Quotes

Finding space to be alone in the 18th century

This reminds us of a problem which has faced people for much of history. Finding space to be alone was a challenge for rich and poor alike. Larger households would be filled with staff, while in the houses of those lower down the social scale, there was simply not enough room. The lack of privacy caused by all these bodies jostling for space was compounded by the nature of premodern architecture. Until corridors came into fashion during the 18th century (which in itself affected only the wealthiest households), houses were designed en enfilade, with rooms running onto each other. Household traffic was not contained within corridors, but rather moved through rooms, meaning that doors could (and did) swing open at compromising moments.

Martha Bailey (History Today)
All By Myself
Published in History Today Volume 71 Issue 3 March 2021


Farnham Street Note-taking tips

At the end of each chapter write a few bullet points that summarize what you’ve read and make it personal if you can — that is, apply it to something in your life. Also, note any unanswered questions. When you’re done the book, put it down for a week.

Pick up the book again and go through all your notes. Most of these will be garbage but there will be lots you want to remember. Write the good stuff on the inside cover of the book along with a page number.

Copy out the excerpts by hand or take a picture of them to pop into [archive]. Tag accordingly.



Drawings are not photographs

Drawings are pleasing to look at because they're not photographs. They're a recording (an imperfect one) of how someone else sees the world and what they think is important based on what they choose to emphasize.



Do you believe in Hobbes?

One day, I asked Otis what he thought of Hobbes. “What do you believe? Is he real or is he stuffed?” In a tone that connoted my knucklehead status, my son answered, “He’s a real tiger, but for some reason grown-ups think he’s a stuffed animal. I guess they just don’t know any better.”

His explanation silenced me. I realized I’d made a grave mistake. I was one of the (stupid) grown-ups. [...] Whether Hobbes was live or stuffed was beside the point. To believe in Hobbes is to believe in the power of imagination.





Deep time

I can still find, slipped like a note between the pages, what Birkerts calls the “time of the self… deep time, duration time, time that is essentially characterized by our obliviousness to it.” The gift of reading, the gift of any encounter with art, is that this time spent doesn’t leave me when I lift my eyes from the book in my lap: it lingers, for a minute or a day.



Cynical readers

...online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.

[...]

When we become cynical readers – when we read in the disjointed, goal-oriented way that online life encourages – we stop exercising our attention. We stop reading with a sense of faith that some larger purpose may be served. This doesn't mean we're reading less – not at all. In fact, we live in a text-gorged society in which the most fleeting thought is a thumb-dash away from posterity. [...] For myself: I know I'm not reading less, but I also know I'm reading worse.



Creative work is good for the soul

I am now in my sixties and drawing comics again has rejuvenated me. It is not only that I am doing the kind of work I did in my youth, but that I am directing my mind to think along the same lines that it did back then. [...] To do creative work is good for the soul. As long as you have an enthusiasm, you have happiness.

Paul Kirchner
“Awaiting the Collapse” (2017)




Comforting fictions

Story-telling, especially at an impressionable age, is a way of understanding ourselves and our surroundings.

As adults, we prefer stories, like our lives, to be predictable, to be fixed, to have the comfort of formulas that every soap opera and most films conform with. Yet life is messy. It contains accidents, contradictions, loose ends. There is probably no plot and yet there are more possibilities than we dare imagine. Ultimately, none end very well. There’s a vertigo to contemplating such matters but it is more truthful and ironically less childish than the comforting fictions we adhere to.



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