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Posts tagged "letters"

Aug 11, 2014
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Ray Johnson, NOT NOTHING: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954-1994

NYTimes:

Because Johnson’s mail art is epistolary, and likely considered more of a reading than a looking experience, its visibility in museums is fairly low, which makes the arrival of “Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954-1994,” from Siglio Press, a real boon. But more than filling a gap, the book crackles with intellectual energy, with enough drawings and mini-collages embedded in its reproduced texts to hold even a nonreader’s attention. Most important, it fills out the picture of what and who Johnson was: a brilliant, uncontainable polymath, an artist-poet, the genuine item.

Born in working-class Detroit in 1927, he was turning out elaborately illustrated letters to friends even in high school. From 1945 to 1948, he studied abstract painting with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in Asheville, N.C. There he met John Cage, who nudged his interest in Zen Buddhism, and the sculptor Richard Lippold, who became his lover. By 1949, Johnson was in New York City. Slight, bright and wired, he networked through the art world; Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol became his friends.

Thanks to Roberto Greco, who has a great tag of Ray Johnson posts on his Tumblr. See also: The Ray Johnson Estate Tumblr

Jun 17, 2014
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Seneca, On The Shortness of Life

I really love the Penguin Great Ideas series of nicely designed skinny paperbacks. (I particularly like the Montaigne edition.)

I didn’t finish this one, only read 2 out of the 3 essays. (One of the promises I’ve made myself this year is that I won’t continue on with a book if it’s become a chore reading it.) But I liked the title essay (well, not really an essay, but a letter to Seneca’s friend, Paulinus).

On guarding your time (“Nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing.):


  Men do not let anyone seize their estates, and if there is the slightest dispute about their boundaries they rush to stones and arms; but they allow others to encroach on their lives — why, they themselves even invite in those who will take over their lives. You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life! People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.


This is followed by a passage that haunts me, when Seneca says to “hold an audit of your life”:


  Call to mind when you ever had a fixed purpose; how few days have passed as you had planned; when you were ever at your own disposal; when your face wore its natural expression; when your mind was undisturbed…


On not mistaking age for wisdom or a well-lived life:


  You must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.


The case for reading:


  [Those who read] not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs. All the years that have passed before them are added to their own…. We are excluded from no age, but we have access to them all.. why not turn from this brief and transient spell of time and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the past, which is limitless and eternal and can be shared with better men than we?


On climbing your own family tree (realizing now I basically plagiarized Seneca for Steal Like An Artist):


  We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be. There are households of the noblest intellects: choose the one into which you wish to be adopted, and you will inherit not only their name but their property too. Nor will this property need to be guarded meanly or grudgingly: the more it is shared out, the greater it will become.


On worrying about your “legacy”:


  Some men, after they have crawled through a thousand indignities to the supreme dignity, have been assailed by the gloomy thought that all their labors were but for the sake of an epitaph.


And some good one-liners:

Life is long if you know how to use it.
We are not given a short life but we make it short.
You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.
Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.
The man who… organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day.
The present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.
Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.
They lose the day in waiting for the night.
Filed under: my reading year 2014

Seneca, On The Shortness of Life

I really love the Penguin Great Ideas series of nicely designed skinny paperbacks. (I particularly like the Montaigne edition.)

I didn’t finish this one, only read 2 out of the 3 essays. (One of the promises I’ve made myself this year is that I won’t continue on with a book if it’s become a chore reading it.) But I liked the title essay (well, not really an essay, but a letter to Seneca’s friend, Paulinus).

On guarding your time (“Nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing.):

Men do not let anyone seize their estates, and if there is the slightest dispute about their boundaries they rush to stones and arms; but they allow others to encroach on their lives — why, they themselves even invite in those who will take over their lives. You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life! People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

This is followed by a passage that haunts me, when Seneca says to “hold an audit of your life”:

Call to mind when you ever had a fixed purpose; how few days have passed as you had planned; when you were ever at your own disposal; when your face wore its natural expression; when your mind was undisturbed…

On not mistaking age for wisdom or a well-lived life:

You must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.

The case for reading:

[Those who read] not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs. All the years that have passed before them are added to their own…. We are excluded from no age, but we have access to them all.. why not turn from this brief and transient spell of time and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the past, which is limitless and eternal and can be shared with better men than we?

On climbing your own family tree (realizing now I basically plagiarized Seneca for Steal Like An Artist):

We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be. There are households of the noblest intellects: choose the one into which you wish to be adopted, and you will inherit not only their name but their property too. Nor will this property need to be guarded meanly or grudgingly: the more it is shared out, the greater it will become.

On worrying about your “legacy”:

Some men, after they have crawled through a thousand indignities to the supreme dignity, have been assailed by the gloomy thought that all their labors were but for the sake of an epitaph.

And some good one-liners:

  • Life is long if you know how to use it.
  • We are not given a short life but we make it short.
  • You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.
  • Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.
  • The man who… organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day.
  • The present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.
  • Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.
  • They lose the day in waiting for the night.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Jun 11, 2014
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Frank O’Hara and Laurence Ferlinghetti’s Lunch Poems correspondence

From The Paris Review:

the two poets hash out the details of the book’s publication: which poems to consider, their order, the dedication, and even the title. “Do you still like the title Lunch Poems?” O’Hara asks Ferlinghetti. “I wonder if it doesn’t sound too much like an echo of Reality Sandwiches or Meat Science Essays.” “What the hell,” Ferlinghetti replies, “so we’ll have to change the name of City Lights to Lunch Counter Press.”

These are so much fun to read. I love how he’s suggesting additions to the manuscript, and casually describes one of my favorite poems: as “a little poem about Lana Turner collapsing at a party which I don’t have with me. I will ask a friend of mine to find and send [it to you]…”

Also the contract:

“I like the contract a lot and am very cheered by the movie clause — if Terry Southern gets interested tell him he doesn’t have to stick to the plot at all, just send green”

Link: Lunch Poems: The 50th Anniversary Edition

Jun 09, 2014
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this-is-dedicated:

John Steinbeck’s dedication to his editor, Pascal Covici, in East of Eden

While writing East of Eden, Steinbeck warmed up by writing a letter to his friend and editor in his notebook. These letters are collected in Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. You can read the last letter in the batch over at Letters of Note.

As for the dedication, here’s some info from Oprah.com (of all places, I know):


  [Steinbeck] often mentioned the things he was tinkering with or building around the house. At one point, Pat asked Steinbeck to make him a box; Steinbeck joked that the only specification was that Pat shouldn’t be able to fit inside it.
  
  When Steinbeck finished East of Eden, he placed his 250,000 word manuscript into a mahogany box he had carved and sent it to Pat. The note he placed on top became the dedication page of the novel.


There’s a book about the friendship called Steinbeck and Covici.

Related: Excerpts from John Steinbeck’s diary while writing The Grapes of Wrath

this-is-dedicated:

John Steinbeck’s dedication to his editor, Pascal Covici, in East of Eden

While writing East of Eden, Steinbeck warmed up by writing a letter to his friend and editor in his notebook. These letters are collected in Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. You can read the last letter in the batch over at Letters of Note.

As for the dedication, here’s some info from Oprah.com (of all places, I know):

[Steinbeck] often mentioned the things he was tinkering with or building around the house. At one point, Pat asked Steinbeck to make him a box; Steinbeck joked that the only specification was that Pat shouldn’t be able to fit inside it.

When Steinbeck finished East of Eden, he placed his 250,000 word manuscript into a mahogany box he had carved and sent it to Pat. The note he placed on top became the dedication page of the novel.

There’s a book about the friendship called Steinbeck and Covici.

Related: Excerpts from John Steinbeck’s diary while writing The Grapes of Wrath

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I needn’t rush myself, for that does no good — but I must carry on working in calm and serenity, as regularly and concentratedly as possible, as succinctly as possible. I’m concerned with the world only in that I have a certain obligation and duty, as it were — because I’ve walked the earth for 30 years — to leave a certain souvenir in the form of drawings or paintings in gratitude.
— Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, August 7, 1883

Mar 17, 2014
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Kurt Vonnegut Once Sent This Amazing Letter To A High School


  What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
  
  Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
  
  Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
  
  Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

Kurt Vonnegut Once Sent This Amazing Letter To A High School

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

Nov 17, 2013
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May 11, 2013
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Frank Sinatra tells George Michael to suck it up and embrace his success


  Talent must not be wasted…those who have talent must hug it, embrace it, nurture it, and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.


(thx @aweissman)

Frank Sinatra tells George Michael to suck it up and embrace his success

Talent must not be wasted…those who have talent must hug it, embrace it, nurture it, and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.

(thx @aweissman)

Dec 14, 2012
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Carl Sandburg’s form letter for trolls

Carl Sandburg’s form letter for trolls

Oct 18, 2012
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Letters of Note: Drive safely and don’t abuse alcohol, drugs or candy

Here’s a link to the full text of the letter Winston Smith wrote me when I was 13, and here’s the story of how we met 15 years later.

Letters of Note: Drive safely and don’t abuse alcohol, drugs or candy

Here’s a link to the full text of the letter Winston Smith wrote me when I was 13, and here’s the story of how we met 15 years later.

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