June 8, 2010

"Bertrand Russell was so inept, physically, that he could never learn to make a pot of tea."

"Immanuel Kant could not manage to sharpen a quill pen with a penknife.

"John Stuart Mill could barely tie a simple knot."

A few lines from page 5 of "This Is Not a Novel." I love that book.

Written by David Markson, who died last Friday, at the age of 82.

47 comments:

LarsPorsena said...

"Bertrand Russell was so inept, physically, that he could never learn to make a pot of tea."

Considering how many women Russell bedded he must have been quite nimble in other aspects.

Paddy O said...

Plato, they say, could stick it away,
half a crate of whiskey everyday.

Paddy O said...

Immanuel Kant could not manage to sharpen a quill pen with a penknife.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable.

Paddy O said...

John Stuart Mill could barely tie a simple knot.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will, on half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.

Bob said...

Bruce's Philosopher's Song by Monty Python.

traditionalguy said...

I take it that Russell and Mill could not field dress a moose, shoot a wolf, or play point guard on a basketball team either. What sheltered lives the English elite had to live. All books and no play made them dull boys.

EDH said...

What a loss to the nation, indeed the world.

He sounds exactly like the kind of "expert" who could tell Obama whose ass needs kicking.

edutcher said...

The reason why things like philosophy majors are often known as "You want fries with that?" degrees.

Christy said...

I, too, loved This is Not a Novel. It is a great book to pick up and flip through for such gems about creative people as those you quoted. Not until I made myself read through from the beginning did I realize how all those apparently disjointed facts build to form a narrative. Stunning piece of creative work by Markson. R.I.P.

Christy said...

Edutcher, I don't have the book handy, but I'm pretty sure he has similar bits about the likes of Feynman, Dirac, and Einstein.

Dead Julius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ricpic said...

By dint of mucho practice I've turned myself into a pretty good cook. But I still live in terror of getting a flat on the highway...which proves exactly nothing.

Old Dad said...

Dead,

Does posting irritating irrelevant selfrighteous bullshit make you feel better about yourself?

Rhetorical, of course

Ann Althouse said...

This post is to praise a novelist, not to hate on philosophers. Go read the book and then come back and talk about it, Dead Julius.

Paddy O said...

"does pouring hate on philosophers make y'all feel better about yourselves"

Pouring hate on philosophers makes philosophers feel better about themselves too. If they weren't made fun of by hoi polloi, then they couldn't feel elitist. Being mocked helps them better achieve the optimal "I'm ahead of the curve" attitude that all really good philosophers have to maintain.

Paddy O said...

I'm going to read the book, by the way.

It's been added to my summer reading list.

ricpic said...

Bertrand Russell could never hit the cut off man. Worse than that, while thinking deep thoughts in deep right field he would forget about the existence of the cut off man and lazily lob the ball back in the general direction of the infield. That's why the word was out that when there were men in scoring positions -- hit to Russell in right.

Lem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sixty Grit said...

Oh, I thought this was about Jane Russell. Never mind...

WV: masiv (seriously!)

traditionalguy said...

Dead Julius...I apologise if you are a Philosopher. But not having read the book, yes I like to ridicule Russel and Mill. Have you read those nimble brained sophists books? They use hundreds of pages to prove that they can mess up people's minds, and in the end say nothing at all.

Christopher J Feola said...

Here you go: this explains everything...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2kAnTZBnTg&feature=related

Sixty Grit said...

Didn't Godel prove that Bertrand Russell was wrong? Not just wrong but you-just-wasted-your-life-and-your-book-is-not-worth-a-hoot wrong? In your face, Bertrand, and take your Principia with you.

All Cretans are liars. For "Cretans" read "liberals". Hoowah! Logic FTW!

WV- motize - what you need when you are down to your last tie.

t-man said...

Aristotle would drive for miles on the highway with his turn signal blinking away.

t-man said...

Nietzsche never could figure out how to turn on his television and cable box at the same time.

showbiz111 said...

We're supposed to learn life's secrets from people who failed living 1.0?

edutcher said...

Christy said...

Edutcher, I don't have the book handy, but I'm pretty sure he has similar bits about the likes of Feynman, Dirac, and Einstein.

Possibly. They had their problems coping, also. I believe Einstein was the original inspiration for the "absent-minded professor"

Richard Dolan said...

From Russell to Wittgenstein, who was the inspiration (sort of) for Markson's other inspired bit of writing, Wittgenstein's Mistress. A one-woman version of The Road, without all the nasties and nastiness that Cormac McCarthy conjures up along the way. It's remarkable that Markson squeezed one good novel out of material such as that; two deserved a Nobel.

And people say that Althouse doesn't like novels. Heh.

dbp said...

When I studied Philosophy, we thought of ourselves as philosophers. Now, I don't think of myself as a philosopher, but rather as someone who studied that subject and others as well.

I worked between my degree in Philosophy and going back for a more practical degree and it was not french-fry cookery, but equally low-end. If my study had gained me nothing else, I learned that I could be happy and have a full life doing anything.

I care that Philosophy is demeaned as a proper field of study, but perhaps not the way one would think. I went to school to follow where my curiosity would lead. I have no problem with education as a means to a good living, but I have a hard time understanding how that could be considered as more noble.

dbp said...

Actually, I was a pretty crappy philosopher: I could understand Nietzsche as well as the next guy, but never came up with much original thought of my own.

Perhaps I was handicapped by being good at every practical thing I ever tried: I can cook, do scientific research, change the brakes on my car, build furniture, plumb, troubleshoot electronics, plus my job--which is different from all of those other things...

Alex said...

Dead Julius has no idea what this post is about, but feels he has the right to comment about it. Liberals are rude assholes, aren't they?

Dead Julius said...

@Althouse-

This post is to praise a novelist, not to hate on philosophers. Go read the book and then come back and talk about it, Dead Julius.

Shouldn't it be "praise a not-a-novelist"?

Anyway... since you've told me to, I'm going to do exactly that! This Althouse lackey is off to the bookstore.

Please give more reading suggestions, dear Professor. I'm sure I never would have heard of this dead dude or his non-novel if it weren't for you.

Alex said...

Please give more reading suggestions, dear Professor. I'm sure I never would have heard of this dead dude or his non-novel if it weren't for you.

Another example of typical vicious liberal behavior.

Jimmy said...

Ann

I just ordered "This is not a Novel" on Amazon through your link. Thanks.

I read "Strong Opinions" because you mentioned it and it sounded interesting. Loved it. It made me laugh out loud a bunch.

Perhaps you should list Ann's books in a sidebar, so it easy for readers to order when in the mood to buy books.

Political said...

Stay tuned for June 8, 2010 “Mini” Super Tuesday Election Results: http://mittromneycentral.com/2010/06/08/june-8-2010-%E2%80%9Cmini%E2%80%9D-super-tuesday-election-results-let%E2%80%99s-chat/ A lot is going to be happening all night and we all need to help each other make sure we don’t miss anything.

Also, who is everyone rooting for in the big races? Is there a race that we aren’t focusing on that we should be?

Kirby Olson said...

Was there ever a first class athlete who was also a first class professional philosopher, or vice versa? Yogi berra might qualify.

ironrailsironweights said...

Emily Dickinson was a terrible pole dancer.

Peter

Sixty Grit said...

Kirby - you have named the only one. Sui generis. Greatest American philosopher ever. The rest are fakers. Fakers who couldn't play ball, either.

Lincolntf said...

He's not exactly an "athlete and philosopher", but Moe Berg's life story is fascinating.

PDG9 said...

Thank you so much for posting about David Markson. I have four of his books, and I've re-read at least two of those. He was brilliant, he was original, and he was obscure. So thank you for the tribute on his death.

Duscany said...

ironrailsironweights said: "Emily Dickinson was a terrible pole dancer."

I used to think so too but then I saw kinescopes recordings of her act at the "Stop For Death" cafe and completely changed my mind.

Duscany said...

dbp: "Perhaps I was handicapped by being good at every practical thing I ever tried: I can cook, do scientific research, change the brakes on my car, build furniture, plumb, troubleshoot electronics. . . "

I have often thought that one reason liberals are so attracted to socialism is that it addresses their deepest fear--that left to their own devices they can't take care of themselves.

Conservatives/libertarians, on the other hand, aren't much attracted to redistribute schemes because they figure they can take care of themselves--still an error but a much less grievous one.

Pogo said...

Dang it, I thought this was a breast post about Jane Russell, and who would care if she could make tea??

Largo said...


Bertrand Russell:

One of the advantages of living in Great Court, Trinity, I seem to recall, was the fact that one could pop across at any time of the day or night and trap the then young G.E. Moore into a logical falsehood by means of a cunning semantic subterfuge. I recall one occasion with particular vividness....

John Salmon said...

It also should be noted that JM Keynes couldn't use a PC to save his life, and that CS Lewis found the GPS in his car nearly impossible to "navigate".

ErnieG said...

Cleanup on Aisle 1:44 AM. Porn spam, per Google Language Tools.

ErnieG said...

There is a story I had heard as an undergraduate, about Norbert Wiener. Professor Wiener ran into a graduate student in the hall at MIT one day, and they talked mathematics for several minutes. As they parted, Professor Wiener asked, "Excuse me, which way was I going when you stopped me?"

"That way, Professor."

"Good. Then I've already had lunch."

ErnieG said...

To balance my previous post:

As a human being Wiener was above all stimulating. I have known some who found the stimulus unwelcome. He could offend publicly by snoring through a lecture and then asking an awkward question in the discussion, and also privately by proffering information and advice on some field remote from his own to an august dinner companion. I like to remember Wiener as I once saw him late at night in Magdalen College, Oxford, surrounded by a spellbound group of undergraduates, talking, endlessly talking. We are all the poorer that he now talks no more.

* David George Kendall, writing in the Times