Sunday, October 30, 2005

And Now, Back to Crime

Last week's quotation was from Joan Didion. What I like about it is how she inverts the usual relationship between thinking and writing. I've found quite often that the process of writing actually clarifies my thoughts about a particular topic, or brings me to a new realization. One that is less "common sense" oriented. Because sitting, staring at the screen and trying to crack the dark heart of a matter often leads to something more truthful. And the truth is usually surprising. Quite often, people think that is reversed, that an author has a particular philosophy and he or she writes to provide a narrative embodiment of that. (See Ayn Rand). I tend to think that yields bad writing or propaganda.

But you all disliked the quotation. So this week, I'm going with something more in our collective roundhouse, from one of my favorites:

"Outside, the bloodhounds started yelping, and Merci swore there was something mournful in their voices but she knew she was eager for self-punishment and if it took personifying three dogs to beat herself even lower she would leap at the chance to do it."

If you know who wrote this, please write about it without giving away the author's name so other people can guess at it too.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Dante's Revenge

Okay - I told you they'd get harder. The last quotation was indeed Dante. It's most frequently identified, at least these days, in relation to JFK, who spoke the famous sentence at the signing of a charter establishing the German Peace Corps in 1963.

And now, a lesser known quotation from a very famous writer:

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear."

Comments, remarks, agitations, guesses, imprecations are welcome. And no, Jon, you can't have any cookies.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Hottest Places in Hell

Last week's quotation was, as many of you know, written by Raymond Chandler.

"...who is not himself mean" to me is the key element. He can be tough, even vicious, but this cannot stem from an essential meanness. Chandler, masterful in his word choice, would have been aware that claiming that somone is not mean stops short of claiming that he is nice or kind.

I very much enjoyed your various comments and perspectives. A slumming angel indeed. Please, please, please do not look up the quotations or Google them. It's far more interesting to hear your observations when they come from prior knowledge or guesswork.

Now, here's this week's quotation:

"The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."

Have at it.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Down These Mean Streets

I'm gonna post a quotation about writing every week, and you folks have to guess who said or wrote it. And beyond the simple guesswork, I'd like to know your take on it. Why you like it or don't like it, or in some instances, your interpretation of it.

Since this is the first one, I'm starting with a layup. After this, the training wheels come off.

"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."

Saturday, October 01, 2005


This is a brilliant trailer, cut by a film student.

It's a great display of 1. how misleading trailers can be, and 2. how important - and often manipulative - music can be in film. It's also funny as hell for those of you familiar with the film. How little it takes in a line reading, a directoral choice, a quick cut, to skew meaning one way or another.