Meta-Morse

Garry Thomas Morse is a writer

yelpings

Meanwhile the rain continued to beat sonorously down upon the wooden roof, and could be heard trickling into a water butt; nor for a single moment did the dogs cease to bark with all the strength of their lungs. One of them, throwing up its head, kept venting a howl of such energy and duration that the animal seemed to be howling for a handsome wager; while another, cutting in between the yelpings of the first animal, kept restlessly reiterating, like a postman’s bell, the notes of a very young puppy. Finally, an old hound which appeared to be gifted with a peculiarly robust temperament kept supplying the part of contrabasso, so that his growls resembled the rumbling of a bass singer when a chorus is in full cry, and the tenors are rising on tiptoe in their efforts to compass a particularly high note, and the whole body of choristers are wagging their heads before approaching a climax, and this contrabasso alone is tucking his bearded chin into his collar, and sinking almost to a squatting posture on the floor, in order to produce a note which shall cause the windows to shiver and their panes to crack. Naturally, from a canine chorus of such executants it might reasonably be inferred that the establishment was one of the utmost respectability. 

- from Dead Souls (Nikolai Gogol)

Forget

There’s an inconspicuous hamlet in southern Saskatchewan named Forget, and many a tired traveller has driven through it without a sidelong glance at its clapboard edifices. If you, for whatever reason, find yourself passing this way and, out of idle curiosity, stop long enough to gawk at its windthrift ruins, you will find: a once-proud post office; a derelict general store with its tumbled lean-to that was once a local hangout; a service station with a broken pump adjoining a vacant lot strewn with the rusty hulks of frontier farm machinery; a boarded-up pool hall; a church with a toppled steeple; and last, but not least, a tall red grain elevator beside the tumbleweed tracks at the edge of town. Those heedless drivers who pulled into its only side street to catch a few winks before driving on to St. Boniface never suspected that they would lose the entire contents of their minds til they drove through Forget and out of sight.

from The Artist & the Moose: A Fable of Forget (Roy K. Kiyooka)

for your convenience

I tried to sue the Government for this land, and they said, “No personal Indian claims allowed.” Maybe it was a good thing that they would not let us Indians keep that land. Think of what would have been missed: the motels with their neon signs, the pawn shops, the Rock Hunter’s Paradise, the Horned Trophies Taxidermist Studio, the giftie shoppies, the Genuine Indian Crafts Center with its beadwork from Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Sitting Bull Cave—electrically lighted for your convenience—the Shrine of Democracy Souvenir Shop, the Fun House—the talk of your trip for years to come—the Bucket of Blood Saloon, the life-size dinosaur made of green concrete, the go-go gals and cat houses, the Reptile Gardens, where they don’t feed the snakes because that would be too much trouble. When they die you get yourself some new rattlers for free. Just think: If that land belonged to us there would be nothing here, only trees, grass and some animals running free. All that real estate would be going to waste!

from Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions (John Fire Lame Deer)

an irresistible desire

…taking advantage of a momentary tête-à-tête Colia handed Aglaya a letter, remarking that he “had orders to deliver it to her privately.” She stared at him in amazement, but he did not wait to hear what she had to say, and went out. Aglaya broke the seal, and read as follows:

"Once you did me the honour of giving me your confidence. Perhaps you have quite forgotten me now! How is it that I am writing to you? I do not know; but I am conscious of an irresistible desire to remind you of my existence, especially you. How many times I have needed all three of you; but only you have dwelt always in my mind’s eye. I need you—I need you very much. I will not write about myself. I have nothing to tell you. But I long for you to be happy. Are you happy? That is all I wished to say to you—Your brother,

"Pr. L. Muishkin."

On reading this short and disconnected note, Aglaya suddenly blushed all over, and became very thoughtful.

It would be difficult to describe her thoughts at that moment. One of them was, “Shall I show it to anyone?” But she was ashamed to show it. So she ended by hiding it in her table drawer, with a very strange, ironical smile upon her lips.

Next day, she took it out, and put it into a large book, as she usually did with papers which she wanted to be able to find easily. She laughed when, about a week later, she happened to notice the name of the book, and saw that it was Don Quixote, but it would be difficult to say exactly why.

from The Idiot (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

a category of the exceptional

Unexpectedly Ellena said, “His life has been a chain of unfortunate circumstances. He has always been poor. He couldn’t even manage to get a position as a clerk, although he is very gifted. He didn’t lack opportunities to prove himself; he demanded certain duties and was given them. But they always ended unfortunately for him. Not that he didn’t succeed or that he disappointed his employers. But their satisfaction with him brought him no reward. They never chose to give him the recognition he deserved. The work he was given to do was either unseemly for one so young, and one of his superiors felt afterwards that he had to take all the responsibility, or the undertaking was so difficult that nobody was interested in its success but expected only that it would fail. If it turned out to be the other way around, they were perplexed rather than grateful. Anyway, the relief that came as a consequence was aimed solely at the fact that the whole thing was over and done with, and the efforts of the man who had done the job were forgotten because nobody even wanted them aired. And this ingratitude or failure—whatever you want to call it—increased the demands George Lauffer made of himself. It drove him to outdo himself every time. And that is why he was always asked to do the extraordinary. You might almost say that a category of the exceptional was invented for him. They never took into consideration whether a thing was easy or difficult to do, whether it was dangerous or not. Everybody thought of George Lauffer when others were unwilling to take the risk. And so he slowly got the reputation of a free-lancer who carried out secret missions, an enemy of all those whom he could not enlighten. Now he is always prepared for the worst. He is bitter, he fears his fellow men. He wants to get the better of them, at any rate to the extent that they leave him alone. Everybody is a temptation to him to reveal something of himself, and when he remains adamant, they are suspicious of him. And it is quite possible that he lies less than most people; he is only more silent. And he had made his face merciless because he needs a disguise, since he hasn’t any faith in a gun.”

- from The Ship (Hans Henny Jahnn)

these complex, subtle states

It may be that Proust’s snobbishness, which recurs in an almost maniacally besetting manner in all of his characters, is nothing but a variety of this same need of fusion, only grown and cultivated in a very different soil, in the formal, refined society of the Faubourg St. Germain, at the beginning of this century. In any case, Proust’s works show us already that these complex, subtle states (we should say, these movements) the slightest shadings of which, in the anxiety of his quest, he has succeeded in capturing in all his characters, remain what is most precious and soundest in the work; while the envelopes, which were perhaps a bit too thick—Swann, Odette, Oriane de Guermantes, or the Verdurins—are already on the way to the vast waxworks to which, sooner or later, all literary “types” are relegated.

- from The Age of Suspicion (Nathalie Sarraute)

opposing forces loom anthropomorphous

They would sit silent, more bodeful of the direct antagonism of things than of their insensate and stolid obstructiveness. Vague and quaint imaginings had haunted Sue in the days when her intellect scintillated like a star, that the world resembled a stanza or melody composed in a dream; it was wonderfully excellent to the half-aroused intelligence, but hopelessly absurd at the full waking; that the First Cause worked automatically like a somnambulist, and not reflectively like a sage; that at the framing of the terrestrial conditions there seemed never to have been contemplated such a development of emotional perceptiveness among the creatures subject to those conditions as that reached by thinking and educated humanity. But affliction makes opposing forces loom anthropomorphous; and those ideas were now exchanged for a sense of Jude and herself fleeing from a persecutor.

- from Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)

a mouthful of tea

For me, voluntary memory, which is above all a memory of the intellect and of the eyes, gives us only facets of the past that have no truth; but should a smell or a taste, met with again in quite different circumstances, reawaken the past in us, in spite of ourselves, we sense how different that past was from what we thought we had remembered, our voluntary memory having painted it, like a bad painter, in false colours. Already, in this first volume, you will find the character who tells the story and who says “I” (who is not me) suddenly recovering years, gardens, people he has forgotten, in the taste of a mouthful of tea in which he has soaked a bit of madeleine; he could have remembered them no doubt, but without their colour or their charm; I have been able to make him say that, as in that little Japanese game where you soak flimsy bits of paper which, the moment you immerse them in a bowl, spread out and writhe and turn into flowers and characters, all the flowers in his garden, and the water-lilies of the Vivonne, and the good people of the village and their little houses and the church, and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, whatever can take on shape and solidity, has emerged, town and gardens, out of his cup of tea.

 

- from Against Sainte-Beuve and Other Essays (Marcel Proust)

through the muck

Heinrich stood by the piano in conversation with Nuernberger and tried, as he often did, to interest him in starting a new work, or in republishing his older ones.

Nuernberger declined. The thought of seeing his name dragged into the public eye again, of being drawn into the literary whirlpool of the time, which seemed to him both repulsive and ridiculous, filled him with horror. He had no desire to contend with that. For what? Cliques which scarcely bothered to disguise themselves were everywhere at work. Was there still a capable, sincerely struggling talent who did not have to be prepared at every moment to be dragged through the muck; was there a dunce yet to be found who could not succeed in getting himself declared a genius in some literary rag? Does reputation in our time still have the slightest relationship to integrity? And to be overlooked, forgotten, is that worth a shrug of regret? And in the end, who can know which view would turn out to be right in the future? Were not the fools really the geniuses and the geniuses the fools? It was ridiculous to put one’s peace of mind, even one’s self-respect, into a game in which the highest gain possible promised no satisfaction.

- from The Road Into the Open (Arthur Schnitzler)

Tales of Insomnia!

The Variations are models of what such compositions ought to be, though no one has been so rash as to attempt to follow Bach’s footsteps. We owe them to Count Kaiserling, formerly Russian Ambassador at the Saxon Electoral Court, who frequently visited Leipzig with Goldberg, already mentioned among Bach’s pupils. The Count was a great invalid and suffered from insomnia. Goldberg lived in the Ambassador’s house, and slept in an adjoining room, to be ready to play to him when he was wakeful. One day the Count asked Bach to write for Goldberg some Clavier music of a soothing and cheerful character, that would relieve the tedium of sleepless nights. Bach thought a set of Variations most likely to fulfil the Count’s needs, though, on account of the recurrence of the same basic harmony throughout, it was a form to which he had hitherto paid little attention. Like all his compositions at this period, however, the Variations are a masterpiece, and are the only example he has left us of this form. The Count always called them “my Variations” and was never weary of hearing them. For long afterwards, when he could not sleep, he would say, “Play me one of my Variations, Goldberg.” Perhaps Bach was never so well rewarded for any composition as for this. The Count gave him a golden goblet containing one hundred louis d’ors, though, as a work of art, Bach would not have been overpaid had the present been a thousand times as large. It may be observed, that in the engraved copy of the Variations there are serious mistakes, which the composer has corrected in his own copy.

- from Johann Sebastian Bach, His Life, Art, and Work (Johann Nikolaus Forkel)