Wise words on choices from Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point:
Lucy shook her head. ‘Perhaps it’s a pity,’ she admitted. ‘But you can’t get something for nothing. If you like speed, if you want to cover the ground, you can’t have luggage. The thing is to know what you want and to be ready to pay for it. I know exactly what I want; so I sacrifice the luggage. If you choose to travel in a furniture van, you may. But don’t expect me to come along with you, my sweet Walter. And don’t expect me to take your grand piano in my two-seater monoplane.’
Lawrence Durrell in Justine (Faber Fiction Classics)
on the poet Cavafy:
[Balthazar] had been a fellow-student and close friend of the old poet, and of him he spoke with such warmth and penetration that what he had to say always moved me. ‘I sometimes think that I learned more from studying him than I did from studying philosophy. His exquisite balance of irony and tenderness would have put him about the saints had he been a religious man. He was by divine choice only a poet and often unhappy but with him one had the feeling that he was catching every minute as it flew and turning it upside down to expose its happy side. He was really using himself up, his inner self, in living. Most people lie and let life play upon them like the tepid discharges of a douche-bag. To the Cartesian proposition: “I think, therefore I am”, he opposed his own which must have gone something like this: “I imagine, therefore I belong and am free”.’
‘Progress!’ [Lord Edward] echoed, and the tone of misery and embarrassment was exchanged for one of confidence. ‘Progress! You politicians are always talking about it. As though it were going to last. Indefinitely. More motors, more babies, more food, more advertising, more money, more everything, for ever. You ought to take a few lessons in my subject. Physical biology. Progress, indeed!… That’s the trouble with you politicians. You don’t even think of the important things. Talking about progress and votes and Bolshevism and every year allowing a million tons of phosphorus pentoxide to run away into the sea. It’s idiotic, it’s criminal, it’s… it’s fiddling while Rome burns… You think we’re being progressive because we’re living on our capital. Phosphates, coal, petroleum, nitre – squander them all. That’s your policy. And meanwhile you go round trying to make our flesh creep with talk about revolutions.’
“Capitalism detests sleep because it’s a time when nothing gets sold or consumed.”
‘A woman went to get a taxi with her son at the Isle of Dogs. At the street corner it was all whores hanging around waiting for trade. “Mum, mum: what are all those women doing?” Mum was embarrassed, but quick-thinking: “I expect it’s the sailors’ wives waiting for their husbands to come back from their ships.” The taxi driver leaned back: “Don’t give him any of that shit, love. They’re whores, that’s what they are. Whores.” The boy says, “Mum, do whores have babies like normal women do?” “Of course they do, Tommy. Where do you think taxi drivers come from?”’
There was no breeze except the wind of the ship’s own speed; and that was like a blast from the engine-room. Stretched in their chairs Philip and Elinor watched the gradual diminution against the sky of a jagged island of bare red rock. From the deck above came the sound of people playing shuffle-board. Walking on principle or for an appetite, their fellow passengers passed and repassed with the predictability of comets.
‘The way people take exercise,’ said Elinor in a tone positively of resentment; it made her hot to look at them. ‘Even in the Red Sea.’
‘It explains the British Empire,’ [Philip] said.
From Books Do Furnish A Room (Dance to the Music of Time)
“[Trapnel] borrowed literally to keep alive, a good example of something often unrecognized outside the world of books, that a writer can have his name spread all over the papers, at the same time net perhaps only a hundred pounds to keep him going until he next writes a book.”
From The Picture of Dorian Gray (Dover Thrift Editions):
“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.”
‘An artist does not live a personal life as we do, he hides it, forcing us to go to his books if we wish to touch the true source of his feelings.’