In his lectures on Shakespeare’s Othello, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge argued that what spurs Iago to destroy Othello is nothing more or less than “motiveless malignity.” That to me is still the best definition of pure evil I know of.
If there was one quality Bradbury prized above all others in a writer, it was gusto. And it was a quality that Bradbury had in spades.
Cormac McCarthy is one of our greatest living American novelists. Author of Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road (which won the Pulitzer Prize), McCarthy is a poetic storyteller whose challenging novels explore themes of violence, good and evil, and human survival.
… In the age of Facebook and the constant need to be “likeable,” I suspect there’s a great deal that we (and writers/bloggers in particular) could learn from Hitchens’s contrarian example, lest we all turn into polite, vacuous, inauthentic zombies in the quest to amass as many “friends” as possible.
And on the left, utilitarianism tends to say: “Well, we should have institutions that help everybody in the world.” Well, that sounds nice, but there’s this odd and difficult empirical fact, which is that people are really, really good at extending themselves and helping those that are close to them, and really, really bad at doing it for people far away.
This preoccupation with “wills” isn’t just a contest to come up with the best catchphrase; it’s the search to discover the root motivation(s) of human behavior. Why do human beings do what we do? Why do we maintain crazy beliefs, engage in crazy activities, and stay in crazy relationships?
In today’s world, thanks to YouTube and Internet search engines, their remarks will be remembered by thousands if not millions of people for the rest of their lives — and possibly for even longer than that. Indeed, social media gives new meaning to Mark Antony’s line in Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them;/ The good is oft interred with their bones.”
This is ironic, considering the two leaders Obama invoked most often during the 2008 presidential campaign were Lincoln and King—both of whom suffered from mental illness. (Lincoln suffered from chronic depression all throughout his life; King attempted suicide twice during his adolescence, and experienced periods of depression and mania throughout his adult life.)
Lumet came from the theater, starting his career as an off-Broadway director, then moving into television, then film. He was especially masterful at taking dialogue-driven material and infusing it with a cinematic electricity. Lumet didn’t make filmed versions of stage plays. He made movies. He understood the difference.
While not all of these stories are ostensibly about the creative process, they nevertheless contain an important insight, anticipated by the ancients and borne out by the private lives of creative artists since the Renaissance: reaching for the sun is dangerous business.