If we only say what we feel, then we merely dwell in that which keeps us zeal.
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If we only say what we feel, then we merely dwell in that which keeps us zeal.

-Anuj Somany

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{The final resolutions at Robert Ingersoll's funeral, quoted here}Whereas, in the order of nature -- that nature which moves with unerring certainty in obedience to fixed laws -- Robert G. Ingersoll has gone to that repose which we call death.We, his old friends and fellow-citizens, who have shared his friendship in the past, hereby manifest the respect due his memory. At a time when everything impelled him to conceal his opinions or to withhold their expression, when the highest honors of the state were his if he would but avoid discussion of the questions that relate to futurity, he avowed his belief; he did not bow his knee to superstition nor countenance a creed which his intellect dissented.Casting aside all the things for which men most sigh -- political honor, the power to direct the futures of the state, riches and emoluments, the association of the worldly and the well- to-do -- he stood forth and expressed his honest doubts, and he welcomed the ostracism that came with it, as a crown of glory, no less than did the martyrs of old.Even this self-sacrifice has been accounted shame to him, saying that he was urged thereto by a desire for financial gain, when at the time he made his stand there was before him only the prospect of loss and the scorn of the public. We, therefore, who know what a struggle it was to cut loose from his old associations, and what it meant to him at that time, rejoice in his triumph and in the plaudits that came to him from thus boldly avowing his opinions, and we desire to record the fact that we feel that he was greater than a saint, greater than a mere hero -- he was a thoroughly honest man.He was a believer, not in the narrow creed of a past barbarous age, but a true believer in all that men ought to hold sacred, the sanctity of the home, the purity of friendship, and the honesty of the individual. He was not afraid to advocate the fact that eternal truth was eternal justice; he was not afraid of the truth, nor to avow that he owed allegiance to it first of all, and he was willing to suffer shame and condemnation for its sake.The laws of the universe were his bible; to do good, his religion, and he was true to his creed. We therefore commend his life, for he was the apostle of the fireside, the evangel of justice and love and charity and happiness.We who knew him when he first began his struggle, his old neighbors and friends, rejoice at the testimony he has left us, and we commend his life and efforts as worthy of emulation.

-Robert Ingersoll

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We heard of this woman who was out of control. We heard that she was led by her feelings. That her emotions were violent. That she was impetuous. That she violated tradition and overrode convention. That certainly her life should not be an example to us. (The life of the plankton, she read in this book on the life of the earth, depends on the turbulence of the sea) We were told that she moved too hastily. Placed her life in the stream of ideas just born. For instance, had a child out of wedlock, we were told. For instance, refused to be married. For instance, walked the streets alone, where ladies never did, and we should have little regard for her, even despite the brilliance of her words. (She read that the plankton are slightly denser than water) For she had no respect for boundaries, we were told. And when her father threatened her mother, she placed her body between them. (That because of this greater heaviness, the plankton sink into deeper waters) And she went where she should not have gone, even into her sister's marriage. And because she imagined her sister to be suffering what her mother had suffered, she removed her sister from that marriage. (And that these deeper waters provide new sources of nourishment) That she moved from passion. From unconscious feeling, allowing deep and troubled emotions to control her soul. (But if the plankton sinks deeper, as it would in calm waters, she read) But we say that to her passion, she brought lucidity (it sinks out of the light, and it is only the turbulence of the sea, she read) and to her vision, she gave the substance of her life (which throws the plankton back to the light). For the way her words illuminated her life we say we have great regard. We say we have listened to her voice asking, "of what materials can that heart be composed which can melt when insulted and instead of revolting at injustice, kiss the rod?" (And she understood that without light, the plankton cannot live and from the pages of this book she also read that the animal life of the oceans, and hence our life, depends on the plankton and thus the turbulence of the sea for survival.) By her words we are brought to our own lives, and are overwhelmed by our feelings which we had held beneath the surface for so long. And from what is dark and deep within us, we say, tyranny revolts us; we will not kiss the rod.

-Susan Griffin

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I have long been of the Opinion, says he, that the Fire was a vast Blessing and the Plague likewise; it gave us Occasion to understand the Secrets of Nature which otherwise might have overwhelm'd us. (I busied my self with the right Order of the Draughts, and said nothing.) With what Firmness of Mind, Sir Chris. went on, did the People see their City devoured, and I can still remember how after the Plague and the Fire the Chearfulnesse soon returned to them: Forgetfulnesse is the great Mystery of Time.I remember, I said as I took a Chair opposite to him, how the Mobb applauded the Flames. I remember how they sang and danced by the Corses during the Contagion: that was not Chearfulnesse but Phrenzy. And I remember, also, the Rage and the Dying -These were the Accidents of Fortune, Nick, from which we have learned so much in this Generation.It was said, sir, that the Plague and the Fire were no Accidents but Substance, that they were the Signes of the Beast withinne. And Sir Chris. laughed at this.At which point Nat put his Face in: Do you call, sirs? Would you care for a Dish of Tea or some Wine?Some Tea, some Tea, cried Sir Chris. for the Fire gives me a terrible Thirst. But no, no, he continued when Nat had left the Room, you cannot assign the Causes of Plague or Fire to Sin. It was the negligence of Men that provoked those Disasters and for Negligence there is a Cure; only Terrour is the Hindrance.Terrour, I said softly, is the Lodestone of our Art.

-Peter Ackroyd

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Even if we have a reliable criterion for detecting design, and even if that criterion tells us that biological systems are designed, it seems that determining a biological system to be designed is akin to shrugging our shoulders and saying God did it. The fear is that admitting design as an explanation will stifle scientific inquiry, that scientists will stop investigating difficult problems because they have a sufficient explanation already.But design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider the term "junk DNA." Implicit in this term is the view that because the genome of an organism has been cobbled together through a long, undirected evolutionary process, the genome is a patchwork of which only limited portions are essential to the organism. Thus on an evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function. And indeed, the most recent findings suggest that designating DNA as "junk" merely cloaks our current lack of knowledge about function. For instance, in a recent issue of the Journal of Theoretical Biology, John Bodnar describes how "non-coding DNA in eukaryotic genomes encodes a language which programs organismal growth and development." Design encourages scientists to look for function where evolution discourages it.Or consider vestigial organs that later are found to have a function after all. Evolutionary biology texts often cite the human coccyx as a "vestigial structure" that hearkens back to vertebrate ancestors with tails. Yet if one looks at a recent edition of Gray’s Anatomy, one finds that the coccyx is a crucial point of contact with muscles that attach to the pelvic floor. The phrase "vestigial structure" often merely cloaks our current lack of knowledge about function. The human appendix, formerly thought to be vestigial, is now known to be a functioning component of the immune system.

-William A.

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How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Ephesians 4, 14). Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching', looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an 'Adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.

-Pope Benedict

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What finally turned me back toward the older traditions of my own [Chickasaw] and other Native peoples was the inhumanity of the Western world, the places--both inside and out--where the culture's knowledge and language don't go, and the despair, even desperation, it has spawned. We live, I see now, by different stories, the Western mind and the indigenous. In the older, more mature cultures where people still live within the kinship circles of animals and human beings there is a connection with animals, not only as food, but as 'powers,' a word which can be taken to mean states of being, gifts, or capabilities.I've found, too, that the ancient intellectual traditions are not merely about belief, as some would say. Belief is not a strong enough word. They are more than that: They are part of lived experience, the on-going experience of people rooted in centuries-old knowledge that is held deep and strong, knowledge about the natural laws of Earth, from the beginning of creation, and the magnificent terrestrial intelligence still at work, an intelligence now newly called ecology by the Western science that tells us what our oldest tribal stories maintain--the human animal is a relatively new creation here; animal and plant presences were here before us; and we are truly the younger sisters and brothers of the other animal species, not quite as well developed as we thought we were. It is through our relationships with animals and plants that we maintain a way of living, a cultural ethics shaped from an ancient understanding of the world, and this is remembered in stories that are the deepest reflections of our shared lives on Earth.That we held, and still hold, treaties with the animals and plant species is a known part of tribal culture. The relationship between human people and animals is still alive and resonant in the world, the ancient tellings carried on by a constellation of stories, songs, and ceremonies, all shaped by lived knowledge of the world and its many interwoven, unending relationships. These stories and ceremonies keep open the bridge between one kind of intelligence and another, one species and another.(from her essay "First People")

-Linda Hogan

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The only duty you owe is to yourself and to your family.The duty you owe to yourself is to do the best you can, and the duty you owe to your family is to endeavor to make them happy.Emancipate yourself from these stultifying creeds, and protect your children from the contamination of religion. Get off your knees, stand erect, and look the whole world in the face.Get all the joy and happiness you can out of life. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and waste it not upon the myth of heaven; support not the parasites of God.Do not knowingly harm another human being; do not knowingly injure your fellow man. All forms of life have feeling, do not make them suffer. As Shakespeare says: 'The poor beetle, that we tread upon, In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great As when a giant dies.' Kindness is a magic solvent.While we know that sometimes 'ingratitude is more strong than traitor's arms,' we also know that 'mercy is twice blest; it blesses him that gives and him that takes,' and, it should be remembered that while Loyalty is the most important of the virtues, Patience is the most valuable.Become a courageous human being and do the best you can under any and all circumstances in this imperfect and troublesome world. Be brave enough to live and be brave enough to die, knowing that when the Grim Reaper comes, you did the best you could and that the world is better for your having lived.A God could do no more.I will stand between you and the hosts of heaven.I am not afraid.I will act as your attorney before the Bar of Judgment.I will assume all responsibility.My services are free.Put the blame on me.Break the chains of mental slavery to religious superstition.Arise and become a free and independent human being.Dignify yourself as a Man, and justify your living by being a Brother to All Mankind and a Citizen of the Universe.

-Joseph Lewis

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Without conversion of heart we cannot serve God on earth. We have naturally neither faith, nor fear, nor love, toward God and His Son Jesus Christ. We have no delight in His Word. We take no pleasure in prayer or communion with Him. We have no enjoyment in His ordinances, His house, His people, or His day. We may have a form of Christianity, and keep up a round of ceremonies and religious performances. But without conversion we have no more heart in our religion than a brick or a stone. Can a dead corpse serve God? We know it cannot. Well, without conversion we are dead toward God. Look round the congregation with which you worship every Sunday. Mark how little interest the great majority of them take in what is going on. Observe how listless, and apathetic, and indifferent, they evidently are about the whole affair. It is clear their hearts are not there! They are thinking of something else, and not of religion. They are thinking of business, or money, or pleasure, or worldly plans, or bonnets, or gowns, or new dresses, or amusements. Their bodies are there, but not their hearts. And what is the reason? What is it they all need? They need conversion. Without it they only come to church for fashion and form’s sake, and go away from church to serve the world or their sins. But this is not all. Without conversion of heart we could not enjoy heaven, if we got there. Heaven is a place where holiness reigns supreme, and sin and the world have no place at all. The company will all be holy; the employments will all be holy; it will be an eternal Sunday. Surely if we go to heaven, we must have a heart in tune and able to enjoy it, or else we shall not be happy. We must have a nature in harmony with the element we live in, and the place where we dwell. Can a fish be happy out of water? We know it cannot. Well, without conversion of heart we could not be happy in heaven.Look round the neighborhood in which you live and the persons with whom you are acquainted. Think what many of them would do if they were cut off for ever from money, and business, and newspapers, and cards, and balls, and races, and hunting, and shopping, and worldly amusements! Would they like it? Think what they would feel if they were shut up forever with Jesus Christ, and saints, and angels! Would they be happy? Would the eternal company of Moses, and David, and St. Paul be pleasant to those who never take the trouble to read what those holy men wrote? Would heaven’s everlasting praise suit the taste of those who can hardly spare a few minutes in a week for private religion, even for prayer? There is but one answer to be given to all these questions. We must be converted before we can enjoy heaven. Heaven would be no heaven to any child of Adam without conversion.Let no man deceive us. There are two things which are of absolute necessity to the salvation of every man and woman on earth. One of them is the mediatorial work of Christ for us, His atonement, satisfaction, and intercession. The other is the converting work of the Spirit in us, His guiding, renewing, and sanctifying grace. We must have both a title and a heart for heaven. Sacraments are only generally necessary to salvation: a man may be saved without them, like the penitent thief. An interest in Christ and conversion are absolutely necessary: without them no one can possibly be saved. All, all alike, high or low, rich or poor, old or young, gentle or simple, churchmen or dissenters, baptized or unbaptized, all must be converted or perish.

-J.C. Ryle

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We are all poor; but there is a difference between what Mrs. Spark intends by speaking of 'slender means', and what Stevens called our poverty or Sartre our need, besoin. The poet finds his brief, fortuitous concords, it is true: not merely 'what will suffice,' but 'the freshness of transformation,' the 'reality of decreation,' the 'gaiety of language.' The novelist accepts need, the difficulty of relating one's fictions to what one knows about the nature of reality, as his donnée.It is because no one has said more about this situation, or given such an idea of its complexity, that I want to devote most of this talk to Sartre and the most relevant of his novels, La Nausée. As things go now it isn't of course very modern; Robbe-Grillet treats it with amused reverence as a valuable antique. But it will still serve for my purposes. This book is doubtless very well known to you; I can't undertake to tell you much about it, especially as it has often been regarded as standing in an unusually close relation to a body of philosophy which I am incompetent to expound. Perhaps you will be charitable if I explain that I shall be using it and other works of Sartre merely as examples. What I have to do is simply to show that La Nausée represents, in the work of one extremely important and representative figure, a kind of crisis in the relation between fiction and reality, the tension or dissonance between paradigmatic form and contingent reality. That the mood of Sartre has sometimes been appropriate to the modern demythologized apocalypse is something I shall take for granted; his is a philosophy of crisis, but his world has no beginning and no end. The absurd dishonesty of all prefabricated patterns is cardinal to his beliefs; to cover reality over with eidetic images--illusions persisting from past acts of perception, as some abnormal children 'see' the page or object that is no longer before them --to do this is to sink into mauvaise foi. This expression covers all comfortable denials of the undeniable--freedom --by myths of necessity, nature, or things as they are. Are all the paradigms of fiction eidetic? Is the unavoidable, insidious, comfortable enemy of all novelists mauvaise foi?Sartre has recently, in his first instalment of autobiography, talked with extraordinary vivacity about the roleplaying of his youth, of the falsities imposed upon him by the fictive power of words. At the beginning of the Great War he began a novel about a French private who captured the Kaiser, defeated him in single combat, and so ended the war and recovered Alsace. But everything went wrong. The Kaiser, hissed by the poilus, no match for the superbly fit Private Perrin, spat upon and insulted, became 'somehow heroic.' Worse still, the peace, which should instantly have followed in the real world if this fiction had a genuine correspondence with reality, failed to occur. 'I very nearly renounced literature,' says Sartre. Roquentin, in a subtler but basically similar situation, has the same reaction. Later Sartre would find again that the hero, however assiduously you use the pitchfork, will recur, and that gaps, less gross perhaps, between fiction and reality will open in the most close-knit pattern of words. Again, the young Sartre would sometimes, when most identified with his friends at the lycée, feel himself to be 'freed at last from the sin of existing'--this is also an expression of Roquentin's, but Roquentin says it feels like being a character in a novel.How can novels, by telling lies, convert existence into being? We see Roquentin waver between the horror of contingency and the fiction of aventures. In Les Mots Sartre very engagingly tells us that he was Roquentin, certainly, but that he was Sartre also, 'the elect, the chronicler of hells' to whom the whole novel of which he now speaks so derisively was a sort of aventure, though what was represented within it was 'the unjustified, brackish existence of my fellow-creatures.

-Frank Kermode

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But what I would like to know," says Albert, "is whether there would not have been a war if the Kaiser had said No.""I'm sure there would," I interject, "he was against it from the first.""Well, if not him alone, then perhaps if twenty or thirty people in the world had said No.""That's probable," I agree, "but they damned well said Yes.""It's queer, when one thinks about it," goes on Kropp, "we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who's in the right?""Perhaps both," say I without believing it."Yes, well now," pursues Albert, and I see that he means to drive me into a corner, "but our professors and parsons and newspapers say that we are the only ones that are right, and let's hope so;--but the French professors and parsons and newspapers say that the right is on their side, now what about that?""That I don't know," I say, "but whichever way it is there's war all the same and every month more countries coming in."Tjaden reappears. He is still quite excited and again joins the conversation, wondering just how a war gets started."Mostly by one country badly offending another," answers Albert with a slight air of superiority.Then Tjaden pretends to be obtuse. "A country? I don't follow. A mountain in Germany cannot offend a mountain in France. Or a river, or a wood, or a field of wheat.""Are you really as stupid as that, or are you just pulling my leg?" growls Kropp, "I don't mean that at all. One people offends the other--""Then I haven't any business here at all," replies Tjaden, "I don't feel myself offended.""Well, let me tell you," says Albert sourly, "it doesn't apply to tramps like you.""Then I can be going home right away," retorts Tjaden, and we all laugh, "Ach, man! he means the people as a whole, the State--" exclaims Mller."State, State"--Tjaden snaps his fingers contemptuously, "Gendarmes, police, taxes, that's your State;--if that's what you are talking about, no, thank you.""That's right," says Kat, "you've said something for once, Tjaden. State and home-country, there's a big difference.""But they go together," insists Kropp, "without the State there wouldn't be any home-country.""True, but just you consider, almost all of us are simple folk. And in France, too, the majority of men are labourers, workmen, or poor clerks. Now just why would a French blacksmith or a French shoemaker want to attack us? No, it is merely the rulers. I had never seen a Frenchman before I came here, and it will be just the same with the majority of Frenchmen as regards us. They weren't asked about it any more than we were.""Then what exactly is the war for?" asks Tjaden.Kat shrugs his shoulders. "There must be some people to whom the war is useful.""Well, I'm not one of them," grins Tjaden."Not you, nor anybody else here.""Who are they then?" persists Tjaden. "It isn't any use to the Kaiser either. He has everything he can want already.""I'm not so sure about that," contradicts Kat, "he has not had a war up till now. And every full-grown emperor requires at least one war, otherwise he would not become famous. You look in your school books.""And generals too," adds Detering, "they become famous through war.""Even more famous than emperors," adds Kat."There are other people back behind there who profit by the war, that's certain," growls Detering."I think it is more of a kind of fever," says Albert. "No one in particular wants it, and then all at once there it is. We didn't want the war, the others say the same thing--and yet half the world is in it all the same.

-Erich Maria

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Security ... what does this word mean in relation to life as we know it today? For the most part, it means safety and freedom from worry. It is said to be the end that all men strive for; but is security a utopian goal or is it another word for rut?Let us visualize the secure man; and by this term, I mean a man who has settled for financial and personal security for his goal in life. In general, he is a man who has pushed ambition and initiative aside and settled down, so to speak, in a boring, but safe and comfortable rut for the rest of his life. His future is but an extension of his present, and he accepts it as such with a complacent shrug of his shoulders. His ideas and ideals are those of society in general and he is accepted as a respectable, but average and prosaic man. But is he a man? has he any self-respect or pride in himself? How could he, when he has risked nothing and gained nothing? What does he think when he sees his youthful dreams of adventure, accomplishment, travel and romance buried under the cloak of conformity? How does he feel when he realizes that he has barely tasted the meal of life; when he sees the prison he has made for himself in pursuit of the almighty dollar? If he thinks this is all well and good, fine, but think of the tragedy of a man who has sacrificed his freedom on the altar of security, and wishes he could turn back the hands of time. A man is to be pitied who lacked the courage to accept the challenge of freedom and depart from the cushion of security and see life as it is instead of living it second-hand. Life has by-passed this man and he has watched from a secure place, afraid to seek anything better What has he done except to sit and wait for the tomorrow which never comes?Turn back the pages of history and see the men who have shaped the destiny of the world. Security was never theirs, but they lived rather than existed. Where would the world be if all men had sought security and not taken risks or gambled with their lives on the chance that, if they won, life would be different and richer? It is from the bystanders (who are in the vast majority) that we receive the propaganda that life is not worth living, that life is drudgery, that the ambitions of youth must he laid aside for a life which is but a painful wait for death. These are the ones who squeeze what excitement they can from life out of the imaginations and experiences of others through books and movies. These are the insignificant and forgotten men who preach conformity because it is all they know. These are the men who dream at night of what could have been, but who wake at dawn to take their places at the now-familiar rut and to merely exist through another day. For them, the romance of life is long dead and they are forced to go through the years on a treadmill, cursing their existence, yet afraid to die because of the unknown which faces them after death. They lacked the only true courage: the kind which enables men to face the unknown regardless of the consequences.As an afterthought, it seems hardly proper to write of life without once mentioning happiness; so we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?

-Hunter S.

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The usual short story cannot have a complex plot, but it often has a simple one resembling a chain with two or three links. The short short, however, doesn't as a rule have even that much - you don't speak of a chain when there's only one link. ...Sometimes ... the short short appears to rest on nothing more than a fragile anecdote which the writer has managed to drape with a quantity of suggestion. A single incident, a mere anecdote - these form the spine of the short short. Everything depends on intensity, one sweeping blow of perception. In the short short the writer gets no second chance. Either he strikes through at once or he's lost. And because it depends so heavily on this one sweeping blow, the short short often approaches the condition of a fable. When you read the two pieces by Tolstoy in this book, or I.L. Peretz's 'If Not Higher,' or Franz Kafka's 'The Hunter Gracchus,' you feel these writers are intent upon 'making a point' - but obliquely, not through mere statement. What they project is not the sort of impression of life we expect in most fiction, but something else: an impression of an idea of life. Or: a flicker in darkness, a slight cut of being. The shorter the piece of writing, the more abstract it may seem to us. In reading Paz's brilliant short short we feel we have brushed dangerously against the sheer arbitrariness of existence; in reading Peretz's, that we have been brought up against a moral reflection on the nature of goodness, though a reflection hard merely to state.Could we say that the short short is to other kinds of fiction somewhat as the lyric is to other kinds of poetry? The lyric does not seek meaning through extension, it accepts the enigmas of confinement. It strives for a rapid unity of impression, an experience rendered in its wink of immediacy. And so too with the short short. ...Writers who do short shorts need to be especially bold. They stake everything on a stroke of inventiveness. Sometimes they have to be prepared to speak out directly, not so much in order to state a theme as to provide a jarring or complicating commentary. The voice of the writer brushes, so to say, against his flash of invention. And then, almost before it begins, the fiction is brought to a stark conclusion - abrupt, bleeding, exhausting. This conclusion need not complete the action; it has only to break it off decisively.Here are a few examples of the writer speaking out directly. Paz: 'The universe is a vast system of signs.' Kafka in 'First Sorrow': The trapeze artist's 'social life was somewhat limited.' Paula Fox: 'We are starving here in our village. At last, we are at the center.' Babel's cossack cries out, 'You guys in specs have about as much pity for chaps like us as a cat for a mouse.' Such sentences serve as devices of economy, oblique cues. Cryptic and enigmatic, they sometimes replace action, dialogue and commentary, for none of which, as it happens, the short short has much room.There's often a brilliant overfocussing.("Introduction")

-Irving Howe

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