The Fog-horn : Ray Bradbury

“One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said, ‘we need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I’ll make one. I’ll make a voice like all of time and all of the fog that ever was; I’ll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore. I’ll make a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns. I’ll make me a sound and an apparatus and they’ll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.’”

The Only Hope in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men

“Where you went out the back door of that house there was a stone water trough in the weeds by the side of the house. A galvanized pipe come off the roof and the trough stayed pretty much full and I remember stopping there one time and squattin down and looking at it and I got to thinking about it. I don’t know how long it had been there. A hundred years. Two hundred. You could see the chisel marks in the stone. It was hewed out of solid rock and it was about six foot long and maybe a foot and a half wide and about that deep. Just chiseled out of the rock. And I got to thinking about the man that done that. That country had not had a time of peace much of any length at all that I knew of. I’ve read a little of the history of it since and I aint sure it ever had one. But his man had set down with a hammer and chisel and carved out a stone water trough to last ten thousand years. Why was that? What was it that he had faith in? It wasn’t that nothing would change. Which is what you might think, I suppose. He had to know better than that. I’ve thought about it a good deal. I thought about it after I left there with that house blown to pieces. I’m goin to say that water trough is there yet. It would of took something to move it, I can tell you that. So I think about him settin there with his hammer and his chisel, maybe just a hour or two after supper, I don’t know. And I have to say that the only thing I can think is that there was some sort of promise in his heart. And I don’t have no intentions of carvin a stone water trough. But I would like to be able to make that kind of promise. I think that’s what I would like most of all.”

-Sheriff Bell, from “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy

A Brave New World

Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World gets its title from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The line is uttered by the sheltered Miranda. She is astonished to see other men, the coarse and drunken sailors that crashlanded on the island cause her to cry out:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.

The irony is carried over in Brave New World when John the Savage remarks: “O brave new world that has such people in it.”

The civilized Bernard Marx responds: “You have a most peculiar way of talking sometimes,” said Bernard, staring at the young man in perplexed astonishment. “And, anyhow, hadn’t you better wait till you actually see the new world?”

The French edition was titled Le Meilleur des mondes (The Best of all Worlds) an allusion to the phrase coined by the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in his theodicy.

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“About 99.5 per cent of the entire population of the planet are as stupid and philistine as the great masses of the English . . . The important thing, it seems to me, is not to attack the 99.5 per cent – except for exercise – but to try to see that the 0.5 per cent survives, keeps its quality up to the highest possible level and, if possible, dominates the rest.”
-Aldous Huxley

The Sermon to the Sharks in Moby Dick

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There are those sharks now over the side, don’t you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to ’em; tell ’em they are welcome to help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and deliver my message. Here, take this lantern,” snatching one from his sideboard; “now then, go and preach to them!”

Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck to the bulwarks; and then, with one hand drooping his light low over the sea, so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the other hand he solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the side in a mumbling voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling behind, overheard all that was said.

“Fellow-critters: I’se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin’ ob de lips! Massa Stubb say dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor! you must stop dat dam racket!”

“Cook,” here interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden slap on the shoulder,– “Cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn’t swear that way when you’re preaching. That’s no way to convert sinners, Cook!”

“Who dat? Den preach to him yourself,” sullenly turning to go.

“No, Cook; go on, go on.”

“Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:”–

“Right!” exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, “coax ’em to it, try that,” and Fleece continued.

“Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you, fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness–‘top dat dam slappin’ ob de tail! How you tink to hear, ‘spose you keep up such a dam slapping and bitin’ dare?”

“Cook,” cried Stubb, collaring him, “I won’t have that swearing. Talk to ’em gentlemanly.”

Once more the sermon proceeded.

“Your woraciousness, fellow-critters. I don’t blame ye so much for; dat is natur, and can’t be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not’ing more dan de shark well goberned. Now, look here, bred’ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping yourselbs from dat whale. Don’t be tearin’ de blubber out your neighbour’s mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale belong to some one else. I know some o’ you has berry brig mout, brigger dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so dat de brigness of de mout is not to swallar wid, but to bit off de blubber for de small fry ob sharks, dat can’t get into de scrouge to help demselves.”

“Well done, old Fleece!” cried Stubb, “that’s Christianity; go on.”

“No use goin’ on; de dam willains will keep a scrougin’ and slappin’ each oder, Massa Stubb; dey don’t hear one word; no use a-preaching to such dam g’uttons as you call ’em, till dare bellies is full, and dare bellies is bottomless; and when dey do get ’em full, dey wont hear you den; for den dey sink in de sea, go fast to sleep on de coral, and can’t hear noting at all, no more, for eber and eber.”

“Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the benediction, Fleece, and I’ll away to my supper.”

Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his shrill voice, and cried–

“Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can; fill your dam bellies ’till dey bust–and den die!”