Sunday, 28 August 2011

Good lines

h and I adding our names to the wall at Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, Mississippi in April this year (that bit of trip here)

In this post I offer you a few quotations – from things I've read recently.

1. Via Chatwin

Whilst travelling I did read a book or two and one was “The Songlines” by Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989). I'd heard Chatwin's name for years but never got round to reading anything by him so I picked up a couple of his books in a second hand shop in Washington state. It was hard not to find “The Songlines” interesting as it covers a lot of my favourite subjects (walking, singing, trying to understand the world...) but it wouldn't be to everyone's taste (it just... stops here and there... not your average book, for sure). I was pretty interested in all the information about Australia and its Aboriginal people but I found Chatwin's style a bit repetitive and, now and again, even tiresome. Still, he was the erudite type and he does use some great quotations. Here's one from Robert Burton's “The Anatomy of Melancholy” (first publ. 1621):

The heavens themselves run continually round, the sun riseth and sets, the moon increaseth, stars and planets keep their constant motions, the air is still tossed by the winds, the waters ebb and flow, to their conservation no doubt, to teach us that we should ever be in motion.

And here's one from Kierkegaard (letter to Jette – 1847). I may have seen this quotation on another, more energetic, walker's blog too:

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it... but by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill... Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.

And now a bit of Chatwin's own text:

'I know this may sound far-fetched,' I said to Elizabeth Vrba, 'but if I were asked, “What is the big brain for”?, I would be tempted to say, “For singing our way through the wilderness.” '

I like that one.

2. Martin Bloody Amis?

There was a piece by Martin Amis in the Financial Times recently about one of my very favourite poets Philip Larkin. It contained this:

Literary criticism, throughout its long history (starting with Aristotle), has restlessly searched for the Holy Grail of a value system – a way of separating the excellent from the less excellent. But it turns out that this is a fool’s errand.

Guess I've met a few fools then (I knew it...). I'm certainly no Mamis fan but it's a really good article. Interesting too how he calls Larkin “the novelist's poet” (and very much not the poet's poet...).

3. Dawn French (popular culture alert!)

How about this from comedian/actor (or is that comedienne/actress?) Dawn French in her autobiography (of sorts) “Dear Fatty” (2008)?

I personally like the adventure of difference

and a longer excerpt (about her year in New York when she was 18/19):

For the first time ever, I was alone in a different country. I was nervous about how I was going to cope in this big bustling city and so I employed a technique which still serves me well today. I imagined myself as someone who relished new exciting opportunities, who was utterly unafraid and perpetually optimistic. It was a kind of reinvention. Everyone I met was new. These people didn't know me, there was no shared history, so I could be anything or anyone I wanted to be. My theory was that if I behaved like a confident, cheerful person, eventually I would buy it myself, and become that. I always had traces of strength somewhere inside me, it wasn't fake, it was just a way of summoning my courage to the fore and not letting any self-doubt hinder my adventures. This method worked then, and it works now. I tell myself that I am the sort of person who can open a one-woman play in the West End, so I do. I am the sort of person who has several companies, so I do. I am the sort of person who WRITES A BOOK! So I do. It's a process of having faith in the self you don't quite know yet, if you see what I mean. Believing that you will find the strength, the means somehow, and trusting in that, although your legs are like jelly. You can still walk on them and you will find the bones as you walk. Yes, that's it. The further I walk, the stronger I become. So unlike real lived life, where the further you walk the more your hips hurt.

I'm not normally a big reader of celebrity stories but (a) it's one of my Mum's books (and there are plenty of those still around the house), (b) I'm always fascinated by people who manage to make a living out of comedy and (c ) French's Dad killed himself... and I'm always fascinated by people who have been in this same, very peculiar boat too. It's not a great book (I have skimmed at times...) but it has its good moments. And I like her overall (there's an interview with her here on of all things 'This Morning'... why the hell not..?)

4. Dundee's finest

From songwriter and musician Michael Marra (talking on BBC Radio Scotland) about his ambition as a young man:

I didn't want my name in lights - I wanted it in brackets

I've written about Dundee's Marra on the old blog loads of times... in fact I even wrote him a poem (back here). And here he is singing some Rabbie Burns:

I've never thought of it before but I suppose to those of you not in Scotland green 'rashes' might seem odd... but I'm sure you can work it out.

5. Krishnamurti

And finally a line from Krishnamurti – via a young relative of mine on the evil facebook:

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society

Some food for thought I think.



hope said...

I love the line about keep on walking and everything will be fine. I think I need to walk more. :)

The guys at the state police taught me the same thing that Dawn French spoke of. They told me, "If you say it with authority, they will believe you." Turns out they were right, which was extremely helpful the night I opened the door at work expecting to find our practical joker officer and instead found a drunk with a bloody face. As I bellowed, "I'll get you an officer. Stay right there!" I was glad he couldn't tell how fast my heart was pounding or that my knees seemed to be made of jelly. :)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Do read Chatwin's 'On Black Hill' (or something like that) Rachel - it is one of the best books I have ever read.

Re Philip Larkin - somebody read a fantastic Larkin poem at our poetry group last week - I think ti was called ' Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album' - I am now looking for which book it is in so that I can buy it.

Judy Taylor said...

The Dawn French quote reminds me of something I try to keep in mind, from a blues singer in an Alice Walker story called "1956": "The trick is to live long enough to put your young bluffs to use."

Rachel Fox said...

I'm back to walking with relish, Hope. Didn't walk nearly enough whilst away!

That Larkin poem is from "The Less Deceived" (1955), Weaver. I have it in the Faber "Collected Poems" too.

It's something to keep in mind, isn't it, Judy. We can't all always manage it though...


The Bug said...

Love the Kierkegaard quote - I'm anticipated a lot more walking in my life now that I've had the hip surgery. It might even be pain free!

You know, sometimes I follow that advice to just act like I believe in myself, but so often I get defeated by fatigue or ennui or something like that - where, sure I COULD do it, but do I want to mess with it now? I should work on my inertia problem!

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, I'm not saying I completely agree with all these quotes... just that they're interesting...

It would be nice to think we could positive-think everything but for everyone, at all times... it's more complicated than that! I think in families where depression has been an issue (as in French's) you are always going to find some hardcore positive-thinkers too. I am one about half of the time...


A Cuban In London said...

Haven't got biscuits, but do have some serious Cornish fudge :-). Fresh from the southwest.

Your new space is spectacular. Love Dawn and dislike Amis. And I'd dare to think that I'm not alone in that group. :-)

Greetings from London.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, he's one of those writers who seems to get a disproportionate amount of press coverage and so I often avoid... but Larkin always interests me and it is a good article about PL (rightly or wrongly the fact that MA knew him does give it an added interest). And I did like the quote.

Good to see you around, Cuban.


Rachel Fenton said...

Well, they are some words from some poeple - I'm far more interested in your erudite lines.

Enchanted Oak said...

I liked the line about sitting still and feeling ill. That does happen. I've seen it in me. I'm almost 30 pounds lighter, by the way. Not sitting still.

Rachel Fox said...

RF - you're very good to me. I'm not feeling to pleased with my own output right now! Crisis of something, I suppose. Not thrilled to be back in't routine.

You sound full of beans, EO. That's good.


Dominic Rivron said...

Solitary Walker is always recommending Krishnamurti. I'll have to have a go (and can online, thanks to your link!). I do know he also said:

Is it not essential to be discontented in order to find what is true?

Rachel Fox said...

Hm... interesting one. Feel like I should definitely be finding what is true then!


Anonymous said...

Excellent quotes! I did not know that about Dawn French's father.

Really need to take a page out of Kierkegaard's book. Although I'm pretty sure, if he was a typical Dane that he was following up those walks with some Aquavit.


Rachel Fox said...

Because of my Dad I do take a mental note every time I come across someone who's lost a parent that way. Just one of those things I notice...