Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oxford Book of Essays (5)

Ed. John Gross. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. 1991. (5)

Why read it? This book contains many of the classical essays, well known essays that have become part of the literary canon. Essentially, there are two types of essays. The first, based on the model of Montaigne’s essays, is organized around the writer’s thoughts, moving from one thought to another as the mind moves. The second type of essay is found in Bacon’s and Addison’s essays, writing that is planned with a beginning, middle and end. As for topics: they can be about anything on which the writer chooses to write.

Enjoy the sample quotes from essays written over the years.

Solitude. “We are suffering…from the loss of solitude.” p. 355. Bertrand Russell. 1950. ………. The Next Great War. “It may well be that an even worse war is drawing near…a war of the East against the West…a war of liberal civilization against the Mongol hordes.” p. 370. Winston Churchill. 1947. ……….[There's a quote to remember! RayS.] Pride. “But an Englishman cannot be proud of being simple and direct, and still remain simple and direct. The matter of these…virtues: to know them is to kill them.” p. 377. GK Chesterton. 1905.

Happiness. “The one supreme way of making all those processes go right, the process of health, and strength, and grace, and beauty…is to think about something else.” p. 381. GK Chesterton. 1905. ………. Power. Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” p. 390. Lytton Strachey. 1925. ………. Wealth and Poverty. “Here in the coal regions of Pennsylvania was wealth beyond computation, almost beyond imagination—and here were human habitations so abominable that they would have disgraced a race of alley cats.” p. 392. HL Mencken. 1928.

Parties. “Seeing one another; meeting the others of our race; exchanging remarks; or merely observing in what particular garments they have elected to clothe themselves today; this is so nearly universal a custom that it has become dignified into an entertainment, and we issue to one another invitations to attend such gatherings.” p. 400. Rose Macaulay. 1926. ………. “As a matter of fact, if you succeed in getting into a corner with a friend and talking, be sure you will be very soon torn asunder by an energetic hostess, whose motto is ‘keep them moving.’ ” p. 401. Rose Macaulay. 1926. ………. “I know someone who says that she never can think of anything to say to persons introduced to her at a party except, ‘Do you like parties?’ ” p. 401. Rose Macaulay. 1926.

Parties. “You had better then take up a position in a solitary corner…and merely listen to the noise as to a concert, not endeavoring to form out of it sentences…. The noise of a party will be found a very interesting noise, containing a great variety of different sounds.” p. 401. Rose Macaulay. 1926. ……… Finnegans Wake. “And then there is a curious fact about Finnegans Wake; every other prose book is written in prose; this book is written in speech; speech and prose are not the same thing…have different wave-lengths, for speech moves at the speed of light, where prose moves at the speed of the alphabet, and must be consecutive and grammatical and word perfect…. Finnegans Wake is all speech…soliloquy…dialogue…at times oration…but it is always speech.” p. 412. James Stephens. 1947. ………. Concentration. “There is nothing more concentrated than the perseverance with which a duck preens its feathers or a cat washes its fur.” p. 426. Marianne Moore. 1955.

Fear. “…the real fright came when she discovered that at times her father and mother hated each other; this was like standing on the doorsill of a familiar room and seeing in a lightning flash that the floor was gone, you were on the edge of a bottomless pit.” p. 435. Katherine Anne Porter. 1948. ………. “Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it.” p. 436. Katherine Anne Porter. 1948. ………. “Marriage is not the end but only the beginning of….” p. 436. Katherine Anne Porter. 1948. ………. “Romantic Love, more especially in America, where we are all brought up on it, whether we know it or not…is changeless, faithful, passionate, and its sole end is to render the two lovers happy.” p. 436. Katherine Anne Porter. 1948.

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