Commonplace Sunday, January 19, 2020

To the dumb question ‘Why me?’, the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply, ‘Why not?’

Christopher Hitchens, Mortality

***

‘The General bade me discourse fair words to you, sir, anent traffic circuits.’
‘What the hell do you mean?’
‘I don’t know, sir,’ said Greening. ‘That’s exactly how the General put it.’

Anthony Powell, The Soldier’s Art

***

His own relations with the opposite sex took an exclusively commercial form. ‘I’ve never had a free poke in my life,’ he said. ‘Subject didn’t seem to arise when you’re talking to a respectable woman.’

Anthony Powell, The Military Philosophers

***

Phillip Larkin, bemoaning the sort of letters he didn’t receive:

Dear Mr Larkin , I expect you think its jolly saucy for a schoolgirl to …

Dear Mr. Larkin, my friend and I had an argument as to which of us had the biggest breasts and we wondered if you would act as …

Larkin on himself:

My sagging face, an egg sculpted in lard with goggles on … none of my clothes fit, when I sit down my tongue comes out.  

From an essay in Martin Amis’s The War against Cliché

***

No such thing
as innocent
bystanding.

Seamus Heaney, from Mycenae Outlook II. Cassandra