Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Informed Air

My favorite essay is called "Eyes and Noses" and argues that noses are better to write about than eyes. She writes,
"The transcendent function of the nose is to proclaim humankind. That the nose is our tether between spirit and substance, Heaven and Earth, is evident from Genesis, 'the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul'. The first thing that happened to Adam happened to his nose. Therefore the nose is an emblem at once of our dusty origin and our divine.
Why else do infants reach our for our noses, except that they doubt whether we have got souls, like themselves? Remember that the newly born are, all unawares, deeply versed in the Book of Genesis. Thus counselled, our children clutch our emblematic noses, generously to give us the benefit of the doubt."

So much to love in these essays.

"In fact, I would not want to have written anything by anyone else, because they are 'them', and I am, 'me'. And I do not want to be anybody else but myself with all the ideas I want to convey, the stories I want to tell, maybe lesser works, but my own."
          --"The Book I Would Like to Have Written, and Why"

"Thinking back, it is surprising how many--almost all, in fact--of my once-rejected pieces were subsequently published, as I began to make my name. ... [T]he majority of those one-time rejects have become a part of my oeuvre, studied in universities."
(That's a cockiness I'm doing my best to take to heart.)
"I remember visiting Auden at his house in Austria some years  before he died. He was re-writing some of his poems. He said to me, I'm not changing my first intentions, but getting closer to what I really meant.'"
         --"The Writing Life"

On Job refusing to "attribute to God any blame for his agonies":
"Is this because he is being overheard by God? One wonders what Job might have said had he been assured of complete privacy. With God we have none of us any privacy, in itself an almost intolerable burden." 
--"An Unknown Author"

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