Daniel Clarkson Fisher


“I would opine that smartphones aren’t really about making our lives easier; they’re about allowing private companies to profit from areas of our lives that were previously closed to them. It might be quicker to order a cab through an app than to find the number of a local service, but in exchange for that efficiency you allow a company to log and sell your data. They make millions from this and what do you save? Seconds. And what precious time you gain you’re likely to squander scrolling through content anyway.”

– from the Guardian article “Even a Mugger Didn’t Want My Old Nokia. So Why Are So Many People Turning to 'Dumbphones'?” (March 29, 2022) by Max Fletcher

“Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder. And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning — — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

– from The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald, pp. 188-9

“I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

– from The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald, p. 40

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. 'Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.' He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought — frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon — for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth. And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction — Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the 'creative temperament' — it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.”

– from The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald, pp. 5-7

“I never talked about Phineas and neither did anyone else; he was, however present in every moment of every day since Dr. Stanpole had told me. Finny had a vitality which could not be quenched so suddenly, even by the marrow of his bone. That was why I couldn't say anything or listen to anything about him, because he endured so forcefully that what I had to say would have seemed crazy to anyone else — I could not use the past tense, for instance — and what they had to say would be incomprehensible to me. During the time I was with him, Phineas created an atmosphere in which I continued now to live, a way of sizing up the world with erratic and entirely personal reservations, letting its rocklike facts sift through and be accepted only a little at a time, only as much as he could assimilate without a sense of chaos and loss. No one else I have ever met could do this. All others at some point found something in themselves pitted violently against something in the world around them. With those of my year this point often came when they grasped the fact of the war. When they began to feel that there was this overwhelmingly hostile thing in the world with them, then the simplicity and unity of their characters broke and they were not the same again. Phineas alone had escaped this. He possessed an extra vigor, a heightened confidence in himself, a serene capacity for affection which saved him. Nothing as he was growing up at home, nothing at Devon, nothing even about the war had broken his harmonious and natural unity. So at last I had.”

– from A Separate Peace (1959) by John Knowles, pp. 194-5

“Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment when his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person 'the world today' or 'life' or 'reality' he will assume that you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past. The world, through his unleashed emotions, imprinted itself upon him, and he carries the stamp of that passing moment forever.”

– from A Separate Peace (1959) by John Knowles, p. 32

“'We need to clear our heads of that party,' he said, 'all that talk!' 'Yes. It sure was boring. Who did most of the talking anyway?' Finny concentrated. 'Mr. Patch-Withers was pretty gassy, and his wife, and...' 'Yeah. And? Turning a look of mock shock on me, 'You don't mean to infer that I talked too much!' Returning, with interest, his gaping shock, 'You? Talk too much? How can you accuse me of accusing you of that!' As I said, this was my sarcastic summer. It was only long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak.”

– from A Separate Peace (1959) by John Knowles, p. 22

“I’ve been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn. It’s just when you get used to everything that it’s day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That’s gold. Keep that way, it’s a good way to be.”

– from The Outsiders (1967) by S.E. Hinton, p. 154

“I had a long walk home and no company, but I usually lone it anyway, for no reason except that I like to watch movies undisturbed so I can get into them and live them with the actors. When I see a movie with someone it’s kind of uncomfortable, like having someone read your book over your shoulder. I’m different that way. I mean, my second-oldest brother, Soda, who is sixteen-going-on-seventeen, never cracks a book at all, and my oldest brother, Darrel, who we call Darry, works too long and hard to be interested in a story or drawing a picture, so I’m not like them. And nobody in our gang digs movies and books the way I do. For a while there, I thought I was the only person in the world that did. So I loned it.”

– from The Outsiders (1967) by S.E. Hinton, p. 5

“[Literature] somehow touches on a deep level that lives in all of us, in most cases, hidden away — a sense of poetry. People who do not read at all, and do not read poetry or never have had contact with books, still have that inside of them. I’m totally convinced. There’s something embedded in language that we can touch, that we can make vibrate, with literature, with poetry. I still believe that literature is of very deep importance not only for our singular existence but for our collective experience. In the nineteen-seventies, while making a toast, I quoted a few sentences of Turgenev, and my host toasted back by continuing the Turgenev story for the next five pages by heart. Through language, you establish a togetherness of souls. I miss that. However, not long ago, I was in front of a room of thirty or forty people, and quoted a verse of Hölderlin. Suddenly, somebody was illuminated, and that person came forward, very close to me, and started speaking with me as if nobody else were in the room. So perhaps you still do have that, in a way.”

– Werner Herzog, quoted in the New Yorker article “Werner Herzog Has Never Liked Introspection” (April 26, 2022) by Michael LaPointe

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