He crossed the Danube on his cloak ...

"Legend has it that he was the son of a king, from Dacia or Denmark, who married a French princess in Paris. During the wedding night, the story goes, he was afflicted with a sense of profound unworthiness. Today, he is supposed to have said to his bride, our bodies are adorned, but tomorrow they will be food for worms. Before the break of day, he fled, making a pilgrimage to Italy, where he lived in solitude until he felt the power to work miracles arising within him [...] and went over the Alps to Germany. At Regensburg he crossed the Danube on his cloak, and there made a broken glass whole again; and, in the house of a wheelwright too mean to spare the kindling, lit a fire with icicles. This story of the burning of the frozen substance of life has, of late, meant much to me, and I wonder now whether inner coldness and desolation may not be the precondition for making the world believe, by a kind of fraudulent showmanship, that one's own wretched heart is still aglow." -- W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn


Use, Refuse

"Method of this project: literary montage. I need not say anything. Merely show. I shall purloin no valuables, appropriate no ingenious formulation. But the rags, the refuse -- these I will not inventory but allow, in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them." -- Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project



Twelve thousand words into a new novel and I'm at the first serious tangle. There's a fragile madness to starting books. This time around I'm struck less by the madness -- I've been here before -- than by the fragility. The story's just a bubble until it's real.


Still Funny

Back when the idea of a listserv was still interesting enough for me to spend time on one, someone posted Sartre's Lost Cookbook.

October 6
I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarettes, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked.

Fifteen years on, it still makes me laugh. Wish I knew who wrote it. Er, maybe that's the point.



In a wonderful post about how his cooking has changed, Mark reminds me that pleasure -- in eating, in writing, in most things -- is all about the details.

Warm the plates. Use wine glasses.



Ears to Hear

"What we ask of writers is that they guarantee survival of what we call human in a world in which everything appears inhuman [...] Literature is like an ear that can hear beyond the understanding of the language of politics." -- Italo Calvino, The Uses of Literature.