The Craft of Invective

KeskusteluThe Chapel of the Abyss

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The Craft of Invective

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 29, 2016, 11:35 am

I will lead off with Lafcadio Hearn, the prolific proptotic peripatetic expatriot (of several nations), mostly known for his adaptation of Japanese supernatural stories and one of the most disturbing and poetic essays on the American meat-processing industry ever written.

From an 1890 letter to Henry Harper, owner of Harper's Magazine:

"(you are) . . . liars, — and losers of MSS, — employers of lying clerks and hypocritical, thieving editors, and artists whose artistic ability consists in farting sixty-seven times to the minute, — scallywags, scoundrels, swindlers, sons of bitches; — Pisspots-with-the-handles-broken-off-and-the-bottom-knocked-out, — ignoramuses with the souls of slime composed of seventeen different kinds of shit, — Know by these presents there exists human beings who do not care a cuntful of cold piss for ‘their own interests’, if it is indeed to their own interests to deal with liars, scoundrels, thieves, and sons of bitches. Know also that there exists one particular individual, whose name is at the end of these words, whom all the money of all the States of America and Mexico could not induce to contribute one line to your infernally vulgar beastly goodey’s-Lady’s- Book-Magazine, — you miserable beggarly buggerly cowardly rascally boorish brutal sons of bitches. Please understand that your resentment has for me less than the value of a bottled fart, and your bank-account less consequence than a wooden shithouse struck by lightning."

maaliskuu 29, 2016, 11:38 am

So now I'm curious as to the impetus for Hearn's imaginative outburst!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 2017, 10:06 am

From the dedication of Ben Hecht's Fantazius Mallare:
This dark and wayward book is affectionately dedicated to my enemies—to the curious ones who take fanatic pride in disliking me; to the baffling ones who remain enthusiastically ignorant of my existence; to the moral ones upon whom Beauty exercises a lascivious and corrupting influence; to the moral ones who have relentlessly chased God out of their bedrooms; to the moral ones who cringe before Nature, who flatten themselves upon prayer rugs, who shut their eyes, stuff their ears, bind, gag and truss themselves and offer their mutilations to the idiot God they have invented (the Devil take them, I grow bored with laughing at them); to the anointed ones who identify their paranoiac symptoms as virtues, who build altars upon complexes; to the anointed ones who have slain themselves and who stagger proudly into graves (God deliver Himself from their caress!); to the religious ones who wage bloody and tireless wars upon all who do not share their fear of life (Ah, what is God but a despairing refutation of Man?); to the solemn and successful ones who gesture with courteous disdain from the depth of their ornamental coffins (we are all cadavers but let us refrain from congratulating each other too courteously on the fact); to the prim ones who find their secret obscenities mirrored in every careless phrase, who read self accusation into the word sex; to the prim ones who wince adroitly in the hope of being mistaken for imbeciles; to the prim ones who fornicate apologetically (the Devil can-cans in their souls); to the cowardly ones who borrow their courage from Ideals which they forthwith defend with their useless lives; to the cowardly ones who adorn themselves with castrations (let this not be misunderstood); to the reformers—the psychopathic ones who publicly and shamelessly belabor their own unfortunate impulses; to the reformers (once again)—the psychopathic ones trying forever to drown their own obscene desires in ear-splitting prayers for their fellowman’s welfare; to the reformers—the Freudian dervishes who masturbate with Purity Leagues, who achieve involved orgasms denouncing the depravities of others; to the reformers (patience, patience) the psychopathic ones who seek to vindicate their own sexual impotencies by padlocking the national vagina, who find relief for constipation in forbidding their neighbors the water closet (God forgives them, but not I); to the ostracizing ones who hurl excommunications upon all that is not part of their stupidity; to the ostracizing ones who fraternize only with the worms inside their coffins (their anger is the caress incomparable); to the pious ones who, lacking the strength to please themselves, boast interminably to God of their weakness in denying themselves ... (etc. etc.)

maaliskuu 29, 2016, 12:11 pm

>3 paradoxosalpha: to the baffling ones who remain enthusiastically ignorant of my existence

Those are the worst, the bastards.

Reading of Ben Hecht reminds me that I recall reading of H.L. Mencken that he was supposed to have a biting criticism, as well. Have not yet read any but very brief excerpts of his work, however, so can't supply an example. I'm hoping to purchase a Library of America edition of his work later this year, so maybe I'll find one.

maaliskuu 29, 2016, 12:19 pm

Not very communist of me, but I'm glad "the national vagina" has been privatised.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 11:25 am

>2 elenchus: Reading Peter Haining's preface to Hearn's essay, Haceldama, led me to the purchase of the Paul Murray biography, which shed the above posted pearl. As near as I can gather, there is some well-heeled hubris on the part of the publisher, distorted, exacerbated and altogether poorly handled by Hearn - which we see later in other lexical outliers, such as Frederick Rolfe and Alexander Theroux.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 29, 2016, 12:42 pm

>3 paradoxosalpha:, >4 elenchus:: Reminds me of Bierce's definition of an egoist: "A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me."

maaliskuu 29, 2016, 12:59 pm

One of best crafted and most self-destructive pieces of invective I have ever had the pleasure of reading is from Cicero, who laid eloquently into the new hero, Marc Antony, on every point from policy to his manner of dress and his family. If I find it on the web, I'll post a link.

maaliskuu 29, 2016, 1:49 pm

>5 LolaWalser:

It was the logical next step after the drilling leases got so cheap.

maaliskuu 29, 2016, 4:41 pm

>9 paradoxosalpha:

Never as cheap as dick.

maaliskuu 29, 2016, 9:57 pm

>10 LolaWalser:

You mean the logging rights?

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 9:53 am

Cheniston Gardens, Kensington vij Jul. 1904

Dear Mr Lane:

I can only suppose that, when you indited the besottedly silly ill-spelt ungrammatical & purely spottily-punctuated letter just received, you must have been not yet sober or else suffering from those twinges of blastemal conscience which naturally would afflict the liar of The Ms. in the Red Box* and the swindler of Mrs Gertrude Atherton.**

For you seem to have missed my plain statement that Nicholas Crabbe is a Romance, & to have sniffed "lampoons & libels" where none are. I was not aware that you had any friends; & I certainly do not know them. So I merely point out that, had my book been what you stupidly call it, it is hardly likely that I should have submitted it first to you.

It is true that, when I write History, I take jolly good care to write from original documents: but I do not call Nicholas Crabbe historical. And it is also true that I myself have not read more than the title-page & the first chapter of the typescript, which went to you (in the presence of witnesses) straight from the typescribe's office. I shall examine it, when it comes back to me, with extremely careful endeavor to find out what can possibly have put you into such a maniacal & rhapsodical fury.

Anyhow, please remember that I offered the American rights to you first (although Mr Thring does not advise me to have anything to do with you,) simply because I wished to give you one more chance of behaving honestly for a change.

And, as for your threats, without wishing to appear ungraciously I only say that you can do whatever you dare. I am not a bit afraid of bounce, or of bogeys. Nor will I accept any responsibility because you, happening to have found a row of caps, have taken the liberty of fitting them on to yourself & your (so-called) "friends" & now feel aggrieved on account of their not being quite comfortable.

But meanwhile, hadn't you better read The Agricultural & Pastoral Prospects of South Africa, a book signed by one Owen Thomas, which Messrs Constable are issuing for the Rhodes Trustees?***

Faithfully yours
FR. Rolfe

* Rolfe's capitalizing on a popular suspicion of fraud perpetrated by John Lane with a Bodley Head publication of 1903.
** Rolfe's massaging of the reportage from Ms. Atherton of Lane's poor and slack treatment of her and her works delivered into his hands. Atherton had some unkind reminiscences of Lane herself, recording, among other things, that he reminded her "of a fat white frog".
*** An oblique swipe at Lane's literary acumen.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 11:20 am

Some fine stuff indeed so far, and the years around 1900 for some reason seem very rich in literary venom. I'll offer an example which, while its hostility isn't nearly so concentrated, may rank among the least welcoming Introductions ever afforded an author's first published work: William Platt's, to his Women, Love and Life, which appeared in 1895 when, after four printers turned it down (printers, not publishers, as Richard le Gallienne urges readers to notice in his review of the book, which first alerted me to Platt's existence), a fifth accepted the commission.

"Good friend, I have written a book; buy it - and condemn it - for the praise of fools is no commendation.

Something I have sought to write that should be ample-breasted, full-bodied, hot with life - something that should be the deepest pulse of my soul - for art is the highest sincerity when it is not the highest affectation.

But man is an animal that ever knows too much, and yet ever knows too little - you will wrest some warped meaning out of it, and utter a platitude.

Some of it you will find unintelligible - for unintelligible verse and prose has been written as long as fools did the reading of it - the rest of it you will sum up ignorantly and inefficiently, not knowing that a stronger pulse beats in these pages than ever did in your heart - nay, not on your wedding-night did such a pulse beat in you, oh, general reader!

You are, perhaps, a scholar, or think yourself one - your opinion is arrived at by reading all the critics and averaging them into some sort of colourless compound; you say that you think, but in truth you dare not; your aim is to get the reputation of thinking, and you dare not think for yourself lest you should differ from some esteemed authority, and so be accounted wrong. Perhaps you are a commercial, common-place man, calling your common-place common-sense, whose joy is to repeat in stale words the stalest of stale thoughts, and then to say wisely: "Ah, I know the world,"- thinking all human nature coloured with the dirty drab of your own nature, and measuring the world by the money standard - leave my book for your betters. You are, perhaps, one of a narrow religious sect, righteous as the Pharisees were righteous, filthy as the Pharisees were filthy - Christ himself taught me to hate your sort of Christian. You poke about the earth seeking for filth that you may against it contrast your own self-righteousness - Christ justly preferred the harlots to you! For nine-tenths of the filth you discover is the product of your own imagination, your thoughts of one minute if materialised would manure an acre of ground! Perhaps you call yourself artistic, take art as a pastime - art is no pastime to me. What would you? purple and fine linen, a glimpse of king's palaces, reeds broken by the wind? Shall I take the teeth out of my prose that you may make a plaything of it? You are, perhaps, an adherent of Mrs. Grundy and fear lest I proselytise some of your fellows to a nobler doctrine - do not fear, for what are Mrs. Grundy's can never be mine, nor can mine ever be Mrs. Grundy's.

Or, perhaps, you are a libertine, thinking yourself a man because you are most certainly an animal - my book will shock you; for so long you have been shocked by vice that it is time you were shocked by virtue. You are, in fact, an ordinary man; you eat and drink and are content, and you wonder that I am not satisfied to imitate you! Good friend, you know exactly what you are fit for, and do wisely to follow it; but all are not made alike. You smile and call me a dreamer; you say I think of reforming the world; no, good sir, believe me I am not deluded; the world in which you are popular is far beyond my hopes of ever enticing with an ideal...."

maaliskuu 30, 2016, 11:30 am

>13 terebinth:

and the years around 1900 for some reason seem very rich in literary venom.

I think it's more often the case of impotent, self-indulgent logorrhea.

Those who truly mean murder wield a stiletto of few well-chosen words, not buckets of crap.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 12:14 pm

>14 LolaWalser:

Perhaps, but is any such instance better than wearisome to recall? A matter of taste, I suppose: I find the mind of the enraged, be he ever so impotent, as revealed through a sustained denunciation, usually, if not always, a more rewarding subject to contemplate than the manner of a swift and well-executed despatch.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 12:42 pm

It is probably ignoble to enjoy these sorts of screeds - the spectacle of otherwise talented and intelligent people compulsively destroying their careers and reputations, sacrificing self-interest to injured vanity, imagining that their "talents" are any match against the masters of publicity and capital. Invective, I think, is not the same as the cutting word of an enemy - or a friend (e.g., Walter Sickert to to the admiring young painter, Denton Welch: "You must come again when you have less time"). Invective only wounds its craftsman. But it's great fun to read.

Oh, speaking of:

maaliskuu 30, 2016, 12:57 pm

>16 Randy_Hierodule:

Invective, I think, is not the same as the cutting word of an enemy

Not the same (although examples at your link would imply otherwise!), but my point is about purpose. If it's to hurt or destroy, the more histrionically prolix abuse gets, the more ineffectual it is. Even the humour turns against the ranter as much or more than against the target. Slinging shit may be fun, but it's more fun to hit something with it. As with many other things, less is more here.

But tell that to those turn-of-the-century windbags... :)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 2:53 pm

Hi Lola - I hope you will note any instances of effective marksmanship (I need to look in Leon Bloy). I have been concentrating on baroquely sustained tantrums (I think George Garrett's novel Poison Pen is another collation of such things... I need to pry that out from under the piles).

I forgot to mention that I included that link mainly because of the reviewer, Alexander Theroux, himself not unknown for extended assaults, public and literary, of retort and abuse that often end badly for him (a job: "Yale is, much of it, an effete nest of weak and charming indefinites, sexless males and literary and political termagants, many of whom, educated beyond their intelligence, are more interested in doing what's safe or politically advantageous than what is right." To be fair, in its fullness, this is more a defense than a tirade... but it's that too), and, occasionally, to the amusement of his target. From his "review" of his brother Paul's review -etc.- of a book by V.S. Naipaul in Boston Magazine some years back:

"Of Paul's famous fake British accent - Medford, Mass meets Wolverhampton - what can I say? 'Ring me up,' he'll say (Instead of 'Telephone me')... 'Can you hand me those boat cushions from the boot?'. ... It's all harmless enough, although I have long felt an unstated but cringing pain and mortification in finding him always getting pulled up for it. I think this is the self-perpetuating reason - snobbery is about joining - he is also a home buyer, keeps a swimming pool, and is, comically, to us, a 'possession snob'.... Someone once said to me, uncharitably, 'Paul is about Paul, envious, short, womanizing, cheap, opinionated, and angry.'
The judgment is too breezy and unkind. Who is any one thing in an absolute way? What he is, is both more simple and complex. He is a prolific author, an amateur kayaker, a grumpy and oddly fussy traveler. He has bowel worries and eats prunes for breakfast and once made inquiries to me about platform shoes."

maaliskuu 30, 2016, 3:12 pm

The Shadow over Innsmouth and The Dunwich Horror? Kissin' Cousins:

... it was the custom to give reasons for avoiding the locality. In our sensible age—since the Dunwich horror of 1928 was hushed up by those who had the town’s and the world’s welfare at heart—people shun it without knowing exactly why. Perhaps one reason—though it cannot apply to uninformed strangers—is that the natives are now repellently decadent, having gone far along that path of retrogression so common in many New England backwaters. They have come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding. The average of their intelligence is woefully low, whilst their annals reek of overt viciousness and of half-hidden murders, incests, and deeds of almost unnamable violence and perversity. The old gentry, representing the two or three armigerous families which came from Salem in 1692, have kept somewhat above the general level of decay; though many branches are sunk into the sordid populace so deeply that only their names remain as a key to the origin they disgrace.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 3:21 pm

This thread is delightful. I would like to offer this classical example, which I'm often tempted to post in the book collecting groups on social media.

"You think that by buying up all the best books you can lay your hands on, you will pass for a man of literary tastes: not a bit of it; you are merely exposing thereby your own ignorance of literature. Why, you cannot even buy the right things: any casual recommendation is enough to guide your choice; you are as clay in the hands of the unscrupulous amateur, and as good as cash down to any dealer. How are you to know the difference between genuine old books that are worth money, and trash whose only merit is that it is falling to pieces? You are reduced to taking the worms and moths into your confidence; their activity is your sole clue to the value of a book; as to the accuracy and fidelity of the copyist, that is quite beyond you.

And supposing even that you had managed to pick out such veritable treasures as the exquisite editions of Callinus, or those of the far-famed Atticus, most conscientious of publishers,--what does it profit you? Their beauty means nothing to you, my poor friend; you will get precisely as much enjoyment out of them as a blind lover would derive from the possession of a handsome mistress. Your eyes, to be sure, are open; you do see your books, goodness knows, see them till you must be sick of the sight; you even read a bit here and there, in a scrambling fashion, your lips still busy with one sentence while your eyes are on the next. But what is the use of that? You cannot tell good from bad: you miss the writer's general drift, you miss his subtle arrangements of words: the chaste elegance of a pure style, the false ring of the counterfeit, - ’tis all one to you."


Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 31, 2016, 11:28 am

Again, New Englander Alexander Theroux (via Alaric Darconville), upon his scholastic exile in the consanguineous Commonwealth of Virginia:

During most of the year, the brass-jewelry tastes of its citizens--you knew them by string ties, brutal haircuts, and snap-brim hats, with fishhooks and lures, advertising things like “Funk’s Hybrid” or “Wirthmore Feeds”--ran to little more than a general enthusiasm for church bake-offs, barbershop gossip, and all that hand-me-down bumpkinry touching on Bryanism, vice-crusading, and prohibition. It was a town nonascriptive, nonchalant, and nonentitative, one of those places that lent itself to uneasy jokes or gave rise to dismissive quips, like “I spent a whole week there one Sunday” or “It’d be a great place to live if you were dead” or “I visited there once, but it was closed.” …

They came to Quinsyburg’s main street. It was a contingent, down both sides, of shoulder-to-shoulder shops, a frontage dull and repetitious but saved from the blight of uniformity by cute mercantile jingles painted on each window--the poetic effusions of various local struld-brugs and place-proud retailers--which in small towns, for some peculiar reason, become such a rich source of humor: United Dixiebelle Cup Co. (“Even Our Name Begins with You”); Quinsyburg Bedding Co. (“We Give You a Lot of Bunk”); The Old Dominion Outlet (“If Your Clothes Aren’t Becoming to You, You Should Be Coming to Us”); Stars ‘N’ Bars Exterminating Co. (“All Our Patients Die”); Piedmont Travel Service ( “Please Go Away” ); Southside Rug and Linoleum ( “The Best Floor Show in Town” ); The Virginia Shook Co. (“We’ll Stave You In”); The Quinsyburg Gun Shop (“The First to Last”); and The Prince Edward Lumber Co. (“May We Strike a Cord for You?”)

The Southern town, a parody of itself, is the prototype from which every other one is copied. Where is the one, for instance, that doesn’t have a radio announcer named Don Dale; a private white academy; Muddy Creek; a chili-dog emporium; the State theatre; Jaycees with berry-knotted ties; a sheriff called “Goober”; something like the ol’ Shuckcorn Place (it’s always supposed to be haunted by J. E. B. Stuart); a popular delivery boy-cum-halfwit named Willis Foster; and a local NRA enclave that meets upstairs in the gunshop every Friday night to tell lies and make up stories about niggers, nymphomania, and New York City?

Darconville and Miss Trappe took time for tea at the Seldom Inn (“A Place to Remember for Cares to Forget”)--a popular meeting place downtown for the professional tie-and-jacket faction (booths) who rotated matchbooks and told loud interminable tales and various peckerwoods (stools) who gripcruppered their coffee cups from the non-handle side and stared into a stippled wall-mirror at their chinless faces and pointed ears. The jukebox was blaring country music-- Kitty Wells, “Honky Tonk Angels”--making it impossible to talk, so Darconville and Miss Trappe together watched through the window as the Quinsyburg townsfolk passed by, peculiar people on the hop, remarkably alike all, with faces like the trolls on German beer mugs, the curious result, perhaps, of poultry-like inbreeding (farmers, farmers’ daughters, farmers’ daughters’ farmers) that had transmogrified a once vital eighteenth-century Protestant Celtic stock into a hedgecreeping lower-class breed of joltheads and jusqu’au bouts and then metastasized into one huge gene pool which seemed to reach from the bulletheaded truckers of Mississippi to the triple-named senators of Virginia, slackjawed and malplasmic to a one. It seemed an orgy of kin, with everybody anybody’s cousin.

It was a burlesque subordinating individuality to a constant reference of type. Quaeritis habitantes? Rotarians; wood-hewing gibeonites; 32º Masons and their ball-jars; pushing tradesmen; zelators and zélatrices; Odd Fellows of indecipherable worth; Hemerobaptists; racist Elks (B.P.O.E.) and their shovelmouthed wives, usually named Lorinda or Moxone; psalm-snufflers; longnosed umbrella-carrying joykillers; widows with applepandowdy faces; Volsteaders; rattle-toothed almsters; gout-footed Shriners; tiny birdheaded clerks in red suspenders; supposititious chamberers of commerce; pullulating boosters; and cretinous, peasant-like Colin Clouts on every street corner who slunched against poles squinting and chewing down toothpicks in a slow watchful rhythm.

maaliskuu 30, 2016, 3:43 pm

>20 DavidX: Thanks, David. I had forgotten to look at Lucian - and I can't seem to find the philippic I was looking for - the one in which Cicero ornately enumerates Anthony's personal vices, cognitive dearth, style of dress, etc. He really went out with a bang.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2016, 4:23 pm

At this party, everyone gets a present:

"In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture of their residences, the English are supreme. The Italians have but little sentiment beyond marbles and colors. In France, meliora probant, deteriora sequuntur - the people are too much a race of gadabouts to maintain those household proprieties of which, indeed, they have a delicate appreciation, or, at least, the elements of a proper sense. The Chinese and most of the Eastern races have a warm but inappropriate fancy. The Scotch are poor decorists. The Dutch have, perhaps, an indeterminate idea that a curtain is not a cabbage. In Spain they are all curtains--a nation of hangmen. The Russians do not furnish. The Hottentots and Kickapoos are very well in their way. The Yankees alone are preposterous."

- Edgar Allan Poe

maaliskuu 30, 2016, 5:38 pm

"I don't know if you noticed, but our two-party system is a bowl of shit looking in the mirror at itself." -- Lewis Black from Stark Raving Black

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 31, 2016, 5:01 pm

Thomas Bernahard speaking of Elias Canetti and Peter Handke:

"One works with his illness and his death and wins prizes, and the other runs round in the name of peace and is basically a nasty stupid fellow, so what's the big deal?"

And of Thomas Mann:

"If you open a newspaper today, almost all you read about is Thomas Mann. He's been dead thirty years now, and again and again, endlessly, it's unbearable. Even though he was a petty-bourgeois writer, ghastly, uninspired, who only wrote for a petty-bourgeois readership. That could only interest the petty-bourgeois, the kind of milieu he describes, it's uninspired and stupid, some fiddle-playing professor who travels somewhere, or a family in Lübeck, how lovely, but it's nothing more than someone like Wilhelm Raabe. What rubbish Thomas Mann churned out about political matters, really. He was totally uptight and a typical German petty-bourgeois. With a greedy wife."


"...that ridiculous petit-bourgeois nationalist socialist in golfing trousers . . . I always visualize him sitting on his wooden bench outside his Black Forest house, alongside his wife who, with her perverse knitting enthusiasm, ceaselessly knits winter socks for him from the wool she has shorn from their own Heidegger sheep.

I cannot visualize Heidegger other than sitting on the bench outside his Black Forest house, alongside his wife, who all her life totally dominated him and who knitted all his socks and crocheted all his caps and baked all his bread and wove all his bedlinen and who even cobbled up his sandals for him. Heidegger was a kitschy brain….. a feeble thinker from the Alpine foothills, as I believe, and just about right for the German philosophical hot-pot. For decades they ravenously spooned up that man Heidegger, more than anybody else, and overloaded their stomachs with his stuff. Heidegger had a common face, not a spiritual one, ... he was through and through an unspiritual person, devoid of all fantasy, devoid of all sensibility, a genuine German philosophical ruminant, a ceaselessly gravid German philosophical cow, ... which grazed upon German philosophy and thereupon for decades let its smart little cow-pats drop on it….

Heidegger is the petit-bourgeois of German philosophy, the man who has placed on German philosophy his kitschy nightcaps, that kitschy black night-cap which Heidegger always wore, on all occasions. Heidegger is the carpet-slipper and night-cap philosopher of the Germans, nothing else."

maaliskuu 31, 2016, 5:57 pm

>25 Randy_Hierodule:

I like the Bernhard I've read, but for me there's an example of the person self-imploding with his invective. He might be correct in what he says, but he's not persuasively or even recognisably correct in how he says it. Best for me (if I wish to read more of his work) to stop reading that stuff!

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 31, 2016, 9:28 pm

In the case of Handke, he most certainly is correct; "stupid" may be a judgement call, but it seems a sound one to me. I don't find him far off on Heidegger (Bernhard is much more merciful -on the reader at least - than a lot of academic discourse), either. He appeared to share the same opinion of the great Mann as Javier Marias (another favorite of mine). The comic spleen is one of Bernhard's charms for me.

huhtikuu 1, 2016, 6:28 pm

"The tyranny of necessity grants its slaves three kinds of freedom: opinion free from intellect, entertainment free from art, and orgies free from love." -- Karl Kraus

"Art is not a Trojan horse." -- The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek

huhtikuu 1, 2016, 10:00 pm

Ah. Ergo: the Trojan Horse was not art.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 6, 2016, 4:57 pm

Irving Rosenthal, writing of the infamous crank, poet Edward Dahlberg:

"Read Edward Dahlberg but pay no attention to anything he says. He is so critical and cantankerous, so grum, small, and jealous, that if you took him at all seriously he would drive you as batty as he is. The quotations he burdens his work with are never to the point, and, as he is incapable of placing two sentences in logical order, such a thing as a quiet, scholarly paragraph let alone essay or chapter is outside his reach. But he is the poet of sentence design, and the quirk that shocks you with delight in the half-dozen books he has left behind is not an accident nor the inkling of an army of virtues the thought of which staggers the imagination, but itself is the hand-tended bloom. What rose shine to stumble on a sentence of his so filled with helium you squeak like a mouse tumbling back and forth anywhere in five thousand years while doing the eternity samba in the pansy bahianas of Carmen Miranda the Brazilian cadaver—what rose shine in the midst if his usual thorny bramble of Marx Brothers scholarship and scrambled invective. As a matter of fact I like this glitter and have thrown myself at his feet, for he is a great pure writer in the sense that he will sacrifice any meaning however important that he may have made it out to be for any flourish or conceit, and he would sell his soul to the devil and mine too for the power to write one unalterably beautiful sentence."

(from Sheeper, 1967).

huhtikuu 6, 2016, 11:18 pm

"Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today. They've got white of egg in their veins, and their spunk is that watery its a marvel they can breed. They can nothing but frog-spawn — the gibberers! God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers. God blast them, wish-wash. Exterminate them, slime.
"I could curse for hours and hours — God help me."

D.H. Lawrence letter to Edward Garnett, expressing anger that his manuscript for Sons and Lovers was rejected by Heinemann (3 July 1912)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 7, 2016, 2:43 pm

>>31 kswolff:: "I could curse for hours and hours — God help me." If He existed, and He had, Lawrence might have been a slight pleasure to read.

huhtikuu 20, 2016, 10:48 pm

Marilyn Manson: Mechanical Animals (Nothing, 1998) If only the absurd aura of artistic respectability surrounding this arrant self-promoter would teach us that not every icon deserves a think piece, that it's no big deal to have a higher IQ than Ozzy Osbourne, that the Road of Excess leads to the Palace Theater. Instead, his banned-in-Wal-Mart slipcase job will fade into the haze of records people found interesting at the time. Its strategy is to camouflage the feebleness of La Manson's vocal affect by pretending it's deliberate--one more depersonalizing production device with which to flatten willing cerebella whilst confronting humankind's alienation, amorality, and failure to have a good time on Saturday night. Catchiest songs: "The Dope Show" and "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)." Duh. C+

-- Robert Christgau

toukokuu 20, 2016, 9:34 am

"He said to the World, I believe—Lord, help thou mine unbelief; but the World knew that it did not need to help, that he could not disbelieve in one button of it if he tried. He was a labyrinth in which no one could manage to remain for even a minute, because there were in it no wrong turnings. He fitted into things, things fitted into him. If, a soldier in the army, he had been given what is called a Good Conduct medal, he would have felt that he had received it for his own good conduct, and he would have felt, without wanting to, that his medal made him a little superior to the friend beside him who had received none. He believed."

- Randall Jarrell, from Pictures from an Institution

toukokuu 22, 2016, 5:17 pm

Clark: Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?

-- Spoken by Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

toukokuu 22, 2016, 11:56 pm

Well, there you go.

toukokuu 23, 2016, 5:18 pm

toukokuu 24, 2016, 2:36 pm

In a long-winded screed against hypocrites, jingoists, and (or, a.k.a.) politicians, Alexander Theroux singles out, among others, "that parochial dwarf Bob Costas". I had to keep that one, here by way of bookmark.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2016, 2:37 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

toukokuu 26, 2016, 9:57 am

Alexander Theroux is an American literary treasure. He reminds me of Nathanael West and Ben Hecht

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 27, 2016, 3:07 pm

The most wonderful thing about him, other than his (all too) effusive erudition is how he will punctuate a screed with a profession of his sincere Christian (Catholic) faith. I don't intend to be ironic - I'm charmed. It reminds me somewhat of Corvo, but also of Bloy (Individuals of robust vocabulary).

toukokuu 29, 2016, 3:03 pm

Sam Kriss' superlative hatchet job on neoliberal apologist Nick Cohen:

Followed by a bravura defence of the craft of invective itself:

elokuu 11, 2016, 9:51 pm

"Only the skeptics (or idlers or aesthetes) escape, because they propose nothing, because they -- humanity's true benefactors -- undermine fanaticism's purposes, analyze its frenzy. I feel safer with a Pyrrho than with a Saint Paul, for a jesting wisdom is gentler than an unbridled sanctity."

-- The Short History of Decay by EM Cioran

In the same essay as above, "Genealogy of Fanaticism," he describes history as "that alloy of banality and apocalypse."

tammikuu 6, 2017, 9:29 pm

"But it was the speakers, the metal of Old England, who simply amazed, for it was singularly this vision-haunted (occasionally beer-irrigated) array of nobodies, filled with the arrogance of disenchanted insight, who, in the war between order and entropy, ran hand-over-hand high into their makeshift boxes, and, flying into diatribes and mighty gusts of Homeric wrath against God, Devil, or anything else that bent their wick, they cast - on a Sunday of rain, on a Sunday of snow - imitation pearls before genuine swine. Roland punched and fought to the front of the wide, shifting assembly."

-- Three Wogs by Alexander Theroux

helmikuu 5, 2017, 11:23 am

helmikuu 13, 2017, 9:19 pm

Leviticus 21:16-23

16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; 23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.’”

Is Leviticus a stealth prequel to "The Hottie and the Nottie"?

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 14, 2017, 8:50 am

Try to keep them out, but they keep creeping in, tiny, titillating emissaries of Sin:

" The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in."

- Chesterton

helmikuu 18, 2017, 10:53 am

Speaking of little people ...

Randall: Do you want to be leader of this gang?

Strutter: No, we agreed: No leader!

Randall: Right. So shut up and do as I say.

(Strutter nods)

-- Time Bandits

huhtikuu 9, 2017, 9:45 pm

huhtikuu 10, 2017, 7:42 am

I discovered this thread only today, but have starred it for later perusal and enjoyment. You have certainly whet my appetite with your quote from Hearn.

I was introduced to Lafcadio Hearn only a few years ago when I picked up a collection of his translations of Japanese supernatural stories. Subsequently, The Swan River Press produced a beautiful edition of his Insect Literature. In the summer of 2016, while this thread was, unknown to me, in full flow, I visited The Shire Bookshop in Franklin, MA, and stumbled upon a copy of Lafcadio Hearn: American Writings (Library of America), which includes some of his translations of Chinese stories, and, I hope, pieces of his writing similar to your quoted sample.

marraskuu 26, 2017, 6:41 pm

"You are an apocalyptic dingleberry." -- James May to Jeremy Clarkson

May's jab at Clarkson is more of an insult, but it does have a delightful acidity to it.

huhtikuu 30, 2018, 10:14 pm

"Her mean comments went too far!"

**faints dead away**

Enjoy Michelle Wolfe's witty repartee from the latest White House Correspondents Dinner:

toukokuu 1, 2018, 9:06 am

The regeneration of swine, snuffling behind their studied expressions of stolid disdain. An applied quote from Colonel Kurtz would be medicinal.

toukokuu 1, 2018, 9:11 am

"Destroy yourselves, you who are desperate, and you who are tortured in body and soul, abandon all hope. There is no more solace for you in this world. The world lives off your rotting flesh." -- Antonin Artaud

toukokuu 1, 2018, 10:28 pm

And here's a bit from Monty Python's "Oscar Wilde Sketch":

Prince: Well Mr. Whistler? (The Prince of Wales stares expectantly at Whistler.)

Whistler: I meant, Your Majesty, that uh, like a doughnut your arrival gives us pleasure and your departure merely makes us hungry for more. (laughter) Right, Your Majesty is like a stream of bat's piss.

Prince: What?

Whistler: It was one of Wilde's.

Oscar: It sodding was not! It was Shaw!

Prince: Well Mr. Shaw?

Shaw: (Michael Palin) I... I merely meant, Your Majesty, that you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark.

Prince: (accepting the compliment) Oh.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 2019, 9:57 am

Viesti ryhmäsi ylläpitäjältäTHE CURSE

by John Donne

WHOEVER guesses, thinks, or dreams, he knows
Who is my mistress, wither by this curse ;
Him, only for his purse
May some dull whore to love dispose,
And then yield unto all that are his foes ;
May he be scorn'd by one, whom all else scorn,
Forswear to others, what to her he hath sworn,
With fear of missing, shame of getting, torn.

Madness his sorrow, gout his cramps, may he
Make, by but thinking who hath made him such ;
And may he feel no touch
Of conscience, but of fame, and be
Anguish'd, not that 'twas sin, but that 'twas she ;
Or may he for her virtue reverence
One that hates him only for impotence,
And equal traitors be she and his sense.

May he dream treason, and believe that he
Meant to perform it, and confesses, and die,
And no record tell why ;
His sons, which none of his may be,
Inherit nothing but his infamy ;
Or may he so long parasites have fed,
That he would fain be theirs whom he hath bred,
And at the last be circumcised for bread.

The venom of all stepdames, gamesters' gall,
What tyrants and their subjects interwish,
What plants, mine, beasts, fowl, fish,
Can contribute, all ill, which all
Prophets or poets spake, and all which shall
Be annex'd in schedules unto this by me,
Fall on that man ; For if it be a she
Nature beforehand hath out-cursèd me.

toukokuu 22, 2019, 10:13 am

"The West: a sweet-smelling rottenness, a perfumed corpse." - The Trouble with Being Born, by E. M. Cioran

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2019, 9:53 am

St. John Lucas, undergrad and poet (1899), cutting the fathers:

"A few years ago, when the now extinct decadents flaunted their curious costumes and their lack of morality, we awoke, for a moment, into activity. But soon, like the rest of the world, we perceived that decadence is a sort of moral measles — not dangerous if allowed to have its little fling, but apt to bore if it stays too long."

Curiously, this dollop of sauce comes from a collection published by "the publisher of the decadents", Leonard Smithers* - about a year before he declared bankruptcy.

(*The publisher of Lucas's The Last Arcadian and Other Papers is listed as "Leonard Smithers and Co." When that publisher was in fashion and funds, the imprint was "Leonard Smithers.")

kesäkuu 28, 2019, 7:32 pm

"You had perfect breath control, you windbags, you waspish wasps, you wags, you gargoyles, you tackheads, you milquetoasts, you mickey-mice, you chicken-shits, you cheap skates, you wrong numbers, you zeros, you back numbers, you one-shots, you centipedes, you supernumeraries, you superfluous lives, you crumbs, you cardboard figures, you pain in the mouth."

-- Offending the Audience

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 30, 2019, 9:50 am

I know this is the mansion dedicated to to the art of invective, of naughty saying, and of strife - but what of pulses? The great spiritual being of our (traduced) western tradition (cf. Kingsley), Empedocles:

"Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands away from beans!".

toukokuu 18, 2021, 1:21 pm

"heaven and hell roiled into one brazenly illuminated limbo,
the collective Purgatorio of America's Century,
where the spirits of the departed compose a fluid societal matrix
embracing freedom and laissez-faire economics,
democratic, nonsectarian, centrally air-conditioned,
lacking on a sense of higher purpose -- altruism, civitas,
the numinous, the sacred -- an eternal Las Vegas of the soul,
complete with keno parlors and fast-food franchises,
laundromats and mobile homes and glassy office parks,
a necropolis populated with lonely souls of all descriptions
drinking 7-11 coffee on the way to work"

-- "Nagasaki, Uncle Walt, the Eschatology of America's Century" in American Noise by Campbell McGrath

kesäkuu 7, 2021, 4:08 pm

Hunter Thompson to Paul Semonin, 1968, on Hotel Washington stationery:


Came and watched it happen - & it's true.
Are you ready for the crunch? A redistribution of the cattle prods.
Fear & loathing. Beware

- Raoul

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 19, 2021, 9:33 am

T.S. Eliot addresses the critics:


The Triumph of Bullshit

Ladies, on whom my attentions have waited
If you consider my merits are small
Etiolated, alembicated,
Orotund, tasteless, fantastical,
Monotonous, crotchety, constipated,
Impotent galamatias
Affected, possibly imitated,
For Christ's sake stick it up your ass.

Ladies, who find my intentions ridiculous
Awkward, insipid and horribly gauche
Pompous, pretentious, ineptly meticulous
Dull as the heart of an unbaked brioche
Floundering versicles feebly versiculous
Often attenuate, frequently crass
Attempts at emotion that turn isiculous,
For Christ's sake stick it up your ass.

Ladies who think me unduly vociferous
Amiable cabotin making a noise
That people may cry out "this stuff is too stiff for us"-
Ingenuous child with a box of new toys
Toy lions carnivorous, cannon fumiferous
Engines vaporous- all this will pass;
Quite innocent, -"he only wants to make shiver us."
For Christ's sake stick it up your ass.

And when thyself with silver foot shall pass
Among the theories scattered on the grass
Take up my good intentions with the rest
And then for Christ's sake stick them up your ass.

tammikuu 29, 2022, 11:37 pm

"His Lordship's models are to some extent Browning, Tennyson, Poe, and Wordsworth, and with these Alfred Musset, under whose influence a British Muse indulges regrettably in much lemon-kid-gloved, tight-waisted, varnished-booted, patchouli-scented, cynico-sentimentalism connected with Marquises, lights-o'-love, and the odalisques and indiscretions of the beau monde." -- The Stuffed Owl, edited DB Wyndham Lewis (not to confused with the Vorticist of similar name) and Charles Lee on poetaster Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, Earl of Lytton, son of Edward Bulwer-Lytton

marraskuu 9, 2022, 4:13 pm

Whistler and Wilde:

"What has Oscar in common with Art? except that he dines at our tables and picks from our platters the plumbs for the puddings he peddles in the provinces. Oscar - the amiable, irresponsible, esurient Oscar - with no more sense of a picture than the fit of a coat, has the courage of the opinions ... of others!

Wilde's reply:

ATLAS, this is very sad! With our James vulgarity begins at home, and should be allowed to stay there.

Whistler concludes:

"A poor thing," Oscar! - "but," for once, I suppose "your own."

marraskuu 9, 2022, 4:21 pm

Thou call'st me effeminat, for I love womens joyes;
I call not thee manly, though thou follow boyes.

- John Donne

toukokuu 14, 9:54 pm

Frater Perdurabo on art cliques (substitute with your favorite/revered academic cult - with or without all the arrant Aleisterian alliteration):

"Cubism, vortism, dadaism, and such sectarian sillinesses all come to the same thing; they are embalmed intellectual fads, invented in order to prove that the imbecility of their adherents is sublime. Conscious of their incapacity they try to prove its perfection...."

- Aleister Crowley, Confessions (prolix)

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 8, 11:26 am

You dare ask me, you decrepit stinking slut,
what makes me impotent?
And you with your blackened teeth, and so advanced
in age that wrinkles plough your forehead,
your raw and filthy asshole gaping like a cow's
between your wizened buttocks.
It's your slack breasts that rouse me (I have seen
much better udders on a mare)
your flabby paunch and scrawny thighs
stuck on your ankles.

May you be blessed with wealth! May effigies
of triumphators march you to the grave,
and may no other wife go on parade
weighed down in fatter pearls!

But why do Stoic tracts so love to lie
on your silk cushions?
They won't cause big erections or delay the droop -
you know that penises can't read.
If that is what you want from my fastidious groin,
your mouth has got some work to do.


Carpe lingham, Quintus Horatius Flaccus

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