Thursday, August 14, 2014

Noted: Gertrude Stein

From Wars I Have Seen (1945):
The thing that is most interesting about government servants is that they believe what they are supposed to believe, they really do believe what they are supposed to believe, which has a great deal to do with wars and wars being what they are. It really has.
I once asked some one who should know why public servants in the army in every branch of government service did not seem to have the kind of judgment that the man in the street any man or any woman has about what is happening. Oh he answered the reason is simple, they are specialists, and to a specialist his specialty is the whole of everything and if his specialty is in good order and it generally is then everything must be succeeding. (pp. 52-53)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Fragment of a thought on the trouble with writing about Blanchot

Whenever I have attempted to write about Maurice Blanchot, I've felt the need to admit to a struggle, to confess that I'm not sure I quite understood the essay in question. I've been annoyed by this - perhaps you have too, you who have read - though maybe I should not. Part of the problem is that the very nature of Blanchot's inquiry does not allow for summary. The tendency when reading is to summarize - is it not? - to try to reduce the points to a manageable size? But Blanchot writes against reduction. He refuses reduction. He examines a text, or a figure, or a tradition, exploring it from many possible angles, rarely, it seems, settling on a particular interpretation. And his essays speak to each other, and to and with the philosophical and literary traditions, with great erudition, so that by beginning one essay, one enters into the flow of a tributary of thought, though one that doesn't necessarily lead one to any specific conclusion. But how to write about what I find there? Excerpts can be misleading, and anyway difficult to isolate.