“Arbus’s work is a good instance of a leading tendency of high art in capitalist countries: to suppress (or at least reduce) moral and sensory queasiness. Much of modern art is devoted to lowering the threshold of what is terrible. By getting us used to what, formerly, we could not bear to see or hear, because it was too shocking, painful, or embarrassing, art changes morals—that body of psychic custom and public sanctions that draws a vague boundary between what is emotionally and spontaneously intolerable and what is not. The gradual suppression of queasiness does bring us closer to a rather formal truth—that of the arbitrariness of the taboos constructed by art and morals. But our ability to stomach this rising grotesqueness in images (moving and still) and in print has a stiff price. In the long run, it works out not as a liberation of but as a subtraction from the self ; a pseudo-familiarity with the horrible reinforces alienation, making one less able to react in real life. What happens to people’s feelings on first exposure to today’s neighborhood pornographic film or to tonight’s televised atrocity is not so different from what happens when they first look at Arbus’s photographs.”
—Susan Sontag, from “America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly”
In memory of P.J.S. on her fifty-eighth birthday.
“The way to get there is the all-important, all-absorbing problem… Your only guide, too, is your sureness about your subject…you work all your life to find your way, through all the obstructions and the false appearances and the upsets you may have brought on yourself, to reach a meaning—using inventions of your imagination, perhaps helped out by your dreams and bits of good luck. And finally…you have to assume that what you are working in aid of is life, not death.
But you would make the trip anyway—wouldn’t you?—just on hope.”
— Eudora Welty in 1974, from The Eye of the Story
“People who cannot escape thinking of themselves as white are poorly equipped, if equipped at all, to consider the meaning of black: people who know so little about themselves can face very little in another: and one dare hope for nothing from friends like these.” — James Baldwin, The Devil Finds Work
Found poem, pressed between the pages of a library book on yellowing tablet paper
8 a.m. — Wake up
Breakfast. Take chicken salad for lunch.
Go to # 5 bus at Flowers.
Take bus downtown to Virginia.
Walk to gallery.
Sit at gallery until 6 p.m.
Walk to # 5 bus on 3rd Ave.
Take bus home.
“We are tempted into thinking ourselves in peculiar situations. If you look closely, man’s found himself in the same sort of situations from the beginning. And what you discover is that particular minds along the way deal with the same problems. You begin to get a community of thought in relation to those problems as you go along. It ought to be of some hope in a dark age — which I take ours to be; I think we’re in a darker age than the late Middle Ages, and we take that to be a particularly dark age; I think there was more light about then.” — author Marion Montgomery, in the Athens Observer, 1981
“We will stay in a villa with a private pool with rose petals floating in it… We won’t leave before all those petals have withered away.” — Cor Schilder, 2014, passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
Happy birthday, Tal!
“…it is one of the advantages of fantasy that it aligns the irreconcilable.” — S.N. Behrman
I would tell you about the spring if I thought it might persuade you even now to return, but every bud and bird would only afflict you and make you sad where you are, so not one word of the robins, and not one word of the bloom, lest it make the city darker, and your own home more dear.
But nothing forgets you, Emily, not a blossom, not a bee; for in the merriest flower there is a pensive air, and in the bonniest bee a sorrow—they know that you are gone, they know how well you loved them, and in their little faces is sadness, and in their mild eyes, tears. But another spring, dear friend, you must and shall be here, and nobody can take you away, for I will hide you and keep you—and who would think of taking you if I hold you tight in my arms?