Category Archives: books

Notes on Linda Yablonsky, The Story of Junk

How can a person suffer this much and still want to go on living? He’s dying in a hospital bed, and even as he talks to her his eyes keep fluttering up to the TV screen. “He still wants to … Continue reading

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Notes on Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy: Royal Assassin

What is a life for? This is the question that Fitz is asking again and again, in one form or another, as he tries to find his place in the world and wonders whether it’s all worth it. It’s easy … Continue reading

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Notes on Bleak House: “Bell Yard”

Mr Skimpole reflects on “how things lazily adapted themselves to purposes.” There’s no other way things can adapt. Let nature take its course. Principle of non-resistance. This is how Mr Skimpole lives his own life, never working or worrying. Mr … Continue reading

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Notes on the Magic Mountain: “Mynheer Peeperkorn”

A more than usual appreciation of – linked to his need for – alcoholic drinks. He appears to chew the liquid before it goes down, he spends so long savouring it. His head must be blurry from all he drinks … Continue reading

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Notes on The Magic Mountain: “By the Ocean of Time”

Not to deny reason, but to set limits to it. Beyond the limit of reason is life. If reason were allowed to dominate all, there would be no room for life, which after all needs room to experiment, and see … Continue reading

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Notes on The Magic Mountain: “A Soldier, and Brave”

“I am glad to see that despite your enthusiasm for freedom and progress, you have some feeling for serious things.” So says Naphta to Settembrini as they stand at the deathbed of the young man. What could be more serious … Continue reading

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Notes on The Magic Mountain: “Snow”

“What he had dreamed was already fading from his mind.” So vivid the dream, so full of meaning, and as he lay there in the snow he had vowed to live for love and virtue, and never to let death … Continue reading

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Notes on The Magic Mountain: “Operationes Spirituales”

There is no chance that Ludovico Settembrini and Leo Naphta, the intellectuals portrayed in The Magic Mountain, will ever agree with each other. If one of them says something, you can guarantee that the other will say the opposite. It … Continue reading

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How Wrong We Are

I’ve been reading Will Storr’s The Science of Storytelling. Aspiring writers might want to read the book in full, but here’s some ideas I found interesting: Stories are about change. In other words: something happens. The best stories gradually transform … Continue reading

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Fools Reproach

William Blake’s infernal wisdom: that evil is the energy of the body and acts upon desire. Good bounds this energy, and wants to restrain desire. That if your desire can be restrained, then it was a weak desire. That desire, … Continue reading

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