Saturday, July 17, 2010

Break Time

I just finished Susan Sontag's The Volcano Lover. It's an interesting book based on the lives of Sir William Hamilton, his wife Emma, and British naval hero Horatio Nelson. Sontag deftly blends the fictional with historical and does it with sumptuous prose. Sontag's life has been marked with some controversy and I don't agree with all her comments, especially those regarding 911, but I find her to be a brilliant writer and thinker. The book is peppered with interesting observations about life, and in taking a little break from work I'll capture some quotes here.

"...the news is always a little unreal, which is why we can stand to bear so much of it."

"A man who has to admire in order to desire is likely to have led a modest sexual life."

"You can look at the most apalling things in art. Whatever art shows, it is not going to get any worse. The knives are out...but his tormentors haven't started cut. Not even one tiny morsel of flesh. His monstrous punishment is forever only seconds away."

I'd read Sontag said "True art has the capacity to make us nervous." In the book, there is a passage that says the same thing in different words. I don't know if the quote is actually from the book and paraphrased, or if this is just Sontag saying it later in a different way, but it's a concept I've always found fascinating:

"We admire, in the name of truthfulness, an art that exhibits the maximum amount of trauma, violence, physical indignity. (The question is: Do we feel it?) For us, the significant moment is the one that disturbs us most."

"Acting is one thing, being civilized (which includes acting) is another."

"Nothing is more admirable than mercy."

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