July 23, 2014 / 147133 Notes

Mythology Asks


Anubis: How do you feel about death?

Atum: What are your greatest imperfections?
Bastet: Do you have any cats?
Hathor: What brings you joy?
Horus: What is one thing you’ve had to fight for in your life?
Osiris: Do you believe in the underworld?
Ra: Do you have any major responsibilities or…
July 23, 2014 / 0 Notes


Having no facility for speech-making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this Prize.

No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.

It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.

How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.


Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize Speech (1954)
July 23, 2014 / 1 Notes


I returned over and over to key speeches as if they were prayers or clues. I’d always thought of Hamlet’s melancholy as existential. His sense that the world “is out of joint” came across as vague and philosophical, the dilemma of a depressive young man who can’t stop chewing at big metaphysical questions. But now it seemed to me that Hamlet was moody and irascible in no small part because he is grieving: his father has just died. He is radically dislocated, stumbling through the days while the rest of the world acts as if nothing important has changed.

For the trouble is not just that Hamlet is sad; it is that everyone around him is unnerved by his grief. When Hamlet comes onstage, his uncle greets him with the worst question you can ask a grieving person: “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, tries to get him to see that his loss is “common.” No wonder Hamlet is angry and cagey; he is told that how he feels is “unmanly” and unseemly. This was a predicament familiar to me. No one was telling me that my sadness was unseemly, but I felt, all the time, that to descend to the deepest fathom of it was somehow taboo. (As my dad said, “You have this choice when you go out and people ask how you’re doing. You can tell the truth, which you know will make them really uncomfortable, or seem inappropriate. Or you can lie. But then you’re lying.”) I was struck, too, by how much of Hamlet is about the precise kind of slippage the mourner experiences: the difference between being and seeming, the uncertainty about how the inner translates into the outer, the sense that one is expected to perform grief palatably. (If you don’t seem sad, people worry; but if you are grief-stricken, people flinch away from your pain.)

… Hamlet also captures an aspect of loss I found difficult to speak about — the profound ennui, the moments of angrily feeling it is not worth continuing to live. In A Grief Observed, Lewis captures the laziness of grief, how it made him not want to shave or answer letters. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy invokes that numb exhaustion:

O that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter.
O God! God! How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!

“Weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable”: yes. I shared with Hamlet the pained wish that I might melt away.

Researchers have found that the bereaved are at a higher risk for suicidal thinking than the depressed. But Hamlet, I thought, is less searching actively for death than wishing futilely for the world to make sense again. And this, too, was how I felt.


Meghan O’Rourke

On Quarter Life Crisis:

July 22, 2014 / 4 Notes

Note: For a friend,an elaboration of my definition of quarter life crisis, “Something I don’t believe in, but I think I have.”

I don’t believe in quarter life crisis, because for one, I believe it’s relatively normal to not have all the answers for everything during our 20’s. I think this “quarter life crisis,” is modern invention by people who are accustomed to the fast and the instant. Those who have unrealistic expectations of how life should be like at this certain age. Like, “When I turn (x,) I should already be (x.)” And then life happens, and they get disappointed. There comes that inevitable failure, not because we are incompetent, but because the circumstances are not in our favour; as it wont do. Suddenly the reality of everything sets in. They get mad, sad, perhaps even depressed — a certain kind of plateau that naturally follows every failure of grand expectations.

I don’t believe in quarter life crisis because I honestly think that this particular phase is a part of the natural order of things. I don’t think anyone, even those beyond their 50’s , have everything all sorted out.

As platitudinous as this may sound, it all boils down to the fancy greek idea of “knowing one’s self.” Invariably, the process is something present-progressive, with an indefinite; possibly without, end.

But at the same time, I also to think that I have one by the very reason I’m looking for something to blame for my mishaps. Because it’s easier to rationalise all the wrong that’s happened when you can pass the blame to someone other than yourself.

Because it’s easier to say, “I’m having a quarter life crisis,” than to admit that the reason I keep making unsound decisions is because I’m afraid of the possibility of failure. Like, “I like acting, but I’m afraid it’s something not meant for me. What if I pursue it and ultimately fail? What then?”

For every decision, we like the assurance of equivalent exchange. So we keep postponing our decisions, settling for “lesser” ambitions, while waiting for that ultimate sign to come up.

And then, I’ll make my decision.

Until then, I think I’m having a quarter life crisis.

July 22, 2014 / 1195 Notes

"I felt like crying but nothing came out. it was just a sort of sad sickness, sick sad, when you can’t feel any worse. I think you know it. I think everybody knows it now and then. but I think I have known it pretty often, too often."

Charles Bukowski (via infinitives)

(via thecapriciousanima)