Commonplace 2009


“The modern architect, in abandoning his long tedious flirtation with historic styles associated with different cultures than his own, has not earned the right to disregard style entirely. Rather he has made it possible to make some fundamental choices between ponderosity and lightness, between magnificence and humility, between complexity and simplicity: choices which are ultimately not pragmatic and technical, but esthetic, ethical, personal.”                                                 (Lewis Mumford, from Journals of the American Institute of Architects, May 1950)

“Architecture is ninety per cent business and ten per cent art.”                                                                     (Albert Kahn, from Journals of the American Institute of Architects, February 1949)

“A conference is a group of men who individually can do nothing, but as a group can meet and decide that nothing can be done.’                                                                                (quoted from Pittsburgh Charette in Journals of the American Institute of Architects, February 1948)

“Experts must be ‘on tap’, not ‘on top’.”                                                                               (attributed to Harold Laski in Journals of the American Institute of Architects, May 1948)

L.A. Luvvies

“When the author was 15, Ms. Reynolds [Debbie, wife of Eddie Fisher] gave her a vibrator for Christmas, and also gave one to her own mother, who declined to use it for fear it would short her pacemaker.”                                                                                                                                                           (Charles McGrath reviewing Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, in NYT, January 2)


The Cricket Umpire’s Christmas Carol

Good King Wenceslas looked out.

Plumb in front. I had no doubt.

I raised my finger. He raised two.

‘No winter fuel’, he said, ‘for you’.                                                                                                                                                (by Kit Wright, in the Spectator, 20-27 December, 2008)


“Jews should be Jews—not Nazis.”                          (Yehudi Menuhin in letter to Grace Halsell)


Coping with Reality in the Black Caucus

“Nobody is confident of how to move in the presence of a black president. It has never happened before. How does one organize when a brother is in the White House?” (Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report)

“As an African-American, we spend half our time trying to explain to people why we need help and the stigma of slavery, and prejudice and discrimination. If you have a president who knows all this, then you go straight to the quick. We won’t get preferential treatment because we are black, but he will know who we are and what the struggle is and why our legislative agenda is there.” (Representative Charles B. Rangel)

“I don’t think we are going to be walking up to him and saying ‘Brother President. Maybe some of us will have the desire to say ‘Brother President’, but we will respect him as Mr. President and we will respect the office.” (Representative John Lewis)                    (all from NYT, January 7)


“The mainstream church, [Mark] Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into a ‘Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ’, a ‘neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that … would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.’” (from NYT Magazine, January 11)


“Though the twentieth century saw horrific genocides inspired by Nazi pseudoscience about genetics and race, it also saw horrific genocides inspired by Marxist pseudoscience about the malleability of human nature. The real threat to humanity comes from totalizing ideologies and the denial of human rights, rather than a curiosity about nature and nurture.”                                                                                                          (Steven Pinker, in NYT Magazine, January 11)


“And yet there [London] too the same stubborn silent and by now chronic struggle is carried on, the struggle to the death of the typically western principle of individual isolation with the necessity to live in some sort of harmony with each other, to create some sort of community and to settle down in the same ant hill; even turning into an ant hill seems desirable – anything to be able to settle down without having to devour each other – the alternative is to turn into cannibals.”      (from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, Chapter 5)


“There are no women in the world as beautiful as the English.”                                                                                (from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, Chapter 5)


“But workers are all of them capitalists too, in their heart of hearts: their one ideal is to become capitalists and amass as many things as possible; that is their nature. People don’t get their nature for nothing. All this requires centuries of growth and upbringing. National characteristics cannot easily be altered: it is not easy to get away from centuries-old habits which have been ingrained in one’s personality.”                                                                                                                                                        (from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, Chapter 6)


“It [brotherhood] was, however, found to be absent in French and in western nature generally; what was found to exist instead was the principle of individuality, the principle of isolation, of intensified self-preservation, of self-seeking, of self-determination within one’s own personality  and self, of contrast between this elf, the whole of nature, and the rest of humanity; and this contrast was considered as an independent and separate principle completely equal and equivalent in value to all that existed apart from itself.”                                                                                             (from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, Chapter 6)


“… a voluntary, absolutely conscious and completely unforced sacrifice of oneself for the sake of all is, I consider, a sign of the highest development of individual personality, its highest power, highest self-possession and highest freedom of individual will. Voluntarily to lay down one’s life for all, be crucified or burnt at the stake for the sake of all, is possible only at the point of the highest development of individual personality.”                                                                                       (from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, Chapter 6)


“In desperation, the socialist begins to make and define the future brotherhood, weighs and measures it, throws out the bait of personal advantage, explains, teaches and tells people how much advantage each person will obtain out of this brotherhood, how much each will gain; he determines the utility and cost of each individual, and works out in advance the balance of this world’s blessings: how much each individual deserves them and how much each individual must voluntarily contribute to the community in exchange for them at the cost of his own personality. But how can there possibly be any brotherhood if it is preceded by a distribution of shares and by determining how much each person has earned and what each must do?”                                                                    (from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, Chapter 6)


“And what are Hitler, Mosley or Mussolini like, more than those big backward boys who in every school get stuck in the Fourth form, and who by a mixture of bullying and toadying attract a certain amount of unattached idealism to themselves?”                           (Edgell Rickword in 1934 essay in Left Review, quoted by Bernard Bergonzi in Reading The Thirties, Chapter 1)


“History is here in the park, in the town. It is in the offices, the duplicators, the traffic, the nursemaids wheeling prams, the airmen, the aviary, the new viaduct over the valley. It was once in the castle on the cliff, in the sooty churches, in your mind; but it is abandoning them, leaving with them only the failing energy of desperation, going to live elsewhere.” (from Edward Upward’s Sunday [1931], quoted by Bernard Bergonzi in Reading The Thirties, Chapter 2)


“The face of Garbo is an Idea, that of [Audrey] Hepburn an Event.” (Roland Barthes in Mythologies, quoted by Bernard Bergonzi in Reading The Thirties, Chapter 7)


“It [Spender’s Forward From Liberalism] is one of the texts that illustrate the melancholy paradox that literary men, when seized by political passions, can often use words without knowing what they mean.” (Bernard Bergonzi in Reading The Thirties, Chapter 8)


“In business and finance people repeat to each other the same transitorily fashionable views in mutual reinforcement. What matters is not to have a well-informed opinion of one’s own, but to have a good knowledge of currently prevailing opinion.” (John Kay, in Prospect, January 2009)


“There is a little government can do to raise standards of public morality, but not much to address banality of thought.”                                             (John Kay, in Prospect, January 2009)


Like So Many Before Him…

“He was not into hanky-panky or anything. He simply wanted to make the world a better place.”                                                 (the daughter of Russell McNutt [died 2008], identified as a Soviet spy and collaborator with the Rosenbergs in Spies: The Rise and Fall of the K.G.B. in America, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev, as reported in NYT, January 18)


“I often think of that prize-winning spoof headline in the New York Daily News in 1920: ‘Archduke found alive, World War a Mistake’. Surely the best repositories of humour are the Bronx and the Household Division.”                      (from Alan Clark’s Diaries, 28 June, 1983)


“I only can properly enjoy carol services if I am having an illicit affair with someone in the congregation.”                                               (from Alan Clark’s Diaries, 17 December, 1985)


“I know nothing about golf, but thought that ‘looking for the ball’ was one of the secondary ritualized pleasures?”                                                      (from Alan Clark’s Diaries, 6 January, 1991)


“The chiropractic therapeutics rest upon the doctrine that the way to get rid of such pinches is to climb upon a table and submit to a heroic pummeling by a retired piano mover.”                                                                                                                             (from H. L. Mencken’s Chiropractic)


Having It Both Ways

“We should make every effort to eradicate poverty abroad, but not at the expense of creating it here.”                                                                                         (from letter in NYT, January 19)

“Thy [centrist Democrats] say they believe that global warming is a serious threat and they will support legislation to address the problem – but not at the expense of their already-strained workers and industries.”                                                     (from report in NYT, January 27)


“Hiccups, hernias and hemorrhoids are all caused by an imperfect transfer of anatomical technology from our fish ancestors.”                          (Professor Marlene Zuk, in NYT, January 20)


“I believe that in design, 30 percent dignity, 20 percent beauty and 50 percent absurdity are necessary.”                                                                                                               (Shigeo Fukuda, graphic designer and author of Visual Illusion, from his NYT obituary, January 20)


“… your system of government is an elective monarchy with a king who rules … but does not reign. Ours is a republic with a hereditary life president who … reigns but does not rule.”                                                                                                                                             (Lord Hailsham, to an American audience in 1963, according to Mary Kenny in the Spectator, January 10)


“But how boring is the thought that we are all brothers under the skin. There is something in these myths, even if they are best kept for one’s private speculation. Perhaps they are needful, as long as their application is abstract and general, not concrete and individual. They help us to define ourselves – not invariably as better than, quite often not as good as. Who would describe the English as wise, inscrutable, spiritual/ racial attacks have little to do with the victims (not that this will console them), and  a lot to do with the attackers, who have had a hard time trying to define themselves, and don’t much like the conclusions they foggily arrive at.”                                                                                                                       (from D. J. Enwright’s Interplay, p 50)


“To reduce oneself to a stupor with morphia was risky, perhaps immoral, but to drink a whisky and soda would have been common – a far worse offence.’                                                                                                 (Philip Ziegler on Diana Cooper, quoted by D. J. Enwright in Interplay, p 52)


“A man who can write aphorisms should not fritter his time away writing essays.”                                                                                     (Karl Kraus, according to D. J. Enwright in Interplay, p 55)


“He made the books and he died.”                                                                                                                 (William Faulkner, in a letter to Malcolm Cowley, 11th February 1949, as quoted by D. J. Enwright in Interplay, p 70: normally quoted as “He wrote books; then he died”: see earlier CP)


“He who lives for the sake of combating an enemy has an interest in seeing that the enemy stays alive.”                                                   (Nietzsche, according to D. J. Enwright in Interplay, p 143)


“But a small addition of absurdity is a necessary ingredient in such an allegory: it serves to indicate its allegorical nature. If you take Christian dogma sensu proprio [literally], then Voltaire is right. Taken allegorically, on the other hand, it is a sacred myth… Yet the weak point of all religions remains that they can never dare to confess to being allegorical, so that they have to present all their doctrines in all seriousness as true sensu proprio, which, because of the absurdities essential to allegory, leads to perpetual deception and a great disadvantage for religion. What is even worse, indeed, is that in time it comes to light that they are not true sensu proprio, and then they perish. To this extent it would be better to admit their allegorical nature straightaway; only the difficulty here is to make the people understand that a thing can be true and not true at the same time.”                                                                                      (Schopenhauer in Essays and Aphorisms, quoted by D. J. Enwright in Interplay, p 148)


“I shall speak the truth about women when I have one foot in the coffin; then I shall quickly pull the other one in and clap down the lid.”                                                                                                                                  (Tolstoy to Gorky, according to D. J. Enwright in Interplay, p 182)


“The satirist who writes nothing but satire should write but little – or it will seem that his satire springs rather from his own caustic nature than from the sins of the world in which he lives.”                                                   (Trollope, according to D. J. Enwright in Interplay, p 234)


“Learned in Celtic culture, [Ella] Young was also a mystic with strong folkloric beliefs. (she had been briefly detained at Ellis Island as  a probable mental case when the authorities learned she believed in the existence of fairies, elves, and pixies.)”                                                                                          (from Kevin Starr’s The Dream Endures, California Enters the 1940s, Chapter 2)

“Seeing the look on Webb’s face, [Bugsy] Siegel laughed. “There’s no chance that you’ll get killed,’ he told Webb. ‘We only kill each other.’”                                                                                                                                                      (from Kevin Starr’s The Dream Endures, California Enters the 1940s, Chapter 6, quoted from We Only Kill Each Other by Dean Jennings)

“Film historians have long since noted dozens of genre-cycles or genre-cycles within genre-cycles during the 1930s: pacifism, Ruritania, the fallen woman, quickly followed by the sexually liberated woman, the gangster, the convict or the ex-convict, the shyster, horror films, the costume epic, the backstage musical, the G-man, the reforming populist, the lynch film, right-wing films, left-wing films, a Chinese cycle, a Dead End Kid cycle, a western cycle, films of Utopian escape, the films of annus mirabilis 1939 in which just about every genre-cycle was recapitulated and fulfilled.”                                                                                                                                                 (from Kevin Starr’s The Dream Endures, California Enters the 1940s, Chapter 9)

“Brecht had extremely bad teeth, which he rarely brushed, and he smoked very cheap and terrible-smelling cigars, whose stench, combined with body odor (Brecht rarely bathed) and a malodorous foot fungus, rendered Brecht a party of one in the making….  His one indulgence seems to have been women: his wife the actress Helene Weigel, his mistress the actress Ruth Berlau, who lived nearby, and other women of the Marxist-Stalinist persuasion willing to put aside Brecht’s failings so as to bed down with the next best thing to Stalin himself.”                                   (from Kevin Starr’s The Dream Endures, California Enters the 1940s, Chapter 12)

“’I’ve had many difficulties in my life, many sad misadventures,’ remembered Russian-born composer Dimitri Tiomsky. ‘I went through two revolutions and suffered many hardships. But the most formidable adversary of all has been the beautiful language of Shakespeare, Byron, and Sam Goldwyn.’”                                            (from Kevin Starr’s The Dream Endures, California Enters the 1940s Chapter 13, quoted from Tiomkin’s book Please Don’t Hate Me)



Whoever hath my wit, thou hast they Will:

And where is Will alive but hath a way?

So in device they wit is starved still

And as devised by Will. That is to say,

My second-best bed, yes, and the gear withal

Thou hast; but all that capital messuage

Known as New Place goes to Susanna Hall.

Haply the disproportion may engage

The harmless all-too-wise which otherwise

Might knot themselves disknitting of a clue

That Bacon wrote me. Lastly, I devise

My wit, to whom? To wit, to-whit, to-whoo!

And here revoke all previous testaments:

Witness, J. SHAW and ROBERT WHATTCOAT, Gents.

(quoted by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in From a Cornish Window, March)


“These prisoners have deteriorated to the point of losing any resemblance to human beings… Somebody – obviously hostile – is arranging for people to die en route and to die upon arrival.”                                (Andreei Vishinsky, chief Soviet prosecutor during the purge, in memorandum on gulag inspection in 1938, quoted in Inside The Stalin Archives, by Jonathan Brent)


“This is 1936 economics…. They [the Appropriations Committee] took everything that had been piling up in their filing cabinet for 100 years, threw it into this bill [the $850 billion economic package] and called it economic stimulus.”                                                        (Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, senior Republican on Budget Committee, quoted in NYT, January 27th)


“For my part I can think of nothing better calculated to reassure anyone whose dreams are haunted by apprehension of wild-cat legislative schemes, or the imminence of a Radical millennium, than five minutes’ contemplation of our champions of progress as they recline together, dignified and whiskered and bland, upon the benches of St Stephen’s.”                                                                                     (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, in From a Cornish Window, July)

“They shared their sad stories the other night at an informal gathering of Dating a Banker Anonymous, a support group founded in November to help women cope with the inevitable relationship fallout from, say, the collapse of Lehman Brothers or the Dow’s shedding 777 points in a single day, as it did on Sept. 29. “                                               (from NYT, January 28)


“John Updike defined ‘the true New Yorker’ as someone who came with “a secret belief that people living anywhere else had to be, in some sense, kidding.”            (from NYT, January 30)

“You either crowd out other borrowers or you print money. There is no way you can have $2.2 trillion in borrowing without influencing interest rates or inflation in the long-term.  This is a crisis of excessive debt, which reached 355 percent of American gross domestic product. It cannot be solved with more debt.”                                                                                                                                                (Niall Ferguson, on the U.S. stimulus package, quoted in NYT, January 30)

“The charlatan is always the pioneer. From the astrologer came the astronomer, from the alchemist the chemist, from the mesmerist the experimental psychologist. The quack of yesterday is the professor of tomorrow.”                     (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Leather Funnel, according to Andrew Lycett’s The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 16)

“Those affairs of the heart, for example, which are such an index to a man’s character, and so profoundly modify his life – what space do they fill in any man’s autobiography?”                                                                                                                                      (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, according to Andrew Lycett’s The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 17)


Department of Headless Ostriches “Our society is running around with our head in the sand because we have ways to prevent illness and death that aren’t being used.”                                                                                                  (Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California, Davis, as reported in NYT, February 2)

“The inhabitants of Hargicourt, just one-quarter of a mile away, were considered ‘foreigners’ by the Villeret folk, and regarded with abiding distrust. In turn, the people of Villeret were often dismissed by neighbouring communities as a collection of ‘gypsies’, backward peasants who kept to themselves. There was a local saying: ‘The rich folk of Hargicourt, the clever folk of Narroy, and the savages of Villeret.’”                 (Ben Macintyre describing the Picardy villages of 1914, in The Englishman’s Daughter [A Foreign Field in the UK], Chapter 2)

“All people seem to do is the best they can to get along and have a good time; and if that means keeping what they’ve got, they’re liable to become fascists; and if it means trying to get what they need and don’t have, there’s a good chance of their learning the Internationale.”                                                                 (from Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run?, Chapter 4)

“Going through life with a conscience is like driving your car with the brakes on.”                                                     (Sammy Glick, in Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run?, Chapter 4)


“’Don’t be a sap,’ he said. ‘You’ve heard of the survival of the fittest.’

I admitted that I held with the theory of evolution, but in a somewhat more complex form.

‘You can give it all the fancy names you want,’ he said, ‘but when you come right down to it it’s dog eat dog.’”                                                                                                                                    (Sammy Glick and Al Manheim in Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run?, Chapter 4)


“What is a Jew? The anthropologists have proved it is not a race, since the only scientific category is the Semitic, which includes Arabians and Assyrians, some of the most fervent anti-Jews in the world. And if it were merely a religion, all Jews like me would have to be excluded. And if it is only a unit of national culture it is withering away in America, for the customs and traditions that the Glicksteins brought over at the end of the nineteenth century may have been inherited by Israel, droning in his yarmolka at my side, but were thrown overboard as excess baggage by anyone in such a hurry as his younger brother.”                                                                                                         (from Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run?, Chapter 9)


“Oh, the beautiful American dream of childhood, barefoot boys with feet of tan, playing pirate, swimming holes, bullfrogs in quiet ponds and Sunday hats, puppy loves, schooldays, dear old golden rules days, my bashful beau, my ring-around-rosie queen in calico, Tom Sawyer and Penrod and Andy Hardy with America’s No. 1 Star, Mickie Rooney, don’t miss that heartwarming picture of family life coming to your neighborhood theater on Rivington Street, a sole screen-play credit, by Sammy Glick.”                                                                                                                                       (From Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run?, Chapter 9)


“No, Willie [Hornung] is a fine fellow, who will back him without question. Willie has a good sharp brain, and is a very decent wicketkeeper. He may dislike golf, but at least gives the best reason Arthur [Conan Doyle] has yet heard for such a prejudice: ‘I consider it unsportsmanlike to hit a sitting ball.’”                                         (from Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George, p 188)


“Perhaps the best way to show a wife that you have no designs on her husband is to flirt with him in front of her.”                                                 (from Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George, p 192)


“You married a true woman, and became bored with her; you married a false one, and did not notice rings were being run round you. Those seemed to be the two choices available to man.”                                                                      (Alfred Wood, in Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George, p 255)


“Wits liked to repeat that the English, since they lacked any spiritual instinct, had invented cricket in order to give themselves a sense of eternity.”                                                                                                                                              (from Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George, p 266)


“If he has always valued her directness, there is a residual suspicion within him that whenever a woman says something must be talked about, it is rarely to a man’s comfort or advantage.”                                                                                (from Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George, p 279)


“Genealogical detectives did not, on the whole, send in bills attached to confirmation that you were descended from swineherds on one side of the family and pedlars on the other.”                                                                                           (from Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George, p 284)


“The greatest obstacle to scientific progress is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.” (James Le Fanu, in Why Us?, quoted in Christopher Booker’s Spectator review, January 31)


“Are you going to put them in Harvard or in a zoo?”                                                                        (Dr. Richard Klein, a palaeoanthropologist at Stanford University, on the possibility of re-creating Neanderthals out of DNA from their bones, as reported in NYT, February 13)


“Across the street, a hundred feet up-, a grapy Plymouth sedan was parked…….. There might be a cop in it, if a cop had that much time on his hands and wanted to waste it following me around. Or it might be a smoothie in the detective business trying to get a noseful of somebody’s else’s case in order to chisel a way into it. Or it might be the Bishop of Bermuda disapproving of my night life.”                                      (from Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Chapter 25)


“There are two kinds of poetry, good and bad. Minor poetry is a phrase used by incompetent critics who dare not oppose their judgment to the possible contradictions of posterity.”   (Richard Middleton in The Academy, quoted by Frank MacShane in The Life of Raymond Chandler)


“The literary use of slang is a study in itself. I’ve found that there are only two kinds that are any good: slang that has established itself in the language, and slang that you make up yourself. Everything else is apt to be passé before it gets into print.”                                                                                     (Raymond Chandler, quoted by Frank MacShane in The Life of Raymond Chandler)


“I’d like to look at a list of mysteries that have sold more than 5,000 copies in the last five years.  I have a hunch they could be counted on the fingers of the Two-Toed Sloth.”                     (Raymond Chandler, quoted by Frank MacShane in The Life of Raymond Chandler)


“I guess God made Boston on a wet Sunday.”                                                                      (Raymond Chandler, quoted by Frank MacShane in The Life of Raymond Chandler)


“All us tough guys are hopeless sentimentalists.”                                                                   (Raymond Chandler, quoted by Frank MacShane in The Life of Raymond Chandler)


‘He Doesn’t Trouble Me Much’ Department “Don’t worry, dear. Sex will only last a year.”                                                                                    (advice given to Leila Hadley by her mother before Leila’s marriage to Arthur Twining II, according to her NYT obituary, February 15)


Lest We Forget What The Goal Is  “If we’re trying to stimulate the economy, and get money into the Treasury, nothing does that better than art.”                                                                                                                                  (Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a New York Democrat who is co-chairwoman of the Congressional Arts Caucus, as reported in NYT, February 16)


“I’m the universal record-holder for the number of trials in the entire history of man – and also of other creatures who live on other planets.”                                                                               (Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in 2008, according to report in NYT, February 18)


“Habit becomes tradition; tradition becomes culture.”                                                           (Bruce Smith, senior biologist at the National Elk refuge in Jackson, Wyoming, on the unwanted outcomes of the  program, begun in 1912, to feed wild elk, as reported in NYT, February 18)


“A sermon should be like a woman’s dress. Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.”                                                                                                                                                             (A preacher quoted in Dan Baum’s Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans)


“At a cricketers’ smoking concert early in the war Doyle said: ‘If ever England gets into a hole, you may depend on it that her sporting men will pull her out of it.’ That indeed was the least they could do since they had helped to get her into it, the nation’s preoccupation with sport keeping its mind off the muddle and corruption of politics.”                                                                                                                  (from Hesketh Pearson’s Conan Doyle: His Life and Art, Chapter 9)


“Here we may pause to note that all unimaginative folk love the fanciful, the horrible, and the uncanny, which for them add a relish to life, just as people without insensitive palates love curry. The imaginative ones do not require such stimulants, finding the common round enough to stir their creative or engage their contemplative faculties. Doyle, and many others, mistook the fanciful for the imaginative, whereas the diagnostic of a truly imaginative man is a sense of reality. The imagination wrestles with life and is intuitive; the fancy plays around life and is inventive. Poetry, so called, is more often a flight of the fancy than an effort of the imagination, which, because it grapples with reality, expresses itself in humorous prose more readily than in serious poetry; and so we find that Dr. Johnson’s greatest biographies are more imaginative than Shelley’s finest lyrics, Falstaff’s speeches than Milton’s sonnets. The imaginative type, Shakespeare at its highest, deals with everyday life and only occasionally with the bizarre. The fanciful type, Dickens at its highest, revels in the weird and only touches reality in flashes.”                                              (from Hesketh Pearson’s Conan Doyle: His Life and Art, Chapter 11)


Girls At Prayer


Oh, My God!


Not only in church

And nightly by their bedsides

Do young girls pray these days.


Wherever they go,

Prayer is woven into their talk

Like a bright thread of awe.


Even at the pedestrian mall

Outbursts of praise

Spring unbidden from their glossy lips                                   (from Billy Collins’s Ballistics)


“Most of the girls, as they walked along, seemed to be absorbed in silent prayer; but he supposed, on second thought, it was only gum they were thus incessantly ruminating. Gum, not God.”                           (from Aldous Huxley’s After Many A Summer, Part 1, Chapter 1)



“In this new Christian heaven, progress, no doubt, would have stepped up the period to a millennium and added the joys of everlasting tennis, eternal golf and swimming.”                     (Aldous Huxley, on The Beverly Pantheon, from After Many A Summer, Part 1, Chapter 2)


“But politicians don’t know the nature of reality. If they did, they wouldn’t be politicians. Reactionary or revolutionary, they’re all humanists, all romantics. They live in a world of illusion, a world that’s a mere projection of their own human personalities. They act in ways which would be appropriate if such a world as they think they live in actually existed.”                                        (Mr Propter, in Aldous Huxley’s After Many A Summer, Part 1, Chapter 11)


“Pleasure cannot be shared: like Pain, it can only be experienced or inflicted, and, when we give Pleasure to our Lovers or bestow Charity on the Needy, we do so not to gratify the object of our Benevolence, but only ourselves. For the Truth is that we are kind for the same reason as we are cruel, in order that we may enhance the sense of our own Power; and this we are for ever trying to do. Despite the fact that by doing it we cause ourselves to feel more solitary than ever.”                                                                                                                  (the Fifth Earl of Hogister, from the Hauberk Papers, in Aldous Huxley’s After Many A Summer, Part 2, Chapter 4)


“Power and wealth increase in direct proportion to a man’s distance from the material objects from which wealth and power are ultimately derived.”                  (the Fifth Earl of Hogister, from the Hauberk Papers, in Aldous Huxley’s After Many A Summer, Part 2, Chapter 4)


“The greatest waste of human talent outside an advertising agency.”                                                                       (Raymond Chandler’s description of chess, from The Chandler Papers, p viii)


“You say why don’t I introduce a character as a ‘thin-blooded Roman Catholic or a rugged Episcopalian’? Simply, my dear, because religion has nothing to do with it. You may happen to be an orthodox Hebrew, but there are Roman Catholic Jews and Christian Scientist Jews and Jews with no religion at all, and Jews – very, very many – who are Hebrews just once a year, on the Day of Atonement.” (Raymond Chandler responding to a fan who objected to his featuring a Jewish coin-collector called Morningstar in The High Window, from The Chandler Papers, p 62)


“I have a great idea for an article which I don’t want to write but want to read. Some dispassionate intelligent legally inclined man, not too legal, should write a piece explaining not who is a Commie or a Fellow Traveler, but why reasonably intelligent  and well-to-do people like these Hollywood characters are Commies or FTs. Fundamentally they are not out to overthrow the government nor do they think they would be better off under Stalin. Most of them would be shot as right deviationists.”                                                                                                                                        (Raymond Chandler, from The Raymond Chandler Papers (1947), p 83)


“Of course I don’t like socialism, although a modified form of it is inevitable everywhere. I think a bunch of bureaucrats can abuse the power of money just as ruthlessly as a bunch of Wall Street bankers, and far less competently. Socialism has so far existed largely on the fat of the class it is trying to impoverish. What happens when all that fat is used up?”                                                                                                                         (Raymond Chandler, from The Chandler Papers, p 153)

“The more men are ruled by law, the less they are ruled by honor.

The truth of art keeps science from being inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.”                                    (Raymond Chandler, from The Chandler Papers, p 229)


“A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future.”                                     (From President Obama’s address to Congress on February 24)


“In Denmark, the word ‘God’ is one of the most embarrassing words you can say. You would rather go naked through the city than talk about God.”                                                                                                                                               (a Danish pastor, as reported in NYT, February 28)






“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic. The second is intimate. The third is routine.”    (from Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, quoted by Benedict Carey in NYT, March 3)


“[Bertrand] Russell observed how much good it would to do exterminate the human race. ‘I told him he was a little Sunbeam in the House; we all felt much better.”                                                                                           (Aldous Huxley in letter to Ottoline Morrell, 8 October 1917)


“It’s an awfully good field to get into, if you make sure that you get out of it.”                  (Aldous Huxley on journalism, quoted in Nicholas Murray’s biography, Chapter XIII)


“There can be no crucial experiments in history…. History is not a science.”                                                                                                                           (Aldous Huxley in Do What You Will)


“What may be called the Baconian-pyramidological-cryptographic-spiritual-theosophical syndrome afflicts a large percentage of the human race, who get so much fun out of their mental derangement that they don’t want to be cured.”                                                                                                                                             (Aldous Huxley in letter to J. R. Rhine, 12 December 1954)


“Osbert Lancaster, one of Betjeman’s closest friends in the second part of his life, used to say that he was the only person he knew who managed to be married, have a mistress and live the life of a bachelor all at once.”    (From A. N. Wilson’s Betjeman: A Life, Chapter 10)


“It is imperative that we continue to move with speed to help make housing more affordable and help arrest the damaging spiral in our housing markets.”                                                                                                           (Timothy F. Geithner, Treasury secretary, quoted in NYT, March 8)


“A well-known saying in medicine is that we die of the diseases we study.”                                                                                                                       (Dr. Steven Schenker, of the University of Texas Health Science center, quoted in the NYT obituary of Dr. Charles Lieber, March 11)


So That’s All Right, Then “He knew he didn’t have an M.B.A.., but given all the hard knocks he had gone through and the rigors of being an auto supplier, he felt he had an M.B.A. in terms of the amount of knowledge he had acquired. He was almost speaking metaphorically. He was certainly not attempting to misrepresent his degree. He wishes he hadn’t said it.”                    (Clifford Russell, spokesman for Detroit mayoral candidate Dave Bing, who for many years claimed he had an M.B.A. from Syracuse University in 1966, quoted in NYT, March 12)



“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”                                                                                    (John Kenneth Galbraith, according to NYT, March 15)


“I have a memory like an elephant. In fact, elephants often consult me.”                                                                 (Noel Coward, according to JK Galbraith in preface to A Life In Our Times)


“The trouble with radicals is that they only read radical literature, and the trouble with conservatives is that they don’t read anything.”              (Carver’s Law, after Professor Thomas Nixon Carver of Harvard, according to JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 2)


“Scholarship in the social sciences is assessed by its depth and precision but also by the length of time it has required. A quickly completed job, regardless of quality is bad. A five-year effort is good per se. A lifetime work, not quite finished at death, is superb.”                                                                                                                       (JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 5)


“An economist without a price system is like a priest without a divine being.”                                                                                                         (JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 9)


“Never in the long history of human combat have so many talked about sacrifice with so little deprivation as in the United States in World War II.”                                                                                                                                            (JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 11)


“A junket is a business trip which if taken by anyone but yourself would be considered unnecessary.”                                                      (JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 14)


“The threat to men of great dignity, privilege and pretense is not from the radicals they revile; it is from accepting their own myth.”                     (JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 20)


“I responded thoughtfully to the news, noting that to ask [Milton] Friedman to advise on economic planning was like asking the Holy Father to counsel on the operations of a birth control clinic.”                           (JK Galbraith on Mahalanobis’s request to Eisenhower’s administration for help on India’s Five-Year Plan, in  in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 21)


“It has long been a prime assumption of American politics that anyone, regardless of experience, education, political aptitude or knowledge of elementary English sentence structure, can be an American ambassador, and few such assumptions have been more thoroughly tested.”                                                                                           (JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 25)


“You cannot know the intentions of a government that doesn’t know them itself.”                                                             (Galbraith’s First Law of Intelligence, from his A Life In Our Times, Chapter 25)

  1. “He [Joe Biden] observed to Mr. Obama that if you asked 10 people on the ground what American objectives [in Pakistan and Afghanistan] were, he would get 10 different answers.” (from NYT, March 28)


“This is the first issue in history on which all the American economists seem to have agreed.”                                (President LB Johnson on the academic support for Andreas Papandreou, quoted in NYT, May 8, 1967, and recalled by JK Galbraith in his A Life In Our Times, Chapter 28)


“Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”                                                           (JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 29)


“Readers and more especially authors should be warned as to books written after sixty: the creative impulse survives more powerfully, I’m persuaded, than the critical judgment of what is written.”                                                     (JK Galbraith in A Life In Our Times, Chapter 33)


‘He Doesn’t Trouble Me Much, Doctor’ Department

“He couldn’t do very much, but he liked to fumble about.”                                                                                                  (Mary Frazer-Tytler on her husband, G. F. Watts, [who was previously married to Ellen Terry] according to Michael Holroyd in A Strange Eventful History, reviewed by Charles McGrath in NYT, March 29)

“Mildred [his mother] told him [Freeman Dyson] with amusement about the young mother who walked in carrying a red-headed infant. ‘What a beautiful baby,’ Mildred reported saying, ‘Does he take after his father?’

‘Oh, I couldn’t tell you, Mum,’ came the reply. ‘He kept his hat on.’”                                                                                 (from article on the scientist Freeman Dyson in NYT Magazine, March 29)


“Never again form any connections with any Englishman whatsoever.”                                                                                                       (Ornithologist Ernest Holt, in his diary, reflecting on a one-year association with Percy Fawcett, from The Lost City of Z, Chapter 17, by David Grann)


“I had often heard about biographers who became consumed by their subjects, who, after years of investigating their lives, of trying to follow their every step and inhabit their world completely, were driven into fits of rage and despair, because, at some level, the people were unknowable.”                                                   (David Grann, in The Lost City Of Z, Chapter 25)




“Second, the financial crisis underlines not problems with markets generally, but the difference between the non-financial and financial sectors. I have argued that one common factor in recent financial crises had been that financial innovation (such as derivatives and credit default swaps) had gotten ahead of comprehension, so that few realized the huge potential downside of things going wrong. Whereas with manufacturing innovation the problem was one of “creative destruction”—how to prevent Luddite reactions to benign, prosperity-enhancing developments—in the financial sector the problem was one of potential “destructive creation.”     (Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati, in The American Interest, March/April 2009)


“The Jews of Bahrain are proud to be Bahraini, proud to be Arab.”                                                                                      (Nancy Khedouri, one of Bahrain’s 36 Jews, quoted in NYT, April 6)


“Few people like architects. Fewer still perhaps like journalists. Both, in the public eye, share to an equal degree the faults of incompetence and vanity.” (Hugh Casson)                                 “All magazines demoralize literature.” (Tennyson)

“People who write for the Press lose the facility of seeing for themselves.” (Somerset Maugham)

Journalism is the deadliest of weeds that benefits only the amateur of the slothful in search of quick returns.” (Cyril Connolly)             (all from Hugh Casson’s On Architectural Journalism)


“The global development elite might just be the most innocently narcissistic group of otherwise intelligent people on the planet.”                                                                                                                                          (George B. N. Ayittey in The American Interest, March/April 2009)


“Some older people get so upset at their children for not believing that they say, ‘I wish the Khmer Rouge time would happen again; then you’d believe it.’”                                                                                                                         (Cambodian Ty Leap, 52, quoted in NYT, April 9)


“If ever I should have the opportunity to turn a psychoanalyst loose on him, I think I should introduce this friend business as primary evidence of a minor ailment, at least.”                            (John S. Gambs on J. K. Galbraith’s list of ‘friends’, from his book John Kenneth Galbraith. As he might have said: ‘Galbraith makes George Weidenfeld look like a hermit.’)


“The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal suit against the Police Department on Wednesday on behalf of a Queens man who was ejected from the old Yankee Stadium last August after trying to use the bathroom during the playing of ‘God Bless America.’”                                                                                                                        (from report in NYT, April 16)


“Others dabble in Yeats’s interest in the occult, an obsession W. H. Auden later scorned as the ‘deplorable spectacle of a grown man occupied with the mumbo-jumbo of magic.’[where?]”                                                                                                                    (from NYT, April 18)


“When you start talking to orchestras you are losing it.”                                                                                                       (Bernard Haitink, according to Martin Kettle, in Prospect, April 2009)


“In biographies you can make things up. In novels you are obliged to tell the truth.”                                                                                                           (Peter Ackroyd to Jay Parini, professor of English at Middlebury College, as reported by the latter in Atlantic Monthly, May 2009)


“The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.”                                          (Joan Robinson, in Economic Philosophy, p 45)


“Fame is a mask that eats into the face.”                                                                                                                    (John Updike [where?], according to Toby Young in the Spectator, April 18)


“As Thomas Beecham once memorably remarked, he never knowingly listened to Schoenberg, but he thought he might once have trod in some by mistake.”                                                                                                                            (Charles Spencer, in the Spectator, April 18)


“I think that a fierce woman’s better, a woman

That breaks away when you thought her won,

For I’d be fed and hungry at the same time.

I think that all deep passion is but a kiss

In the mid battle, and a difficult peace

‘Twixt oil and water, candles and dark night.”                                                                      (Cuchulain, in W. B. Yeats’s On Baile’s Strand, according to review in NYT, April 21)


“I never have known love but as a kiss

In the mid-battle, and a difficult truce

Of oil and water, candles and dark night,

Hillside and hollow, the hot-footed sun

And the cold, sliding, slippery-footed moon –

A brief forgiveness between opposites

That have been hatreds for three times the age

Of this long-‘stablished ground.”


“Like ‘The Seagull’, it is built on one of the wonderful paradoxes of theater: deeply unhappy people can generate profound happiness in audiences allowed to eavesdrop on their lives.”                    (Ben Brantley, in critique of Alan Ayckborn’s The Norman Conquests, in NYT, April 24)


“It would be superfluous to add, what great advantage will be derived from the absence of any religious dissensions whatever in the world; as, that there will be no division within families, no tests in the appointment of Ministers, and no religious matter to offend the eye in our daily news-sheets. I commend these considerations very earnestly to the attention of the public, calling upon them in the name of Humanity and Progress to see that this scheme is carried out, whether or no any of the various sectaries concerned like the proposal made; and not to allow the fact that they do not happen to have any religion or any morality of their own make them in any way backward to arrange the moral and religious affairs of other people. Thank God, in these days of enlightenment and establishment, everyone has a right to his own opinions, and chiefly to the opinion, that nobody else has a right to theirs. It shall go hard, but within a century at most we shall make the Church of England true to her Catholic vocation, which is, plainly, to include within her borders every possible shade of belief, Quod umquam quod usquam quod ab ullis.” (the conclusion of R. A. Knox’s Reunion All Round, or Jael’s Hammer Laid Aside, and the Milk of Human Kindness Beaten Up Into Butter and Served in a Lordly Dish, Being a Plea for the Inclusion within the Church of England of all Mahometans, Jews, Buddhiʃts, Brahmins, Papiʃts and Atheiʃts, ʃubmitted to the consideration of the British Public.)


“They have been ruling us for 1,400 years.”                                                                           (Abu Haidar, a Shiite soldier, of the Sunni domination of Shiites in Iraq, reported in NYT, April 25)


“As for Konstantin Saradzhev, he was forgotten altogether – until the nineteen-seventies, when Anastasia Tsvetaeva, the sister of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva, published a memoir about his life and fate. As it turns out, Sarazhdev really was Moscow’s most famous bell ringer, known not just for his ringing but for his superhuman aural acuity: between two adjacent whole tones, he perceived not just one half tone but a half tone flanked on either side by a hundred and twenty-one flats and a hundred and twenty-one sharps.”                                                                                                                                    (from Elif Batuman’s The Bells, in the New Yorker, April 27)


“According to an oft-quoted ecologist. Fotiy Shipunov, formerly of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, bells produce ultrasonic waves that can curdle the proteins of jaundice-causing virus cells in a matter of seconds. Bell ringing has been used to combat mental retardation in children and to encourage the growth of flax plants. The physicist Anatoly Okhatrin claims that bells activate a field of super-lightweight particles called microleptons, which purify the air on a molecular level.”               (from Elif Batuman’s The Bells, in the New Yorker, April 27)


“If I am corrupt, it is because I take care of my district.”                                                                                                                              (Representative John Murtha, reported in NYT, April 26)


“Let me have my own way in exactly everything and a sunnier and pleasanter creature does not exist.”                                                                                                    (Thomas Carlyle, according to Christopher Buckley, in Mum and Pup and Me, excerpted in NYT Magazine, April 26)


“Ain’t nothing perfect about laying down and signing a license with somebody who got the same body parts as you.”                                                                           (Rev. Floyd H. Flake, of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Queens, on same-sex marriages, quoted in NYT, April 27)


What About The Market?

“The issues were obvious – balancing his interest in seeing the companies survive and prosper for the benefit of the workers and communities in which they operate and all the offshoot businesses, versus the interests of American taxpayers.” (David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser, on how Obama viewed the crisis in the auto industry, quoted in NYT, April 29)


“The finest criticism is always passive, not active. Mastery comes only from self-surrender. The critic who justly admires all kinds of things simultaneously cannot love any of them, any more than a lady can be simultaneously in love with more than one gentleman.”                                                                                                 (Max Beerbohm, from George Moore, in Mainly On The Air)


“A man must be judged by what is fine in him, not by what is trivial; for the fine qualities must have deep roots within him, whereas trivial ones may thrive from the very surface.”                                                                         (Max Beerbohm, from George Moore, in Mainly On The Air)


‘But humour, delightful though it is for current purposes, lacks durability. There are fashions in humour, and they are always changing. Wit, on the other hand, being a hard and clean-cut thing, is always as good as new.” (Max Beerbohm, from T. Penning Dodsworth, in Mainly On The Air)


“Wit expresses something that is more designed, concerted, regular, and artificial; humour, something that is more wild, loose, extravagant, and fantastical; something which comes upon a man by fits, which he can neither command nor restrain, and which is not perfectly consistent with true politeness. Humour, it has been said, is often more diverting than wit; yet a man of wit is as much above a man of humour, as a gentleman is above a buffoon; a buffoon, however, will often divert more than a gentleman.”                       (from the entry on Humour in the 1797 Encyclopædia Britannica, quoted by Ronald Knox in his Introduction to Essays on Satire)


“Humour is of an age, satire of all ages; humour is of one particular civilization, satire of all countries.”                                         (Ronald Knox in his Introduction to Essays on Satire)


“In a word, humour without satire is, strictly speaking, a perversion, the misuse of a sense. Laughter is a deadly explosive which was meant to be wrapped up in the cartridge of satire, and so, aimed unerringly at its appointed target, deal its salutary wound; humour without satire is a flash in the pan; it may be pretty to look at, but it is, in truth, a waste of ammunition. Or, if you will, humour is satire that has run to seed; trained no longer by an artificial process, it has lost the virility of its stock. It is port from the wood, without the depth and mystery of its vintage rivals. It is a burning-glass that has lost its focus; a passenger, pulling no weight in the up-stream journey of life; meat that has had the vitamins boiled out of it; a clock without hands. The humorist, in short, is a satirist out of a job; he does not fit into the scheme of things; the world passes him by.”                             (Ronald Knox in his Introduction to Essays on Satire)


“For myself, I like to believe that one name will be immortal at least, that of Mr. Max Beerbohm. Incomparably equipped for satire, as his cartons and his parodies show, he has yet preferred in most of his work to give rein to a gloriously fantastic imagination, a humorist in satirist’s clothing.”                                        (Ronald Knox in his Introduction to Essays on Satire)


“But Stalin wasn’t finished. ‘There are rumors in Switzerland, Mr. Churchill, that you might want to do a deal with Germany. Make a separate peace, once they’ve got rid of Hitler.’

‘I have to tell you, Marshal Stalin that I have no experience of doing deals with Hitler. If I were even to think of it, be assured I would come to you first, to gain from your own considerable experience in the matter.’”                   (from Michael Dobbs’s Churchill’s Triumph, Chapter 8)




“One of love’s greatest problems is that, for a while at least, it is in danger of making us happy.” (Alain de Botton, in Essays in Love, quoted by William Leith in the Spectator, April 25)


“What exactly is our goal with regard to deficit reduction? Very early on, people were recognizing that a balanced budget is not something that is fiscally conceivable without fundamentally deconstructing the federal government. It can’t happen. Things are too far gone.”                                                                                                                                   (Robert Nabors, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, quoted in the New Yorker, May 4)


Shocking Revelations in Nepal

“The Communist Party of Nepal, a unified Marxist-Leninist party that holds the second highest number of seats in the 601-member Constituent Assembly, pulled out of the government on Sunday, accusing the Maoists of acting unilaterally. [Anger against the government has been running high in Nepal, where much of the public blames the Maoists for power failures that can last more than 16 hours a day, fuel shortages and rising prices for food. But the Maoists are still revolutionary heroes to many, especially among rural villagers who voted them into power last year in Nepal’s first elections.]”                                           (from report in NYT, May 5)


“A federal judge has ruled that a history teacher at a Southern California public high school violated the First Amendment when he called creationism ‘superstitious nonsense’ in a classroom lecture.”                                                                                       (from NYT, May 5)


“He conformed to none of the agent stereotypes: not the oily, luv-ya-baby baloney-meister; not the meek  and solicitous Danny Rose-like sycophant; not the sleekly groomed, power-hungry packager.”                                                 (from the NYT obituary of Sam Cohn, talent broker, May 8)


“I think having spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, I think all of this gives the president the opportunity, hopefully, to extend a hand to those that, in many ways, are like us but just simply have a different religion.”         (White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, quoted in NYT, May 9)


“In the year 4,000 A.D., when Pluto is hollowed out and millions of people are living inside, the name of Venetia Burney may be the only thing Great Britain is remembered for.”                                                                                                                              (Alan M. MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky and Telescope, quoted in obituary of Venetia Phair, who named Pluto, in NYT, May 11)


“They continued their absurd, self-dramatizing civil war to the end of my father’s life: on his deathbed, my father, by then long separated from my mother, said to me, ‘Tell her she can come if she wants to,’ to which my mother’s reply was, ‘Tell him I’ll come if he asks me’. They struck to their principles and never did meet:  for what is mere death by comparison to a lifelong quarrel?” (Theodore Dalrymple, in A Taste For Danger, from Our Culture, What’s Left Of It)


“Of course, as Somerset Maugham once noted, only a very mediocre writer is always at his best: but only a bad writer is so often at his very considerable worst, as is [D. H.] Lawrence.”                                                                                                                                                    (Theodore Dalrymple, in What’s Wrong With Twinkling Buttocks?, from Our Culture, What’s Left Of It)


“There is a permanent temptation, particularly for intellectuals, to suppose that one’s virtue is proportional to one’s hatred of vice, and that one’s hatred of vice is in turn measured by one’s vehemence of denunciation.”                                                                                        (Theodore Dalrymple, in How – And How Not – To Love Mankind, from Our Culture, What’s Left Of It)


“This, of course is one of the sources of sentimentality: it is the tribute that vanity pays to compassion.”               (Theodore Dalrymple, in A Lost Art, from Our Culture, What’s Left Of It)


“So universally accepted has the pathologico-therapeutic approach to life become that the apostolic heir to St. Augustine – that is to say, the present Archbishop of Canterbury – offered up thanks to God as the funeral service for Princess Diana’s vulnerability, as if an appointment with a psychiatrist were man’s highest possible moral and cultural aspiration. Of course, prelates of the Church of England today have backbones of marshmallow; but still it seems to me absurd to offer up thanks to the Author of the Universe for a princess’s shortcomings.” (Theodore Dalrymple, in The Goddess of Domestic Tribulations, from Our Culture, What’s Left Of It)


But what about NAFTA, the World Bank and Robert Rubin?

“…you could say that all this is merely the finale to a multi-decade saga set on Wall Street and Main Street, in Washington, Riyadh, and Tokyo. The causes are technological, mathematical, cultural, demographic, financial, economic, behavioral, legal, and political. Among the dozens of contributors and culprits, real and perceived, are the personal computer, the abandonment of the gold standard, the abandonment of Glass-Steagall, the end of fixed commissions, the ratings agencies, mortgage-backed securities, securitization in general, credit derivatives, credit-default swaps, Wall Street partnerships going public, the League of Nations, Bretton Woods, Basel II, CNBC, the S.E.C., disintermediation, overcompensation, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, Phil Gramm and Jim Leach, Alan Greenspan, black swans, red tape, deregulation, outdated regulation, lax enforcement, government pressure to lower lending standards, predatory lending, mark-to-market accountability, hedge funds, private-equity firms, modern finance theory, risk models, ‘quants’, corporate boards, the baby boomers, flat-screen televisions, and an indulgent, undereducated populace.”                                                                                                                                          (from Nick Paumgarten’s The Death of Kings, in the New Yorker, May 18)


“Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without Hell.”                                                   (‘a voice’, in Nick Paumgarten’s The Death of Kings, in the New Yorker, May 18)


“Jim Dixon, provincial lecturer, medieval historian, blunt talker, girl chaser, boozer, cigarette smoker, occasional liar, bed destroyer, face puller: behind him, improbably enough, stands the gaunt figure of Ludwig Wittgenstein.”       (Colin McGinn, in Philosophy and Literature in the 1950s: the Rise of the ‘Ordinary Bloke’, quoted by  Sam Leith in the Spectator, May 9)


“Nothing is sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Your main need is to have a firm inner center, based on your own identity and your own work: an affirmative self-respect that no institution, no outward circumstance … can violate. Your own Yes and No.”                                                                    (Lewis Mumford in his commencement speech at his daughter’s graduation from Radcliffe, quoted in Chapter 1 of Lewis Mumford: A Life, by Donald E. Miller)


“I believe more unhappiness comes from this source than from any other – I mean the attempt to prolong family connections unduly, and to make people hang together artificially who would never naturally do so.”                                           (from Samuel Butler’s Notebooks, p 73)


“You could [be the] John Strachey [of American communism] – You have the equipment. Come on in, the water is fine.”                                                                                       (Michael Gold to Lewis Mumford, quoted in Chapter 6 of Lewis Mumford: A Life, by Donald E. Miller)


“As the Depression reached its third terrible year, the Saturday Evening Post asked the British economist whether there had been anything like it before. ‘Yes, it was called the Dark Ages and it lasted 400 years.’”            (quoted in Chapter 15 of Lewis Mumford: A Life, by Donald E. Miller)


“Fundamentally, I have no faith in Roosevelt, except as a sort of political Mary Baker Eddy. As a faith healer he is all right. As a surgeon, he is useless, because he doesn’t believe in operations.”                                                                                                                               (Lewis Mumford in a letter to Benton MacKaye, quoted in Chapter 12 of Lewis Mumford: A Life, by Donald E. Miller)


“Nazism? It’s just a disease of childhood, like the measles. We had it very badly here in Bavaria, and we got over it: now it has infected the North. But in another year, my dear Mumford, we shall have recovered. No leader who speaks such bad German could possibly rule such a well-educated people as the Germans.”                                                                                     (Professor Vossler in 1932, quoted in Chapter 21 of Lewis Mumford: A Life, by Donald E. Miller)


“An intellectual would just as soon meet a bear in the woods as live in a garden city.”            (from Paul and Percival Goodman’s Communitas, Means of Livelihood and Ways of Life, p 35)


“Architecture is either the prophecy of an unformed society or the tomb of a finished one”                                                                                                                                                (Lewis Mumford in early 1930s, quoted in Chapter 25 of Lewis Mumford: A Life, by Donald E. Miller)


“This tiny West African nation’s [Gambia’] citizens have grown familiar with the unpredictable exploits of its absolute ruler, who insists on being called His Excellency President Professor Dr. Al-Haji Yahya Jammeh: his herbs-and-banana cure for AIDS, his threat to behead gays, his mandate that only he can drive through the giant arch commemorating his coup in the moldering capital, Banjul, and his ubiquitous grinning portrait posted along roadsides.”                                                                                                                                                      (from NYT, May 21)

“The route out of the financial crisis — at least in the view of Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, a ranking Sandinista and the fractious president of the United Nations  General Assembly — should be lined with all manner of new global institutions, authorities and advisory boards. How many? Nine, to be exact and they are (take a deep breath) the Global Stimulus Fund, the Global Public Goods Authority, the Global Tax Authority, the Global Financial Products Safety Commission, the Global Financial Regulatory Authority, the Global Competition Authority, the Global Council of Financial and Economic Advisers, the Global Economic Coordination Council, and the World Monetary Board.”                                                           (from NYT, May 24)

“He who undertakes a biography commits himself to lies dissimulation, hypocrisy, embellishment, even the concealment of his own lack of comprehension: for biographical truth is not to be had, and even if one did attain it, it would be of no value.”                                                                                            (from letter from Sigmund Freud to Stefan Zweig, 31 May 1936)


“Above all, families like the Zweigs and the Brettauers were European in their outlook, and had largely lost their specifically Jewish character. For the greater part of his life Stefan Zweig regarded his Jewishness as of secondary importance, and his Austrian nationality as scarcely more than an administrative formality. There was no religion in his home, and nothing of nationalism. For no one was it easier for Europe to become both faith and fatherland.”                                                                                                 (from D. A. Prater’s European of Yesterday, Ch. 1)


“I often shudder at the thought of the raging madness of this world fascism, of the brutal triumph of force: it will be the ideal of the next generation, and football enthusiasm will soon give way to a more evil fury.”                   (Stefan Zweig in a letter to Franz Servaes, January 22, 1923)


“Who would have thought a thing like a republic of workers’ and soldiers’ councils would last more than a fortnight?”                                                      (director of the Wremya publishing house in Leningrad to Stefan Zweig in 1928, from D. A. Prater’s European of Yesterday, Ch. 6)


“Not everything in London appealed to him, for he felt that the émigrés there were gravely in error both in their ceaseless attacks on the Third Reich (which lost effect by constant repetition) and in their unremitting attention, in books and articles, to the Jewish problem (which in his view defeated its own end by tending to create something that in many countries did not exist).”                                   (on Stefan Zweig in 1933, from D. A. Prater’s European of Yesterday, Ch. 7)


“But after one’s sixtieth year unusual powers are needed in order to make another wholly new beginning. Those that I possess have been exhausted by the long years of homeless wandering. So I hold it better to conclude in good time and with erect bearing a life for which intellectual labour was always the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on earth.”                                                                                               (from Stefan Zweig’s suicide letter, Declaração)

“On the contrary, I have no more notion of abolishing evil than I have of abolishing shadow in the world of light. Fourier’s crazy belief that the ocean itself under a harmonized social order would turn into lemonade, and Spencer’s picture of the future society as a sort of  polite eternal Sunday afternoon, are merely exhibitions, as it were, of an unfathomable shallowness. Evil and good are phases in the process of human growth, and who shall say which is the better teacher? Illness, error, defeat, frustration, disintegration, malicious accident, all these elements are as  much in the process of life as waste, nutrition and repair. The very forces that would destroy life are needful to season experience and deepen understanding.”                                                                                                                                             (Lewis Mumford, from What I Believe)

“Sophia said to me: ‘In some ways you are the most exasperating man – because you are so sweet and good – and so absolutely ruthless.’”                                                                                                                                                   (Lewis Mumford, in letter to Cynthia Bauer, 1936)

Der Sechzigjӓhrige dankt


Linder schwebt der Stunden Reigen

Űber schon ergrautem Haar.

Denn erst an des Bechers Neige

Wird der Grund, der gold’ne, klar.


Vorgefühl des nahen Nachtens

Es verstört nicht – es entschwert!

Reine Lust des Weltbetrachtens

Kennt nur, wer nichts mehr begehrt,


Nicht mehr fragt, was er erreichte,

Nicht mehr klagt, was er gemisst

Und dem Altern nur der leichte

Anfang seines Abschieds ist.


Niemals glӓnzt der Ausblick freier

Als im Glast des Scheidelichts,

Nie liebt man das Leben treuer

Als im Schatten des Verzichts.


[Thanks from a Sixty-Year-Old: ‘The dance of hours hovers more gently over hair already gray; for only with the beaker’s tilting does its golden ground shine clear. The feeling of approaching darkness disturbs not – rather it lifts the burden! Only he can know the purest joy of observation of the world who desires no more for himself, who no longer asks what he achieved or complains at what he has missed, for whom ageing is but the gentle beginning of his farewell. Never shines the prospect freer than in the gleam of departing light; never is life loved more truly than in the shade of resignation.’]                                                                  (by Stefan Zweig)


“All models are wrong, but some are useful.” (George Box, statistician, quoted in letter in NYT Magazine, May 31)




“In Russia, history is nothing but politics viewed backwards.” (Mikhail Porovsky, reported in This Week, June 6)

“You will never be happy unless you don’t stop being polite to everybody.”                                                                                   (John Cleese to Stephen Fry, from Daily Telegraph, June 7)


“Don’t worry if you do not survive the assault, as we have plenty of back-up troops who will just go in over you.”                                                                                                             (British officer to his men on the eve of D-Day, quoted by Antony Beevor in D-Day, the Battle for Normandy)




Such knotty problems! Check your lists:

How come the universe exists?

How does consciousness, free will,

Match up with brain cells? – Harder still:


Employing what we use for peeing

To penetrate another’s being,

And in her complementary hole

Surrendering one’s self, one’s soul.


Yes, the eternal paradox

Of hearts and minds and cunts and cocks.

That solved, it will be time enough

To tackle all the other stuff.                (by Robert Conquest, in the Spectator, January 17, 2009)


“A good design will never pretend to be more than one thing at a time.”                               (Edgar Kaufmann Jr., MOMA’s ‘maestro of good design’ in the 1950s, quoted in NYT, June 5)


“Under the Dayton peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war in 1995, only Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats may run for the office [of president]. Minorities and those from ethnically mixed marriages also do not have the right to run for the upper house of Parliament.”                                                                                    (from Reuters report in NYT, June 6)


“The stockholder is … left as a matter of law with little more than the loose expectation that a group of men, under a nominal duty to run the enterprise for his benefit and others like him, will actually observe the obligation.”                                                                           (Adolf Augustus Berle and Gardiner Coit Means in The Modern Corporation and Private Property, 1932)


“Only the management (or its handpicked board) chooses nominees, and it is an iron rule of American corporations that ballots should not contain more nominees than seats. In the former U.S.S.R. this style of democracy endured for only 72 years. In American business it is timeless.”                                                                                (Roger Lowenstein in NYT Magazine, June 7)


“Oh well, I suppose every self-respecting writer should have an English biographer.”                                                              (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, according to Paul Berman in NYT, June 7)


“If history is written by victors, fame accrues to those who succeed rather than those who attempt the impossible.”                                                                                                                                                 (Anne Nelson, in Red Orchestra, quoted by Dagmar Herzog in NYT, June 7)


“History is one big laboratory experiment that only gets run once.”                                          (Niall Ferguson, a critic of the White House’s spending initiatives, quoted in NYT, June 12)


“We used to speak Albanian and call ourselves Romans, but then Winckelmann, Goethe, Victor Hugo, Delacroix, they all told us. ‘No, you are Hellenes, direct descendants of Plato and Socrates’, and that did it. If a small, poor nation has such a burden put on its shoulders, it will never recover.”                                    (Nikos Dimous, a Greek writer, quoted in NYT, June 24)


“But not to sleep. At three a.m. I was walking the floor and listening to Khachaturyan working in a tractor factory. He called it a violin concerto. I called it a loose fan belt and the hell with it.”                                                          (from Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, Chapter 12)


“Most people go through life using up half their energy trying to protect a dignity they never had.” (Philip Marlowe to Mrs. Wade, in Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, Chapter 24)


“Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency.” This is a ‘quotation’ frequently attributed to Raymond Chandler, suggesting that the author had a low opinion of chess. But the full text shows that Chandler – via Philip Marlowe – was commenting only on one specific game that did not represent well the skill that the game  allows to be displayed. It runs as follows:

“I filled a pipe, paraded the chessmen and inspected them for French shaves and loose buttons, and played a championship tournament game between Gortchakoff and Meninkin, seventy-two moves to a draw, a prize specimen of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, a battle without armor, a war without blood, and as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency.”                        (The Long Goodbye, Chapter 24)



“Back in England, the joke ‘Are you married, or do you live in Kenya?’ was doing the rounds.” (concerning the reputation of ‘Happy Valley’, from Frances Osborne’s The Bolter, Chapter 17)


“Few realize that the Turkic constitutes the largest language group in the Soviet Union. Uzbeks, Tatars, Kazakhs, Azerbaijanis, Chuvashes, Turkmen, Bashkirs, Kirghiz, Yakuts, Dolganes, Karakalpaks, Kumites, Haguzites, Tuvinians, Uighurs, Karachai, Chakasites, Chulites, Altays, Balashites, Nogai, Turks, Shirtes, Karaites, Crimean Jews, and Tofals are all Turkic speakers.”                                                                  (from Ryszard Kapuściński’s Imperium, The South, ’67)


“All dictators, irrespective of epoch or country, have one common trait: they know everything, are experts on everything.”                (from Ryszard Kapuściński’s Imperium, the Third Rome)


“Finally…. There exists an insurmountable contradiction between the rigid and permeptory nature of imperium and the elastic and tolerant nature of democracy. The ethnic minorities inhabiting an imperium will take advantage of the slightest whiff of democracy to tear themselves away, make themselves independent, make themselves autonomous. For them, there is one response to the slogan ‘Democracy’ – freedom. Freedom understood as detachment. This of course provokes objections on the part of the ruling majority, which, in order to maintain its privileged position, is ready to resort to the use of force, to authoritarian solutions.”                                                                      (from Ryszard Kapuściński’s Imperium, We Look, We Cry)


“How was Communism built? Communism was built with the help of the bezprizorny, the millions of orphaned and barefoot children who wandered along Russia’s road. They stole what they could. Stalin locked them up in boarding schools. There they learned hatred, and when they grew up, they were dressed in the uniforms of the NKVD. The NKVD held the nation in the grip of a bestial fear. And there’s communism for you.”                                                                                                                               (from Ryszard Kapuściński’s Imperium, Fleeing From Oneself)


“The more innocent they are, the more they deserve to die.”                                                 (Bertolt Brecht to Stanley Hook, discussing the Moscow show trials in the winter of 1935-36, according to Timothy Garton Ash in Comrade Brecht, from The Uses of Adversity)


“There was a logical progression, because from the earliest days … the missionaries of Christianity had said in effect to the Jews: ‘You may not live amongst us as Jews.’ The secular rulers who followed them from the late Middle Ages then decided: ‘You may not live among us,’ and the Nazis decreed: ‘You may not live.’ However, there was no clear order that stated ‘now the Jews will be killed.’”                                                                              (Professor Raul Hillberg, according to Timothy Garton Ash in The Life of Death, from The Uses of Adversity)


“So tomorrow the diplomatic niceties. Tomorrow the high-flown self-congratulatory Euro-rhetoric. But today the struggle.”                                                                                                                                 (Timothy Garton Ash in A Hungarian Lesson, from The Uses of Adversity)


“There are very few universally valid laws of history, but one of them is: men cling to power.”                              (Timothy Garton Ash in Reform or Revolution?, from The Uses of Adversity)


“And what shall we put in its place? ‘Ecofeminism.’ ‘Women must lose all fear of speaking up and demanding what is theirs and their children’s. Only if we begin to rediscover our own nature can we discover new ways of wholeness, balance, and decentralization – can we forge a new bond with the Earth and the Moon, living with co-operation, gentleness, non-possessiveness and soft energies.’ In a concluding section entitled ‘For an Erotic Society’, Petra Kelly tells us, after ‘leafing through books on Tantra temples, art and Tantric yoga’ that ‘love and life are indissolubly linked with one another.’ She ‘agree[s] with David Cooper (On the Need for Freedom) that ‘the simplistic view that the man is there to penetrate the woman is a culturally conditioned belief that is easily refuted by experience.’ For example, Tantric yoga is based on mutual penetration…’ But how? Is the urgent question this leaves me with But how? Is the question that every part of this sloganizing, dilettantish, muddle-headed, hysterical tract [Fighting for Hope] persistently begs – whether the subject is decentralization, disarmament, or mutual penetration.”                                                                                                                                                             (Timothy Garton Ash in The German Question, from The Uses of Adversity)


“But despite, or perhaps because of, their paradoxes and delinquencies, [Sir Arthur] Evans’s Minoans left their footprints all over the wilder shores of modernist culture, tempting James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico. Hilda Doolittle, Sigmund Freud, Henry Miller and Robert Graves into the labyrinth of Cretan mythology in pursuit of the answers to the riddle of human violence.”

“In the deep closet that sheltered his homosexuality, the archaeologist recreated the island as an invert’s paradise of female deities, cross-dressing priests and girl athletes. From the Boer War to the Cold War, despairing pacifists, feminists and neo-pagans sought comfort in his vision of a world ruled by the feminist principles of birth, life and resurrection.”                                                                                       (Cathy Gere, from Restoring Faith, in History Today, July 2009)


“Not even in America can one major in Towering Literary Artistry.”                                                                        (John Barth, in 1975 article in Times Book Review, ‘Writing: Can It Be Taught?’)




“I have given up in despair. All the claptrap and fol-de-rol and mysticism were too much for me…. As if there wasn’t enough beauty and mystery and charm enough in real life without going over to the supernatural for your great effects. It must be the vulgarest kind of mind which has to resort to blue lights and tinsel and pantomime to produce nay impression.”        (Edith Wharton on George Sand’s ‘Consuelo’, in a letter to Anna Bahlmann, quoted in New Yorker, June 29)


“The essence of tragedy is a struggle of right against right … In a tragic struggle, the victors become the guilty and must make amends to be the defeated.”                                                                                                                                             (I. F. Stone on the conflict in Israel, from New York Review of Books article after the 1967 war, quoted in NYT Book Review, July 5)


“Mr. McNamara’s time at the Pentagon came close to breaking his spirit. But he immediately followed that ordeal with 13 years as president of the World Bank. He set out to expand the bank’s power and to attack global poverty. He succeeded in part, but with unintended consequences……

The ecological effects of these developments, however, had not been taken into account. In some cases, corruption in the governments that the bank sought to help undid its good intentions. Many poor nations, overwhelmed by their debts to the bank, were not able to repay loans. The costs of Mr. McNamara’s work thus sometimes outweighed the benefits, and that led to a concerted political attack on the bank itself during the 1980s.

Mr. McNamara saw some of these problems as they developed and shifted the emphasis of the bank’s lending toward smaller projects — irrigation, seeds and fertilizer, paving farm-to-market roads. But progress was often hard to measure. At the end of his tenure, the bank estimated that the world’s poorest numbered 800 million, an increase of 200 million over the decade.”                                                                                (from obituary of Robert McNamara in NYT, July 7)



“In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all.”                                                          (from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritae, reported in NYT, July 8)


“There are paragraphs that sound like Ayn Rand, next to paragraphs that sound like ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. That’s quiet intentional.”                        (Vincent J. Miller, a theologian at the University of Dayton, commenting on the papal encyclical Caritas in Veritae, quoted in NYT, July 8)


“There is no passion in nature so demonically impatient, as that of him who, shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge.”       (Edgar Allen Poe, in The Imp of the Perverse)


“I always tell Tiger,’ You can’t do things just to please people. It will waste your energy, and you won’t be happy in yourself. You have to do what is right for yourself.’”                                                                                                           (Tilda Woods, reported in Golf Digest, May 2009)


“While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition”                                                                           (Fr Paul Finnerty, in RTE News article, ‘Tree Stump Draws Believers to Limerick, July 10)


“I approve of the notion that Europe sees itself, unpretentiously, as a model for the world, but the consequence of that is that we would have to constantly change that model because we are not the world.”                                                           (Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg, quoted in Archbishop Marx’s Das Kapital [sic], according to NYT, July 12)


“Graham Thorpe, Devon Malcolm and Angus Fraser have all failed to impress Illingworth at various stages, making one wonder, even now, what did impress him, other than his reflection in the bathroom mirror.”                                                                                                (Marcus Berkmann in Ashes to Ashes, according to P. J. Kavanagh’s review in the Spectator, July 4)


“God has called and may call such individuals [i.e. gay men and lesbians], to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, and that God’s call to the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church is a mystery which the church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the constitution and canons of the Episcopalian Church.”                                          (from a resolution of the U.S. Episcopal Church, quoted in NYT, July 15)


You stopping here, please contemplate:

Look at the place to which I have now been brought,

The grave’s earth covers my face, as if

I had never trodden it before.

I used to save men from the fear of death,

Now I’ve become the hostage of death itself!

(Muhammad Zuhr, fl. 1200, quoted by Richard Fletcher in Moorish Spain, p 72)


“Nostalgia is the enemy of historical understanding…….

‘Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.’ Larkin’s line should be the historian’s motto. But in the cultural conditions that prevail in the west today the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed it has to eb attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour or guilt do wonders for sharpening up its image.”                                                          (Richard Fletcher, in Moorish Spain, Chapter 9)


“Intellectuals are not renowned for their grasp of everyday reality, nor for cheerfulness and optimism. Judgements might have been rosier if one had found oneself spending the Easter vigil at a Mudejar pop concert in the local cathedral; or downing a few bottles of Valdepeňas with like-minded Muslim pals at one of Toledo’s monastic wine-bars.”                                                                                                                           (Richard Fletcher, in Moorish Spain, Chapter 9)


“If we were to borrow his [Darwin’s] language, we could say that when the brain one day developed the capacity that made the species Homo Sapiens, it developed simultaneously a predisposition to kinds of insanity.”                                                                                                                                                  (Dr. Faverill in Sebastian Faulks’s Human Traces, Chapter 7)


“Paris is enchanting as ever and the French as mysterious as always: private, discreet, and entirely uninterested in the world beyond Alsace-Lorraine or the Pyrenees. Their country is a universe to them, and those who would have it otherwise are met not with argument or rebuttal but only with a long, pitying stare.”                                                                                                                                  (Sonia Rebière [née Midwinter] in Sebastian Faulks’s Human Traces, Chapter 8)


“Under the spreading chestnut-tree

The village madman stands,

The voices in his fevered head

Are loud as marching bands.

We don’t know if he’s made that way

Or has infected glands.”                                                                                             (Thomas Midwinter’s parody of Longfellow, from Sebastian Faulks’s Human Traces, Chapter 16)


“… but it seemed to Sonia at that moment, drenched and tired as she was, that, perhaps for quite simple reasons connected to the limits of their ability to reason, human beings could live out their whole long life without ever knowing what sort of creatures they really were. Perhaps it did not matter; perhaps what was important was to find serenity in not knowing.”                                                                                            (from Sebastian Faulks’s Human Traces, Chapter 24)


“One of history’s most useful tasks is to bring home to us how keenly, honestly and painfully, past generations pursued aims that now seem to us wrong or disgraceful.”                                                                                                     (John Carey, quoted by Margaret MacMillan, in turn quoted by David M. Kennedy in his review of MacMillan’s Dangerous Games, NYT, July 19)


“Affirmative action has always been understandable, but never ideal. It congratulates its practitioners on their virtue, condescends to its beneficiaries, and corrodes the racial attitudes of its victims.”                                                                            (Ross Douthat in NYT, July 20)

“..the cultural role of philosophy was ‘never to let the inquisitive energy of mind go to sleep, never to stop questioning what appears to be obvious and definitive, always to defy the seemingly intact resources of common sense’ and ‘never to forget that there are questions that lie beyond the legitimate horizon of science and are nonetheless crucially important to the survival of humanity as we know it.’”                                                                                                                                               (from the obituary of Leszek Kolakowski in NYT, July 21, quoting from The Death of Utopia Revisited, delivered at the Australian National University on June 22, 1982)


“Balls are for English people to give, Americans to pay for, and Argentines to dance at.”                                       (Her Highness the Duchess of Valeria, in Michael Arlen’s May Fair, Prologue)


“When a woman is faithful to her husband she generally manages to take it out on him in some other way. The mere fact that she is faithful makes her think that she has a right to be, well, disagreeable.”                    (Lapwing, in Michael Arlen’s May Fair, A Romance in Old Brandy)

“In the end, we do not know for sure whether the California public really wants the California dream anymore. The population is too diverse to have a common vision of what it wants to provide to everyone. Some people want the old dream, some want the gated privatized version, and some would like to secede and get away from it all.”                              (Bruce E. Cain, a professor of political science at the University of California., Berkeley, quoted in NYT, July 22)

“If it’s that difficult for a rich man to get into heaven, think how terrible it must be for a poor man to get in. He doesn’t even have a bribe for the gatekeeper.”                                                                                                                                               (The Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, leader of the United Church Science of Living Institute, quoted in his NYT obituary, July 30)

“Nothing in the world repeats itself except regret – and, of course, sardines.”                                                                                                         (Shelmerdene, in Michael Arlen’s Introducing A Lady Of No Importance And A Gentleman Of Even Less, from These Charming People)

“Irony, my friend, does not become the moment. It is a vulgarity peculiar to cultured men. It is a knack, and I don’t like knacks.”                (Shelmerdene, to The Voice, in Michael Arlen’s The Real Reason Why Shelmerdene Was Late For Dinner, from These Charming People)

“Oh, for God’s sake, don’t use that horrible word – ‘caprice!’ It is just a label given to women by half-witted men. It is the name disappointed men give to women’s constancy.”                                                                                                                         (Shelmerdene, to The Voice, in Michael Arlen’s The Real Reason Why Shelmerdene Was Late For Dinner, from These Charming People)



“’People will say’ — here Mr. O’Leary adopted a whiny voice — ‘As the Founding Fathers wrote down in the American Constitution, we have the inalienable right to bear arms and send in our complaints by e-mail. No, you bloody don’t! So go away.’”                                                                                                  (Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive of RyanAir, in NYT, August 1)

“Mr H. G. Wells says that there is no money to be made out of a book that cannot bring a woman in within the first thousand words.”                    (from Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat, Chapter 1)

“And he said much more that is unmentionable, and I learnt something, for it is only by listening to their husbands in moments of intimacy that well-brought up English women can become acquainted with certain good old English words.”                                                                                                                                                           (from Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat, Chapter 1)

“It is not good to have a pagan body and a Chislehurst mind, as I have.”                                                                                                    (Iris Storm, in Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat, Chapter 1)

“In England, I reflected sulkily, you may not apply the faintest touch of reason to any of the accepted laws of life and death without being accused of sneering. The accusation is invaluable in puissance. It has made England what she is. It at once stops all argument, all nonsense, all sense, all thinking. So powerful is the effect that the one accused, thinking perhaps he was sneering, at once checks his mind from further thought on that line. The word creates a vacuum. No one likes to be thought he is sneering – when he was merely, for a change, thinking. It is like being told you have no ‘sense of humour’. It damns you completely, because it makes you damn yourself. And one of the reasons why there can never be a Marxist revolution in England is that the rebels will be told that they are sneering at the King. They will be abashed.”                                                                                                             (from Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat, Chapter 3)


“… I mean to say, they know how to bring everything out of a man, how to make him a lover and all that – a real lover, I mean, a fire-and-ice, pits-and-mountains, sunlight-and-shadows, nice-and-nasty sort of lover, whereas people like Napier and me are just the same with each other as millions of other people, the men being pretty good duds at loving and the women even worse duds at being loved…”               (Iris Storm in Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat, Chapter 7)


“..for it is true as any generalisation can be to say of Englishmen that they will often only find themselves when they have lost themselves.” (from Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat, Chapter 7)


“Like all decent Englishmen, he is like a woman: he knows everything without ever having been taught anything.”                                                 (from Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat, Chapter 11)


“Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of The Sun, did not have much time for the occult. When he felt it time to replace his newspaper’s astrologer, he is said to have written a letter that began, ‘As you will no doubt have foreseen…’”                (Peter Bazalgette, in Prospect, August 2009)


Coincidence: 2 Items Read the Day that Budd Schulberg Died Aged 95 (August 5)

“..he [Lewis J. Selznick] had actually sent a cable to the fallen Czar Nicholas II:


(from Budd Schulberg’s Moving Pictures, Chapter 6)

“They all played theatricals, and the Tsar was an excellent actor, especially in such parts as the more ineffective country gentlemen in Chekhov.”                                                                        (from Maurice Bowra’s Memories 1898-1939, Chapter 3, retelling accounts from Nicholas Gibbes, tutor to the Tsar’s children, when he was with the Tsar’s family in Ekaterinburg)


Dr. Heinz Kiosk Lives

“Systemic racism doesn’t require malice, or a specific perpetrator; everyone who benefits is guilty, even people who don’t think they benefit.”                                                                                                                                           (Kelefa Sanneh, in the New Yorker, August 10 & 17)


“Yet, when Hitler and his Brown Shirts came to power and [Emil] Jannings’s professional status if not his live was endangered, he went to court and became a certified member of the Master Race by declaring that he had been born out of wedlock to an Aryan maid in the Jannings household. Which prompted Father to say, ‘I’ve known a lot of bastards in this business, but this is the first time I ever heard of anyone going to court to make it official.’”                                                                        (from Chapter 25 of Budd Schulberg’s Moving Pictures. Emil Jannings had been born in Brooklyn of a Jewish mother who took him to Europe when he was still a child.)


“Of course as a Christian I believe in survival after death, but personally I should much prefer extinction.”                                                                                                           (The Reverend F. Homes Dudden, Master of Pembroke, according to C. M. Bowra, in Memories, Chapter 6)


“She [Elizabeth Asquith, married to Antoine Bibesco] knew everything about American politics and told how in 1916 when C. E. Hughes, thinking that he might be elected President of the United States, sent his wife to visit Mrs Wilson at the White House. Mrs Hughes was shown round by Mrs Wilson, and being rather enthusiastic, said, ‘To think that I may be sleeping here in a  few weeks’ time’, to which Mrs Wilson replied, ‘My dear, you mustn’t believe everything they say about the President.’”                             (from C. M. Bowra’s Memories, Chapter 8)


“Funny people the Welsh. They pray on their knees on Sunday and on their neighbours the rest of the week.”                                                                                                      (Lloyd George to Hugh Allen, Professor of Music at Oxford, according to C. M. Bowra, in Memories, Chapter 8)


“If Constance Masefield calls, tell her I’m not in.”                            (last words of Robert Bridges, reported by Gilbert Murray, according to C. M. Bowra, in Memories, Chapter 9)


“Cambridge is a week behind the times, and that’s awful, but Oxford is a hundred years behind, and that’s splendid.” (Ernst Kantorowicz, according to C. M. Bowra, in Memories, Chapter 12)


“In classes and lectures their worst defect was their faulty control of the written word. Their handwriting was usually as bad as my own, and what was worse, they did not have any sure command of language and were much clumsier at expressing their ideas on paper than in talk. This was largely because they were not drilled into writing essays as Oxford undergraduates are, and so lacked the criticism which a tutor can give on structure and expression.”                                                                             (C. N. Bowra on Harvard students, from Memories, Chapter 13)


The Left’s View of How Markets Work

“That’s why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.”                                          (Paul Krugman [Nobel Economics Prize Laureate] in NYT, August 18)

“Ms. Sebelius [Health and Human Services Secretary] replied that the president’s main concern was to promote competition with the private sector. ‘What’s important is choice and competition’, she said.”                                                                     (from NYT, August 18)

“So there will be no effective alternative for consumers in the market for health coverage, which means no competitive pressure for private insurers to rein in premiums and other charges.”                                                                                                     (Bob Herbert, in NYT, August 19)


“Well, we have now made Bob a Catholic. The question is, Can we make him a Christian?”          (at the ceremony where Bob Novak, born Jewish, was converted to Catholicism, according to Washingtonian magazine, reported in Bob Novak’s NYT obituary. August 19)


“Everything that ever gets done in this world is done by madmen.”                                                                                                             (Mr. Scogan, in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow, Chapter 22)


“Like every other good thing in this world, leisure and culture have to be paid for. Fortunately, however, it is not the leisured and the cultured who have to pay.”                                                                                                  (Mr. Scogan, in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow, Chapter 22)


“Thus the business of writing autobiography is full of pitfalls. On the one hand, we have the starchy chronicle of the stuffed shirt; on the other, the  embarrassing nakedness of the exhibitionist…”                               (Arthur Koestler, in Arrow In The Blue, Chapter 3)


“He who does not love himself does not love well; and he who does not hate himself, does not hate well; and hatred of evil is as necessary as love if the world is not to come to a standstill.. Tolerance is an acquired virtue; indifference is a native vice. ‘When I have forgiven a fellow everything, I am through with him’, said Freud. And even Christ hated the moneylenders.”                                                                   (Arthur Koestler, in Arrow In The Blue, Chapter 3)


“’Facts’, a famous German editor said, ‘are not fit for the reader when served raw; they had to be cooked, chewed and presented in the correspondent’s saliva.’”                                                                                                                                   (Arthur Koestler, in Arrow In The Blue, Chapter 21)


‘Jerusalem Sadness’

“The Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian and other Christian clergy would come to blows over such questions as to whether the Greeks had a right to place a ladder on the floor of the Armenian chapel for the purpose of cleaning the upper part of the chapel above the cornice in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem; and whether the Greeks must attach the curtain tight or in natural folds to the lower Nail No. 2 at the foot of the pillar which lies south-east of the left-hand set of steps leading to the manger (both examples are authentic, and I may add to them the regulation ‘that the Latins should have their curtain fall naturally down the same pillar, leaving a space of sixteen centimeters between it and that of the Greek Orthodox’).”                     “The whole unholy history of the city [Jerusalem], from David to Herod, from Pilate to the Crusaders, from Titus to Grubbe and Bernadotte, is an illustration of the destructive power of faith, the failure of man’s attempts to come to terms with God, and the resulting unpleasantness of the union of the mortal and the divine. It is this awareness of defeat, driven home by the haughty silence of the desert, of dry watercourses and arid rock, which causes the Jerusalem Sadness.”                                        (Arthur Koestler, in Arrow In The Blue, Chapter 22)


“Growing familiarity has the deadly effect of enabling one to predict the other’s responses; and when that happens, the stimulating quality and creative tension of a relationship are finished.”                                                                          (Arthur Koestler, in Arrow In The Blue, Chapter 26)


“Whether they spoke of the necessity of political liberty, or the plight of the peasant or the socialist future society, it was always their own plight that moved them. And their plight was not primarily due to material need: it was spiritual.”                                 (From Borkenau’s The Communist International, quoted by Arthur Koestler, in Arrow In The Blue, Chapter 29)


“Fools, what do they know? What can they understand? I am Seth, grandson of Amurath. Defeat is impossible. I have been to Europe. I know. We have the Tank. This is not a war of Seth against Seyid, but of Progress against Barbarism. And Progress must prevail. I have seen the great tattoo of Aldershot, the Paris Exhibition, the Oxford Union. I have read modern books – Shaw, Arlen, Priestley. What do the gossips in the bazaars know of all this? The whole might of Evolution rides behind him; at my stirrups run woman’s suffrage, vaccination, and vivisection. I am the New Age. I am the Future.”                                                                                                                                                         (The Emperor of Azania, in Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, Chapter 1)


“Most people grow up and go into politics. The Kennedys go into politics and then they grow up.”                                               (James Sterling Young, director of the Kennedy Oral History Project at the University of Virginia, quoted in Edward Kennedy’s NYT obituary, August 27)


“You are a foreigner, an intruder, an Armenian who dares to come to this country and write books purporting to be about the manners and behavior of its aristocracy. You do not belong and never will belong to the classes in this country which you are profitably describing. You have, in point, no right to be sitting at this table.”                (Winston Churchill’s putdown of Michael Arlen at a 1940 dinner party at Lady Maud Cunard’s house in Grosvenor Terrace. Lord Londonderry, a member of the appeasement-minded Air Ministry, had been pressing Churchill to read his book Ourselves and Germany, when Arlen offered his opinion that the German Air Force was quite impressive, provoking Churchill’s intemperate and unpleasant outburst. The incident shook Arlen, who recounted it to Vincent Sheehan, who in turn relayed it in a letter to Harry Keyishian on October 28th, 1970. Keyishian reproduces it in his 1975 book, Michael Arlen)




“It was only in his last years, not long before he died, that he suddenly started talking to me about it [her mother’s suicide], nearly driving me out of my mind. I saw that he was desperately looking for the reason – looking and not finding it. Suddenly he would start denouncing the ‘vile book’ which my mother had read not long before she died. It was The Green Hat by Michael Arlen.”     (Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of Joseph Stalin, in Twenty Letters To A Friend, p 113)


‘’Why Mr Arlen, you look almost like a woman,’ said Edna Ferber at a party he attended carrying, for some reason, a shepherd’s crook. ‘So do you, Miss Ferber’, he replied, which caused her to remember him unkindly in her autobiography. Rebecca West called him ‘every other inch a gentleman’, a line he liked so much he used it often himself.”                                                                                  (from Harry Keyishian’s Michael Arlen, Chapter 5,  quoting Time article of May 1927 ‘The Mayfairian’, and George Doran’s Chronicles of Barabbas, 1884-1934)


“The harm in this world is seldom done by what are called ‘bad men’ but by men who are profoundly angry at themselves for not being ‘good’ – that is to say, not as unselfishly disinterested – as they would like to be” In their frustration, these men blame the world for their own inadequacies: ‘the forces of disorder which are trying to tear Europe, the whole world, to pieces at this moment – their strength comes from men very much like Cherry. They want to change everything because, at bottom, they want to change themselves.’”                                                                                                                                                  (from Harry Keyishian’s Michael Arlen, Chapter 7, quoting Chance Winter in Arlen’s’ The Flying Dutchman, p 50)


“Without a doubt, a portion of the blame for unleashing the Second World War lies with Poland, which is why they are attempting to distort historical fact.”                                                              (Lev. F. Sotskov of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, quoted in NYT, September 2)


“There is, of course, nothing socialist in any of Mr. Obama’s policies, as everyone with a passing knowledge of socialism and its evil history knows.”                         (from NYT editorial, September 5)


“Every country has an obscure theoretical dispute – in America, about the moment when human life begins; in France, about the proper meaning of the word laïcité – that crystallizes some of its deepest preoccupations and, in turn, become a code for its practical politics. Where you fall on the question of collective versus individual rights has specific consequences in Canada…”                                                                          (Adam Gopnik, in the New Yorker, September 7)


Make Poverty History (cont.)

“More education for women [in Pakistan] simply leads to more unemployment, impoverished family firms or brain drain. What women deserve is greater efforts on the demand side, by governments, to create industries and jobs above the subsistence level.”                                                                                                                                (from a letter by Alice Amsden, Barton L. Weller Professor of Political Economy, MIT, published in NYT Magazine, September 6)


“Every culture is an island. It communicates with other islands, but ultimately it can only experience tragedy and laughter in its own climate. The habits and mentality of, say, a Knight in the Second Crusade have a frame of reference so strange to us  that we find it difficult to believe in the reality of the person. The thoughts of a galley-slave or a Thracian captive trained to die in the arena are so unimaginable that the figures are reduced to meek or menacing shadows on a dim screen.”                                                 (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Chapter 24)


“Churchill likes his glass of brandy and Stalin occasionally shoots his friends, for such are the habits of the great.”                                     (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Chapter 25)


“’I believe I have seen you in Madrid’ became an opening gambit at Left-wing cocktail parties, Lorca became the most read poet in Europe, and fried octopus the intelligentsia’s favourite dish.”                                                      (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Chapter 31)


“Not only communism, but any political movement which implicitly relies on purely utilitarian ethics, must become a victim to the same fatal error. It is a fallacy as naïve as a mathematical teaser, and yet its consequences lead straight to Goya’s Disasters, to the reign of the guillotine, the torture-chambers of the Inquisition, or the cellars of the Lubianka. Whether the road is paved with quotations from Rousseau, Marx, Christ or Mohammed, makes little difference.”                                                                             (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Chapter 33)

“Men who look and feel much younger than their age often seem to break down suddenly and without transition, as the night falls in the tropics.”                                                                                                                                      (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Chapter 35)


“After two or three weeks of lecturing up and down the country I came to the tentative conclusion that the majority of English Communists were not revolutionaries but cranks and eccentrics, and that they were certainly closer to the Pickwick Club than the Comintern.”                                                                          (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Chapter 36)


“A literary partnership is an association of two people each of whom sees a father in the other” (Psychoanalyst Dr. Rappaport, cited in Arthur Koestler’s The Invisible Writing, Chapter 38)


“Now, with unintentional irony, I adopted as my home a country where arrows are only used on dart-boards, suspicious of all causes, contemptuous of systems, bored by ideologies, skeptical about Utopias, rejecting all blue-prints, enamoured of its leisurely muddle, incurious about the future, devoted to its past. A country neither of Yogis or Commissars, but of potterers-in-the-garden and stickers-in-the-mud, where strikers played soccer with the police, and Socialists wore peer’s gowns. I was intrigued by a civilization whose social norms were a reversal of mine: which admired ‘character’ instead of ‘brains’, stoicism instead of temperament, nonchalance instead of diligence, the tongue-tied stammer instead of the art of eloquence. I was even more intrigued by the English attitude to the outside world, which I summed up in a maxim: ‘Be kind to the foreigner, the poor chap can’t help it.’”                                                                                                                                         (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Epilogue)


“I also like to believe that the disappearance of the Pukkah Sahib and his female equivalent at home: the Virago Harrodiensis, will make the English more European. It even seems to me, at times, that they are the last Europeans, without being aware of it.”                                                                                                                 (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Epilogue)


“The completely integrated person is the complete bore.”                                                                                                                             (Arthur Koestler, in The Invisible Writing, Epilogue)


“If the spring of popular government in a time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the  general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs.”                                                                                                                                     (from Robespierre speech of February 5, 1794, quoted in Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, Chapter 1)


“To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time.”                                               (Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘in his preface to one of Frantz Fanon’s books’, quoted in Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, Chapter 5)


“Now, according to the left, if you have one drop of black blood, you should be counted as black for the purposes of positive discrimination. So valuable are the privileges associated with blackness that some black intellectuals want to make ‘racial fraud’ a crime.”                         (Jonah Goldberg, quoting the law professor Luther Wright, Jr. in Liberal Fascism, Chapter 7)


“’It takes a village to raise a child’ is supposedly an African proverb whose authorship is lost in the mists of time – from ‘the ancient African kingdom of Hallmarkcardia‘, according to P. J. O’Rourke.”                                           (Jonah Goldberg quoting from O’Rourke’s Mrs. Clinton’s Very, Very Bad Book in Weekly Standard, February 19, 1996, in Liberal Fascism, Chapter 9)


“One Lord; Mr. Pelvey knew; he had studied theology. But if theology and theosophy, then why not theography and theometry, why not theognomy, theotrophy, theotomy, theogamy? Why not theophysics and theo-chemistry? Why not that ingenious toy, the theotrope or wheel of gods? Why not a monumental theodrome?”                  (from Aldous Huxley’s Antic Hay, Chapter 1)


“’I am interested in everything,’ interrupted Gumbril Junior.

‘Which comes to the same thing.’ Said his father parenthetically, ‘as being interested in nothing.’ And he went on from the point at which he had been interrupted. ‘You weren’t sufficiently interested in anything to want to devote yourself to it. That was why you sought the last resort of feeble minds with classical education, you became a schoolmaster.’”                                                                                                                            (from Aldous Huxley’s Antic Hay, Chapter 1)


“But he also liked to say the disconcerting thing in the hopes of making something happen or getting a rise, or in some way breaking the monotony of all too predictable social exchanges. He may be said to have been at the end of so many conversations before they began, knowing what the other person would say, and finding the encounter in consequence highly tedious…”                                                                                  (Douglas Woodruff, in Evelyn Waugh and His World)

“’As history’, Evelyn [Waugh] replied with unattractive vigour,’ it is beneath contempt, the special pleading of a defence lawyer. As literature it is worthless. It is written in a sham Augustan prose which could only have been achieved by a man who thought always in terms of public speech, and the antitheses clang like hammers in an arsenal.’”     (in response to Randolph Churchill’s asking Waugh if he did not consider Winston Churchill’s Life of Marlborough a great work, as recorded by the Earl of Birkenhead in Evelyn Waugh and His World)


“The creator of the universe gave us this land. It is a commandment to live in it and settle in it. Anyone who stands in our way – whether pharaoh or Obama – will be punished by God.”                                             (Zvi Yehuda, a settler in the West Bank, quoted in NYT, September 14)


“You can’t be a world-class country and have a world-class economy unless you produce things.”            (Richard L. Trumka, President of A.F.L.-C.I.O., quoted in NYT, September 16)


“For it seemed that even those who had not been personally involved, such as Sarkis, carried with them an ‘experience’ of those earlier massacres – perhaps some racial memory of the events – like a poison.”                                              (from Michael J. Arlen’s Passage to Ararat, p 156)


“What had driven my father to write about everything except his Armenian background, and all his life to refuse to weep over anything?”             (from Michael J. Arlen’s Passage to Ararat, p 186)


“’Now, these Armenians,’ an intelligent Jewish friend had once said to me, with studied vagueness, ‘didn’t they once have some trouble with the Turks?” Another time, I had heard an Armenian say outright, ‘The way they talk, you’d think the Jews invented genocide.’”                                                                                        (from Michael J. Arlen’s Passage to Ararat, p 188)


“But it had taken me a long time to understand where the fury had been directed: at himself, Dikran Koujoumjian. I thought, This proud and sensitive man – how he must have hated growing up an Armenian in England, not so much because of being condescended to by the English (although there was bound to have been that) as because of being himself marked, by the collective guilt and self-hatred proceeding from a race that had been hated unto death. For that was the curse of genocide: death took the victims, but over the survivors settled a mark, a ‘fallout’, of having been hated unto death.

I thought of the struggle, all the wriggles, he had made throughout his life to avoid being Armenian, to escape from this ‘collective unconscious’. His detached manner. The mask of not caring about, not bothering about, his racial past. Not even writing about it – the ‘it’, after all, being his identity, the one solid piece of wood that any writer has.”                                                                                                    (from Michael J. Arlen’s Passage to Ararat, pp 249-250)


“The primary assumption of all attempts to understand the men of the past must be the belief that we can in some degree enter into minds that are unlike our own.”                                                                              (from Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, Chapter 2)


“History is not the study of origins; rather it is the analysis of all the mediations by which the past was turned into our present.”                                                                                                                            (from Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, Chapter 3)


“And it might be suggested that if history is approached in this way – not as a question of origins but as a question of transitions – historical interpretation would become less whig and change would seem less cataclysmic.”                                                                                                                                             (from Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, Chapter 3)


“The eliciting of general truths or of propositions claiming universal validity is the one kind of consummation which it is beyond the competence of history to decide.”                                                                            (from Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, Chapter 4)


“By imaginative sympathy he [the historian] makes the past intelligible to the present. He translate sits conditioning circumstances into terms which we to-day can understand. It is in this sense that history must always be written from the point of view of the present. It is in this sense that every age will have to write its history over again.”                                                                                                   (from Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, Chapter 5)


“And it must be remembered that moral judgments are by their very nature absolute; in the sense that it is pointless to make them unless one can claim definitely to be right.”                                                                (from Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, Chapter 6)


“The historian ministers to the economist, the politician, the diplomat, the musician; he is equally at the service of the strategist and the administrator. He must learn a great deal from all of these before he can begin even his own work of historical explanation; and he never has the right to dictate to any one of them. He is neither judge nor jury; he is n the position of a man called upon to give evidence; and even so he may abuse his office and he requires the closet cross-examination, for he is one of those ‘expert witnesses’ who persist in offering opinions concealed in their evidence.” (from Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, Chapter 6)


“ In any case, it is never safe to forget the truth which really underlies historical research: the truth that all history perpetually requires to be corrected by more history.”                                                                                   (from Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, Chapter 6)


“… the purpose of social science is not to tell us what the government should do but rather to tell us what government is doing that is not working, which always is a lot.”                                (Irving Kristol. According to George F. Will, quoted in Kristol’s NYT obituary, September 19)


“John Kenneth Galbraith thinks he is an economist, and, if one takes him at his word, it is easy to demonstrate that he is a bad one.” (William Kristol, quoted in his NYT obituary, September 19)


“For there is one thing that the American people know about Senator McCarthy: He, like them, is unequivocably anti-Communist. About the spokesmen for American liberalism, they feel they know no such thing. And with some justification.”                             (from William Kristol’s Civil Liberties, 1952 – A Study In Confusion, quoted in his NYT obituary, September 19)


“There are only three things that make life worth living: to be writing a tolerably good book, to be in a dinner party for six, and to be travelling south with someone whom your conscience permits you to love.” (Cyril Connolly, in a contribution to a Daily Express symposium, quoted by Alec Waugh in Self-Portrait – Nearing Sixty, from My Brother Evelyn and Other Portraits)


Who Are ‘We’?

“The big question for human beings is the same for any bioform; What are we going to eat? Who do we mean by ‘we’? We: you and me in this room? We in North America? It’s no longer true that one ‘we’ has no impact on another ‘we’.”                                                                                                             (Margaret Atwood, from interview with Felicia R. Lee, in NYT, September 22)

“Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word ‘we’ with a straight face. There is no more ‘we’ in American politics at a time when ‘we’ have these huge problems – the deficit, the recession, healthcare, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – that ‘we’ can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective ‘we’ at work.”                                                                                                                  (from Thomas L. Friedman’s Op-Ed column in NYT, September 30)


“.. a British politician [who?] had said that a map of French political thinking would look like Einstein’s hair.”                                         (from Alan Furst’s The Spies Of Warsaw, Part 1)


“They used to say in the days of feudal England that village cricket was the cement that held the social structure in place, that when the squire and the blacksmith put on twenty runs for the first wicket, they had laid the basis of a friendship that no politician could destroy.”                                                              (Gerald Armitage, in Alec Waugh’s A Spy In The Family, Chapter 9)


“People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.” (attributed to Montaigne by Edgar Allen Poe, according to Arthur Krystal in NYT, September 27)


“Being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening.”                                                                                                  (Mark Yudof, President of the University, in NYT Magazine, September 27)


“Nostalgia is one of the legitimate, and certainly one of the most enduring, of human emotions; but the politics of nostalgia is at best distracting, at worst pernicious.”                                                              (Irving Kristol, quoted by Douglas Murray in the Spectator, September 26)


“If we cannot trust the Supreme Court’s judgment in deciding what to decide, how can we trust its judgment in deciding what it has decided to decide?”                  (Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, quoted in NYT, September 29)


“Anglicanism a religion? My dear boy, the Church of England is better described as a branch of the Women’s Institute to which men may be admitted.”                                                                                                                 (from letter from David Horsley in the Spectator, September 26)




“Discovering that I had an Anglo-Saxon surname, a non-Jewish father, no knowledge of Hebrew and some skepticism about both God and Zionism – but that I was nonetheless, according to the laws of Moses, a full-fledged member of the tribe – he gave me a tolerant smile. ‘Long live the Jewish identity crisis’, he said.”                                                                                     (A. O. Scott, describing a meeting in Jerusalem with an old acquaintance of his wife, in NYT, October 4)


“Barbarism is being lop-sided. You can be a barbarian of the intellect as well as of the body. A barbarian of the soul and other feelings as well as sensuality. Christianity made us barbarians of the soul and now science is making us barbarians of the intellect. Blake was the last civilized man.”                                                (Rampion, in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Chapter 9)


“Why not stay? Take root? But roots are chains. I have a terror of losing my freedom.”                  (from Philip Quarles’s notebook, in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Chapter 19)


“His voice was resonant and full of those baa-ings with which the very Oxonians are accustomed to enrich the English language. ‘Really’ on Sidney’s mouth was always ‘ryahly’, ‘mere’ was ‘myah’. It was as though a flock of sheep had broken lose in his vocabulary, ‘A labour of Hercules.’ The words were accompanied by a sigh. ‘Ryahly fyahful.’”                                                                                (of Sidney Quarles, in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Chapter 20)


“If boys and girls lost their virginities as early as they did in Shakespeare’s day, there’d be a revival of the Elizabethan love-lyric.”                                                                                                                                   (Philip Quarles, in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Chapter 21)


“The intellectual life is child’s play; which is why intellectuals tend to become children – and then imbeciles and finally, as the political and industrial history of the last few centuries clearly demonstrates, homicidal lunatics and wild beasts. The repressed functions don’t die; they deteriorate, they fester, they revert to primitiveness.”                                                                        (from Philip Quarles’s notebook, in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Chapter 26)


“The world’s full of ridiculous God-snobs. People who aren’t really alive, who’ve never done any vital act, who aren’t in any living relation with anything; people who haven’t the slightest personal or practical knowledge of what God is. But they moo away in churches, they coo over their prayers, they pervert and destroy their whole dismal existences by acting in accordance with the will of an arbitrarily imagined abstraction which they choose to call God. Just a pack of God-snobs. They’re as grotesque and contemptible as the music-snobs at Lady Edward’s. But nobody has the sense to say so. The God-snobs are admired for being so good and pious and Christian. When they’re merely dead and ought to be having their bottoms kicked and their noses tweaked to make them sit up and come to life.”                                                                                                                                     (Rampion, in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Chapter 36)


“Possibly not since Renaissance Italy has there been such a gathering of creative minds in one locale as there has been in Los Angeles County during the past half century. While enriching the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners and mores of their native lands which in rare instances have been at variance with those of their adoptive land.”                    (from Roman Polanksi’s probation officer’s (Kenneth F. Fare) report of September 1977, written after the former’s rape of a 13-year old girl, reported in NYT, October 11)


“The blessed sponge of amnesia has wiped the chalkboard of history.”                                                                                            (Boris Johnson to Sarah Lyall, from her Anglo Files, Chapter 8)


“Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”                                                                                                                                    (attributed to Mark Twain, in report in NYT, October 13)


“A newspaper is an argument on the way to a deadline.”                              (Harold Evans, in My Paper Chase: True Stories Of Vanished Times, reviewed in the Spectator, September 19)


“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”                                                                                                                                               (Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, who refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have; from Associated Press report, October 15)


“Then, as if to himself, he said melancholy is useless. People are melancholy about good memories because they are past, he said, and melancholy about bad memories, which haunt them.”                                                      (Artist Tomi Ungurer, interviewed in NYT, October 15)


“All fates are ‘worse than death’.”                             (Evelyn Waugh, in his Diaries, 787)


“Sometimes when I envy among my friends this one’s adaptability to diverse company, this one’s impenetrable armour against sentimentality and humbug, that one’s freedom from conventional prejudice … and realize that whatever happens to me and however I deplore it, I shall never in actual fact become a ‘hard-boiled man of the world’… then I comfort myself by thinking that if I were an Armenian I would find things easier.”                                                                                                                                              (Evelyn Waugh, from Waugh in Abyssinia)


‘Shut Up And Sing’, Thirties-style

“Let us tell the poets at once that no one need legislate who does not want to… All we ask of the poets is to sing.”                                                           (Evelyn Waugh in Horizon, ca 1938?)


“To everyone except to Roman Catholics or High Anglicans divorce is specifically a Roman Catholic sin; a sin of disobedience; a theological sin; a sin against the Council of Trent; a sin argued about over many centuries; an institutional sin; a club sin. They will feel deeply for Julia, but they will also feel like outsiders looking in. They must feel this even more during those long, professional arguments, at the end, where Marchmain is dying, about the efficacy of Extreme Unction for a semi-conscious, if not virtually unconscious, man.”                                                                                                                                            (Sean O’Faolain on Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, from The Vanishing Hero: Studies in the Novelists of the Twenties [1956], pp 50-69)


“It must be although there is room and room enough for humour on the subject of loyalty, humour is another of those pursuits in which there is no room for loyalty. But few humorists have a sense of humour about everything. Most have no sense of humour about themselves.”                                                    (Sean O’Faolain on Waugh’s Men at Arms and Officers and Gentlemen, from The Vanishing Hero: Studies in the Novelists of the Twenties [1956], pp 50-69)


‘Jack’ Priestley Attacks…

“What we may call Pinfolding – the artist elaborately pretending not to be an artist – is an old trick here in England, thanks to our aristocratic tradition and our public suspicion of intellect and the arts. Congreve was pinfolding when Voltaire visited him, only to be told that Congreve considered himself to be a gentleman of leisure, not a writer of plays, which drew from Voltaire the retort that he would not have wasted his time calling upon a gentleman, only a writer of plays. The English are born pinfolders. (Think of Elgar, his mind brooding over the heartbreak of his Cello Concerto, doing his best to look and behave like a retired colonel with a passion for horse-racing.) It saves us from the solemn posturing we have observed among our foreign colleagues, who are more portentous about a short review than we could be about an epic creation. We avid the Cher Maître touch. Yet I think the Continental attitude, for all its pomposity, extravagance, incitement to charlatanry, is saner, healthier, better for both the arts and the nation, than ours is. If authors and artists in this country are not only officially regarded without favour but even singled out for unjust treatment – as I for one believe – then the Pinfolds are partly to blame. They not only do not support their profession: they go over to the enemy. Congreve may have shrugged away his reputation as a poet and dramatist, but at least he identified himself with a class from which were drawn the chief patrons of poetry and drama, whereas the Pinfolds are hiding themselves among fox-hunters, pheasant slaughterers, horse and cattle breeders.”                                                  (from New Statesman and Nation, 31 August 1957)


And Evelyn Waugh Responds…

“I say, Priestley old man, are you feeling all right? Any voices? I mean to say! No narcotics or brandy in your case, I know, but when a chap starts talking about ‘the enemy’ and believing, for one, that he is singled out for unjust treatment, isn’t it time he consulted his Jungian about his anima? Who is persecuting poor Mr. Priestley? Mr Macmillan does not ask him to breakfast as Gladstone might have done.   His income, like everyone else’s, is confiscated, and ‘redistributed’ in the Welfare State. Tennyson’s life was made hideous by importunate admirers; Mr Priestley can walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily, but he will be unmolested by the mob who pursue television performers. Is this what Mr Priestley means by unjust treatment? Pinfold, he says, is vainly waiting for a message from Bonnie Prince Charlie. Is it possible that Mr Priestley is awaiting a summons to Windsor from Queen Victoria?”                                                                                                                                                        (from The Spectator, 13 September 1957)


“Only when one has lost all curiosity about the future has one reached the age to write an autobiography.”                                   (first sentence of Evelyn Waugh’s A Little Learning)


“With a thorough knowledge of the Bible, Shakespeare and Wisden you cannot go far wrong.”                                        (Arthur Waugh ‘to a young man aspiring to a literary career’, according to John  Gross in Waugh Revisited, from The New York Review of Books, 3 December 1964)


“Afghanistan is less tribal than New York.”                                                                                      (Said Tayeb Jawad, the Afghan ambassador to Washington, reported in NYT, October 18)

“If all sentient beings in the universe disappeared, there would remain a sense in which mathematical objects and theorems would continue to exist even though there would be no one around to write or talk about them. Huge prime numbers would continue to be prime even if no one had proved them prime.”                                                                                   (Martin Gardner, from When You Were A Tadpole And I Was A Fish, quoted in NYT, October 20)

“Many African-Americans feel that the influx of Africans coming in represents a kind of invasion. Culturally, African-Americans have always imagined themselves as Africans, or at least of African descent, but they might have never encountered Africans from the continent. The actual encounter is shocking.”                           (Zain Abdullah, assistant professor of religion, race and ethnicity at Temple University, quoted in  a report in NYT, October20, describing clashes between Americans from Africa [Muslims from West Africa] and African-Americans)

“A civil war is not a war but a sickness. The enemy is within. One fights almost against oneself.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, quoted by Antony Beevor in The Battle For Spain, p xxv)


“A coup d’état does not need a positive creed, just an enemy. A civil war, on the other hand, demands a cause, a banner and some form of manifesto.”                                                                                                                                    (from Antony Beevor’s The Battle For Spain, Chapter 10)


“The persistent trouble in the International Brigades also stemmed from the fact that volunteers, to whom no length of service had ever been mentioned, assumed that they were free to leave after a certain time. Their passports had been taken away on enlistment and many of them were sent to Moscow by diplomatic bag for use by NKVD agents abroad.”                                                                                                          (from Antony Beevor’s The Battle For Spain, Chapter 27)


“But history, which is never tidy, must always end with questions. Conclusions are much too convenient.”                                  (last words of Antony Beevor’s The Battle For Spain, Chapter 38)


Er…… Actually, No

“The banks are there to serve the public, and that is what they should concentrate on.”                                                                                                                                    (Paul  Volcker, chairman of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, quoted in NYT, October 21)


“Nobody’s going to respect us if we have a gay homosexual boss sitting down discussing La Cosa Nostra business.”                                                                                                                (Mafia gunman Anthony Capo, testifying at a murder trial in 2003, quoted in NYT, October 21)


“The Church of England has survived the Spanish Armada, the English Civil War and Elton John performing ‘Candle in the Wind’ at Princess Diana’s Westminster Abbey funeral.”                                                                                                                   (Ross Douthat, in NYT, October 26)


“Also in Britain, Tom [Oswald Mosley] used to say, there had always been an instinctive and emotional sympathy between the aristocracy and the working class who (in Lord Randolph Churchill’s phrase) were ‘united in the indissoluble bonds of a common immorality’. Together they showed disrespect for the Puritanism both of left-wing intellectuals and of the bourgeoisie.”                                                  (from Nicholas Mosley’s The Rules Of The Game, Chapter 6)

See also:

“At the same time he [Edward VII] caught the fancy of people at the other end of the social scale. The fact that he was a sportsman. Yachtsman, inveterate playgoer, and when off duty a man about town who enjoyed a good dinner, a large cigar, and lively pretty women, did not alienate the working class. It gradually brought him the admiration and affection of the more cheerful, often feckless, members of that class. Typical of these were the Cockneys, who wanted to live vicariously through somebody and to give that somebody, themselves enlarged and with the lid off, a cheer: ‘Good old Teddie!’ they began to shout.”                                                                                                                   (from J. B. Priestley’s The Edwardians, Part 1, Chapter 1)


“They [the rich and smart], bent on entertaining themselves and hoping to entertain the King, were mostly shallow and silly, addicted to the exchange of scandalous anecdotes, senseless games, a daft slang of their own (as they might have called it ‘a deveen private slango’), and –what, for me, puts any society back into the schoolroom – the constant sue of nick-names. They were too busy rushing about and spending money – and it is said that one of their weekends cost an American $150,000 – to complete an iron fortress of privilege, to anticipate the Fascism of the 1920’s. And, with exceptions among the noncomformists in the industrial North, the Edwardian working class tended to be equally shallow and silly, the women particularly, perhaps having relatives among the  hordes of country-house servants, and enjoying vicariously the remote lives of the rich and smart.”               (from J. B. Priestley’s The Edwardians, Part 2, Chapter 1)


“The Economic Council would have almost dictatorial powers: it is the case with human beings who have great powers unrestrained by traditional safeguards that they become corrupt or at best inefficient: even more, schemes that depend for their health on the near-miracle working of human beings usually carry with them the seeds of an almost deliberate self-destruction – as if the imposition of such responsibility sends people mad.”                         (on Oswald Mosley’s Birmingham Proposals, from Nicholas Mosley’s The Rules Of The Game, Chapter 6)


“What is going to be the reaction of the great British public to a Beaverbrook-Mosley-Rothermere- Lloyd-MacMillan-Stanley-Boothby combination?

I don’t know. But they might conceivably say ‘By God, now all the shits have climbed into the same basket, so we know where we are.’ Would they be so far out?” (Bob Boothby in a 1930 letter to Oswald Mosley, quoted by Nicholas Mosley in The Rules Of The Game, Chapter 15)


“Tom [Oswald Mosley] spoke ‘soulfully of the Corporate State of the future’ and ‘a young man called Winckworth called for a revival of the Attic Spirit’ which would involve the New Party in attracting people with ‘the heads of thinkers on the bodies of athletes’. Cyril Joad riposted ‘Be careful you don’t attract people with the heads of athletes on the bodies of thinkers.”     (Nicholas Mosley reporting on a New Party meeting, from The Rules Of The Game, Chapter 19)


“Tom [Oswald Mosley] used to tease John Strachey by telling him he was ‘governed by Marx from the waist up and Freud from the waist down.’”                                                                                                                        (from Nicholas Mosley’s The Rules Of The Game, Chapter 19)


“Im Anfang war die Tat…..”

“Fascism is a form of activity where what is usually contained in games becomes reality; where what is logic is forced into flesh; where rules are broken and are not replaced. It is a state of mind that does not see that words are different from things, that suggests that what in abstract argument might be desirable can be put into effect with people. Fascism denies that there is anything above decision and justification for decision that can judge their worth; it is a style by which activity seems to be a justification for itself. The drive is towards order: but in so far as there is glimpsed almost from the beginning the fact that orderliness may not be achieved, there are the safeguards of the rhetoric of returning upon one’s shield. If the drive to orderliness is towards death, it is still the drive that matters.

There has for the most part evolved in human beings a feeling that however much words are used in justification for drives there is always something slightly different, and more important, at stake: this is a more subtle feeling than that of transcendence: it is the feeling of oneself being part of a whole; of the whole being something other than the sum of the parts of the whole.; it is a feeling for the significance of something aesthetic. Fascism denies this sort of aestheticism; it feels no governing shape of the whole. Fascism is an immanence, a sorting out, a tidying-up; the elimination of some things for the ostensible sake of others. Of course, the whole structure may fall down. The point of aestheticism is that it tells what will not fall down: the shape of the whole is more important than the expansion of some of the parts. With fascism, the feeling of ‘greatness’ is an end in itself.”      (from Nicholas Mosley’s The Rules Of The Game, Chapter 21)


“’Your fascist is a middle-class creep who worries about his dividends and rents. The true National Socialist feels that the ruling class has a debt and tie to the working class. We sent the British workers off to die en masse in the trenches along the Somme, and then we rewarded them with a slump and mass unemployment and then that led to another war that gutted them again.’ For Clark, the lesson of this bloodletting was that a truly national. Racial and patriotic class collaboration was the main thing.”                                                                               (Christopher Hitchens recalling a conversation with the Conservative M.P. Alan Clark, in a review of Peter Hart’s The Somme: The Darkest Hour On The Western Front, in the Atlantic, November 2009)

“Popular culture casts a wide net. It takes in dime novels, tabloid newspapers and TV weathermen; the Monkees, the Muppets and “The Love Boat”; T-shirts and G-strings; baseball cards and tarot cards; infomercials, Chatty Cathy dolls and needlepoint pillows; Bob Hope, Tiny Tim, Archie Bunker and Erica Jong; Tupperware, cream pies and Spam (both kinds); hood ornaments, Harlequin romances, “Leave It to Beaver” and a great deal else. For some, this ecumenicalism is part of the field’s appeal. For others, it is precisely what makes it seem unfit for scholarly consumption.”                                                                                                                         (from the NYT obituary of Ray B. Browne, founder of pop-culture studies, October 28)

“People do not change when we tell them they should,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum. “They change when they tell themselves they must.”                                                                                                                                    (from Op-Ed article by Thomas L. Friedman on the challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in NYT, October 28)

“If you look historically, every great republic has died over fiscal issues. That is the biggest moral issue of our time.”                                                                                                                                                 (Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, quoted in NYT, October 30)

“It was in 1903 that G. E. Moore, of Cambridge, published his Principia Ethica, at the early age of thirty. But who, outside philosophy, cares about Moore and his attacks upon metaphysical idealism, his neo-realistic theory of epistemological phenomena? Well, I do, for one; and I do because Moore’s heightened commonsense, skepticism, and the supreme value he attached to aesthetic enjoyments and personal relationships powerfully influenced a whole remarkable group, based in Cambridge, that included among others Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf.”                                                                                                                                                 (J. B. Priestley, in The Edwardians, Part 1, Chapter 8)

“I have sometimes thought that Britain ought to be permanently at war – with Outer Mongolia perhaps.”                                                 (from J. B. Priestley’s The Edwardians, Part 2, Chapter 3)


“Sacha Guitry once said that impresarios are men who speak all languages with a foreign accent.”                                                 (from J. B. Priestley’s The Edwardians, Part 3, Chapter 7)




“The ancients believed the earth was flat. Galileo believed it was round. They were both wrong. But if you believe that they were both equally wrong, you are more mistaken than either of them.”                                                                                                                             (Peter Medawar [where?], according to Michael Lewis in letter to The Spectator, October 24)


“’But, in that case, in what do your tactics differ from the tactics of Tsarism?’ we are asked by the high priests of Liberalism and Kautskianism. You do not understand this, holy men? We shall explain to you. The terror of Tsarism was directed against the proletariat. The gendarmerie of Tsarism throttled the workers who were fighting for the socialist order. Our Extraordinary Commission shoots landlords, capitalists, and generals who are striving to restore the capitalist order. Do you grasp this distinction? Yes? For us communists it is quite sufficient…”                                                                       (Leon Trotsky, in pamphlet Terrorism and Communism, 1920)


“A Spaniard was only really loyal to his village in the end. First Spain, of course, then his own tribe, then his province, then his village, his family and finally his trade. If you knew Spanish he was prejudiced in your favor, if you knew his province it was that much better, but if you knew his village and his trade you were in as far as any foreigner could ever be.”                                                                                            (from Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, Chapter 11)


“To be bigoted you have to be absolutely sure that you are right and nothing makes that surety and righteousness like continence. Continence is the foe of heresy.”                                                                                          (from Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, Chapter 13)


“Forgiveness has been exaggerated. Forgiveness is a Christian idea and Spain has never been a Christian country.”                         (from Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, Chapter 31)


“Atheists are God’s whistleblowers.”                                                                                                                         (Samir Selmanovic, in It’s All Really About God, quoted in NYT, November 7)


Insane Monsters

“Then an especially terrible time came: Stalin went totally insane.”  (from Vitaly L. Ginzburg’s autobiography for the Nobel Committee, as quoted in his NYT obituary, November 10. Ginzburg, having accepted the Order of Lenin and the Stalin prize for work on the Soviet Union’s hydrogen bomb, was referring to Stalin’s purges against intellectuals and Jews in the early 1950s)

“’I had the impression that he [Hitler] had gone crazy in ‘43’’, Baldur von Schirach said during the period of Nuremberg trials. ‘I had that impression in ’42’, Hans Fritsche replied.”                                                                                          (from  The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, Chapter 9)


‘The Politics of Equivalency’

“I have been told by European leftists, with more than a little contempt, that my American narrative [that millions of poor and oppressed people do not resort to violence] is based on a naïve belief that we each have choices. Their narrative seems to be that hopelessness, engendered by Western oppression, leads to a decision to murder innocents, even if they are of the same faith and nationality and presumably sharing the same oppressive circumstances.”                                                                                                     (from letter by Tama Zorn in NYT, November 12)



“An expert is a person who avoids small error as he sweeps on to a grand fallacy.”        (Benjamin Stolberg, according to John V. Fleming in The Anti-Communist Manifestos, p 30)

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”                                                                 (Niels Bohr, according to Oxford Today, Michaelmas 2009)


“An intellectual can weather being embattled, scorned, detested, or perhaps even proved wrong; but an intellectual trembles at the prospect of being exposed as ridiculous.”                                                                                          (John V. Fleming in The Anti-Communist Manifestos, p 83)


“The procès Kravchenko was of that recurrent genre of legal spectacle, of which there are seldom fewer than two per decade, called ‘the Trial of the Century’.”                                                                                                 (John V. Fleming in The Anti-Communist Manifestos, p 216)


“In neurosurgery they say that if you don’t make your patient cry, you haven’t gotten informed consent.”                                    (Dr. John Boockvar, brain surgeon, quoted in NYT, November 17)

“Among Latinos the prosperity gospel has been spreading rapidly. In a recent Pew survey, 73% of all religious Latinos in the United States agreed with the statement: ‘God will grant financial success to all believers who have enough faith.’”                                                                                                                        (from article by Hanna Rosin in Atlantic Monthly, December 2009)


“On their way over [to America in March 1921], Einstein tried to explain relativity to Weizmann. Asked upon their arrival whether he understood the theory, Weizmann gave a puckish reply: ‘Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and by the time we arrived I was fully convinced that he really understands it.’”                                                                                                                    (from article by Walter Isaacson in Atlantic Monthly, December 2009)


“Enough of nuages, waves, aquariums, ondines, and nocturnal perfumes. We need music on the earth. MUSIC FOR EVERY DAY. Enough of hammocks, garlands, gondolas! I want someone to make me music that I can live in like a house.”                                                                                                                        (Jean Cocteau, quoted in The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, Chapter 3)
“It is very painful to be eighty. The public love artists who fall by the wayside in this life. A true artist must be down and out or die of hunger. In youth he should at least die of consumption.”                                      (Jean Sibelius, quoted in The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, Chapter 5)


“Even so-called atonality can produce worthwhile art as long as the man standing behind it is racially and personally unobjectionable and creative.”                                    (Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg on Arnold Schoenberg, quoted in The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, Chapter 9)


“Masters of the very first order can be recognized by the following characteristic: in all matters great and small they know with perfect assurance how to find the end, whether it be the end of a melody or of a thought, whether it be the fifth act of a tragedy or the end of a political action. The very best of the second-rank grow restive towards the end. They do not plunge into the sea with a proud and measured tranquility, as do, for example, the mountains near Portofino – where the Gulf of Genoa sings its melody to the end.”                                      (Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Gay Science, Section 281, quoted in The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, Chapter 10)


“Everything begins in mystique and ends in politics.”                                                          (Charles Péguy, in Notre Jeunesse, quoted in The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, Chapter 11)


“It is only after fifty, sixty, seventy years of world holocausts, of the simultaneous advance of democracy with our increasing inability to stop making war, of the simultaneous magnification of national pieties with the intensification of our active resistance to social equality – only after we have experienced all this through the smoking ovens of Auschwitz, the frantically bombed jungles of Vietnam, through Hungary, Suez, the Bay of Pigs, the farce-trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel, the refueling of the Nazi machine, the murder in Dallas, the arrogance of South Africa, the Hiss-Chambers travesty, the Trotskyite purges, Black power, Red Guards, the Arab encirclement of Israel, the plague of McCarthyism, the Tweedledum armaments race – only after all this can we finally listen to Mahler’s music and understand that it foretold all. And that in the foretelling it showered a rain of beauty on this world that has not been equaled since.”      (Leonard Bernstein, in Findings, p 257, quoted in The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, Chapter 11)


“All music turns out to be ethnic music.”                                                                               (Steve Reich, in Writings on Music, p 35, quoted in The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, Chapter 14)


“’…How was it over there? How’s the five-year plan? Is it going to work?’ [Glenn Spottswood]

‘It’ll work if Red Joe has to starve every miserable peasant in the Soviet Union to death to make it work…’ [Paul Graves]

‘… the New Deal’s got the five-year plan knocked for a row of red squares as a social experiment…  I think we are going to have the kind of country where guys like us can do useful work, see what I mean…. The revolution’s happened, kid, it’s all over.’ [Paul Graves]

(from John Dos Passos’s Adventures Of A Young Man, Section 3)


“The philosopher Hilary Putnam once noted a basic human trait that explains a lot about the autobiographical impulse: “We are, most of us, interested in justifying at least some features of our own style of life, in the sense of giving a defense of them that would appeal to others.”         (Judith Shulevitz, in review of Ben Yagoda’s Memoir: A History, in NYT, November 22)


“Few people fight as savagely as humanitarians.” (Nicholas D. Kristof, in NYT, November 22)


“On one side of Maxim stood the figure of the huge, sad, stern morality of all the suffering and exploited men in the world, all of them, without distinction of color or creed. On the other side of Maxim stood the figure of power, noble, fierce, indomitable. Both figures appeared to Laskell’s mind as male but sexless.  The face of one was sold and tragic, the face of the other was young and proud. Yet both had that brooding blind look that is given to men by the abstractions they admire, in the belief that a lack of personal being is the mark of all admirable things. Behind Maxim and his two great flanking figures were the infinite dim vistas of History, which was not the past but the future.”            (from Lionel Trilling’s The Middle Of The Journey, Chapter 5)


“Please understand that I never had any of the liberal illusions about that. I was not, as you say, interested in ideals. I was interested in results. As a revolutionary, I was wholly professional. But now the results do not pleas me.”                                                                                                                                  (Gifford Maxim, in Lionel Trilling’s The Middle Of The Journey, Chapter 5)


“After all, we’ve been nothing but liberals and perhaps that’s all we’ll ever be. That’s all right, but it means that we pretty much limit ourselves to ideas – and ideals. When we act, if we can call it action, it’s only in a peripheral way. We do have sympathies with the Party, and even, in a way, with its revolutionary aims. But maybe, sympathetic as we are, we prefer not to think about what the realities of such a party are.”                                                                                                                                     (John Laskell, in Lionel Trilling’s The Middle Of The Journey, Chapter 6)


“As ritual, a picnic has far too much actuality in it to be satisfying for very long after its beginning, and not enough awareness of its ritualistic intention to transform the actuality.”                                                       (from Lionel Trilling’s The Middle Of The Journey, Chapter 5)


“I know the kind of religious manipulation that undertakes to make the whole of the human race guilty for what any member of it does, or a whole society responsible for what any member of it does. It’s a very attractive notion in some ways, but I don’t care for it any more than I care for the idea that the whole human race is innocent, or would be if the social system were better, which is the line of your former party.”                                                                                                                               (John Laskell, in Lionel Trilling’s The Middle Of The Journey, Chapter 11)



“…Mr. Lapham related the story of when, fresh from Yale, he applied for a job at the C.I.A., then a bastion of Ivy League elitism. The first question he was asked in the interview was, ‘When standing on the 13th tee at the National Golf Links in Southampton, which club does one take from the bag?’”                               (from interview with Lewis Lapham in NYT, December 1)


Loss of (Medical) Culture

“Indians could benefit from broader overhaul programs for low-income and uninsured citizens, but they do not want to relinquish the health care they claim as a historical right. ‘Indian people have given up a lot,’ said Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, director of the Indian Health Service. ‘They really feel like they have, in a sense, prepaid for this health care with loss of land, natural resources, loss of culture.’……                                                                                                           …..Richard White, 61, acknowledged taking his medicine sporadically and drinking, aggravating his diabetes. He went blind, lost a toe and, during a Navajo medicine-man ceremony that he hoped would restore his vision, burned his other foot, which was then amputated.”                                                                                                                           (from report in NYT, December 2)


“When he thought of mankind, [Woodrow] Wilson said, he was not thinking of men in dinner-jackets.”                                                                                                       (Vernon Bogdanor, in review of No Enchanted Palace by Mark Mazower, in the Spectator, November 28)


“It would be unfair to say that I prefer the back of a book to its contents, but it is true that the sight of a lot of books gives me the hope that I may some day read them, which sometimes develops into the belief that I have read them.”                                                                                                                                                 (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 1)


“The only trouble came when I was left entirely alone with the servants. Had I been in this situation in Russia or Italy, I would have been almost smothered with affection and indulgence, but the inhuman treatment of servants in England had created a hostility, or, rather, a kind of formalized estrangement, that made a natural act of kindness impossible. The servants felt, in a confused way, that by taking it out on me they were getting back at their employers.”                                                                             (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 1)


“The sight of a family tree is as distasteful to me as a VAT form.”                                                                                                               (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 1)


“I remember a television interviewer asking Otto Klemperer what he read between his concerts: ‘Oh, Goethe, Schiller, occasionally Shakespeare’. ‘But, Dr Klemperer, you must sometimes relax: what do you read then?’. ‘Then I read Nietzsche.’”                                                                                                                                (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 3)


“I must say that he [Maurice Bowra] did nothing to conciliate American opinion. He was fond of drawing up ‘elevens’ of bores, captained by Sir Arthur Colefax, but said that an all-English side wouldn’t stand a chance compared with the most modest provincial team of bores from America.” When asked by a journalist in Washington how he was getting on in the United States he replied ‘All right, thanks to food parcels from England.’”                                                                                                              (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 3)


“… Marx now seems to me such a marvellous genius that he might have swept me off my feet, and left me suspended in an artificial vacuum, a she did one or two of my immediate successors.”                                           (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 3)


“Like all Victorians of the upper class she [Mrs Janet Ross] resolutely disbelieved that anyone (except the eldest son) was the child of his or her father, and came out with some staggering deviations which would have amused historians of the Holland House set.”                                                                                                 (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 4)


“The trouble with literary apprentices is that if they have talent they want to be independent, and if they have not, they become bores.” (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 4)


“Symbols are a dangerous branch of study as they lead easily to magic; and magic leads to the loss of reason.”                            (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 5)


“We were staying at trent with several pro-Nazi cabinet ministers among the guests, when the news of the Roehm murders appeared in the evening papers. It was a complete surprise to them. ‘What do you think of your playmates now?’ said Mr Churchill.”                                                                                                                  (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 7)


“He [Neville Chamberlain] said to me ‘Stanley Baldwin is always talking about his love of nature and the English countryside and all that. He couldn’t recognize five common English birds or English trees.’”                   (Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, Chapter 7)


“It goes without saying that only a planned economy can make intelligent use of all a people’s strengths.”                                               (Adolf Hitler, from Hitler’s Secret Conversations, p 15)


“Truth has nothing to do with the number of people it convinces.” (Paul Claudel, quoted by Whittaker Chambers in letter to Bill Buckley, October 9, 1956, from Odyssey To A Friend)


“I believed that nothing less could save the West than one man’s willingness to make himself a sacrifice. Put aside all Christian thinking and feeling. This was the most primitive of religious feelings – human sacrifice so that the cattle may breed, the grain fields yield harvest. It had to be topped by my attempt to destroy myself, so that, having disclosed the conspiracy, I should give the conspirators, as human beings, the chance to live on unharmed by me. That failed; I guess it all failed.”                                                                                                                                (Whittaker Chambers in letter to Bill Buckley, May 17, 1957, from Odyssey To A Friend)


“In our time, I think, it has become true that there is no greater love than that a man share his poison with his friends.”                                     (Whittaker Chambers in letter to Bill Buckley, June 24, 1959, from Odyssey To A Friend, referring to Walter Benjamin and Arthur Koestler)


“There are trifles that wise men should keep among themselves for private smiling.”    (Whittaker Chambers in letter to Bill Buckley, December 20, 1959, from Odyssey To A Friend)


“Down in the cellar dark, remote

Where alien cats the larder note,

In solemn grandeur stands the goat.


Without he ears the winter storm,

And while the drafts about him swarm,

He eats the coal to keep him warm.”                                      (The Goat, by R. K. Munkittrick)

“The rules laid down by Ronald Knox in the preface to “Best Detective Stories of 1928-29,” included the following: “All supernatural agencies are ruled out”; “There must not be more than one secret room or passage”; “No accident must help the detective, nor is he allowed an unaccountable intuition.” And most cryptically: “No Chinamen must figure in the story.” This strange last notion, Ms. James surmises, can be most euphemistically understood to have something to do with the genius of Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu.”                                                                        (from NYT review of P. D. James’s Talking About Detective Fiction, December 7)

“Never, never again allow that sanctimonious bus-conductor unto my sight.”                                                                                                              (Winston Churchill about Frank Pick, Director-General of the Ministry of Information, from Kenneth Clark’s The Other Half, Chapter 1)

“Robert Lowell, asked by an interviewer, who wished to explain the complex melancholy of his poems, what worried him about life, said ‘That people die’ – a statement that becomes more painfully true every year.”                                    (from Kenneth Clark’s The Other Half, Chapter 7)

“Practitioners here of Palo contend their religion is misunderstood and demonized because of the reports of chaos at the Cementerio del Sur. They acknowledged the importance in their religion of human bones, which they place in a cauldron called a nganga, along with earth and sticks, and dedicate to a spirit, or mpungu. But paleros, as the religion’s adherents are known, shield many of their practices from outsiders.”                                                                                                                                           (from article about grave-robbers in Venezuela, in NYT, December 11)

“When Mr. Bothwell was sworn into office on Monday, he used an alternate oath that does not require officials to swear on a Bible or refer to ‘Almighty God.’ That has riled conservative advocates, who cite a little-noticed quirk in North Carolina’s Constitution that disqualifies officeholders ‘who shall deny the being of Almighty God.’ The provision was included when the document was drafted in 1868 and was not revised when North Carolina amended its Constitution in 1971”                                                         (from report in NYT, December 13)

“Q. In that case, how do you justify eating in a nice restaurant or even reading a book, since those, too, are privileges that many cannot afford?
A. There are no legal barriers to anyone eating in a restaurant, but still, the point you raised troubles me, and I think we are obliged to promote greater economic equality.”                                                                                                                      (from interview with Martha Nussbaum, ‘eminent professor of philosophy’ at University of Chicago, NYT Magazine, December 13)

“The great surgeon invents an operation that only he can do, and the truly great surgeon invents an operation that everyone can do.”                                                                                                                                           (saying known to surgeons, according to report in NYT, December 15)

“I see no progress, no goal, no path for humanity.”                                                                                                                                                   (Oswald Spengler, in 1922 pamphlet Pessimism, quoted by Richard Overy in The Twilight Years [in the UK, The Morbid Age], Chapter 1)


Eh?                                                                                                                                                     “In reality by the 1920s and 1930s economic science was every bit as sophisticated and intellectually complex as the natural sciences..”

“The problem in Britain, and in other major industrial states, was the fear that any radical departure from economic orthodoxy would be a mere panacea [? ‘placebo’?], not a cure, and might indeed lead to more economic crisis than less.”                                                    (Richard Overy in The Twilight Years [in the UK, The Morbid Age], Chapter 2)


“The Englishman always finds it easy to forgive those he has wronged.”                                                                                                                             (J. A. Hobson, according to Cyril Joad, quoted by Richard Overy in The Twilight Years [in the UK, The Morbid Age], Chapter 2)


“When the publisher Victor Gollancz was asked by the editor of the magazine Cavalcade in November 1937 to name his man of the year he chose Stalin: ‘the reason being’, he wrote, ‘that he is safely guiding Russia on the road to a society in which there will be no exploitation.’”                                (Richard Overy in The Twilight Years [in the UK, The Morbid Age], Chapter 7)


“The historian A. L. Rowse observed more candidly in his diary that the Bolsheviks were quite right to be tough on the kulaks: ‘Liquidation is the only way!’”                                                                            (Richard Overy in The Twilight Years [in the UK, The Morbid Age], Chapter 7)


“The culture of crisis in Britain was made possible by the freedom to express fears openly and the competition to identify its causes. Anxiety was democratic, certainty totalitarian……

The powerful image of a sick civilization with the irrational social anxieties that infected it flourished only because British society at large had unrestricted and extensive exposure to the arguments that sustained it.”                                                                                                                                              (Richard Overy in The Twilight Years [in the UK, The Morbid Age], Chapter 9)


More Divinity Lessons

1) “We believe it was God’s will to have Christians lead the way in this land. On that day, the Day of the Vow, God made a clear statement that this was his will for South Africa.” (Lukas de Kock, celebrating the 1838 covenant, reported in NYT, December 17)

2) “God can work it out. He’s a big boy; he’s been around a long time. He can decide who’s Jewish and who’s not.”  (David Lightman, commenting on Britain’s Supreme Court’s ruling on a Jewish school’s admission policy for Jewishness, as reported in NYT, December 17)

3) “How will we know who to kill?’ one knight asked the Abbot of Citeaux. His chilling reply was ‘Slay them all – God will recognize his own!”                                                                                     (on the 1209 Albigensian Crusade, from Paul Newman’s A History of Terror, Chapter 2)


“‘Your family history goes back a long way’, remarked a casual acquaintance to me,’

‘Yes, ‘ I replied, my bosom heaving with pride, ‘we came over with the Conqueror’.

‘Ah!’, he said. ‘We were waiting for him.'”     (Geoffrey Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele, in Hearsay (1830), from Ranulph Fiennes’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Chapter 1)


“As for Providence Island, now part of the South American state of Colombia, my cousin David Fiennes went there in 1977 and found that the inhabitants, including many descendants of English pirates, spoke no Spanish but their own version of English, and sported surnames like Huffington, Hawkins and Henry.”                                                                                                                                                        (from Ranulph Fiennes’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Chapter 19)


“Two reasons for traditional Francophobia were suggested by the actor Robert Morley in 1974: ‘The French are a logical people, which is one reason the English dislike them so intensely. The other is that they own France, a country which we have always judged to be much too good for them.'”                              (from Ranulph Fiennes’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Chapter 29)


“‘There are a good many Englishmen who are asking themselves that question.’ remarked Cecil Brown. ‘ It’s my opinion that we have been the policemen of the world long enough. We policed the seas for pirates and slavers. Now we police the land for dervishes and brigands and every sort of danger to civilisation, There is never a mad priest or a witch doctor, or a firebrand of any sort on this planet, who does not report his appearance by sniping the nearest British officer. One tires of it at last. If a Kurd breaks loose in Asia Minor, the world wants to know why Great Britain does not keep him in order. If there is a military mutiny in Egypt, or a jihad in the Sudan, it is still Great Britain who has to set it right. And all to an accompaniment of curses such as the policeman gets when he seizes a ruffian among his pals. We get hard knocks and no thanks, and why should we do it? Let Europe do its own dirty work.'”                                                                                                             (from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Tragedy of the Korosko, Chapter 2)


“What is there in life that we should cling to it so? It is not the pleasures, for those whose hours are one long pain shrink away screaming when they see merciful Death holding his soothing arms out for them. It is not the associations, for we will change all of them before we walk of our own free wills down that broad road which every son and daughter of man must tread. Is it the fear of losing the I, that dear, intimate I, which we think we must know so well, although it is eternally doing things that surprise us? Is it that which makes the deliberate suicide cling madly to the bridge pier as the river sweeps him by? Or is it that Nature is so afraid that all her weary workmen may suddenly throw down their tools and strike, that she has invented this fashion of keeping them constant to their precious work? But there it is, and all these tired, harassed, humiliated folk rejoiced in the few more hours of suffering which were left to them.”                                                    (from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Tragedy of the Korosko, Chapter 2)


“Man as such does not exist. There are only men belonging to this or that race.”                                                                                                                              (Walter Gross, head of the German Office of Racial Purity, in 1936, quoted by Mark Mazower in Hitler’s Empire, Introduction)


“More importantly, Soviet policy, while aiming to crush Polish nationality, and to prevent any security threats it might pose, especially near the borders, did not aim to get rid of any particular national or ethnic group in toto. Its purpose was social revolution, not national purification. That is one reason why the German deportations aimed to expel non-Germans from the Reich entirely, while the Soviet round-ups drove those they caught deep into the enemy’s interior.”                                                                                            (from Mark Mazowers Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 4)


“Afterwards, many of them seemed uncannily prescient: the stress on establishing common tariffs on imports from outside Europe, on finding areas of complementarity among different European countries, and on the need to be guided by business interests – these and other themes would be picked up again after the war, when many of these men played important roles in helping to build the Common Market.” (from Mark Mazowers Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 5)


“The Italians, they [‘the Reich’s press men] opined, echoing Hitler, ‘still have the disease of politics [sono ammalati di politica] because with them thought always precedes events and action whereas in war it is not theory which gives birth to reality but on the contrary reality which gives birth to theories.'”                 (from Mark Mazowers Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 11)


“‘There is no foreign intervention which would stop us on the road to the liberation of Slovakia from Jewry’, insisted President Tiso. ‘Is it Christian what happened to the Jews, is it human?’ he asked in the course of a speech that August, ‘It would have been much worse if we did not clear ourselves of them in time, And we did so according to God’s order: ‘Slovak, throw them away, get rid of your pest.'”                                             (from Mark Mazowers Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 12)


“Events bore me. Events are the froth of things. It is the sea which interests me.”                    (Paul Valery to Gerhard Heller, quoted by Mark Mazower in Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 13)


“‘Hitler is… a poet beyond the comprehension of the soul of drudges.” (Jean Cocteau, quoted by Mark Mazower in Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 13)


“In the words of  the nineteenth-century radical British lawyer Frederick Harrison, ‘We cannot make rules for negroes without baiting traps for Europeans,’ Harrison formed part of a venerable, if minority chorus who warned of the danger of treating people one way abroad and another at home. However, the deeply ambiguous concept of ‘civilization’ offered mainstream opinion in Europe a justification for doing exactly this. For while Victorian international law legitimized colonial rule, it did so by holding out the promise of liberation: in a theory that was generally honoured only in the breach, the closer a people came to being able to form a state in accordance with the so-called ‘standard of civilization’. Freedom had to be earned. Legal and political theorists talked about tiers of sovereignty and they distinguished between ‘civilized’, ‘barbarian’ and ‘savage’ peoples. It was a way of talking about racial hierarchies without having to mention race, and implying that racial differences could at some unspecified point in the future be ignored.”                                               (from Mark Mazowers Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 18)


Hitler and the Law of Unintended Consequences

“Your idea sounds plausible enough. However, the fact is that the most effective way is to weaken morale on the battlefield by military offensive. There is a danger that political schemes would have opposite results.”                                                                                         (Adolf Hitler to the Japanese ambassador, quoted by Mark Mazower in Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 18)


“As we have seen throughout this book, in the minds of politicians keen to build up the national strength, ‘rescuing’ co-nationals abroad was often hard to distinguish from deliberately uprooting them.”                                                         (from Mark Mazowers Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 18)


“There was deep resistance to any restoration of the old minority rights regime after the war and it was quietly buried while the world celebrated the United Nations’ new commitment to individual human rights instead.”                   (from Mark Mazowers Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 18)


“Its function [human rights talk] in 1945 was to allow the burial of the old minority rights system, clearing the way for a globalization of the ethnically purified model of the nation-state which the Nazis had done more than anybody to push through.”                                                                                                                                (from Mark Mazowers Hitler’s Empire, Chapter 18)


“He [Charles Marsh] shared Dorothy Parker’s view to the effect that there were two things one could never figure out – the theory of the zipper and the precise function of Bernard Baruch.”                                                                                     (from Jennet Conant’s The Irregulars, Chapter 6)


Origin of ‘Two-Sheds’ Jackson [Monty Python]?

“As Berle noted in his diary, the only dubious information the British had succeeded in digging up was an old newspaper clipping reporting that he had ‘twin bath tubs’ in his house, which had long earned him the absurd nickname Two Bathtubs Berle.”                                                                                                                                 (from Jennet Conant’s The Irregulars, Chapter 8)


“Laundry is the household task I haven’t tried yet. If I could take it on, I’d be more universal than Goethe.”                                                                                                        (Paul Klee, according to John Simon in review of Nicholas Fox Weber’s The Bauhaus Group, in NYT, December 17)


“If once a man indulges in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.”      (Thomas de Quincey in On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts)


“Above all else there was the problem of human personality and its possible survival of death. Was a human simply a member of the mammalian species that grew a big brain and used it to produce speech, thought, crafts, science and technology to ameliorate its physical condition, and religion to confront and exorcise its fear of death and loss of loved ones? Was a human being simply an incredibly complicated electro-chemico-physico mechanism linked by the five senses to the physical world and its neighbours or was there something else?” (from The Archives of the Mind by Archie Roy, 1996, quoted by Paul Newman in A History of Terror, Chapter 6)


“A man can stand being told that he must submit to a severe surgical operation, or told that he has some disease which will shortly kill him, or that he will be a cripple or blind for the rest of his life: dreadful as such tidings must be, we do not find that they unnerve the greater number of mankind; most men go coolly enough even to be hanged, but the strongest quail before financial ruin, and the better men they are, the more complete, as a general rule, is their prostration. Suicide is a common enough consequence of money losses; it is rarely sought as a means of escape from bodily suffering.”                                                                                (from Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh, quoted by Paul Newman in A History of Terror, Chapter 6)


“Men have sought to demonstrate their love of God by loving nothing at all and their love for humanity by loving nobody whatsoever.”                                                                                      (John Passmore, Australian philosopher, quoted in the Economist, December 19, 2009)


“One of the problems is newspapers fired so many journalists and turned them loose to start so many blogs. They should have executed them. They wouldn’t have had competition. But they foolishly let them out alive.”                                                                                                                                                 (Alan D. Mutter, a media consultant and blogger, quoted in NYT, December 29)


“Caricature that goes too far simply lowers the viewer’s response to a person as a human being.” (Caricaturist David Levine, quoted in his NYT obituary, December 30)


“If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?”                                                                                                                              (Maureen Dowd, in NYT, December 30)


“One of Russia’s biggest problems, as he [Yegor Gaidar, died December 16] saw it, was the growing accumulation of wealth and power by bureaucrats and friends in the name of a ‘strong state’. People who have argued for such a state, he wrote, ‘have only one purpose – to preserve the status quo… A self-serving state destroys society, oppresses it and in the end destroys itself. Will we be able to break away from this vicious circle?”                (from the Economist, December 19)


“Any fool can commit a murder, but it takes an artist to commit a good natural death.”                  (a saying in the Soviet apparatus, recorded by Whittaker Chambers in Witness, Chapter 1)


“For my parents were Republicans the way an Englishman is for the king: it was not a matter that required any thought.”                                 (from Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, Chapter 2)


“When a man makes himself his own firing-squad, he is beyond pity or judgment, since it is difficult to pity or judge those who are merciless first of all with themselves.”                                                                        (on his brother’s suicide, from Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, Chapter 2)


“Within me there is a force. It says that that gentleness, which is not prepared to kill or be killed to destroy the evil that assails life, is not gentleness. It is weakness. It is the weakness of the merely well-meaning. It is the suspended goodness of the men of mere good will whose passivity in the face of evil first of all raises the question whether they are men. It is the permanent temptation of the Christian who, in a world of force, flinches the crucifixion which can alone can give kindness and compassion force.”        (from Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, Chapter 2)


“About both brief, tidy men [Max Bedacht and Heinrich Himmler]  there was a disturbing quality of secret power mantling insignificance – what might be called the ominousness of nonentity, which is peculiar to the terrible little figures of our time.”                                                                                                                (from Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, Chapter 5)


“When the revolution comes here [in the USA], it will only mean that the pants pressers are on strike, and everyone has to go around without pants.”                                                                                                                                (‘Ulrich’, from Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, Chapter 5)


“…. that Stalin had memorized one line of English to surprise American visitors to the Kremlin: ‘This way to the water closet, gentlemen.’” (from Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, Chapter 9)


“You don’t understand the class structure of American society, or you would not ask such a question. In the United States, the working class are democrats. The middle class are Republicans. The upper class are Communists.”                                                                                                                              (’Smetana’, from Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, Chapter 2)


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