Autodidact: self-taught

Mar
02
2012

B

by V. L. Craven

B The Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson
001. I discovered the Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast when I was in a terribly distracted state of mind. It was a season in hell, the worst of times, a winter of discontent. Work had soured, love had taken a Greyhound out of town, the days were empty husks. Iw as bereft of purpose. Oh, it was bleak, bleak, bleak.
002. We both understand that we are anomalies in the annals of late twentieth-century sociology. … And I can offer no explanation, except to say that time went by. One day we looked around, and this is what we had. It is fine. We are happy to be here.
003. I sit among those whose enduring occupation is the respecting of silence…
004. It is for situations like this that we coined the word ‘unpleasant’.
005. She gets six weeks of vacation a year and likes to go to women’s music festivals. I don’t ask too many questions.
006. Two of my cats are Persians. They are twin brothers…They look like bath mats and have the disposition of pit bulls. Their names are Osbert and Sitwell.
007. Here is a little verse that was inspired by Waffle. She is a splendid cat and has an admirable way of appearing out of nowhere when someone is about to sit down with a book. I think that anyone who has ever tried to read when there is a cat in the room will be able to identify with it.

B ‘Birds’  by Adda Djorup (translated by Martin Aitken) [From Best European Fiction 2015]
001. And perhaps, I think to myself now, there are no real stories at all with beginnings, middles and ends, perhaps there simply is what there is, and what happens, and the lines we draw between those points are just nonsense and dreams, and the figure that arises from those lines could just as well gave been something else completely
002. I think our life has been as ordinary and as extraordinary as all other lives.
003. Alejandro, for you, who never suffers from sleeplessness, I need to explain that it is a strange state, and wholly singular. The senses are sharpened and dulled all at once. The eyes are sensitive as antennae, the ears as whiskers, and yet it is as though they are somehow unable to really get a grip on the world.
004. …the number of habits perhaps is constant, just like the number of vices. I believe myself blessed with the ability to observe my human nature, to a certain extent even to model it, though of course not with the ability to abandon it. Why, then, so I concluded, should I attempt to replace one harmless component with another?
005. You will undoubtedly tend toward the former: why allow oneself to become obsessed by and waste time on something one knows to be nonsense? I have no answer to that, yet I shall be honest and say that I congratulate myself at that moment for at least not referring to my habits by name, enlarging them into truths, elevating them to religious conceptions, or subjecting myself to them as if they were anything other than the rather peculiar practises they surely are. Just as I congratulate myself for not condemning the habits of others, their conceptions, neuroses…or simply their tastes. Rather, I thought, this sobriety that I may once have resolved to acquire, had occasionally turned into an immoderate predilection for what would appear to be the inconsequential rather than what, quite apparently, is significant: people’s political convictions, their sense of justice, ability to empathize, etc. seemed to me every now and again to be less interesting than their inclination to choose brown shoes over black, or armchairs over sofas.
006. Perhaps I am finally the person I have really always been.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
001. The fair Volumnia, being one of those sprightly gals who cannot long continue silent without imminent peril of seizure by the dragon Boredom soon indicated the approach of that monster with a series of undisguisable yawns.

‘The Blind Man’ by D.H. Lawrence
001. …peaceful with the almost incomprehensible peace of immediate contact in darkness. With his wife he had a whole world, rich and real and invisible.
002. After all their joy and suffering, after their dark, great year of blindness and solitude and unspeakable nearness, other people seemed to them both shallow, rattling, rather impertinent. Shallow prattle seemed presumptuous. He became impatient and irritated, she was wearied. And so they lapsed into their solitude again. For they preferred it.
003. For nearly two years nothing had passed between the two friends. Isabel rather gloried in the fact; and she had no compunction. She had one great article of faith, which was, that husband and wife should be so important to one another, that the rest of the world simply did not count.
004. She struggled as usual to maintain her calm, composed, friendly bearing, a sort of mask she wore all over her body.
005. In the house passage he wavered and went cautiously, with a curious look of silence about him as he felt for the bench.
006. He went on into the darkness with unchanging step.
007. Whereas Maurice was actually filled with hot, poignant love, the passion of friendship.
008. He could not bear it that he had been touched by the blind man, his insane reserve broken in. He was like a mollusc whose shell is broken.

‘Bliss’ by Katherine Mansfield
001. Yes, everything had come alive down to the minutest, tiniest particle, and she did not feel her bed, she floated, held up in the air. Only she seemed to be listening with her wide open watchful eyes, waiting for someone who just did not come, watching for something to happen that just did not happen.

B The Bone People by Keri Hulme
-001-There is something rather hard boiled about that brat, who can smile as he’s bid and wind up looking like he’s wondering how you’d taste.
-002-Librarians’ smiles look like bookends.
-003-Betelgeuse, Achenon, Orian, Aquila. Centre the Cross and you have a steady compass.
-004-‘I thought maybe someone had been bad to you in the past and that was why you don’t like people touching or holding you.’
‘Ah damn it to hell,’ she bangs the lamps down on the desk and the flame jumps wildly.
‘I said no. I haven’t been raped or jilted or abuse in any fashion. There nothing in my background to explain the way I am.’ She steadies her voice, taking the impatience out of it. ‘I’m the odd one out, the peculiarity in my family, because they’re all normal and demonstrative physically. But ever since I can remember I’ve disliked close contact…charged contact, emotional contact, as well as any overtly sexual contact. I veer away from it, because it always feels like the other person is draining something out of me. I know that’s irrational, but that’s the way I feel…’
-005-That used to be a thing Kerewin did, read the book titles in any room she came into. “You want to know about Anybody? See what books they read, and how they’ve been read…” ‘
-006-‘…I went to bed and [???] and easy women, and found my imagination and the blurred pictures I had retained from childhood were more vivid than what occurred…’

B ‘The Book-Bag’ by William Somerset Maugham
001. And like the dope-fiend who cannot move from place to place without taking with him a plentiful supply of his deadly balm I never venture far without a sufficiency of reading matter. Books are so necessary to me that when in a railway train I have become aware that fellow-travellers have come away without a single one I have been seized with a veritable dismay. But when I am starting on a long journey the problem is formidable. I have learnt my lesson. Once, imprisoned by illness for three months in a hill-town in Java, I came to the end of all the books I had brought with me. … Since then I have made a point of travelling with the largest sack made for carrying soiled linen and filling it to the brim with books to suit every possible occasion and every mood. It weighs a ton and strong porters reel under its weight. Customhouse officials look at it askance, but recoil from it with consternation when I give them my word that it contains nothing but books. Its inconvenience is that the particular work I suddenly hanker to read is always at the bottom and it is impossible for me to get it without emptying the book-bag’s entire contents upon the floor.
002. I pointed to the book-bag. It stood upright, bulging oddly, so that it looked like a humpbacked gnome somewhat the worse for liquor.
003. I knew from long experience how to unpack it. I threw it over on its side, seized its leather bottom and, walking backwards, dragged the sack away from its contents. A river of books poured on to the floor.
004. There were books of all kinds. Volumes of verse, novels, philosophical works, critical studies (they say books about books are profitless, but they certainly make very pleasant reading), biographies, history; there were books to read when you were ill ad books to read when your brain, all alert, craved for something to grapple with, there were books that you had always wanted to read, but in the hurry of life at home had never found time to, there were books to read at sea when you were meandering through narrow waters in a tramp steamer, and there were books for bad weather when your whole cabin creaked and you had to wedge yourself in your bunk in order not to fall out; there were books chosen solely for their length, which you took with you when on some expedition you had to travel light, and there were books you could read when you could read nothing else.
005. Olive owed her beautiful serenity to a disciplined effort of her own will and that her aloofness was a sort of citadel she’d built to protect herself from the knowledge of all sorts of shameful things. But of course that aloofness was awfully captivating. It was strangely exciting to think that if she loved you, and you were married to her, you would at last pierce right into the hidden heart of that mystery; and you felt that if you could share that with her it would be as it were a consummation of all you’d ever desired in your life.
006. She seldom left the estate. She had plenty to do. She read a lot. She was never bored. She seemed quite happy in her own company, and when she had visitors it was only from a sense of duty. She didn’t want them to think her ungracious. But it was an effort and she told me she heaved a sigh of relief when she saw the last of them and could again enjoy without disturbance the peaceful loneliness of the bungalow. She was a very curious girl.
007. Let us admit that reading with us is just a drug that we cannot do without–who of this band does not know the restlessness that attacks him when he has been severed from reading too long, the apprehension and irritability, and the sigh of relief which the sight of a printed page extracts from him?–and so let us be no more vainglorious than the poor slaves of the hypodermic needle or the pint-pot.
008. I took her hand. She withdrew it at once.
Why did you do that?’ I asked her.
‘I don’t very much like being touched,’ she said. She turned her head a little and smiled. ‘Are you hurt? You mustn’t mind, it’s just a funny feeling I have. I can’t help it.’
009. “She put her arm round my neck and kissed me lightly on the cheek. I had a notion that in her mind it settled our relation.”
010. There were books of all kinds. Volumes of verse, novels, philosophical works, critical studies (they say books about books are profitless, but they certainly make very pleasant reading), biographies, history; there were books to read when you were ill ad books to read when your brain, all alert, craved for something to grapple with, there were books that you had always wanted to read, but in the hurry of life at home had never found time to, there were books to read at sea when you were meandering through narrow waters in a tramp steamer, and there were books for bad weather when your whole cabin creaked and you had to wedge yourself in your bunk in order not to fall out; there were books chosen solely for their length, which you took with you when on some expedition you had to travel light, and there were books you could read when you could read nothing else.
011.  “Oh, he’s not so badly off as some. I don’t think he much cares about seeing people. I think he’d be just as lonely in London.”
012. There was something in the way Featherstone spoke that struck me as a little strange. His voice had what I can only describe as a shuttered tone. He seemed suddenly to have moved away from me. It was as though one were passing along a street at night and paused for a second look in at a lighted window that showed a comfortable room and suddenly an invisible hand pulled down a blind.
013. It is my business to be curious about people and I asked myself how the peace of this scene charged nevertheless with a tremulous and dark significance, affected Featherstone who lived with it.
014. …the shadowy gloaming crept softly out of the jungle, like an army making its way with caution in unknown country…
015. I wondered whether, unbeknownst to him, the tender and yet strangely sinister aspect of the scene, acting on his nerves and his loneliness, imbued him with some mystical quality so that the life he led, the life of the capable administrator, the sportsman and the good fellow, on occasion seemed to him not quite real.
016. He was cut upon a pattern that I knew too well to find very interesting. He was like a novel that is careful, honest and efficient, yet a little ordinary, so that you seem to have read it all before, and you turn the pages listlessly, knowing that it will never afford you a surprise or move you to excitement.
017. But human beings are incalculable and he is a fool who tells himself that he knows what a man is capable of.
018. You know, that’s how a writer gets to know the people he writes about, by standing himself in their shoes and feeling with their hearts.
019. I don’t know anything that is more contrary to love than affection.
020.  ‘Seeing’ has an active side and a passive one. Most people we run across mean so little to us that we never bestir ourselves to look at them. We just suffer the impression they make on us.
021. “Well, if you’re going to bully me into being logical and consistent, I should suggest that their love is of a different kind. After all, passion isn’t the only reason for marriage. It may not even be the best one. Two people may marry because they’re lonely or because they’re good friends or for convenience’s sake. Though I said that affection was the greatest enemy of love, I would never deny that it’s a very good substitute. I’m not sure that a marriage founded on it isn’t the happiest.’
022. They never spoke as though either of them would marry, but always as though it were a settled thing that they would remain together.
023. “They were rather reserved and you couldn’t help seeing that they liked their own society better than other people’s. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but that always seems to put people’s backs up. They resent it somehow if they have a feeling you can get along very well without them.”
024. …you had an impression that they were always glad to get away again. They’d dine out with people and make themselves very pleasant, but it was pretty obvious that they’d just as soon have stayed at home.
025.  And whatever people said about their being standoffish and self-centered, they were bound to be rather touched by the affection they had for one another. … when you saw how some couples got on you couldn’t hep thinking they made most marriages look rather like a washout. They seemed to think the same things at the same time. They has little private jokes that made them laugh like children.
026. They never seemed to belong quite to the present. There was something Elizabethan about them.
027. It may seem strange to persons who live in a highly civilised state that he should confide these intimate things to a stranger. [SO English]
028. Although she was always so nice to me and easy to get on with, and we were such good friends, I always felt that there was something a little mysterious in her. Although she was so simple, so frank and natural, you never quite got over the feeling of an inner kernel of aloofness, as if deep in her heart she guarded, not a secret, but a sort of privacy of the soul that not a living person would ever be allowed to know.

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
001. His emotions, from lack of exercise, had disappeared almost altogether.
002. She blinded herself, in short, by pretending for awhile that human beings are not divided into exterminators and exterminatees, with the former, at any given moment, predominating. Will-power is useless without a sense of direction. Hers was at such a low ebb that is no longer gave her the instructions for survival.

B The Bostonians by Henry James
001. …would feel as sorry as she could ever feel for anything–for she was a kind of a fatalist, anyhow…
002. It wasn’t a party–Olive didn’t go to parties; it was one of those weird meetings she was so fond of. “What kind of meetings do you refer to? You speak as if it were a rendezvous of witches on the Brocken.” “Well, so it is; they are all witches and wizards, mediums, and spirit-rappers, and roaring radicals.” [meaning a seance]
003. …this pale girl, with her light-green eyes, her pointed features and nervous manner, was visibly morbid; …
004. …obvious as it was that with such a face as that she must be remarkable. He was sorry for her, but he saw in a flash that no one could help her: that was what made her tragic.
005. It was the usual things of life that filled her with silent rage; which was natural enough, inasmuch as, to her vision, almost everything that was usual was iniquitous.
006. This, however, was in the future; what Basil Ransom actually perceived was that Miss Chancellor was a signal old maid. That was her quality, her destiny; nothing could be more distinctly written. There are women who are unmarried by accident, and others who are unmarried by option; but Olivce Chancellor was unmarried by every implication of her being. She was a spinster as Shelley was a lyric poet, or as the month of August is sultry. She was so essentially a celibate that Ransom found himself thinking of her as old, though when he came to look at her (as he said to himself) it was apparent that her years were fewer than his own.
007. He did not dislike her, she had been so friendly; but, little by little, she gave him an uneasy feeling—the sense that you could never be safe with a person who took things so hard
008. young Mississippian had culture enough to see that she was refined. Her white skin had a singular look of being drawn tightly across her face; but her features, though sharp and irregular, were delicate in a fashion that suggested good breeding. Their line was perverse, but it was not poor. The curious tint of her eyes was a living colour; when she turned it upon you, you thought vaguely of the glitter of green ice. She had absolutely no figure, and presented a certain appearance of feeling cold. …she had the advantages as well as the drawbacks of a nervous organisation. She smiled constantly at her guest, but from the beginning to the end of dinner, though he made several remarks that he thought might prove amusing, she never once laughed. Later, he saw that she was a woman without laughter; exhilaration, if it ever visited her, was dumb. Only once, in the course of his subsequent aquaintance wiht her, did it find a voice; andthen the sound remained in Random’s ear as one of the strangest he has heard.
009. She asked him a great many questions, and made no comment on his answers, which only served to suggest to her fresh inquiries.
010. …she looked at such times as if she were hesitating greatly between several things she might say, all so important that it was difficult to choose.
011. ‘Don’t you care for human progress?’ Miss Chancellor went on.
‘I don’t know–I never saw any. Are you going to show me some?’
012. It was in this poor young lady’s nature to be anxious, to have scruple within scruple and to forecast the consequences of things.
013. She thought him very handsome as he said this, but reflected that unfortunately men didn’t care for the truth, especially thee new kinds, in proportion as they were good-looking. She had, however, a moral resource that she could always fall back upon; it had already been a comfort to her, on occasions of acute feeling, that she hated men, as a class, anyway.
014. … he belonged to a sex to which she wished to be under no obligation.
015. ‘…the human race has got to bear its troubles. ‘
‘That’s what men say to women, to make them patient in the position they have made for them.’
016. The girl was pretty, though she had red hair. {P.N. What does *that* mean?}
017. While Miss Birdseye stood there … Olive Chancellor tenderly fastened a small battered broach which confined her collar and which had half detched itself.
018. …she thought they all talked too much.
019. This checked him; she was capable of thinking that *he* talked to much– she herself having, apparently, no general conversation.
020. She didn’t want to be narrow, but she thought a person ought to know something.
021. Yes, she was pretty-appearing, but there was a certain indication of anaemia, …
022. …she was certainly very pale, white as women are who have that shade of red hair: they look as if their blood had gone into it.
023. She didn’t tell me to say she was glad to see you, because she doesn’t know whether she is or not, and she wouldn’t for the world expose herself to telling a fib.
024. She is very honest, is Olive Chancellor; she is full of rectitude.
025. a visitor, kept waiting for a few moments, was already absorbed in a book. The gentleman had not even needed to sit down to become interested: apparently he had taken up the volume from a table as soon as he came in, and, standing there, after a single glance round the apartment, had lost himself in its pages.
026. Basil Ransom stared; the yellow light in his brown eyes deepened. “Do you mean to say your sister’s a roaring radical?” “A radical? She’s a female Jacobin—she’s a nihilist. Whatever is, is wrong, and all that sort of thing. If you are going to dine with her, you had better know it.”
027. “Oh, it isn’t the city; it’s just Olive Chancellor. She would reform the solar system if she could get hold of it.
028. “Have you been in Europe?” Ransom asked. “Mercy, yes! Haven’t you?” “No, I haven’t been anywhere. Has your sister?” “Yes; but she stayed only an hour or two. She hates it; she would like to abolish it.
029. Perhaps she should take a house in Washington; did he ever hear of that little place? They had invented it while she was away.
030. She stood there looking, consciously and rather seriously, at Mr. Ransom; a smile of exceeding faintness played about her lips—it was just perceptible enough to light up the native gravity of her face. It might have been likened to a thin ray of moonlight resting upon the wall of a prison.
031. Try to reform him; a person from Mississippi is sure to be all wrong.
032. She was habited in a plain dark dress, without any ornaments, and her smooth, colourless hair was confined as carefully as that of her sister was encouraged to stray. She had instantly seated herself, and while Mrs. Luna talked she kept her eyes on the ground, glancing even less toward Basil Ransom than toward that woman of many words
033. He wondered why she was agitated, not foreseeing that he was destined to discover, later, that her nature was like a skiff in a stormy sea. Even after her sister had passed out of the room she sat there with her eyes turned away, as if there had been a spell upon her which forbade her to raise them. Miss Olive Chancellor, it may be confided to the reader, to whom in the course of our history I shall be under the necessity of imparting much occult information, was subject to fits of tragic shyness, during which she was unable to meet even her own eyes in the mirror. One of these fits had suddenly seized her now, without any obvious cause, though, indeed, Mrs. Luna had made it worse by becoming instantly so personal. There was nothing in the world so personal as Mrs. Luna; her sister could have hated her for it if she had not forbidden herself this emotion as directed to individuals.
034. He, too, had a private vision of reform, but the first principle of it was to reform the reformers.
035. nothing could be further from her common habit than to entertain alone, at any repast, a gentleman she had never seen.
036. Their cousinship—that of Chancellors and Ransoms—was not very close; it was the kind of thing that one might take up or leave alone, as one pleased.
037. Olive had a fear of everything, but her greatest fear was of being afraid.
038. Of all things in the world, contention was most sweet to her (though why it is hard to imagine, for it always cost her tears, headaches, a day or two in bed, acute emotion),
039. and it was very possible Basil Ransom would not care to contend. Nothing could be more displeasing than this indifference when people didn’t agree with you. That he should agree she did not in the least expect of him; how could a Mississippian agree? If she had supposed he would agree, she would not have written to him.
040. he had never felt himself in the presence of so much organised privacy or of so many objects that spoke of habits and tastes. Most of the people he had hitherto known had no tastes; they had a few habits, but these were not of a sort that required much upholstery.
041. He had always heard Boston was a city of culture, and now there was culture in Miss Chancellor’s tables and sofas, in the books that were everywhere, on little shelves like brackets (as if a book were a statuette),
042. “Well, I have heard at Miss Birdseye’s some inspirational speaking.” Olive Chancellor was determined to look him straight in the face as she said this; her sense of the way it might strike him operated as a cogent, not as a deterrent, reason.
043. he burst once more into an irrepressible laugh. This made his companion feel, with intensity, how little she was joking.
044. a peculiar look of being both new and faded—a kind of modern fatigue—like certain articles of commerce which are sold at a reduction as shop-worn.
045. Indeed, it completed Miss Birdseye herself, if anything could be said to render that office to this essentially formless old woman, who had no more outline than a bundle of hay.
046. It struck even Basil Ransom with its flatness, and he said to himself that his cousin must have a very big bee in her bonnet to make her like such a house. He did not know then, and he never knew, that she mortally disliked it, and that in a career in which she was constantly exposing herself to offence and laceration, her most poignant suffering came from the injury of her taste. She had tried to kill that nerve, to persuade herself that taste was only frivolity in the disguise of knowledge; but her susceptibility was constantly blooming afresh and making her wonder whether an absence of nice arrangements were a necessary part of the enthusiasm of humanity.
047. She was a copious, handsome woman, in whom angularity had been corrected by the air of success;

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress