"But then people don't read literature in order to understand; they read it because they want to re-live the feelings and sensations which they found exciting in the past. Art can be a lot of things; but in actual practice, most of it is merely the mental equivalent of alcohol and cantharides."
"Life's so ordinary that literature has to deal with the exceptional. Exceptional talent, power, social position, wealth.... Dramabegins where there's freedom of choice. And freedom of choice begins when social or psychological conditions are exceptional. That's why the inhabitants of imaginative literature have always been recruited from the pages of Who's Who."
"The finest works of art are precious, among other reasons, because they make it possible for us to know, if only imperfectly and for a little while, what it actually feels like to think subtly and feel nobly."
"Give me Catholicism every time. Father Cheeryble with his thurible; Father Chatterjee with his liturgy. What fun they have with all their charades and conundrums! If it weren't for the Christianity they insist on mixing in with it, I'd be converted tomorrow."
"Nobody who has any kind of creative imagination can possibly be anything but disappointed with real life.... Of course, you couldalways argue that you live more intensely in your mental world-substitute than we who only wallow in the real thing.... But the trouble is that you can't be content to stick to your beautiful ersatz. You have to descend into evening clothes and Ciro's and chorus girls--and perhaps even politics ... with lamentable results. Because you're not at home with these lumpy bits of matter. They depress you, they bewilder you, they shock you and sicken you and make a fool of you."
"When truth is nothing but the truth, it's unnatural, it's an abstraction that resembles nothing in the real world. In nature thereare always so many other irrelevant things mixed up with the essential truth. That's why art moves you--precisely because it's unadulterated with all the irrelevancies of real life."
"The whole story of the universe is implicit in any part of it. The meditative eye can look through any single object and see, as through a window, the entire cosmos. Make the smell of roast duck in an old kitchen diaphanous and you will have a glimpse of everything, from the spiral nebulae to Mozart's music and the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. The artistic problem is to produce diaphanousness in spots, selecting the spots so as to reveal only the most humanly significant of distant vistas behind the near familiar object."
"Real orgies are never so exciting as pornographic books. In a volume by Pierre Louys all the girls are young and their figures perfect; there's no hiccoughing or bad breath, no fatigue or boredom, no sudden recollections of unpaid bills or business letters unanswered, to interrupt the raptures. Art gives you the sensation, the thought, the feeling quite pure--chemically pure, I mean,... not morally."
"Perhaps dirt is the necessary condition of beauty.... Perhaps hygiene and art can never be bedfellows. No Verdi, after all, without spitting into trumpets. No Duse without a crowd of malodorous bourgeois giving one another their coryzas. And think of the inexpugnable retreats for microbes prepared by Michelangelo in the curls of Moses' beard!"
"Where beauty is worshipped for beauty's sake as a goddess, independent of and superior to morality and philosophy, the most horrible putrefaction is apt to set in. The lives of the aesthetes are the far from edifying commentary on the religion of beauty."