This Date in Art History: Born 4 May 1851 – Thomas Dewing, an American painter.
Below – “Summer”; “The Days”; “The White Dress”; “The Recitation”; “In the Garden”; “Lady in Gold.”
This Date in Literary History: Born 4 May 1949 – Graham Swift, an award-winning English novelist, short story writer, and author of “Waterland.”
Some quotes from the work of Graham Swift:
“How quick and rushing life can sometimes seem, when at the same time it’s so slow and sweet and everlasting.”
“Children, be curious. Nothing is worse (I know it) than when curiosity stops. Nothing is more repressive than the repression of curiosity. Curiosity begets love. It weds us to the world. It’s part of our perverse, madcap love for this impossible planet we inhabit. People die when curiosity goes. People have to find out, people have to know.”
“Children, only animals live entirely in the Here and Now. Only nature knows neither memory nor history. But man – let me offer you a definition – is the storytelling animal. Wherever he goes he wants to leave behind not a chaotic wake, not an empty space, but the comforting marker-buoys and trail-signs of stories. He has to go on telling stories. He has to keep on making them up. As long as there’s a story, it’s all right. Even in his last moments, it’s said, in the split second of a fatal fall – or when he’s about to drown – he sees, passing rapidly before him, the story of his whole life.”
“That’s the way it is: life includes a lot of empty space. We are one-tenth living tissue, nine-tenths water; life is one-tenth Here and Now, nine-tenths a history lesson. For most of the time the Here and Now is neither now nor here.”
“Realism; fatalism; phlegm. To live in the Fens is to receive strong doses of reality. The great flat monotony of reality; the wide empty space of reality. Melancholia and self-murder are not unknown in the Fens. Heavy drinking, madness and sudden acts of violence are not uncommon. How do you surmount reality, children? How do you acquire, in a flat country, the tonic of elevated feelings?”
“So what was it then exactly, this truth-telling? … It was about being true to the very stuff of life, it was about trying to capture, though you never could, the very feel of being alive. It was about finding a language. And it was about being true to the fact, the one thing only followed from the other, that many things in life —of so many more than we think—can never be explained at all.”
“We are all fuel. We are born, and we burn, some of us more quickly than others. There are different kinds of combustion. But not to burn, never to catch fire at all, that would be the sad life, wouldn’t it?”
“There’s this thing called progress. But it doesn’t progress. It doesn’t go anywhere. Because as progress progresses the world can slip away. It’s progress if you can stop the world slipping away. My humble model for progress is the reclamation of land. Which is repeatedly, never-ending retrieving what it lost. A dogged and vigilant business. A dull yet valuable business. A hard, inglorious business. But you shouldn’t go mistaking the reclamation of land for the building of empires.”
“There are no compasses for journeying in time.”
“What we wish upon the future is very often the image of some lost, imagined past.”
Below – “The Upper Ottawa, near Mattawa”; “Bay of Islands from Mt. Burke”; “Autumn Foliage against Grey Rock”; “Snow Clouds”; “Lake Wabagishik”; “Snow Flurries, North Shore of Lake Superior.”
“The World and I”
by Laura Riding
This is not exactly what I mean
Any more than the sun is the sun.
But how to mean more closely
If the sun shines but approximately?
What a world of awkwardness!
What hostile implements of sense!
Perhaps this is as close a meaning
As perhaps becomes such knowing.
Else I think the world and I
Must live together as strangers and die–
A sour love, each doubtful whether
Was ever a thing to love the other.
No, better for both to be nearly sure
Each of each–exactly where
Exactly I and exactly the world
Fail to meet by a moment, and a word.
Below – Nan Hass Feldman: “Lost in the Dream of the Floating World”
Contemporary British Art – Neil Moore
Below – “Stop all the clocks…”; “Tenebrae”; “The lightness of darkness”; “Quietus”; “Fugitive”; “Implosion.”
A Poem for Today
“Anxiety About Dying”
By Alicia Ostriker
It isn’t any worse than what
I discover in the dentist’s chair
under the nitrous oxide.
The whole jaw is going, I complain, the gums, the bone,
two enormous fillings lost. What do I need?
Maybe a guillotine? says my dentist, the joker.
The only thing I have to fear is fear itself, I tell him.
You believe that bullshit? he says
setting to work on my rotting bicuspid.
Now comes the good part. Breathing the happy gas.
I get answers to all the questions I had
about death but was afraid to ask.
Will there be pain? Yes.
Will my desires still be unsatisfied? Yes.
My human potential remain unrealized? Yes.
Can a person stop minding about that? Certainly.
Can I commend my spirit to the seventeen
angels whistling outside the dentist’s window? Of course.
How nice the happy gas.
What a good friend.
I unclench my sweaty little hand.
I wave goodbye to my teeth.
It seems they are leaving by train for a vacation.
I’ll meet them in the country when I can.
Below – Gustav Klimt: “Death and Life”