Oscar Wilde & Wilhelm von Gloeden

 

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“I really can’t see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you — well, of course you have an intellectual expression and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don’t think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful. Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is some brainless beautiful creature who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence.” (The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde)

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Photographs by Wilhem Von Gloeden

 

 

 

 

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Through the Looking Glass

The greatest novels seem to have one thing in common: they take us through the looking glass. That is, these books tell stories within stories, taking us down the rabbit hole of a conversation, a dream, an historical event, a philosophical diatribe, a parallel universe. This demands loyalty and sometimes blind faith from the reader.  We are required to bury our skepticism and follow the author through these detours.  At times, it can feel hopeless, daunting, and even make us angry to be carried along these dark side roads that seem to lead nowhere. The French rightly call this predicament mise en abyme, being placed into the abyss.  But, when handled with genius and artistry, we are given a parachute, a soft landing.  Suddenly or gradually, we realize the roads led to somewhere after all.  We feel mysteriously connected, understood, joined with some invisible force that seems to fill us with awe.  We close our eyes, perhaps tearfully, nod our heads, and say to ourselves and the writer’s ghost, “Yes, I get it. I’m with you.”  

 

As a writer, taking the reader through the looking glass gives a story a special kind of depth and intimacy. A depth that is rarely achieved by simply sticking to the plot. A depth much like the attraction, empathy, and private understanding that builds between two lovers.  The more secrets they share, even if unremarkable or banal, the more something surprising and revelatory occurs between them. When you’ve entered someone’s inner universe and been privy to their untold stories, their kaleidoscope of thought, their philosophies, their dreams, you begin to truly Know them with a capital K.  This is what taking the reader through the looking glass achieves- you lose yourself and become naked, exposed, uninhibited, unafraid- and, when you find a dedicated fellow psychic traveller, they feel the gift, this treasured depth that attaches them to your journey.

                                                                                                      – P. A. Swirnoff

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Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf

“How beautiful she looked, how unearthly, when she said that! Cool and clear, there swam in her eyes a conscious sadness. These eyes of hers seemed to have suffered all imaginable suffering and to have acquiesced in it. Her lips spoke with difficulty and as though something hindered them, as though a keen frost had tumbled her face; but between her lips at the corners of her mouth where the tip of her tongue showed at rare intervals, there was but sweet sensuality and inward delight that contradicted the expression of her face and tone of her voice.”

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  • Alla Nazimova in Salomé (1923)
  • Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
  • Aubrey Breadsley, Rose Bush, pen and ink, 1893-94
  • Egon Schiele, Reclining Woman, Gouache, watercolour and pencil on cream wove paper, 1916

Tales of Desire

Tales of Desire is a great read for sleazy Thursdays. This collection was published by New Directions. Below is the forward written by Gore Vidal:

“Tennessee’s stories need no explication. So here they are. Some are marvelous- “Desire and the Black Masseur”; some are wonderfully crazed-“The Killer Chicken,” “The Mysteries of The Joy Rio.” So what are they about? Well, there used to be two streetcars in New Orleans. One was named Desire and the other was called Cemeteries. To get where you were going, you changed from the first to the second. In these stories and in those plays, Tennessee validated with his genius our common ticket of transfer.”

Read it to lose yourself.

 

Excerpts: Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges

Richard Burgin conducted a series of interviews between 1964 and 1984 with Jorge Luis Borges. Below are candid thoughts from a wonderful thinker:

“I began thinking of the injustice or rather how illogical it was for Christians, let’s say, to believe in the immortal soul, and at the same time to believe that what we did during that very brief span of life was important, because even if we lived to be a hundred years old, that’s nothing compared to everlastingness, to eternity. I thought, well, even if we live to a hundred, anything we do is unimportant if we go on living, and then I also worked in that mathematical idea that if time  is endless, all things are bound to happen to all men, and in that case, after some thousand years everyone of us would be a saint, a murderer, a traitor, and adulterer, a fool, a wise man”

“…I think there’s something very mean about revenge, even a just revenge, no? Something futile about it. I dislike revenge. I think the only possible revenge is forgetfulness, oblivion. That’s the only revenge. But, of course, oblivion makes for forgiving, no?”

“…Perhaps coincidences are given to us that would involve the idea of a secret plan, no? Coincidences are given to us so that we may feel there is a pattern- that there is a pattern in life, that things mean something. Of course there is a pattern in a sense that we have night and day, the four seasons, being born, living and dying, the stars and so on, but there may be a more subtle kind of pattern, no?”