Tag Archives: Thomas Berger

Thomas Berger, 1924-2014

From Berger’s 1970 novel Vital Parts: “The trick of survival was to accomplish something of no utility, and so small as to be inconspicuous.” If we admit that books, like so many of the best things, have no utility, then perhaps it explains Berger’s longevity. He was a recluse and underappreciated, but Little Big Man alone (which is so much better than the film based on it) is accomplishment enough for any life, I think.

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Marginalia, no.152

Provincial American cities evoke in me a terrible feeling of desolation as evening falls… Whereas in Manhattan at any hour of the night one can step into the street and encounter a werewolf or at least a derelict who will vomit on one’s shoes. How can I exist in a place in which I am not reminded incessantly that only man is vile?

~ Thomas Berger, in a letter

Everyone suffers the occasional failure of imagination.

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Marginalia, no.145

The rule of life seems to be that people are always ruined by the fulfillment rather than the denial of their hopes.

~ Thomas Berger, Vital Parts

Nonetheless, I say: ‘Bring on the ruin.’  Of course, this would mean that we effectively live each day in a state of perpetual lusting after disaster.  I suppose that sounds about right.

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Marginalia, no.118

The trick of survival was to accomplish something of no utility, and so small as to be inconspicuous.

~ Thomas Berger, Vital Parts

Berger’s Reinhart is thinking here of the barely perceptible bumps and dents he left in the family home as a child and which are still there years later when everything has been repainted and refurbished.  We find it easy to list off our significant influences: parents, teachers, mentors, artists, religious figures and philosophers.  But we must also bear the marks of innumerable lesser – even momentary – encounters, long forgotten, of equal or greater importance.  Like figures from a polaroid that’s fallen in the water, we bleed into each other.  The knocks and nicks and scrapes we carry are as difficult to account for as the final conundrum of our self.  Those we give unknowingly to others make up a shadow memorial of our life.

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