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SNIPPETS FROM THE QUARTET:

Woman of a Far Castle
The Wages of Angst
The Victorian and the Shoebox
Lurching Toward Destiny

>After their initial purchase at the Angel Trading Post the four were never seen together again.

>What might my family, my friends, my social class think were   I found murdered in these slums?

>…strange one. Half child.

>I wondered what they do to horse thieves in Transylvania.

>”…if you’re suggesting what I think, you’re both insane.”

>In their obscure dialect they inseminated the prelude to symbiosis of man and object.

>When the incident of that night comes to mind, I shudder.

>Telephones of old friends are disconnected. Leon is rebuilding the Red Army.

>…he hadn’t responded to the part about shooting people.

>How came I to this forsaken place?

>In one of my spells of madness I found myself watching the dawn from a parapet uncertain how I had gotten there.

>”I chose a different path.”

>”It will protect me in the booby hatch.”

>”Don’t matter who I kill, white boy. I don’t kill them, I kill you.”

>…asked me why in my father’s image over the fireplace the artist had painted a white feather in my father’s left eye.

>”I hope she doesn’t invite her talking coyote into the house for tea.”

>The Committee hunted on the New York East Side, in labor unions, colleges, sweatshops, speakeasies.

>It was the first time I’d ventured into his bed.

>”I saw a few Indians. I’m not sure they were patients, exactly. He was running experimental studies on them.”

>His excessive imbibing was well-known in the Senate. I offered mollifying words. “The voters know we have human failings.”

>Odell wobbled sideways, straining to regain his balance, did a halfspin, back-stepping as he began falling backward against the two-by-four railing replacing the missing wall and as the railing gave way he disappeared into the darkness.

>”I never expected a happy ending.”

>”Mr. Slade don’t worry about lawsuits.”

>The word ‘pregnant’ turned him pale.

>”Jay wound up alone with this crazy man, your father.”

>Two of us, said Mabrouk, and tonight we were guests of an ambassador.

>They are dangerous psychos.

>The public could still be regimented by the old methods business had employed…

>Here came Dr. Mouse now, with shirtsleeves rolled up, cradling shiny implements in a steaming white hotel towel.

>She was drinking bitterness, facing down the daughter of a murderer.

>Naturally, as we proclaimed ourselves the aggrieved party, the police blamed the strikers.

>I’d gotten stuck on how could my mother abandon me.

>Miscegenation, they label it, punishable here by death.

>Since the killing in the desert I’ve felt tense.

>”You may yet bring redemption to the ice castles of the Slade empire.”

©2017

The Arts

Style is not a tool, it is not a method, it is not a choice of words alone. Being much more than all this, style constitutes an intrinsic component or characteristic of the author’s personality. Thus when we speak of style we mean an individual artist’s peculiar nature, and the way it expresses itself in his artistic output. It is essential to remember that though every living person may have his or her own style, it is the style peculiar to this or that individual writer of genius that is alone worth discussion. And this genius cannot express itself in a writer’s literary style unless it is present in his soul. A mode of expression can be perfected by an author. It is not unusual that in the course of his literary career a writer’s style becomes ever more precise and impressive, as indeed Jane Austen’s did. But a writer devoid of talent cannot develop a literary style of any worth; at best it will be an artificial mechanism deliberately set together and devoid of the divine spark.

This is why I do not believe that anybody can be taught to write fiction unless he already possesses literary talent. Only in the latter case can a young author be helped to find himself, to free his language from clichés, to eliminate clumsiness, to form a habit of searching with unflinching patience for the right word, the only right word which will convey with the utmost precision the exact shade and intensity of thought.

–Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Literature. 
Edited by Fredson Bowers,
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers. 1980.

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I’ve never been interested in anything about writing after having learned, I hope, to write. That is, I mastered my craft as well as I could. There is a technique, there is a craft, and you have to learn it. Well, I did as well as I could with that, but now all in the world I am interested in is telling a story. I have something to tell you that I, for some reason, think is worth telling, and so I want to tell it as clearly and purely and simply as I can. But I had spent fifteen years at least learning to write. I practiced writing in every possible way that I could. I wrote a pastiche of other people, imitating Dr. Johnson and Laurence Sterne, and Perarch and Shakespeare’s sonnets, and then I tried writing my own way. I spent fifteen years learning to trust myself: that’s what it comes to…

A cultivated style would be like a mask. Everybody knows it’s a mask, and sooner or later you must show yourself— or at least, you show yourself as someone who could not afford to show himself, and so created something to hide behind. Style is the man. Aristotle said it first, as far as I know, and everybody has said it since, because it is one of those unarguable truths. You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being.

—Katherine Ann Porter, Conversations.
Edited by Joan Givner,
University Press of Mississippi; Jackson and London, 1987. 

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Style, which like architecture is a language, is not necessarily the most effective means of expressing what it represents; thus Sung wash-drawings are not the most effective means of representing landscape, nor has Cubism any special aptitude for depicting guitars and harlequins. Painting centers much less on seeing the “real world,” than on making of it another world; all things visible serve style, and style serves man and his gods.

Thus, for us, a style no longer means a set of characteritics common to the works of a given school or period, an outcome or adornment of the artist’s vision of the world; rather, we see it as the supreme object of the artist’s activity, of which living forms are but the raw material. And so, to the question, “What is art?” we answer: “That whereby forms are transmuted into style.”

At this point begins the psychology of the creative process…

A style is not merely an idiom or a mannerism; it becomes these only when, ceasing to be a conquest, it settles down into a convention. The tastes of a period are mannerisms which follow those of styles or may exist without them; but Romanesque was not a medieval “modern style,” it illustrated a special attitude toward the cosmos; indeed every true style is the scaling-down to our human perspective of that eternal flux on whose mysterious rhythms we are borne ineluctably, in a never-ceasing drift of stars…

Thus styles are significations, they impose a meaning on visual experience; though often we find them conflicting with each other, passing away and superseded, always we see them replacing the uncharted scheme of things by the coherence they enforce on all they “represent.” However complex, however lawless an art may claim to be— even the art of a Van Gogh or a Rimbaud— it stands for unity against the chaos of appearances; and when time has passed and it has borne fruit, this becomes apparent. Every style, in fact, creates its own universe by selecting and incorporating such elements of reality as enable the artist to focus the shape of things on some essential part of man.

—André Malraux, The Voices of Silence.
Doubleday & Co., New York, 1953.

  


History

The fate of democracy is to have entered the modern world at the same moment as capitalism, roughly during the seventeenth century. As a consequence the course of each became intertwined with the other. This meant, among other things, that the attempts to establish a democratic culture were an uphill struggle. At first democracy and capitalism were occasional allies pitted against the stratified order of monarchy, aristocracy, and established church. Then, as each became more politically self-conscious, more aware of divergent concerns, each began to define an identity and pursue strategies that reflected the reality of opposed interests, contrasting conceptions of power, and disagreement as to what degree of equality or inequality each could tolerate without compromising their respective systems.

The persisting conflict between democratic egalitarianism and an economic system that has rapidly evolved into another inegalitarian regime is a reminder that capitalism is not solely a matter of production, exchange, and reward. It is a regime in which culture, politics, and economy tend toward a seamless whole, a totality. Like the regimes it had displaced, the corporate regime manifests inequalities in every aspect of social life and defends them as essential. And like the old regimes, the structure of corporate organization follows the hierarchical principle of gradations of authority, prerogative, and reward. It is undemocratic in its structure and modus operandi and antidemocratic in its persistent effort to destroy or weaken unions, discourage minimum wage legislation, resist environmental protections, and dominate the creation and dissemination of culture (media, foundations, education).

—Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated.
Princeton University Press; Princeton and Oxford, 2008

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The public relations industry is a phenomenon that developed in the freest countries, in Britain and the United States, and the reason is pretty clear. A century ago it became clear that it was not going to be so easy to control the population by force. Too much freedom had been won through labor organizing, parliamentary Labor parties in many countries, women starting to get the franchise, and so on. It was kind of like the ’60s, the danger of democracy, and the reaction was sort of similar. A crucial part of it was the rise of the PR industry.

Its leading intellectual figure and kind of guru was Edward Bernays, a Wilson/Roosevelt/Kennedy progressive talking from the so-called left end of the political spectrum. He wrote a book called Propaganda—the term was used honestly in those days—which was a kind of manual, providing theoretical guidance for the rising public relations industry. He explained the purpose in kind of Madisonian terms. He said the country has to be governed by the “intelligent minority,” which is of course us—anyone who advocates this is part of it. So the intelligent minority has to run the country in the interests of the general population. You can’t let them make the decisions, because they’ll make terrible decisions. Part of the way we do this is by what he called “engineering of consent.” They’re too dumb to understand so we’ll engineer their consent to what we decide, and that’s the purpose of the public relations industry.

You find this doctrine all through progressive intellectual thought, like Walter Lippmann, the major progressive intellectual of the twentieth century. He wrote famous progressive essays on democracy in which his view was exactly that. “The public must be put in their place” so that the responsible men can make decisions without interference from the ”bewildered herd.”

—Noam Chomsky, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
Edited by Peter Hutchinson, Kelly Nyks, and Jared P. Scott.
Seven Stories Press, New York: 2017.

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What I am asserting is that in this particular epoch a conjunction of historical circumstances has led to the rise of an elite of power; that the men of the circles composing this elite, severally and collectively, now make such key decisions as are made; and that, given the enlargement and the centralization of the means of power now available, the decisions that they make and fail to make carry more consequences for more people than has ever been the case in the world history of mankind.

I am also asserting that there has developed on the middle levels of power, a semi-organized stalemate, and that on the bottom level there has come into being a mass-like society which has little resemblance to the image of a society in which voluntary associations and classic publics hold the keys to power. The top of the American system of power is much more unified and much more powerful, the bottom is much more fragmented, and in truth, impotent, than is generally supposed by those who are distracted by the middling units of power which neither express such will as exists at the bottom nor determine the decisions at the top.

C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite.
Oxford University Press, New York, 1956.

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