But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, “I should sit here and I should be entertained.” And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true.
Zadie Smith (via lyras)
[I] imagine that there’s some secret to writing, and no one will tell me what it is. I know it’s not true, but still, despite all the evidence to the contrary, all the years of working on my books, part of me does still feel that if I ever really learned how to do this, I would stop writing such crazy material, such bad first drafts, and get it right the first time.
Girls, girls, girls and their portrayal in art
“Because such stories exposed the private lives of male intellectuals, they got critiqued as icky, sticky memoir—score-settling, not art. (In contrast, young men seeking revenge on their exes are generally called “comedians” or “novelists” or “Philip Roth.”)”
-Emily Nussbaum over at the New Yorker in “‘Girls,’ ‘Englightenment’ and the comedy of cruelty.”
The Philip Roth bit made us laugh. For a long time.
When you get to the last sentence of a novel you often find that it was implicit in the first sentence, only you didn’t know what it was.
Your name is a — bird in my hand,
a piece of ice on my tongue.
The lips’ quick opening.
Your name — four letters.
A ball caught in flight,
a silver bell in my mouth
from “Poems for Blok” by Marina Tsvetaeva, translated by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine (via andantecantible)
Think of yourself rather as something much humbler and less spectacular, but to my mind far more interesting—a poet in whom live all the poets of the past, from whom all poets in time to come will spring. You have a touch of Chaucer in you, and something of Shakespeare; Dryden, Pope, Tennyson—to mention only the respectable among your ancestors—stir in your blood and sometimes move your pen a little to the right or to the left. In short you are an immensely ancient, complex, and continuous character…
Virginia Woolf A Letter to a Young Poet (via alex-ivy)
Photo : l. to r. John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Patsy Southgate,
Bill Berkson, Kenneth Koch, copyright © Mario Schifano, 1964.
The image is taken from Homage to Frank O’Hara, ed. Bill Berkson and Joe LeSueur
“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.”