John Berger
John Berger

“I’d rather reject the terms optimistic and pessimistic. They suggest a calculation of how things are going to evolve, and if it’s going to evolve in the way you want, you’re optimistic. That has very little to do with despair and hope. Hope is not a form of guarantee, it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.”

— John Berger, who died on 2 January 2017.

Cardiff at night. I walk through the streets as the sun is going down, and I am reminded that these are the closing days of a decade. May the next ten years bring greater peace, hope and community to this wonderful city.

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“Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.”

— John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket

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Noted AIDS researcher Jay A. Levy became friends with Samuel Beckett after encountering his work as a student. This portrait, taken in Beckett’s home, was among books, letters, and memorabilia that Levy and his wife recently donated to Wesleyan University.

“[A] walk is only a step away from a story, and every path tells.”

— Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

Photograph: Ansel Adams
Photograph: Ansel Adams

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”

— Ansel Adams

“It’s the start of 2016, and Smith’s friend Pearlman—a producer and rock critic—has been hospitalized after a brain hemorrhage. As he lies in a coma, Smith recounts the tumultuous year that follows—the loss of friends (Sam Shepard is nearly bedridden), the horror of the imminent election and rise of nationalism, and the impending climate crisis. A reflection on mortality, the book retains Smith’s characteristically flat tone as she wanders through stretches of Arizona, California, Virginia, and Kentucky, stopping at diners for black coffee and onion omelets and conversations with strangers. She hitchhikes from San Francisco to San Diego and back, travels as far as Lisbon, and returns home to the quiet of her Rockaway bungalow to stare at the flowers. All the while, she describes the mundane details of life with incredible vividness…”

Camille Jacobson on
Year of the Monkey,
a new memoir from Patti Smith.

theparisreview.org/blog/2019/10/11/staff-picks-monsters-monkeys-and-maladies/

Photograph: Rhys Tranter
Photograph: Rhys Tranter
Photograph: Rhys Tranter
Photograph: Rhys Tranter
Photograph: Rhys Tranter

In these dark times
we look for the light.

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“I grew up on the margins, I inherited all the value of the margins. I know from all my reading and living that extraordinary things happen on the ­edges—the changes happen, the rituals happen, the magic, for want of a better word, happens on the edge of things. Everything is possible at the edge. It’s where the opposites meet, the different states and elements come together.”

— Ali Smith, qtd. in The Paris Review


“Look, pay attention to the small things in the world, speak the truth as best as you can”

— Teju Cole

The New York Times has published a lovely and charming interview with Patti Smith, where she talks about some of her favourite books (and where I discovered she has a signed first edition of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake).

Source: The New York Times

This week, it was my great privilege to visit the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California. The beautiful Muir family home was restored from dereliction by the National Park Service, and pays tribute to the father of modern environmental conservation.

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“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

— Ansel Adams

Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to.”

— Toni Morrison, Tar Baby

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”

— Ansel Adams