The Insect World

I suppose it’s too bad that people can’t be a little more consistent. But if they were, maybe they would stop being people. They might become characters in epic tragedies or Hollywood movies. Most of our characters on the screeen are sandwich men for different moral attitudes. We will have the young man who stands for Honest Government and Public Service while his brother is a low-down Wallower in Wine, Women and Corruption. In the last reel the good brother has to be killed off so the bad brother can be regenerated. Regenerated. That is one of Hollywood’s favorite words. This may be heresy, but I have yet to meet anybody who ever got himself Regenerated. I don’t see any one-hundred-percent-pure heroes running around loose either. All people seem to do is the best they can to get along and have a good time, and if that means keeping what they’ve got, they’re liable to become fascists, and if it means trying to get what they need and don’t have, there’s a good chance of their learning the Internationale.

What Makes Sammy Run? (1941), by Budd Schulberg

'As for the Beauty —'

'— she is with us, still.'

Pause of three heartbeats.

'She sleeps. And now she wakes each day a little less. And, each day, takes less and less nourishment, as if grudging the least moment of wakefulness, for, from the movements under her eyelids, and the somnolent gestures of her hands and feet, it seems as if her dreams grow more urgent and intense, as if the life she leads in the closed world of dreams is now about to possess her utterly, as if her small, increasingly reluctant wakenings were an interruption of some more vital existence, so she is loath to spend even those few necessary moments of wakefulness with us, wakings strange as her sleepings. Her marvellous fate — a sleep more lifelike than the living, a dream which consumes the world.

'And, sir,' concluded Fevvers, in a voice that now took on the sombre, majestic tones of a great organ, 'we do believe …her dream will be the coming century.

'And, oh God …how frequently she weeps!'

Nights at the Circus (1984), by Angela Carter

From beggar to thief is one step, but a step in two directions at the same time, for what a beggar loses in morality when he becomes a thief he regains in self-respect.
Angela Carter

The clowns. See them as a band of terrorists. No; that’s not right. Not terrorists, but irregulars. A band of irregulars, permitted the most ferocious piracies as long as, just so long as, they maintain the bizarrerie of their appearance, so that their violent exposition of manners stays on the safe side of terror, even if we need to learn to laugh at them, and part, at least, of this laughter comes from the successful suppression of fear.

Nights at the Circus (1984), by Angela Carter

All right, I may have lied to you, and about you, and made a
     few pronouncements a bit too sweeping, perhaps, and
     possibly forgotten to tag the bases here or there,
And damned your extravagance and maligned your tastes, and
     libeled your relatives, and slandered a few of your friends,
Nevertheless, come back.

Come home. I will agree to forget the statements that you issued
     so copiously to the neighbors and the press,
And you will forget that figment of your imagination, the blonde
     from Detroit;
I will agree that your lady friend who lives above us is not
     crazy, bats, nutty as they come, but on the contrary
     rather bright,
And you will concede that poor old Steinberg is neither a drunk,
     nor a swindler, but simply a guy, on the eccentric side,
     trying to get along.
(Are you listening, you bitch, and have you got this straight?)

Because I forgive you, yes, for everything,
I forgive you for being beautiful and generous and wise,
I forgive you, to put it simply, for being alive, and pardon you,
     in short, for being you.

Because tonight you are in my hair and eyes,
And every street light that our taxi passes shows me you again,
     still you,
And because tonight all other nights are black, all other hours
     are cold and far away, and now, this minute, the stars
     are very near and bright.

Come back. We will have a celebration to end all celebrations.
We will invite the undertaker who lives beneath us, and a
     couple of the boys from the office, and some other friends,
And Steinberg, who is off the wagon, by the way, and that
     insane woman who lives upstairs, and a few reporters, if
     anything should break.

— Kenneth Fearing


Some take to liquor, some turn to prayer,
Many prefer to dance, others to gamble, and a few resort to gas
     or the gun.
(Some are lucky, and some are not.)

Name your choice, any selection from one to twenty-five:
Music from Harlem? A Viennese waltz on the slot-machine
     phonograph at Jack’s Bar and Grill? Or a Brahms Concerto
     over WXV?
(Many like it wild, others sweet.)

Champagne for supper, murder for breakfast, romance for lunch
     and terror for tea,
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time the world
     has gone to hell.
(Some can take it, and some cannot.)

— Kenneth Fearing


"All things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams."

-Elias Canetti

'It was one of those old, square, red-brick houses with a plain, sober facade and a graceful, scallop-shaped fanlight over the front door that you may still find in those parts of London so far from the tide of fashion that they were never swept away. You could not look at Mother Nelson's house without the thought, how the Age of Reason built it; and then you almost cried, to think the Age of Reason was over before it properly begun, and this harmonious relic tucked away behind the howling of the Ratcliffe Highway, like the germ of sense left in a drunkard's mind.'

Nights at the Circus (1984), by Angela Carter


Original Krazy Kat painting by George Herriman, 1932.


Original Krazy Kat painting by George Herriman, 1932.