Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Category: reading and writing

Shopping Mall

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I’ve been mulling, leaving and returning to this post for some time now. And things change, or stay the same, it is hard to tell. Early on in all this I found it hard to settle to read anything until I began Matthew Newton’s Shopping Mall. The book is part of the Object Lessons series, where various authors explore “the hidden lives of ordinary things”. At the time I wanted to read of ordinary things. “Ordinary” seemed, and seems, an extraordinary concept now. Something to cherish, something to hope for – the ordinary. Read the rest of this entry »

Everything you really need, and no more

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The good hotel room is, in fact, the city’s paradigm: it provides everything you really need, and no more. The rest is out there; your dining room the city’s restaurants, your garden the city’s parks, your transport a bus or taxi or hire-car. It achieves in a positive way what so many societies try to do negatively, through commune or kibbutz: it removes the need for useless possessions. Positive, because it offers you a secret private life as well – for the possessions which really matter. How much do you really – really – need to own, continuously? Love, a sense of humour and the understanding which makes conversation into a genuine meeting instead of a pair of blind projections – they take no room at all. A crucifix, pet teddy-bear, half a dozen books take very little. The rest the city can provide, when you want them. That’s it’s job.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cathedral Et Chartres

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So much distance is meant by it:
just as with the backdrop of a scene
the world is meant; and as through that scene
the hero strides, cloaked in his action’s mantle: —

so the darkness of this doorway strides acting
onto the tragic theater of its depths,
as boundlessly and seething as God the Father
and just as He transforming wondrously

into a Son, who is distributed here
among many small, almost unspeaking roles,
all taken from misery’s repertoire.

For it’s only (this we know) from
the blind, the cast-out, and the mad
that, like a great actor, the Saviour emerges.

Excerpt from The Portal, Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Edward Snow

* Read the rest of this entry »

Patriotism

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To love means to esteem—even perhaps to overestimate—the object of love. To love with open eyes, critically, is something only very few people are capable of doing. Most people’s love is blind. Most people who love their fatherland, their nation, do so blindly. Not only are they incapable of seeing the faults of their nation, their country, they are even inclined to see its faults as instances of human virtue. This is called “National self-confidence.”

Joseph Roth (1934)

They give away more than they can possibly keep

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I can see what is engaging the newspaper reader’s attention: the recent sensational reports from Budapest. They have been given a bold headline. They are presented in a fluffy, tempting, positively beguiling layout, in numerous little paragraphs, each one of which has its own alluring subtitle. Like all news, they give themselves away before they can be transmitted: and they give away more than they can possibly keep.

It is impossible to see them as anything by sensationalist. They are about the passing of false bills, but they don’t tell the whole story. They are scrupulously accurate and yet they withhold a few details. They describe the character of the counterfeiter, but they don’t know his name. They refer to “well-placed sources”, but where and how they are placed they don’t say. Of course, it’s the things you’re not told that arouse your interest. The gaps in the news are the interesting bits.

“A Man Reads the Paper” – Joseph Roth (1926)

Image from the Smithsonian Institution, via Flickr