Ellin on worker motivation

“While many programs bolster self-esteem and promote good cheer — it can be fun, after all, to pelt the boss with paint — most take place away from the office and all the frustrations and power struggles that go with it. As a result, critics say, they tend to create an artificial, almost vacation-like atmosphere that has little relevance in the real corporate world.”

— From Motivational Missteps by Abby Ellin in the New York Times Management Reader: Hot Ideas and Best Practices from the New World of Business

Rushdie on the power of the novel

Rushdie at 2008 dinner honoring writer Amos Oz (David Shankbone/Wikipedia)

“There are other reasons, too, for proposing the novel as the crucial art form of what I can no longer avoid calling the post-modern age. For one thing, literature is the art least subject to external control, because it is made in private. The act of making it requires only one person, one pen, one room, some paper. (Even the room is not absolutely essential). Literature is the most low-technology of the art forms. It requires neither a stage nor a screen. It calls for no interpreters, no actors, producers, camera crews, costumiers, musicians. It does not even require the traditional apparatus of publishing, as the long running success of samizdat literature demonstrates. The [Michel] Foucault essay [What is an author?] suggests that literature is as much at risk from the enveloping, smothering forces of the market economy, which reduces books to mere products. The danger is real, and I do not want to seem to be minimizing it. But the truth is that of all the forms, literature can still be the most free. The more money a piece of work costs, the easier it is to control. Film, the most expensive of art forms, is also the least subversive. This is why, although Carlos Fuentes cites the work of film-makers like [Luis] Buñuel, [Ingmar] Bergman, and [Federico] Fellini as instances of successful secular revolts into the territory of the sacred, I continue to believe in the greater possibilities of the novel. Its singularity is its best protection.”

— From “Is Nothing Sacred?” written by Salman Rushdie and delivered by Harold Pinter as part of the Herbert Read Memorial Lecture at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in February 1990 and published by Granta both as a pamphlet that carried the same title and in its 31st issue.

Bryson on his grandmother’s crank telephone

From Corbis images

“It all seems long ago now. And it was. It was so long ago, in fact, that my grandparents had a crank telephone, the kind that hung on the wall and had a handle you turned and said: ‘Mabel, get me Gladys Scribbage. I want to ask her how she makes her ‘Frosted Flakes ‘n’ Cheez-Whizz Party Nuggets.’ Everybody listened in. My grandmother often listened in when things were slow around the house, covering the mouthpiece with a hand and relaying to the rest of the room vivid accounts of colonic irrigations, prolapsed wombs, husbands who ran off to Burlington with the barmaid from Vern’s Uptown Tavern and Supper Club, and other crises of small-town life. We always had to maintain the strictest silence during these sessions. I could never entirely understand why because if things got really juicy my grandmother would often butt in. ‘Well, I think Merle’s a real skunk,’ she would say. ‘Yes, that’s right, it’s Maude Bryson here, and I just want to say that I think he’s an absolute stinker to do that to poor Pearl. And I’ll tell you something else, Mabel, you know you could get those support bras a dollar cheaper in Columbus Junction.’ In about 1962 the telephone company came and put a normal phone without a party-line in my grandmother’s house, possibly at the request of the rest of the town. It drove a hole right through her life from which she never entirely recovered.”
— From More Fat Girls in Des Moines written by Bill Bryson and published in Granta 26, the Travel issue in Spring 1989

Moody on Writing

“At the end of the day, if you can do anything else — telemarketing, pharmaceutical sales, or ditch-digging, major league umpire — I would suggest you do that because being a writer blows: it’s like having homework for the rest of your life.”

— Hank Moody, protagonist of Californication, played by David Duchovny

Eco on The Da Vinci Code


Have you read The Da Vinci Code?

Umberto Eco

Yes, I am guilty of that too.


That novel seems like a bizarre little offshoot of Foucault’s Pendulum.


The author, Dan Brown, is a character from Foucault’s Pendulum. I invented him. He shares my characters’ fascinations — the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist.

(From the Summer 2008 issue of Paris Review, No. 185, page 88 as interviewed by Lila Azam Zanganeh, a contributor to Le Monde. She has written a collection of essays on Iran entitled My Brother, Guard Your Eyes.)

Roger and McWilliams on Happiness

“Happiness is not easy. It’s not for the weak, the timid, the wishy-washy, the easily dissuaded, or the uncertain. Happiness is not for wimps. Happiness requires courage, stamina, persistence, fortitude, perseverance, bravery, boldness, valor, vigor, concentration, solidity, substance, backbone, grit, guts, moxie, nerve, pluck, resilience, spunk, tenacity, tolerance, will power, chutzpah, and a good thesaurus.”

— John-Roger and Peter McWilliams in Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School — But Didn’t

De la Costa on History

“There are those who say that all we can learn from history is that we never learn from history. Perhaps that is an extreme position…But if history can give us no foresight whatever, and perhaps little hindsight, what can it give us? History gives us a knowledge of men. Not the abstract knowledge we derive from philosophy, not the more or less fictional knowledge we derive from literature, but a concrete knowledge, a knowledge of men acting, men suffering, men in every conceivable circumstance of life and death…Perhaps a kind of wisdom. Not ready-made solutions to our present ills; not fantastic speculations as to the future; but the courage to face the facts, the humility to learn from them, the intelligence to act upon them, and the faith to believe that if we do what in us lies, God will do the rest.

— Horacio de la Costa, S. J., as quoted in Gregorio C. Brilliantes’ Chronicles of Interesting Times