Friday, May 6

"But you have not grasped the living reality, the essence!"

"But you have not grasped the living reality, the essence!" Husserl exclaims. Nor will I, ever. His examiner (was it J.D. Ratchliff?) said severely "Baskerville, you blank round, discursiveness is not literature." "The aim of literature," Baskerville replied grandly, "is the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart." Joan says: "I have two children." Why did you do that?" I ask. "I don't know," she says. I am struck by the modesty of her answer. Pamela Hansford Johnson has been listening and his face jumps in what may be described as a wince. "That's a terrible thing to say," he says.

-Donald Barthelme, from "Florence Green is 81," Come Back, Dr. Caligari (1964)


I've tried to look closely into someone else's face--a cashier at the movies. In order to learn the secret of her life. Useless. The other person is an enigma. And with eyes that are those of a statue: blind.

Clarice Lispector, from "Explanation," Soulstorm (1974)


His wife was a Chicana poet; every so often she'd threaten to leave him. He showed me a photo of her. She wasn't especially pretty. Her face betrayed suffering, and under that suffering, simmering rage. I imagined her in an apartment in San Francisco or a house in Los Angeles, with the windows shut and the curtains open, sitting at a table, eating sliced bread and a bowl of green soup.

--Roberto Bolaño, from "Jim," The Insufferable Gaucho (2010)

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