoring. One monitors both in hopes of a readable event occuring—e.g., the cataclysmic & apocalyptic social collapse so often represented in SF films—and in hopes of no readable events occuring—e.g., the cataclysmic & apocalyptic social collapse so often represented in SF films. Either way, one monitors at the expense of actually reading.
With respect to viewing & film, the screen is to SF films what the horizon is to environment-poems: it’s “a meeting ground between imaginative and perceptual vision.” On film, SF requires a very careful visual blend of imagination & realism, failures of which are now blamed on an imbalance of CGI & practical effects. But Ignatiy’s sentence is very precise. “Sci-fi” is already a name for hack-work in the realms of narrative & characterization, for the popularization of rudimentary SF conventions, and for their formulaic production. Sci-fi films transform SF worlds into series of events—plot points, character arcs, three-act structures, all of that Blake Snyder stuff—that stand out in such a way as to obscure the viewing process. That’s their curse. The narratives of the purest SF films, 2001, Blade Runner, Under the Skin, approximate a pure viewing experience: wandering through their environments, seeing things that you almost never see on film, in a sequence that mimics spontaneity, breaking the curse.)