Frank Lloyd Wright, The Natural House
“ Vistas of inevitable simplicity and ineffable harmonies would open, so beautiful to me that I was not only delighted, but often startled. ”
Evelyn Waugh, Black Mischief, Chapter 5
“ It was from the least expected quarter, the tribesmen and villagers, that the real support for Seth’s Birth Control policy suddenly appeared. ”
Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom, Pp. 406-7.
“ The biblical counterpart of Odysseus, Jacob must solve the fundamental human difficulties illustrated in the pre-Abrahamic chapters of Genesis. ”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, A Dangerous Place, Chapter 1: A Half-Life, p8-9
“ In that I was a member of the Cabinet, protocol provided that I step out of Air Force One behind the President and ahead of Kissinger, who was also on the journey. Somehow Kissinger invariably reached the ground ahead of me. ”
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America (paperback edition), p210-1
“ I couldn’t manage to be anywhere near a nun, let alone a pair of them, without a mind awash in my none-too-pure Jewish thoughts. ”
Ian Fleming, Diamonds are Forever
“ It was natural to bring out the small change and jerk the handles and watch the lemons and the oranges and the cherries and the bell fruits whirl round to their final click-pause-ting, followed by a soft mechanical sigh. Five cents, ten cents, a quarter. Bond gave them all a try… ”
David Pryce-Jones, “Jews, Arabs, and French Diplomacy: A Special Report”
“ The Zionists must understand once and for all that there can be no question of constituting an independent Jewish state in Palestine, or even forming some sovereign Jewish body. ”
Charles Darwin, The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, Chapter 1, General Principles of Expression
“ It is well known that cats dislike wetting their feet, owing, it is probable, to their having aboriginally inhabited the dry country of Egypt; and when they wet their feet they shake them violently. My daughter poured some water into a glass close to the head of a kitten; and it immediately shook its feet in the usual manner; so that here we have an habitual movement falsely excited by an associated sound instead of by the sense of touch. ”
Edward Lear, Journals of a Landscape Painter in the Balkans
“ Not the least annoyance was that given me by the persevering attentions of a mad or fanatic dervish, of most singular appearance as well as conduct. His note of ‘Shaitán‘ was frequently sounded; and as he twirled about, and performed many curious antics, he frequently advanced to me, shaking a long hooked stick, covered with jingling ornaments, in my very face, pointing to the Kawas with menacing looks, as though he would say, “Were it not for this protector you should he annihilated, you infidel!” ”
Robert Graves, I, Claudius
“ The drink was as remarkable as the food, and Caligula became so lively as the meal went on that, deprecating his own generosity to Herod in the past as something hardly worth mentioning, he now promised to give him whatever it lay in his power to grant. “Ask me anything, my dearest Herod,” he said, “And it shall be yours.” He repeated: “Absolutely anything. I swear by my own Divinity that I will grant it.” ”
uriosity is one of the lowest of the human faculties. You will have noticed in daily life that when people are inquisitive they nearly always have bad memories and are usually stupid at bottom. The man who begins by asking you how many brothers and sisters you have is never a sympathetic character, and if you meet him in a year’s time he will probably ask you how many brothers and sisters you have, his mouth again sagging open, his eyes still bulging from his head. It is difficult to be friends with such a man, and for two inquisitive people to be friends must be impossible. Curiosity by itself takes us a very little way, nor does it take us far into the novelonly as far as the story. If we would grasp the plot we must add intelligence and memory.
Intelligence first. The intelligent novel-reader, unlike the inquisitive one who just runs his eye over a new fact, mentally picks it up. He sees it from two points of view: isolated, and related to the other facts that he has read on previous pages. Probably he does not understand it, but he does not expect to do so yet awhile. The facts in a highly organized novel (like The Egoist) are often of the nature of cross-correspondences and the ideal spectator cannot expect to view them properly until he is sitting up on a hill at the end. This element of surprise or mysterythe detective element as it is sometimes rather emptily calledis of great importance in a plot. It occurs through a suspension of the time-sequence; a mystery is a pocket in time, and it occurs crudely, as in “Why did the queen die?” and more subtly in half-explained gestures and words, the true meaning of which only dawns pages ahead. Mystery is essential to a plot, and cannot be appreciated without intelligence. To the curious it is just another “and then” To appreciate a mystery, part of the mind must be left behind, brooding, while the other part goes marching on.
That brings us to our second qualification: memory.
Memory and intelligence are closely connected, for unless we remember we cannot understand. If by the time the queen dies we have forgotten the existence of the king we shall never make out what killed her. The plot-maker expects us to remember, we expect him to leave no loose ends. Every action or word ought to count; it ought to be economical and spare; even when complicated it should be organic and free from dead-matter. It may be difficult or easy, it may and should contain mysteries, but it ought not to mislead. And over it, as it unfolds, will hover the memory of the reader (that dull glow of the mind of which intelligence is the bright advancing edge) and will constantly rearrange and reconsider, seeing new clues, new chains of cause and effect, and the final sense (if the plot has been a fine one) will not be of clues or chains, but of something aesthetically compact, something which might have been shown by the novelist straight away, only if he had shown it straight away it would never have be~ come beautiful. We come up against beauty here for the first time in our inquiry: beauty at which a novelist should never aim, though he fails if he does not achieve it. I will conduct beauty to her proper place later on. Meanwhile please accept her as part of a completed plot. She looks a little surprised at being there, but beauty ought to look a little surprised: it is the emotion that best suits her face, as Botticelli knew when he painted her risen from the waves, between the winds and the flowers. The beauty who does not look surprised, who accepts her position as her dueshe reminds us too much of a prima donna.
On The and Story