A designer who writes.


Findings

A library of collectanea.


All Montaigne’s skills at jumping between perspectives come to the fore when he writes about animals. We find it hard to understand them, he says, but they must find it just as hard to understand us. “This defect that hinders communication between them and us, why is it not just as much ours as theirs?”

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:53pm on March 19, 2017

This is because Montaigne borrows a technique from Plutarch: he constructs his argument by heaping up case studies. Stories and facts spill out in every paragraph like flowers from a cornucopia.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:53pm on March 19, 2017

Variation always solaces, dissolves, and dissipates. If I cannot combat it, I escape it; and in fleeing I dodge, I am tricky.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:53pm on March 19, 2017

Mindful attention is the trick that underlies many of the other tricks. It is a call to attend to the inner world—and thus also to the outer world, for uncontrolled emotion blurs reality as tears blur a view.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:52pm on March 19, 2017

They also agreed that the best path to eudaimonia was ataraxia, which might be rendered as “imperturbability” or “freedom from anxiety.” Ataraxia means equilibrium: the art of maintaining an even keel, so that you neither exult when things go well nor plunge into despair when they go awry. To attain it is to have control over your emotions, so that you are not battered and dragged about by them like a bone fought over by a pack of dogs.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:52pm on March 19, 2017

They blended into one another, not as a writer blends into his pseudonym, but as two writers develop their ideas in partnership — often arguing, often disagreeing, yet constantly absorbing.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:52pm on March 19, 2017

His rule in reading remained the one he had learned from Ovid: pursue pleasure. “If I encounter difficulties in reading,” he wrote, “I do not gnaw my nails over them; I leave them there. I do nothing without gaiety.”

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:51pm on March 19, 2017

Often, books need not be used at all. One learns dancing by dancing; one learns to play the lute by playing the lute. The same is true of thinking, and indeed of living.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:51pm on March 19, 2017

As happens with much early life experience, it benefited him in exactly the areas where it also damaged him.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:50pm on March 19, 2017

The new theories of education emphasized that learning should be pleasurable, and that the only motivation children needed was their inborn desire for knowledge.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:50pm on March 19, 2017

Knowing that the life that remained to him could not be of great length, he said, “I try to increase it in weight, I try to arrest the speed of its flight by the speed with which I grasp it.”

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:50pm on March 19, 2017

Learning how to die was learning to let go; learning to live was learning to hang on.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:49pm on March 19, 2017

Montaigne wanted to drift away, yet he also wanted to attach himself to reality and extract every grain of experience from it. Writing made it possible to do both.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:49pm on March 19, 2017

Death is only a few bad moments at the end of life, he wrote in one of his last added notes; it is not worth wasting any anxiety over.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:48pm on March 19, 2017

I defy any reader of Montaigne not to put down the book at some point and say with incredulity: ‘How did he know all that about me?’ The answer is, of course, that he knows it by knowing about himself.

How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne | Sarah Bakewell 7:48pm on March 19, 2017

I opened up a bit and explained that I have a type I’m drawn to naturally, but that I’ve found that the women I’ve ended up loving the most have never been what I’ve thought of as my type, maybe because part of love is being helpless, being out of control of your own emotions.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists 7:47pm on March 19, 2017

Byron Barton’s “Trucks” was a liturgy to us: “On the road — here come the trucks. They come through tunnels — they go over the bridge.” Those ageless granitic words, night after night, unforgettably.

How Has Parenthood Informed Your Writing Life? – The New York Times 5:30pm on March 19, 2017

Toby is a powerful man: in his physicality, in his experiences, in his charisma. But all that power has culminated in gentleness. It is as if that is the point of power: to allow one to access the higher registers of gentleness.

My Writing Education: A Time Line – The New Yorker 1:31pm on March 7, 2017

What is a saint? Someone particularly attentive to things as they are, and extraordinarily accepting of them. Paley honors every person and thing she creates by presenting it at its best, or at least its liveliest—which may be the same thing.

Grace Paley, the Saint of Seeing – The New Yorker 1:20pm on March 6, 2017

Paley understood that just because such language doesn’t normally get spoken aloud in the so-called real world, that does not make it unreal, or contrived. On the contrary: language like this is the real language going on in the head of man all the time, whether he can articulate it or not.

Grace Paley, the Saint of Seeing – The New Yorker 1:09pm on March 6, 2017