The vein of woe

‘Tis not the time, ’tis not the sophists vex him;
There is some root of suffering in himself,
Some secret and unfollow’d vein of woe,
Which makes the time look black and sad to him.

— Matthew Arnold, ‘Empedocles on Etna’

This Idea is Free

You know, I have an idea for a really good Cold War suspense movie. An American, speaking Russian fluently, is parachuted into Russia, and the little man who looks after him on the plane accidentally falls through the opening, so that the two men come down to gether on the one parachute. The first one not only speaks fluent Russian; he also has the necessary papers and could be taken for a Russian citizen, while the little man with him has no papers and doesn’t speak a word of Russian. This is the point of departure from the story. Every second would be suspenseful.

— Alfred Hitchcock

Proof of Work

Coders call one another liars, when all they really mean is that they disagree about how software should work. During the time I was working with Wright in secret, I would text my colleague John Lanchester, who I knew I could trust to keep the secret but also to understand what was at stake in the story. ‘Imagine a situation,’ I wrote to John, ‘where novelists were strangely invested in denying the plausibility of each other’s books. There’s no “proof” as such that one is right and the other is wrong, but they could argue fiercely and accuse each other of all sorts of things while not really settling the problem.’

‘Edmund Wilson says somewhere that the reason poets dislike each other’s books is because they seem wrong, false – a kind of lie,’ John replied. ‘If you were telling the truth you would be writing the same poems as me.’

— Andrew O’Hagan in The Satoshi Affair

Trying to track down the source of that Edmund Wilson paraphrasing.

Sudden comprehension and its attendant terror

                                      How blest am I
In my just censure, in my true opinion!
Alack, for lesser knowledge! How accurs’d
In being so blest! There may be in the cup
A spider steep’d, and one may drink, depart,
And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
Is not infected; but if one present
The aborr’d ingredient to his eye, make known
How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,
With violent hefts. I have drunk, and seen the spider.

— Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale

Colonialism

“I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to ipress the “native,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing — no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s struggle in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.”

— George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant