What pornographic literature does is precisely to drive a wedge between one’s existence as a full human being and one’s existence as a sexual being—while in ordinary life a healthy person is one who prevents such a gap from opening up. Normally we don’t experience, at least don’t want to experience, our sexual fulfillment as distinct from or opposed to our personal fulfillment. But perhaps in part they are distinct, whether we like it or not.
Guns have metamorphosed into cameras in this earnest comedy, the ecology safari, because nature has ceased to be what it always had been—what people needed protection from. Now nature tamed, endangered, mortal—needs to be protected from people.
The writer is either a practicing recluse or a delinquent, guilt-ridden one; or both. Usually both.
Topics: Authors & Writing
Nature in America has always been suspect, on the defensive, cannibalized by progress. In America, every specimen becomes a relic.
On Photography “Photography does not create eternity, as art does; it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption
The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions.
Anything in history or nature that can be described as changing steadily can be seen as heading toward catastrophe.
The aim of all commentary on art now should be to make works of art—and, by analogy, our own experience—more, rather than less, real to us. The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.
Depression is melancholy minus its charms—the animation, the fits.
We live under continual threat of two equally fearful, but seemingly opposed, destinies: unremitting banality and inconceivable terror. It is fantasy, served out in large rations by the popular arts, which allows most people to cope with these twin specters.
It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.
When I first became interested in photography, I thought it was the whole cheese. My idea was to have it recognized as one of the fine arts. Today I don’t give a hoot in hell about that. The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself
Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style—but a particular kind of style. It is love of the exaggerated.
The ideology of capitalism makes us all into connoisseurs of liberty—of the indefinite expansion of possibility.
The past itself, as historical change continues to accelerate, has become the most surreal of subjects—making it possible… to see a new beauty in what is vanishing.
Topics: The Past
Tamed as it may be, sexuality remains one of the demonic forces in human consciousness—pushing us at intervals close to taboo and dangerous desires, which range from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for the extinction of one’s consciousness, for death itself. Even on the level of simple physical sensation and mood, making love surely resembles having an epileptic fit at least as much as, if not more than, it does eating a meal or conversing with someone.
Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.
Volume depends precisely on the writer’s having been able to sit in a room every day, year after year, alone.
For those who live neither with religious consolations about death nor with a sense of death (or of anything else) as natural, death is the obscene mystery, the ultimate affront, the thing that cannot be controlled. It can only be denied.
Topics: Death, Dying
Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life—its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness—conjoin to dull our sensory faculties.
Topics: Life, Excess
Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution. Poignant longings for beauty, for an end to probing below the surface, for a redemption and celebration of the body of the world. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it.
The quality of American life is an insult to the possibilities of human growth… the pollution of American space, with gadgetry and cars and TV and box architecture, brutalizes the senses, making gray neurotics of most of us, and perverse spiritual athletes and strident self-transcenders of the best of us.
The discovery of the good taste of bad taste can be very liberating. The man who insists on high and serious pleasures is depriving himself of pleasure; he continually restricts what he can enjoy; in the constant exercise of his good taste he will eventually price himself out of the market, so to speak. Here Camp taste supervenes upon good taste as a daring and witty hedonism. It makes the man of good taste cheerful, where before he ran the risk of being chronically frustrated. It is good for the digestion.
Topics: Taste, Style
Ambition if it feeds at all does so on the ambition of others.
Wondering Whom to Read Next?
- Cynthia Ozick American Novelist, Essayist
- Norman Mailer American Novelist, Journalist
- Muriel Rukeyser American Poet
- Sheryl Sandberg American Executive, Author
- Lloyd Alexander American Writer
- Gertrude Stein American Writer
- Judy Blume American Author
- Emma Goldman American Anarchist
- Rita Mae Brown American Writer, Feminist
- George Steiner American Culture Critic