Special Feature: Quotes for the New Year

By Bill Marx

For over a decade, Harvey Blume provided “some quotes to keep in mind for the New Year.” Harvey, a fine writer, tenaciously professional arguer, and a good friend of mine and the magazine, passed away in 2023. I have decided to continue the feature in his honor. So, though not nearly as pithy or pointed, here are a few quotes, words that have stung or sustained me over the past 12 months.


Nothing is more comfortable than not having to think.
Simone Weill

For we do not do what we want to do, but what is easiest and most natural for us to do, and if it is easy for us to do the wrong thing, it is that we will do.
Randolph Bourne

The artist is always searching for the meaning of life, his own and that of mankind, searching for truth. A system of uncertainty has entered our daily life. The pressure of mechanization and uniformity to which it is subject call for protest and the artist has only one means of expressing this, by music.
Bohuslav Martinu

No one survives being over-estimated, nor is there any surer way of destroying an author’s reputation then to glorify him without judgment and to praise him without tact.
Oscar Wilde

“When we act as though virtually everything that gets turned in is some kind of A — where A is supposedly meaning ‘excellent work’ — we are simply being dishonest to our students,” said Shelly Kagan, a Yale philosophy professor known for being a tough grader. The trend has scrambled the very meaning of grades themselves, he said. Students no longer think B means “good.” An A is the new normal.
Nearly Everyone Gets A’s at Yale. Does That Cheapen the Grade?” — New York Times

New Year

I do not think it is too much to get down on my knees once a week to thank God for the coming wonder and glory of life.
John Cheever

Bring me a handful of dust from a house where no one has died.
Gautama Buddha

Of all the characters that a great author creates, his readers are the best.
Vladimir Nabokov

The critic who reads only lyric poems or American literature will not have the larger perspective to make the necessary judgments. And he will not have the larger perspective if he does not inhabit a world larger than the one defined by literature — for example, the worlds of history and politics. Together with these conditions the critic must possess the qualities of intelligence, taste, and judgment. In Rahv we have an exemplary convergence of conditions and gifts … [for him] evaluation was the essence of criticism.
Eugene Goodheart on Philip Rahv, one of the two founding editors of the Partisan Review. The 50th anniversary of his death, at the age of 64, was on December 22nd. The critic taught at Brandeis University from 1957 until 1973.

As I altered my syntax, I altered my intellect.
William Butler Yeats

Sartre taught us that neither language nor silence is without meaning; that whatever we say, or fail to say, creates or negates values; that every act, as well as every refusal to act, betrays a project.
Victor Brombert

To cast off the idiot Questioner who is always questioning,/But never capable of answering; who sits with a sly grin/ Silent plotting when to question, like a thief in a cave;/Who publishes doubt & calls it knowledge: Whose Science is Despair.
William Blake

The real end of the world is the destruction of the spirit; the other kind depends on the insignificant attempt to see whether after such a destruction the world can go on.
Karl Kraus

While the art journalists were effective propagandists, the quality of their criticism was quite low. They were often verbose and inclined to unimaginative stock phrases…. Even Hitler was aware of the general failure of the critics: as reported in a March 1944 entry in his “table talk,” Hitler stated, “if we were completely deprived of art critics, we would not lose very much!”
Jonathan Petropoulous, The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany

We are in the hands of men whose wealth and power have separated them from the reality of everyday life and from the imagination. We are right to be afraid.
Grace Paley

If the stars that move together as one, disband,/Flying like insects of fire in a cavern of night,/Pipperoo, pippera, pipperum … The rest is rot.
Wallace Stevens

For 2024

Bill Marx is the editor-in-chief of the Arts Fuse. For four decades, he has written about arts and culture for print, broadcast, and online. He has regularly reviewed theater for National Public Radio Station WBUR and the Boston Globe. He created and edited WBUR Online Arts, a cultural webzine that in 2004 won an Online Journalism Award for Specialty Journalism. In 2007 he created the Arts Fuse, an online magazine dedicated to covering arts and culture in Boston and throughout New England.

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  1. Kai Maristed on January 3, 2024 at 10:09 am

    Thanks, Bill. My faves are Nabokov, Blake, and Kraus.

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