richard ellman

posted under r/agnosticism

There are people who take fright. But I am of the opinion, Lachmann, that one should know no fear in this world . . . Love, it is said, is strong as death. But you may confidently reverse the saying: Death is as gentle as love, Lachmann. I tell you that death has been maligned. That is the worst imposture in the world. –Death is the mildest form of life: the masterpiece of the Eternal Love…[His eye falls upon the death-mask of Beethoven. He takes it down and, contemplating it, continues:] Where shall we land? Whither are we driven? Why do we cry our cries of joy into the immense incertitude — we mites abandoned in the infinite? As though we knew whither we are tending! Thus you cried too! And did you know — even you? There is nothing in it of mortal feasts! Nor is it the heaven of the parsons! It is not this and it is not that. What…[he stretches out his hands to heaven]…what will it be in the end?


The Life Of A Text In Its Footnotes

Cusack was of middle height but had extremely broad shoulders. He usually wore a broad-rimmed soft hat and instead of trousers wore knee breeches. Carrying a heavy blackthorn, he would come into a pub and shout at the waiter, ‘I’m Citizen Cusack from the Parish of Carron in the Barony of Burren in the County of Clare, you Protestant dog!’

This comes from a footnote in the great paean to literature I’m reading now, a text which functions like a magical barcode; as my eyes scan it, my mind fills with a whirl of crashing ideas…


One Youth’s Literary Greatness

There is nothing so deceptive and for all that so alluring as a good surface. The sea, when beheld in the warm sunlight of a summer’s day; the sky, blue in the faint and amber glimmer of an Autumn sun, are pleasing to the eye: but, how different the scene, when the wild anger of the elements has waked again the discord of Confusion, how different the ocean, choking with froth & foam, to the calm, placid sea, that glanced and rippled merrily in the sun.

This was written by a teenage James Joyce. His great biographer, Richard Ellman, writes:

The example may give heart to adolescents who are searching their own works for evidence of literary immortality, and not finding much.


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