Look back in memory and consider when you ever had a fixed plan, how few days have passed as you had intended, when you were ever at your own disposal, when your face ever wore its natural expression, when your mind was ever unperturbed, what work you have achieved in so long a life, how many have robbed you of life when you were not aware of what you were losing, how much was taken up in useless sorrow, in foolish joy, in greedy desire, in the allurements of society, how little of yourself was left to you; you will perceive that you are dying before your season!

Seneca. I’ll probably have a few more from this one soon…

The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides. I liked this one. Quite a debut. Themes include boys obsessing over girls on their way to womanhood, the fascination with death, the penumbra of loss that affects a community, etc. I like the tie-in with the dying elms, leaving mute, immovable stumps in the yards. And while I often cringe at moments when films use popular song, I thought the inclusions of Heart’s Magic Man and Crazy On You were inspired. If there’s any complaint, some parts were too overt. You don’t need a narrator intoning, “And so we started to learn about their lives, coming to hold collective memories of times we hadn’t experienced” when that’s clearly suggested on the screen. Small quibble though. Worth watching. I wonder how the book compares.

Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him.

From Borges’ short story Borges and I, which, even though it’s so short, I’ve tumbled before. My reading of his work has been scattered (I picked up a few different collections to fix that), but it almost always hurts my brain in a good way. For the volume of imagination and inventiveness and ideas in such efficient form, I remain convinced that the right Borges at the right time can be more worthwhile than entire literature classes.

Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him.

From Borges’ short story Borges and I, which, even though it’s so short, I’ve tumbled before. My reading of his work has been scattered (I picked up a few different collections to fix that), but it almost always hurts my brain in a good way. For the volume of imagination and inventiveness and ideas in such efficient form, I remain convinced that the right Borges at the right time can more worthwhile than entire literature classes.

“Sunset Portraits, From 8,462,359 Sunset Pictures on Flickr, 12/21/10”. A photo illustration by Penelope Umbrico for The New York Times. I’ve probably become inured to news images, but this was one of those rare ones that stopped me in my tracks. If there were a print of this, I’d probably buy it. Cyberspace When You’re Dead.

SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco

We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.

And also:

I was fascinated with Stendhal at 13 and with Thomas Mann at 15 and, at 16, I loved Chopin. Then I spent my life getting to know the rest. Right now, Chopin is at the very top once again. If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you’re an idiot.

SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco

He chose a way of death guaranteed to bring down a hailstorm of prying analytical chatter far in excess of anything he had experienced while he was alive. This is the paradoxical allure of suicide: to leave the chattering world behind and yet to stage-manage the exit so that one is talked about in the right way.

Alex Ross on Kurt Cobain. From the obituary that first appeared with slightly different wording in the New Yorker. [$]

After us they’ll fly in hot air balloons, coat styles will change, perhaps they’ll discover a sixth sense and cultivate it, but life will remain the same, a hard life full of secrets, but happy. And a thousand years from now man will still be sighing, “Oh! Life is so hard!” and will still, like now, be afraid of death and not want to die.

Anton Chekhov, The Three Sisters, quoted by sometimes a great notion. See this also. (via)

A Cruel Country by Roland Barthes : The New Yorker

“Journal excerpts by Roland Barthes about mourning his mother, Henriette, who died at eighty-four, in October, 1977.” It’s a real shame this one is behind a paywall. Favorite bits:

What I find utterly terrifying is mourning’s discontinuous character.

And:

Mourning: not a crushing oppression, a jamming (which would suppose a “refill”), but a painful availability: I am vigilant, expectant, awaiting the onset of a “sense of life”.

And also:

1st mourning
false liberty
2nd mourning
desolate liberty
deadly, without
worthy occupation

A Cruel Country by Roland Barthes : The New Yorker