Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The terrible thing about ... any of the mechanisms and patented insights that make up so much of any style, is that they are habit-forming, something the style demands in ever-increasing quantities. We learn subtle variations or extensions we once would have thought impossible or nonexistent; but we constantly permit ourselves excesses, both in quantity and quality, that once would have appalled us. That is how styles--and more than styles--degenerate. Stylistic rectitude, like any other, is something that has to be worked at all the time, a struggle--like sleeping or eating or living--that permits only temporary victories; and nothing makes us more susceptible to a vice than the knowledge that we have already overcome it. (The fact that one once used an argument somehow seems to give one the right to ignore it.)
--Randall Jarrell

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