Gertrude Stein, all courage and will, is a soldier of minimalism. Her work, unlike the resonating silences in the art of Samuel Beckett, embodies in its loquacity and verbosity the curious paradox of the minimalist form. This art of the nuance in repetition and placement she shares with the orchestral compositions of Philip Glass.
Harvard (across the river in Cambridge) and Boston are two ends of one mustache. ... Without the faculty, the visitors, the events that Harvard brings to the life here, Boston would be intolerable to anyone except genealogists, antique dealers, and those who find repletion in a closed local society.
Biographers, the quick in pursuit of the dead, research, organize, fill in, contradict, and make in this way a sort of completed picture puzzle with all the scramble turned into a blue eye and the parts of the right leg fitted together.
A letter is not a dialogue or even an omniscient exposition. It is a fabric of surfaces, a mask, a form as well suited to affectations as to the affections. The letter is, by its natural shape, self-justifying; it is one's own evidence, deposition, a self-serving testimony. In a letter the writer holds all the cards, controls everything about himself and about those assertions he wishes to make concerning events or the worth of others. For completely self-centered characters, the letter form is a complex and rewarding activity.
In the long run wives are to be paid in a peculiar coin — consideration for their feelings. As it usually turns out this is an enormous, unthinkable inflation few men will remit, or if they will, only with a sense of being overcharged.
How certain human beings are able to create works of art is a mystery, and why they should wish to do so, at a great cost to themselves usually, is another mystery. Works are not created by one's life; every life is rich in material.
Mothers born on relief have their babies on relief. Nothingness, truly, seems to be the condition of these New York people. They are nomads going from one rooming house to another, looking for a toilet that functions.
The private and serious drama of guilt is not often a useful one for fiction today and its disappearance, following perhaps the disappearance from life, appears as a natural, almost unnoticed relief, like some of the challenging illnesses wiped out by drug and vaccines.
Letters are above all useful as a means of expressing the ideal self; and no other method of communication is quite so good for this purpose. In letters we can reform without practice, beg without humiliation, snip and shape embarrassing experiences to the measure of our own desires...
Boston - wrinkled, spindly-legged, depleted of nearly all her spiritual and cutaneous oils, provincial, self-esteeming - has gone on spending and spending her inflated bills of pure reputation, decade after decade.
It's one of the things writing students don't understand. They write a first draft and are quite disappointed, or often should be disappointed. They don't understand that they have merely begun, and that they may be merely beginning even in the second or third draft.
Sex can no longer be the germ, the seed of fiction. Sex is an episode, most properly conveyed in an episodic manner, quickly, often ironically. It is a bursting forth of only one of the cells in the body of the omnipotent I, the one who hopes by concentration of tone and voice to utter the sound of reality.
History ... with its long, leisurely, gentlemanly labors, the books arriving by post, the cards to be kept and filed, the sections to be copied, the documents to be checked, is the ideal pursuit for the New England mind.
Flattery is a challenge. The proper turning away from it, undercutting, diminishing it without offense or vehemence, is a social grace sweeter even than the swift determination to keep ahead in the race of hospitality.
I have come to the belief that there is not merely an accidental relationship between bad writing and routine sociological research, but a wonderfully pure, integral relationship; the awkwardness is necessary and inevitable.
It is June. This is what I have decided to do with my life just now. I will do this work and lead this life, the one I am leading today. Each morning the blue clock and the crocheted bedspread, the table with the Phone, the books and magazines, the Times at the door.
The language of the younger generation has the brutality of the city and an assertion of threatening power at hand, not to come. It is military, theatrical, and at its most coherent probably a lasting repudiation of empty courtesy and bureaucratic euphemism.