Annual Report of Briefs

My reading notebook, otherwise known as my commonplace book, consists of two sections now—Briefs and Passages. Passages are the notable thoughts and ideas I collect from the books and periodicals I read. Briefs are provocative comments, a word or phrase, a quotation from a random collection of almost anything I read—a newspaper, blog, journal, essay, etc. The Briefs for each year are usually just a few pages while the Passages can be anywhere from 50 to 90 pages. To give you an idea of the kinds of things I collect in the Briefs, here are those I saved this year

Growing older is like climbing a mountain: the higher you get, the more strength you need, but the further you see
. Ingmar Bergmann

At the center of our moral life and our moral imagination are the great models of resistance: the great stories of those who had said “No.” Susan Sontag

“String together a thousand short feature stories and you’ll have a book
.” William Manchester

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. Simone Weil

I know an elderly couple…who lived together for 70 years. They lived identical lives…What kept them together for so long? A wondrous fact: during all these years they quarreled, endlessly. The unusual endurance of their lives and their marriage came from the strength of their disagreements. Doris Grumbach

So what she had, in fact, asked herself was who had time for justice? And the fact that she had articulated this question, even if only privately to herself, jolted her
. Elliot Perlman,

I am still working on trying to understand August Wilson’s significance. The black life he describes in his many, many plays is something I can recognize, certainly, but surface recognitions don’t add up to much in my book, unless they trigger emotional recognitions, which little of Wilson’s work does: I see his situations, but don’t feel them.
Hilton Als

The mind always returns to needs for beauty, truth and insight. Harold Bloom

What is the use of wisdom, if it can be reached only in solitude, reflecting on our reading? Most of us know that wisdom immediately goes out the door when we are in a crisis
. Harold Bloom

In early 2009 I started using voice-recognition software to write…On the first day, when I was sick of the mess of it, I said, “This is a fucking pile of shit.” and the software typed: “This is a flocking to the pilot sheets.” After a day of training, recognition reached 99%, but by the end of the month, I knew I would be able to dictate fiction. [However] writing fiction is the physical act of pushing words round the page until they look good and tight. Using speech to write was like doing a jigsaw with mittens on. Turns out I need to use my hand to write fiction. I find the words, feel them out; need pen and paper and the act of typing to put the right words in the right order. M. J. Hyland

What is life but a gradual shipwreck? John Banville

[Writers] show us what we never expected to see in ourself. Michael Ondaatje

Love is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the habituation of the middle-aged, and the mutual dependence of the old. Lynne Schwartz