Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Latham Diaries

The overriding theme of The Latham Diaries is of a man with all the answers to the Labor Party’s political woes, struggling against a moribund organisation that pointedly ignores everything he has to offer. At one point in the Diaries Latham describes himself as a ‘caucus Cassandra’ – one pleading to warn of dangers ahead, but no one listening. By the end of the book I had this image of Latham as Saint Sebastian, being killed in a kind of slow, unbearable ecstasy by innumerable arrows (ecstasy in the original Greek means to be outside of oneself).

The major difficulty for the reader will be to try and figure out how much of Latham’s attitude and general perceptions have coloured/distorted what actually happened. For example, was Beazley really trying to start a smear campaign, spreading around allegations of sexual misconduct on Latham’s part? And what of some of the more extraordinary claims, like Kevin Rudd breaking down in tears? I’m inclined to think it's too wild and extraordinary to have been invented. But on the other hand, you have to be sceptical. Latham dishes it out on just about everyone, constantly referring to his party colleagues as ‘these people’. I was also shocked that he could be so indiscreet as to report conversations he had had with people that were obviously intended to be private.

In some ways, the book almost reads like a fast paced Christina Stead comedy. Indeed, I thought a lot of the diary entries would make great material for a novel. When we watch television reports, all we see is the official, self-important side of politicians, but Latham here portrays people at their most human and pathetic. Like his visit to Bob and Blanche Hawke's luxury pad. He describes the opulent lifestyle of the former unionist, deciding to leave the house once the masseur arrived for B & B’s regular afternoon sessions. I also enjoyed the sections where Latham goes to Keating for advice. Keating comes across as some sort of wise old mafia boss.

So, strangely enough, this book should give Australians good reason to get involved in politics, as it paints a group of very mediocre and human people. Latham really lifts the veil.

On the Latham policy front, I of course winced every time I had to hear ‘social capital’, ‘mutualism’ or the dreaded ‘ladder of opportunity’ mentioned. I was never really convinced that Latham had a real passion for communities and grass roots democracy. Rather I sensed that he was an ideas nut, an intellectual of sorts, trying to weld his grand social capital scheme onto the Australian public. In the book he states it starkly as, ‘the intellectual reconfiguration of social democracy to deal with the new realities of economic and social change.’ This is a top down approach to social change.

Furthermore, Latham talks about some of his Dick Morris inspired ideas. Here is Latham contrasting his style against Howard’s:

‘I’m under his guard with the politics of personal connection – connecting today with the needs of the Brooks family. This is what Dick Morris calls ‘stooping to succeed’ = staying out of Howard’s firing line on the economy and national security (except for troops out of Iraq), and rolling out a new agenda for families in the outer suburbs.’

But my question is, what is he more impressed by, this type of spin, or the day to day issues that really affect people. His entry about when he went to visit the forests with Bob Brown (whom he admires), is quite revealing:

‘Spend Wednesday and Thursday looking at trees. Not normally my scene, but this is what the New Politics is about: opening up issues for a public dialogue, examining the facts, trying to find points of common interest.’

Most of Latham’s frustrations are that no one listens to his ideas. He even worries over the fact that his ‘ladder of opportunity’ expression had become completely forgotten by the end of the 2004 election campaign.

I reckon I can rely on at least 50% of The Latham Diaries as being true. His sections on the media we can all certainly vouch for. I remember when Crikey was getting all excited over the possibility of there being a buck’s night video of Latham. Just that 50% is enough to give punters a good peek into how our political system works, and make people realise that they could do as good a job if not better themselves. If the Latham diaries has that kind of knock on effect, then it will have been for the good of us all.

Related Web Experience links:

Loner, by Bernard Lagan

Mark Latham Quotes

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

Written as a sequel to Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the great literary leap forward on that original book. Nay, more than that, it would be better to call it a work of genius, as Mark Twain has created something entirely original.

The genius of the novel is in the language employed to narrate the story. It’s all written in the first person, related by Huck Finn himself. On the last page Huck says how glad he is to be done with writing his book: ‘…there ain’t nothing more to write about, and I’m rotten glad of it, because if I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it and aint’t agoing to no more.’

The wonder of this book is how Mark Twain keeps up this local Missouri dialect for the entire 300 pages of the novel, making it so believable. There’s not a moment in the novel where the language seems forced on put on. As Harold Bloom says of Shakespeare’s great characters, Huckleberry Finn is a free agent of himself, a fully formed three dimensional character. Not once throughout the novel did I detect the author’s hand, trying to direct me this way or that. Rather I just enjoyed Huckleberry Finn’s retelling of events.

The story is pretty simple, and is for the most part a picaresque adventure, indeed as the title says. Huck Finn escapes his brutal father by faking his own death, then hooks up with Jim, his aunt’s slave, who has run away after overhearing a conversation where Miss Watson, his owner, says she is going to sell him down the river. Futhermore, he has been accused of killing Huck. So they are on the run together. Huck grows quite fond of Jim, and determines to help him escape. All comes out good in the end when Miss Watson dies and in her will sets Jim free. The bad news for Huckleberry Finn is that he now has another aunt determined to look after and civilise him – a fate worse than death.

Like in Mark Twain’s other books, innocence and experience are mixed in equal measure. Significant parts of the novel come across as being amoral, or at least wanting to wipe the current moral slate clean and start again. As mentioned above, the description of Huckleberry Finn’s father is quite extraordinary. Here is a truly bad man, a lousy bum who beats his son and is also trying to rob Huck out of his own money as well. Yet the way it is described you don’t judge the father, but laugh at Huck’s practical way of going about extracting himself out of these troubles.

Here’s Huck Finn talking about his father:

‘Pap he hadn’t been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn’t want to see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me; thought I used to take to the woods most of the time when he was around. Well, about this time he was found in the river drowned, about twelve mile above town, so people said. They judged it was him, anyway; said this drowned man was just his size, and was ragged, and had uncommon long hair – which was all like pap – but they couldn’t make nothing out of the face, because it had been in the water so long it wasn’t much like a face at all.’

I wonder how America’s Christian right would take this book. The above mentioned scene would not go down too well. There’s also another scene in the book where Huck Finn determines to be bad. Deciding not to turn the slave Jim in (a crime in its day, as Jim would have been someone else’s property), Huck Finn weighs things up. If he’d done the right thing by society, he would have felt terrible for what he’d done to Jim. If he did the right thing by his own conscience, he’s damned by society. So he reasons he may as well turn as bad as can be. Surely the religious right would like to see this book banned.

Another controversial point about this novel is the language used to describe Jim, he’s quite frequently referred to as a ‘n*****’ (sorry folks, I don’t want to write that word on my blog). Plus there are all the other usual descriptions of people of colour from that era – weak, childish, effeminate. However unpalatable it might be to contemporary readers today, it gives a good illustration of attitudes in the days of American slavery. I have not read any bios or critical studies of Mark Twain or Huckleberry Finn, but am sure that these attitudes are not those of the author. Read Pudd’nhead Wilson if you want proof of that.

No wonder this is an American classic. A truly wild, strange, surreal and completely original book. Opening and reading this 121 year old novel, you could swear it was published only yesterday, so fresh and vivid is the language.

Pudd’nhead Wilson is still my favourite, but Huckleberry Finn has turned me into a Mark Twain fan. In these mad, crazy days, full of political lies, media lies and all round cultural garbage, Huckleberry Finn will restore a bit of sanity to your life.

A great American author who belongs to the world.

Related Web Experience links:

Tom Sawyer

Pudd'nhead Wilson

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Indonesia's Struggle, by Greg Barton

This book comes as part of a series called ‘Briefings’ from the University of New South Wales Press on current affairs. The author, Greg Barton, is a senior lecturer in the School of Social and International Studies at Deakin University. He’s also written a bio on former Indonesian President, Abdurrahman Wahid. Indonesia's Struggle is only about 90 pages, so you can knock it off in an afternoon.

For Australians trying to get a grip on terrorism in our region, this is a good little primer. One of the author’s main concerns is the current tendency to reduce Islam to one simple, ideological template. Media portrayal of Muslims has certainly done a good job in conflating Islam and terrorism in the minds of its viewers. Barton goes further in saying that even a lot of commentators in the print media have an overly simplified understanding of Islam. It is crucial that this stop, Barton insists, and that we learn more deeply about the differences within Islam itself.

The book gives a short history of Islamic struggle in Indonesia post independence, and shows that radical, Isalmic groups, calling for the country to be run along the principles of Sharia law, are nothing new. The terrorist challenges we face are certainly not simple. Barton also argues that Indonesia might not be the ‘moderate’ Islamic country we all think it to be. He says it’s not impossible to imagine that a small group of radicals could take over the country and turn it into something like Pakistan.

This is a densely written, albeit brief, book that concentrates the mind wonderfully on possible future problems for Australian relations with Indonesia.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Australian Ugliness, by Robin Boyd

I can’t remember where I first learnt about Robin Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness, but I’m pretty sure it was from one of Barry Humphries’ books. It has his style all over it, or perhaps I should say it appears that the book’s style must have influenced Humphries himself.

Beyond those vague speculations, I don’t know much at all about this book’s background or its place in Australian culture. It was first published in 1960. My library copy is an original first run hardback, replete with cartoon like illustrations. I don’t know if it has been re-printed since.

The book itself is written in a very dry, witty style. There are plenty of lines that made me chuckle out loud. Like when he describes the foreign embassies in Canberra, likening their style to the ‘architectural equivalent of a full-dress diplomatic levee’. In the next sentence Boyd drops this gag, ‘Unfortunately the falsity of the costumes becomes so apparent in the bright light that the effect is more like a fancy dress party.’

It was this dry, droll style, of making jokes whilst keeping a perfectly straight face, that kept me going through the whole of the book, even when there were large swathes of – to me anyway – technical architectural language. I’ve always found art books difficult to read when they are describing visual objects, like paintings or buildings. My eyes just glaze over.

The major beef of The Australian Ugliness is what Boyd calls ‘featurism’ – a rather unfortunate word, indeed an ‘ism’ that never really took off. What he means here is an excess of ornamentation, the Australian need to put on extra airs and graces to make our buildings look interesting. He says we are so uncomfortable with our natural landscape that we have to practically deny that it exists.

This horror of nature is even extended to our signage for male and female public toilets. Says Boyd, ‘The puritan movement finally expanded beyond its object of protecting family life in the suburban developments, and came to mean the public denial of every natural requirement of the human animal.’ Boyd follows this with an amazing list of the different names given for male and female toilets. For example, Romeo and Juliet; Dave and Mabel; Adam and Eve. He cites a ‘confused case’ at the Springvale Hotel in Victoria where the signs on the toilet door read, Dave and Eve.

Here is Boyd again on the subject:

‘It may be argued that these amiable idiocies are the product of suburban style, not a contributory cause of it. Yet their surrealist absurdity represents a philistinian-puritan denial of reality which is one of the wellsprings of the annihilatory approach to natural and historical facts.’

I’m no expert on the subject matter that Robin Boyd discusses in The Australian Ugliness. The book seemed to me, strangely enough, both dated and still relevant. Dated because the book must have been received as ahead of its time upon publication, due to its witty, look-down-your-nose-at-the-world style and well argued put-downs of Australian visual culture. However, The Australian Ugliness still strikes one as pertinent today, with our sprawling suburban landscapes of what are now called ‘McMansions’, using up more space than we need, surely another variation of ‘featurism’.

Kath and Kim’s home kept on coming to mind when I was reading this book, with their huge, strangely empty looking sprawls of green grass, usurping the natural landscape. Not to mention Kath and Kim’s concern with the signage for male and female on the toilets of public venues (remember the episode where they organise a hen’s night out?).

An Australian literary curio, an acquired taste.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

In The Shadow of Swords, by Sally Neighbour

This is a must read, especially for Australians. Four Corners Journalist Sally Neighbour has done us all a favour with her balanced and superbly detailed study of terrorism and its roots.
In The Shadow of Swords for the most part concentrates on terror groups in Southeast Asia (this also includes operatives active in Australia), most notably Jemaah Islamiyah (the terms means Islamic Community).

For those confused by why Bali was targeted, and why the terrorists who carried out those attacked jumped for joy at the number of Westerners killed, Sally Neighbour provides an instructive history of Indonesian politics and religion.

Long a colony of the Dutch, Indonesia threw off its colonial shackles after the Second World War. One of the movements at this time was called Darul Islam, translated as Abode of Islam. This group was opposed to the secular Indonesia that emerged with independence, and wanted a more Islamic state.

Thus there has long been an anti-secular movement in Indonesia. Fast forward to today. Add Osama bin Laden’s narrative of oppressed and downtrodden Muslims the world over and you get Jemaah Isamiyah. Stir in a few absolutely crazy, murderous nutcases, with no scruples whatsoever, and you know the result: the Bali bombings.

Sally Neighbour doesn’t aim to provide readers with one simple, explain all reason for the actions of these terrorists. Wisely, she shows that what is driving Islamic terror is a disparate and unruly mix of ideology, history, religion, and downright murderous craziness.

Indeed, what can explain the actions of someone like Jack Roche, the only Australian put behind bars for attempting to stage an act of terror? He was an Englishman who migrated to Australia. Can there be anyone more unlikely to convert to Islam and commit to performing armed jihad? He was a former alcoholic with a couple of failed marriages behind him. Maybe some people are just so vulnerable they’ll look for absolutely anything to give their life meaning.

I’ve always felt that we have an extremely poor grasp of what is happening in the terrorist world. It’s like we’ve been suddenly woken from our slumbers, while these mad bomb makers have been busy all through the night. While terrorists seethe with anger at the perceived crimes of the West, we carry on with our daily lives cheerfully oblivious. When Western leaders say we should defy the terrorists by going on with our daily lives, it seems an entirely inappropriate response. We should all be switched on to what’s happening, what the mindset of these people is, what’s driving them.

A perfect example of how far behind the eight ball we are: three times Jack Roche called ASIO, trying to tip them off. The second time he told them he was off to Indonesia to have a meeting with Abu Bakar Bashir! The third time he left a message with ASIO. No one returned his call. You have to wonder, don’t you? It’s quite obvious that our agencies and politicians don’t really have a clue. Like, why did the fact that the London Bombings were carried out by British nationals come as such a shock?

And what of Australia’s famed close relationship with America. When the terrorist Jabarah was caught by the Americans, and confessed all in May 2002, none of the relevant information was relayed to Australian agencies. Some of the key information that would have been enormously helpful to Australians was the tip-off that Hambali was now planning to bomb nightclubs.

From the book:

‘This information would have been of enormous interest to Australian investigators, if only they had known. But not only was Australia refused access to Jabarah personally, it was also denied the benefit of the treasure trove of facts he had provided. Jabarah’s information was distributed widely throughout Southeast Asia in mid-2002 – but not to Australia.’

The FBI claimed the info in the report did not concern Australia, but Australian intelligence insiders said, ‘The FBI is the most hopeless organisation in the world when it comes to information management…They probably didn’t even know where Australia was.’

Sally Neighbour finishes up her book with a glum but realistic assessment. The notion of a war on terror is entirely inappropriate, because it’s not really a war in the conventional sense, and it is misleading the public by letting them think that it can be won. It can’t be won. We are stuck with it.

The bombings and killings will continue. When a ‘martyr’ bomber dies, they see it as a political, spiritual and religious win. How do we in the West win against this mindset? How committed to spreading democracy and freedom are we? Not very, I should say. How many people would be willing to go and fight in Iraq to spread Western democracy? You know the answer.

We will continue to be inward looking and solipsistic. When the next bomb goes off, there will be big words about beating terrorists, but we will still be impotent and confused.

Unfortunately, terror, indiscriminate murder, is something we have to live with. But reaching out for understanding about why this is happening is a step in the right direction.

Sally Neighbour’s book is an indispensable guide for Australians trying to learn more.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tallulah!, by Joel Lobenthal

Joel Lobenthal’s biography of Tallulah Bankhead has no time for Miss Bankhead’s legendary cult status as gay icon. At various stages in the book the author describes Bankhead’s legions of gay fans as misogynists and saboteurs. It’s as if Susan Sontag’s famous Notes on Camp had never been written, in which Sontag lists Tallulah Bankhead as one of ‘The great stylists of temperament and mannerism.’ Sorry, but Sontag’s description of camp seems like praise to me. By doggedly refusing to discuss Tallulah’s camp appeal, this book loses any possible zest it may have possessed.

It’s a pretty big book, over 500 pages. As far as I can tell, the book’s aim is to make a ‘serious’ appraisal of Tallulah’s career and definitively slot her somewhere into the history of film and stage. Lobenthal wants to give Tallulah the dignity that he feels her icon status denies her. The result is a sluggish book. It has some moments, but they are the sections where Tallulah thankfully does most of the talking.

The most boring parts are all the theatre descriptions and names, names, names of people I’ve never heard of before. The plots of dull, second rate plays are also summarised in unnecessary detail. Who cares? You’d have to be a theatre aficionado of the time to really enjoy all the talk about these forgotten directors, writers and actors.

I noticed one glaring error in the text. On page 154 Lobenthal describes actor Harry Kendal being glimpsed in the Hitchcock film Young and Strange. No such film exists. He’s obviously mixed up either Hitchock’s Rich and Strange (a line out of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets) or Young and Innocent. I don’t know which. Such muddle headed scholarship is a bit of a worry. Who knows what other errors there are in the text?

I only finished this book because of Tallulah. In the early fifties she wrote her own autobiography – or rather dictated it to a ghost writer. No doubt she could have written it herself. She was a huge reader. (She found Proust ‘a bit excessive’, finishing his long novel out of a sense of intellectual duty). I sense her autobiography would be full of pithy, sharp as a tack observations, like Lucille Ball’s wonderful memoirs.

Let’s leave the last words to Tallulah Bankead herself, from the above mentioned autobiography:

‘If I have my history right, it is the heretics, the nonconformists, the iconoclasts who have enriched our lives, added both to our knowledge, our progress, and our happiness.’

Sunday, October 09, 2005

War:The Lethal Custom, by Gwynne Dyer

This book is pretty much a short history of warfare, the type of thing that sounds dullsville to those not obsessed with all things military. Mixed in with the history of warfare are fascinating chapters on psychology, evolution and the reductio ad absurdum of nuclear war.

Is war in our genes? Dyer says all the evidence points towards a yes. Even hunter gatherer societies indulged in low lever forms of warfare – raids on other groups for example – that ended killing decent percentages of those communities. However, with the rise of civilisation and mass, centralised populations, the ante was upped, technology improved, until things got all out of control.

Civilisation’s progress came to a hideous head in the First World War, with its industrialised carnage. From then on the battle was more to create the best and most fearful technology. During the Second World War, because the Americans and British feared the Germans were working on a nuclear bomb, they made a dash to invent one first. This of course led onto the cold war. There are still massive challenges to be met, despite the end of the cold war, with nuclear weapons still proliferating in other parts of the world. (We all know about the stand off between India and Pakistan.)

One interesting thing I learned from this book is that before the First World War, it was pretty much taboo to target civilians in war. With the advent of so-called total war, that taboo was broken. Air power helped this development. It was the Germans who first started, in the First World War, actually bombing and killing British civilians as a terror tactic. This was supposed to cow the enemy by showing how far they were willing to go in such an all out war environment. During the Second World War, the Americans bombed many Japanese cities, killing many, many thousands of Japanese civilians. Many burned to death. Anyone who has seen the excellent documentary The Fog of War will have seen former secretary of defence during the Vietnam war Robert McNamara discuss these bombings, which he had a hand in planning. (He said he should have been tried as a war criminal for these actions.)

The author has some interesting comments to make about the frequency with which powerful nations make war:

‘There is a steep and consistent gradient of suffering, in which the most powerful nations fight most often and lose most heavily in lives and wealth. The solace that small inoffensive nations can take from this, however, is somewhat limited by the fact that the great-power wars of the twentieth century swept almost all the smaller countries into the conflagration too.’

Dyer also discusses terrorism in his book, giving a refreshingly different view of the current phenomenon that Western countries are dealing with. In the scheme of things, he says it is basically small fry warfare, the tool of the weak. It is not a major global threat. Most chillingly, he says that it is possible that nuclear weapons could get into the hands of a terrorist group and be used against civilian populations. This, however, is nothing when compared to the looming nuclear stand-offs that are sure to come in the future between emerging great powers like China and India.

I really enjoyed Gwynne Dyer’s book on War. It appeared to me an even handed, dispassionate study of war. His discussion of our current, highly emotive terrorist woes, done with a reserved historian’s view, should be essential reading for anyone who wants to gain some distance and perspective to what the world is going through at the moment.

Dyer joined the navy at 17 and served with the American and British navies. He holds a Ph.D in military history from the University of London. War: The Lethal Custom was originally published in 1985. It was revised in 2004.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Monsieur Proust, by Celeste Albaret

Patrick White confessed to finding Proust a tad on the boring side, and after having ploughed through In Search of Lost Time (commonly translated as Remembrance of Things Past, which is actually a line from one of Shakespeare’s Sonnets), he said he doubted he’d ever attempt it again.

I think Patrick White to be one of the most unreadable authors of all time, and so I was amazed that he found the longwinded Proust a chore. I presumed that some of those long, obscure Proustian passages would have been right up Patrick White’s alley.

True, Proust can be dullsville. Plus his never-ending sentences (some go on for pages) actually used to make me mad! Virginia Woolf, whist acknowledging his genius, found his prose to be a bit too feminine. Proust admits as much himself: in the last volume of In Search of Lost Time, he says how he wanted his book to be like a dress.

When I was reading Proust, I kept a book of favourite quotes. That was around 1995. Here are a few favourites that I wrote down:

"It is the tragedy of other people that they are to us merely showcases for the very perishable collections of our own mind."

Ah, what a beautiful little sentence, one that surely only the solitary Proust could conjure. Be sure not to quote it in company!

Here’s another:

"Falsehood is essential to humanity. It plays as large a part perhaps as the quest of pleasure and is moreover commanded by that quest. We lie in order to protect our pleasure or our honour if the disclosure of our pleasure runs counter to our honour. We lie all our life long, especially, indeed, perhaps only, to those people who love us. Such people in fact alone make us fear for our pleasure and desire their esteem."

And:

"As soon as one is unhappy one becomes moral."

I’ve always felt that maybe I was too young or immature when I read Proust, and that I might go back to him one day. Recently I read the first volume again, but without overwhelming enthusiasm. Nevertheless, because of the quotes above mentioned, he does fascinate me. More than that, I’ve always been fascinated by the way he wrote. Famously, he stayed up till all hours of the night writing, living on coffee, and never getting out of his bed.

Celeste Albaret was his housekeeper during the years he wrote In Search of Lost Time. In 1972, at the age of eighty, she finally gave up her long silence on the subject of her former employer and spilled the beans to Georges Belmont. Mr Belmont interviewed Madame Albaret for some seventy hours. The result was the memoir, Monsieur Proust.

I’ve read nothing about how this book was put together, but having read it, I now have lots of questions. The book doesn’t seem like it was edited together from 70 hours worth of conversations. Madame Albaret’s conversation (if we believe that’s what it is) is so elegant and refined, with just the right words added here and there, not to mention his bon mots, and intricate descriptions of his conversation, it beggars belief that all of what is contained in Monsieur Proust simply fell with such ease from her lips.

Having said that, this is quite an amazing little literary curio, giving a view onto a strangely unreal, almost perverse world of literary creation. Madame Albaret gives us all the mundane day to day descriptions of domestic life, how he liked his food cooked, his fastidiousness and general peculiarities. Then of course there are the descriptions of how he did all his work in bed, how he liked fresh sheets every day, how he wrote for such long stretches. You marvel at how such a literary masterpiece was created out of such an unhealthy environment, with Proust himself rushing against death. Nature surely is cruel, with no time at all for our artistic endeavours, or our highly idealised versions of ourselves.

In fact, in the book you can see how Proust organised his entire life around writing. The walls padded with cork to minimise outside sound, cutting off all relationships, only socialising in order to study other people. There’s something terribly inhuman about all of this, inhuman even to Proust himself. So obsessed was he with his work that his major fear was dieing before he finished it.

I can’t imagine that this is the sort of book everyone would enjoy. It’s very rich and strange, almost unbelievable. I’d love to see those 70 hours of tape recordings authenticated.
If the following quote does not appear anywhere in Proust’s long, continuous novel, then Madame Albaret’s recollections must surely be accurate, because it is so Proustian. (I am suspicious that she may have pinched the quote from In Search of Lost Time.) When discussing with Albaret the possibility that his work could be banned, due to some of his risque subject matter, Proust said, explaining why he believed this would never happen:

"Because if you know how to say things, you can say anything. And Marcel Proust knows how to say things."

A great piece of advice to aspiring writers, or those wanting to dodge censorship laws.