Common Place Book

“Ethical activity always occurs within the bounds afforded by our poetic representations.”

– John Milbank, “A Christological Poetics”, pg. 129

“The first sentence of every novel should be: ‘Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human.’  Meander if you want to get to town.”

– Michael Ondaatje, In The Skin Of A Lion, pg. 146

“Before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined, the way rumours and tall tales were a kind of charting.”

– Michael Ondaatje, In The Skin Of A Lion, pg. 29

“to act at all is always to be dispossessed, always continuously to apprehend ‘more’ in our own deed once it ‘occurs’ to us, than our first hazy probings towards the formulation of a performance could ever have expected.  Thus we are not exactly tragically or comically robbed of ‘our own’ but rather in every act from its very first inception we are both entirely responsible and entirely not responsible.”

– John Milbank, “A Christological Poetics”, pg. 126

“I feel, all of a sudden, that I’m being suffocated by reason, and by freedom.  My old ideals, an intellectual inheritance from Bertrand Russell, have come into conflict with reality.  I think there is such a thing as intuition, an emotional intelligence that instinctively perceives what can wound other human beings deeply.  And that nothing can be planned with reason alone, but that we should always bear in mind our ancient and stubborn animal instincts, our ancient and stubborn hearts.  To resist this can produce much unhappiness.”

– Hector Abad, “The Reasoning Heart”

“‘My Lady, what can I say? I have certainly never seen any noble man that loved a woman for a long time, who was not finally held to be dishonoured.”

Le Mort de Roi Artu, pg. 77

“Your lovers have found you like a brazier that smoulders in the cold, a backdoor which keeps out neither squall of wind nor storm, a castle which crushes the garrison, pitch that blackens the bearer, a water-skin that chafes the carrier, a stone which falls from the parapet, a battering-ram turned back from the enemy, a sandal that trips the wearer.  Which of your lovers did you ever love forever?

The Epic of Gilgamesh, pg. 85

“It was during these days that I first began to feel fissures opening in my soul, wounds of the sort that plunge some men into a deep, dark, lifelong loneliness for which there is no cure.”

Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence, pg. 52

“It’s important, no doubt, to understand the person we love.  If we cannot manage this, it’s necessary, at least, to believe we understand them.”

– Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence, pg. 349

“Unfortunately, truth is hardly ever amusing.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, pg. 253

“Winnipeg could have been one of the cities of the world.  Some of the world’s best people live there.  But of course we’re puritans.  So the place is just Winnipeg.  God help us…why do people hate beauty in this country the way they do?  As if I didn’t know the answer.  Imagine a flat plain…Not a narrow strip like you have here by the Saint Lawrence, but hundreds of miles of prairie stretching in every direction as far as the eye can see.  Imagine it green.  Imagine above it a sky so blue your eyes can hardly bear to look at it, and cumulus clouds pure white.  Imagine the whole sky seeming to move.  Like a great majestic bowl with the earth flat beneath it.  Sky the giver, earth the accepter.  Male and female…Now imagine a building made of grey granite, reinforced with steel smelted out of the best Lake Superior ore.  Imagine the building slim and light as a sword in front, and long and light in profile.  Imagine is six hundred feet high, towering off that flat plain, with set-backs like decks for gods  to walk on and survey the earth.  Imagine the sky blue and the white clouds moving past, so close to its pinnacle that you could stare up from the ground and see the slender profile of that building and think it was moving, too.  Imagine it…clean-angled, balanced, slender, light – mercilessly right.  And new, by God…like the country that made it!”

– Hugh MacLennan, Two Solitudes (1945) pg. 114

“This spring made winter an insulting opening offer, now the passing lane is getting harder to negotiate, thawing out and icing up again.”

– John K. Samson, “Longitudinal Centre”, Provincial

“There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right; boys and girls in America have such a sad time together. Sucking off each other at the demonstrations and making sure their makeup’s straight, crushing one another with colossal expectations, dependent, undisciplined, and sleeping late.”

– The Hold Steady, “Stuck Between Stations”, Boys and Girls in America

“Our lives are what they have become.”

– Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence, pg. 302

“It is also true that in those dark times a wise man had to believe things that were in contradiction among themselves.”

– Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, pg. 25

“Words, Caravaggio. They have a power.”

– Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, pg. 234

“We could watch the madmen, on clement days, sauntering and skipping among the trim gravel walks and pleasantly planted lawns; happy collaborationists who had given up the unequal struggle, all doubts resolved, all duty done, the undisputed heirs at law of a century of progress, enjoying their heritage at their ease.”

– Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, pg. 28

“What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

– Job 2:10

“Let us set out to seek what we shall never find.”

– Queste del Saint Graal, pg. 164

“No one can begin to know another until he knows where that person is from, not just his family, school, and town, but everything that has helped to bring him to this point in his life.”

– Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God, pg 1

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