"Incidentally, I use the word reader very loosely. Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do not have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development. The element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it. We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and then can enjoy its details. But at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting. However, let us not confuse the physical eye, that monstrous masterpiece of evolution, with the mind, an even more monstrous achievement. A book, no matter what it is – a work of fiction or a work of science (the boundary line between the two is not as clear as is generally believed) – a book of fiction appeals first of all to the mind. The mind, the brain, the top of the tingling spine, is, or should be, the only instrument used upon a book.”
-Vladimir Nabokov, "Lectures on Literature"
"I used to read an awful lot. Then I found that I had a lot of information and very little knowledge. I couldn’t learn from reading. I was doing something else by reading, just filling up this hopper full of information, but it was undigested information. I used to think the more intelligence you had, the more knowledge you had, but it’s not true. Look at Bill Buckley; he uses his intelligence to further his own prejudices.
Why one reads is important. If it’s just for escape, that’s all right, it’s like taking junk, it’s meaningless. It’s kind of an insult to yourself. Like modern conversation – it’s used to keep people away from one another, because people don’t feel assaulted by conversation so much as silence. People have to make conversation in order to fill up this void. Void is terrifying to most people. We can’t have a direct confrontation with somebody in silence – because what you’re really having is a full and more meaningful confrontation.”
-Marlon Brando, in an interview
"…by poetry I mean the mysteries of the irrational as perceived through rational words. True poetry of that kind provokes—not laughter and not tears—but a radiant smile of perfect satisfaction, a purr of beatitude—and a writer may well be proud of himself if he can make his readers, or more exactly some of his readers, smile and purr that way."
-Vladimir Nabokov, “Nikolai Gogol”
"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?"
-Emily Dickinson, in conversation with Thomas Wentworth Higginson
seeing through two lenses: one lens with a hairline split (like german camera) for greater accuracy: not a split like a broken pane, a broken mirror: but not (yet) the single vision of mystic or hasid.
what could be fuller of life than this (every) moment: each moment regarded calmly is like a jungle (or aquarium) bursting with life.
as jungle is full of beasts, so any moment is full (of many lives).
to look intently at any one object, may seem to leave the others out of account. but the attempt to look at all leaves nothing seen. (nothing regarded closely or understood.)" - Robert Lax, “Love Had a Compass: Journals and Poetry”
"Honorable ladies and gentlemen!
I’ve been asked to explain how I write stories.
This “how” is problematic. What can I tell you about how I write stories?
It is a very convoluted matter. With this “how” before me I could say I sit on the sofa in my room, take out paper and pen, utter bismillah, and start writing, while all three of my daughters keep making a lot of noise around me. I talk to them as I write, settle their quarrels, make salad for myself, and, if someone drops by for a visit, I show him hospitality. During all this, I don’t stop writing my story.
If I must answer how I write, I would say my manner of writing is no different from my manner of eating, taking a bath, smoking cigarettes, or wasting time.
Now, if one asked why I write short stories, well, I have an answer for that. Here it goes:
I write because I’m addicted to writing, just as I’m addicted to wine. For if I don’t write a story, I feel as if I’m not wearing any clothes, I haven’t bathed, or I haven’t had my wine.
The fact is, I don’t write stories; stories write me. I’m a man of modest education. And although I have written more than twenty books, there are times when I wonder about this one who has written such fine stories – stories that frequently land me in the courts of law.
Minus my pen, I’m merely Saadat Hasan, who knows neither Urdu, nor Persian, English or French.
Stories don’t reside in my mind; they reside in my pocket, totally unbeknownst to me. Try as hard as I might to strain my mind hoping for some story to pop out, trying equally hard to be a short story writer, smoke cigarette after cigarette, but my mind fails to produce a story. Exhausted, I lie down like a woman who cannot conceive a baby.
As I’ve already collected the remuneration in advance for a promised but still unwritten story, I feel quite vexed. I keep turning over restlessly in bed, get up to feed my birds, push my daughters on their swing, collect trash from the house, pick up little shoes scattered throughout the house and put them neatly in one place – but the blasted short story taking it easy in my pocket refuses to travel to my mind, which makes me feel very edgy and agitated.
When my agitation peaks, I dash to the toilet. That doesn’t help either. It is said that every great man does all his thinking in the toilet. Experience has convinced me that I’m no great man, because I can’t think even inside a toilet. Still, I’m a great short story writer of Pakistan and Hindustan – amazing, isn’t it?
Well, all I can say is that either my critics have a grossly inflated opinion of me, or else I’m blinding them in the clear light of day, or casting a spell over them.
Forgive me, I went to the toilet…The plain fact is, and I say this in the presence of my Lord, I haven’t the foggiest idea how I write stories.
Often when my wife finds me feeling totally defeated and out of my wits, she says, “Don’t think, just pick up your pen and start writing.”
So advised by her I pick up my pen and start writing, with my mind totally blank but my pocket crammed full of stories. All of a sudden a story pops out on its own.
This being the case, I’m forced to think of myself as not so much a writer of stories but more as a pickpocket who picks his own pocket and then hands over its contents to you. You can travel the whole world but you won’t find a greater idiot than me.”
-Sa’adat Hasan Manto, “How I Write Stories”
[trans. Muhammad Umar Memon]
"They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
Oh, I of course replied
Something here inside cannot be denied
They said someday you’ll find
All who love are blind
Oh, when your heart’s on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes
So I chaffed them and I gaily laughed
To think they could doubt my love
Yet today my love has flown away
I am without my love
Now laughing friends deride
Tears I can not hide
Oh, so I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes
Smoke gets in your eyes”
The rip in the sleeve of your jacket, and the fact that I do not have to mend it, are conjoined in a way that you do not understand. You do not understand because you do not know that there is a rip in the sleeve of your jacket, and I do not have to tell you because I do not have to mend it. This is not the same as to say that I do not have to mend it because I am not going to tell you it is there, which would be a stall at best. Maybe you do know that there is a rip in the sleeve of your jacket, but if you do, you would not mention it to me because you know that I do not have to mend it.
Because I do not have to mend it, and because you do not seem to mind wearing it with a rip in the sleeve, your jacket is becoming a kind of statement to me of all that does and does not exist between us, including what you do not know about what I feel about your wearing it with a rip in the sleeve. There is also what I do not know about what you would feel if you knew my feelings. I am not going to tell you what I feel about your wearing your jacket with a rip in the sleeve because if you do not know there is a rip in the sleeve, you might be less than pleased to find out – especially as I do not have to mend it. Moreover, I might be less than pleased to find out that had you known there was a rip in the sleeve, you would not have been wearing your jacket.
To avoid mutual disappointment, I do not touch on this matter which, even assuming you do know there is a rip in the sleeve, you are doubtless not thinking about. Besides, there is always the danger that my mention of a rip in the sleeve might be interpreted as an offer to mend it, a desire to mend it, or a wish to see it mended. That is not what I meant at all; that is not it, at all." - Robyn Sarah, from Pardon Me
when we laughed
it was an antler
shaken of snow.
Whole pianos opened
at a phrase. That’s
gone now; the buzz,
too – but I liked
your fingernails, you know,
their curve, the full
spoons of them