Monthly Archives: March 2009

Samuel Beckett

Just under the surface I shall be, all together at first, then separate and drift, through all the earth and perhaps in the end through a cliff into the sea, something of me. A ton of worms in an acre, that is a wonderful thought, a ton of worms, I believe it.
‘From an Abandoned Work’, Samuel Beckett: The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989 (ed. S. E. Gontarski), p. 160.

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David Foster Wallace

If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
From the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address (May 21, 2005) — Thanks, Em.
Update: They made it into a video.

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Filed under Love, Quotes, Subjectivity, Sureness

Malcolm Gladwell

But what did [Hunter College Elementary School] achieve with that best-students model? In the nineteen-eighties, a handful of educational researchers surveyed the students who attended the elementary school between 1948 and 1960. [The results were published in 1993 as “Genius Revisited: High IQ Children Grown Up,” by Rena Subotnik, Lee Kassan, Ellen Summers, and Alan Wasser.] This was a group with an average I.Q. of 157—three and a half standard deviations above the mean—who had been given what, by any measure, was one of the finest classroom experiences in the world. As graduates, though, they weren’t nearly as distinguished as they were expected to be. “Although most of our study participants are successful and fairly content with their lives and accomplishments,” the authors conclude, “there are no superstars . . . and only one or two familiar names.” The researchers spend a great deal of time trying to figure out why Hunter graduates are so disappointing, and end up sounding very much like Wilbur Bender [Harvard’s admissions dean from 1952 to 1960]. Being a smart child isn’t a terribly good predictor of success in later life, they conclude. “Non-intellective” factors—like motivation and social skills—probably matter more. Perhaps, the study suggests, “after noting the sacrifices involved in trying for national or world-class leadership in a field, H.C.E.S. graduates decided that the intelligent thing to do was to choose relatively happy and successful lives.” It is a wonderful thing, of course, for a school to turn out lots of relatively happy and successful graduates. But Harvard didn’t want lots of relatively happy and successful graduates. It wanted superstars, and Bender and his colleagues recognized that if this is your goal a best-students model isn’t enough.
‘Getting In: The social logic of Ivy League admissions’, The New Yorker (October 10, 2005).
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/10/10/051010crat_atlarge

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Filed under Expectancy, Quotes, Sureness

David Foster Wallace

Bliss—a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious—lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.
From ‘The Pale King’ (forthcoming)

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Filed under Bagatelle, Quotes

David Foster Wallace

Look, man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?
Interview with Larry McCaffery (1991)

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Filed under Kindheartedness, Quotes

David Foster Wallace

What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.
From ‘Good Old Neon’ (2001)

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599-1600)
San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, Italy
oil on canvas

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