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Showing posts from September, 2011

Edna O'Brien: 'A writer's imaginative life commences in childhood'

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Fifty years after leaving County Clare for London, the doyenne of Irish fiction Edna O'Brien is still preoccupied with the land of her birth. Starting with her sensational 1960 debut, The Country Girls, her novels about sex and religion quickly brought fame and notoriety. On the eve of a new short-story collection, she talks about love, exile – and why, at 80, she's still a party girl

I cannot speak for custom, and its effect on her variety, but I will say this for Edna O'Brien: age cannot wither her. Last summer, I was invited to a book party at the somewhat unlikely venue of Mahiki, the Sloane nightclub much frequented by Prince Harry, Kate Middleton et al. All around me were the usual suspects: novelists, publishing people, lots of journalists. It was fun, but noisy, and crowded, and you had to move carefully in order not to spill your cocktail. It was just as I was embarking on a dangerous manoeuvre from bar to banquette that I caught sight of her: the woman who, when I…

Arthur Schopenhauer: On the Sufferings of the World

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UNLESS suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance. Each separate misfortune, as it comes, seems, no doubt, to be something exceptional; but misfortune in general is the rule.

I know of no greater absurdity than that propounded by most systems of philosophy in declaring evil to be negative in its character. Evil is just what is positive; it makes its own existence felt. Leibnitz is particularly concerned to defend this absurdity; and he seeks to strengthen his position by using a palpable and paltry sophism.1 It is the good which is negative; in other words, happiness and satisfaction always imply some desire fulfilled, some state of pain brought to an end.

This explains the fact that we generally find pleasure t…

Jonathan Swift: On the Death of Esther Johnson [Stella]

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THIS day, being Sunday, January 28, 1727–8, about eight o’clock at night, a servant brought me a note, with an account of the death of the truest, most virtuous, and valuable friend, that I, or perhaps any other person, ever was blessed with. She expired about six in the evening of this day; and as soon as I am left alone, which is about eleven at night, I resolve, for my own satisfaction, to say something of her life and character. 1
She was born at Richmond, in Surrey, on the thirteenth day of March, in the year 1681. Her father was a younger brother of a good family in Nottinghamshire, her mother of a lower degree; and indeed she had little to boast of her birth. I knew her from six years old, and had some share in her education, by directing what books she should read, and perpetually instructing her in the principles of honour and virtue; from which she never swerved in any one action or moment of her life. She was sickly from her childhood until about the age of fifteen; but …

Katherine Anne Porter: "Old Mortality" - Forces at work in “Old Mortality”

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“The past dies, but is not dead; the present generation moves on, then retreats to the past, moves on, [and] retreats again” (Stout 503). Stout words bring an interesting point: through time there is inconsistency with respect to peoples’ memories about world events. Thus how do you know that the facts you learned from previous generations are really the truth and not something that came from someone’s imagination? The answer to this question is illustrated by Katherine Anne Porter in her short story “Old Mortality.” In the story the author suggests that the only way to know what is real is through a person’s experiences. Porter developed a character that lived in a perfect world filled with romanticism and unrealistic events; she first created Miranda with the innocence of a child, the admiration for elders and love for romantic and poetic dreams. Through her short story “Old Mortality” Porter molded Miranda’s character. Porter describes human development through Miranda’s gr…

George Eliot: Middlemarch

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The duties of her married life, contemplated as so great beforehand, seemed to be shrinking with the furniture and the white vapor-walled landscape. The clear heights where she expected to walk in full communion had become difficult to see even in her imagination; the delicious repose of the soul on a complete superior had been shaken into uneasy effort and alarmed with dim presentiment. When would the days begin of that active wifely devotion which was to strengthen her husband’s life and exalt her own? Never perhaps, as she had preconceived them; but somehow — still somehow. In this solemnly pledged union of her life, duty would present itself in some new form of inspiration and give a new meaning to wifely love. Meanwhile there was the snow and the low arch of dun vapor — there was the stifling oppression of that gentlewoman’s world, where everything was done for her and none asked for her aid — where the sense of connection with a manifold pregnant existence had to be kept up pain…

Duke Humphrey's Library, Bodleian

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Dublin - National Library of Ireland

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