The Underground Lady [Page Nine]

Anything can be cut up into smaller pieces and used to make a collage or montage.  This is not so much a statement of method—the method waits for the development of a particular or unique way to accomplish this—but it is a statement of economics.  For example: the best material for this type of operation comes from the smartest rather than the newest or the most recognizable originals. 

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I prefer funereal orations and inscriptions to all other ancient ephemera—in the common tongue—and I tend to scatter them rather freely before gluing them into their new locations.

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Once a friend of mine had a shovel that he wanted to sell.  It was old but well made, like most implements of the soil from the recent past.  He put an ad in the newspaper: ‘Ten pounds for a shovel, a damn good shovel.’  On the first day, a man called up.  He said to my friend, “How much for the shovel?”  My friend said, “Ten pounds, like it said in the ad.”  “Ah,” the man responded, as if he were embarrassed for both of them, “I thought you weren’t serious about that.”  “Why not?” said my friend, getting a little agitated.  “Well,” the man said, “it seemed like an awful lot for a shovel.”  “Then I’ll have you know,” my friend said, feeling fully outraged now at having to deal with somebody unwilling to pay his price, “that this is the very shovel I used to bury two dear friends of mine.”  “With this very shovel?” the man said, overawed.  “Yes,” said my friend, victoriously, “so what do you say to the price now?”  “I’m sorry,” the man replied, “but after what you’ve just told me, I couldn’t possibly lay a hand on the thing.  It’s a relic.  Goodbye.”  Now the way I see it, the moral of this story is, never give in to superstition.  If the man had heeded this lesson, and haggled a bit more, he might have gotten a very good shovel.  And my friend would have stopped having to bury his acquaintances.

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Ancestor worship is one of the oldest and most decent of customs.  Unfortunately we have lost the real sense of it forever.  The point was not to reify death in the form of the dead, or to edit our familial collective memory to fit some distant ideal.  Rather it was a ritualistic way to express our continuing love for the departed, until we too had earned the same consecration on the part of others.

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In photogrpahy, everything past Bellocq is suspect.

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Sometimes a conversation relaxes–meaning that it seems to let its structure go–and in this way, it becomes so many entries in a diary.

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The French used to be a nation of diarists.  There is a wonderful story related by Claudel’s son of how he met Gide when the great writer was an old man.  The boy had not seen Gide since he was very young, so this re-introduction gave them both a start: now the young man realized what a famous and profound mind he was dealing with, while Gide of course was struck by the other’s sudden maturity.  But Gide cut the meeting short.  Later, when they met a second time, the younger Claudel confessed that he had run home after their initial encounter and recorded every word he could recall of their conversation, along with his impressions, in his diary.  Gide laughed and confessed the same thing.  Here are two real diarists, who flee from an event only in order to put it down in words.  There is no place like this in the world today.

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The internet and the diary have nothing in common.  To make the point one need only observe that a diary is a confession to oneself, while the internet (even when it involves interaction) is a confession to nobody.

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I prefer the internet.

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I honor two things increasingly in thought and art: resignedness and antiquarianism.  I can achieve neither—the close as I can come is peevishness and obscurity.    To achieve skill in both at the same time, to me, this indicates greatness in the present.

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The worst sorrow in life is not to regret not having done something, but to have done it and done it poorly.  Philosophers who get this backwards are worthless.

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Worldliness is not a quality to be adored.  That is not the point.  It is never adorable, it is necessary.  How often have you heard someone exclaim, “Oh how worldly!”

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Wisdom of action comes through a combination of gentleness and alacrity.  Do everything you need to do, and do it well, but do it today.

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People who waste words should be taught better manners.

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I do not seek to found a new hermeneutics—we have too many philosophers of philosophy.

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