“The fact that human beings have created, and daily create, this self-directed system through which they divest themselves of their innermost identity, is not therefore the result of some incomprehensible misunderstanding of history, nor is it history somehow gone off the rails. Neither is it the product of some diabolical higher will which as decided, for reasons unknown, to torment a portion of humanity in this way. It can happen and did happen only because there is obviously in modern humanity a certain tendency towards the creation, or at least the toleration of such a system. There is obviously something in human beings which responds to this system, something they reflect and accommodate, something with them which paralyzes every effort of their better selves to revolt. Human beings are compelled to live within a lie, but they can be compelled to do so only because they are in fact capable of living this way.” —Vaclav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless,” Living in Truth
Poverty is what happens at the end of any story, including this one,
When there are too many stories.
When you can believe in all of them, & so believe in none;
When one condition is as good as any other.
—Larry Levis, from “Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage“
“There are ducks at Howard Beach, and herons farther on at Jamaica Bay, and odd watery vistas all the way from Broad Channel to Far Rockaway. The train travels on a causeway past sleepy fishing villages and wood frame houses, and it’s all ducks and geese until the train reaches the far side of the bay, where the dingier bungalows and the housing projects begin. Then, roughly at Frank Avenue station, the Atlantic Ocean pounds past jetties of black rocks, not far from the tracks; and at Mott Avenue is the sprawling two-storey town of Far Rockaway, with its main street and its slap-happy architecture and its ruins. It looks like its sister-cities in Ohio and Rhode Island, with just enough trees to hide its dullness, and though part of it is in a state of decay, it looks small enough to save.” —Paul Theroux, “Subterranean Gothic”
(for “Visitors,” a new series of photographs taken on the Boston subway)
“Two events drew Kneeshaw’s attention away from the Green Child. One was the death of this father, together with the expanding trade of the mill—the mill absorbed more and more of his time and energy. The other event was less creditable. One summer day he discovered the kitchenmaid asleep in the barn where the hay was kept. She was lying on her back, her limbs open and abandoned. The sudden lust that swept over Kneeshaw met no resistance, and from that time onwards Kneeshaw’s natural desires were completely satisfied by this subordinate member of the household.”—Herbert Read, The Green Child
“Spiritually a year of profound gloom and indigence until that memorable night in March, at the end of the jetty, in the howling wind, never to be forgotten, when suddenly I saw the whole thing. The vision, at last. This I fancy is what I have chiefly to record this last evening, against the day when my work will be done and perhaps no place left in my memory, warm or cold, for the miracle that…(hesitates)…for the fire that set it alight. What I suddenly saw then was this, that the belief I had been going on all my life, namely—(Krapp switches off impatiently, winds tape forward, switches on again)…“—Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape
“In the mid 1970’s, I began to be drawn towards places of cultural tension: borders, the edges of societies, worlds that have been transformed by an outside — often northern — culture. I was intrigued by the rawness, the tensions, and the emotional immediacy of the streets in these places. I was working in black and white then. But, by the late 1970’s, I realized there was another emotional note that had to be reckoned with: the intense, vibrant color and the searing light of these worlds, so different than the gray-brown reticence of my New England background. That moment — when I discovered color in the late 1970’s — is where this book begins.”—Alex Webb, Notes on The Suffering of Light
(Some experiments with color, inspired by the great Alex Webb.)
“And here was another place and another girl. Oh, how lonely she was, from away back in Minnesota. A good family too. Sure, honey. Tell my tired ears about your good family. They owned a lot of property, and then the depression came. Well, how sad, how tragic. And now you work down here in a Fifth Street dive, and your name is Evelyn, poor Evelyn, and the folks out here too, and you have the cutest sister, not like the tramps you meet down here, a swell girl and you ask me if I want to meet your sister.” —John Fante, Ask the Dust
“Their stories fells upon me as waves. The more I listened, the farther away I got. And though, after years, I could hear their punchlines coming, I could weigh their contradictions like lemons on a scale and count their crinkled inaccuracies—even within their private realms of truth—they never became familiar. That intimacy, grown out of their need to tell and my having, simply, to be there, became a kind of insulation against knowing them. So in the end, how could I knock them for wanting to be alone? Hadn’t I, in all those visits, buoyed myself in their stories just to stay apart?”
—from “The Visitor”
(Words and images by © Chris Bronsk 2014.)