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Chapter 8 • Conversations


"I may be inordinately fond of my earliest impressions, but then I have reason to be grateful to them. They led the way to a veritable Eden of visual and tactile sensations." [296]
Vladimir Nabokov, novelist

"I've done a lot of work on ocean waves and tides and currents, and I feel I understand them well enough to be quite prepared to swim in them, because with my theoretical knowledge, supplemented by an immense amount of experience in swimming in these conditions, I can swim safely and have an exciting adventure in the process." [297]
James Lighthill, mathematician

"Black A, white E, red I, green U, blue O — vowels / I'll tell, some day, your secret origins." [298]
Arthur Rimbaud, poet

"When I see equations, I see the letters in colors — I don't know why. As I'm talking, I see vague pictures of Bessel functions from Jahnke and Emde's book, with light-tan j's, slightly violet-bluish n's, and dark brown x's flying around. And I wonder what the hell it must look like to the students." [298]
Richard Feynman, physicist

"There is an abyss between a porc (pig) and a port (port). Porc is extended by the c which bends it into round shapes; port is tightened by the t which stands erect like a crane on a dock.... If someone says perroquet [parrot], if I think perroquet, I immediately see the letters parade by: the p pops, the r's roll, the q clicks. Only later does the parrot itself come to mind." [298]
François Jacob, biologist

"I paint as I walk along the street; I taste, see, and feel color." [299]
Ernst Barlach, sculptor

"I remember arriving at the road [leading to our house] with great pleasure. The color of the dust was bright in the sunlight. It looked so soft I wanted to get down into it quickly. It was warm, full of smooth little ridges made by buggy wheels. I was sitting in it, enjoying it very much — probably eating it ... the same feeling I have had later when I've wanted to eat a fine pile of paint just squeezed out of the tube." [299]
Georgia O'Keeffe, sculptor

"I feel a sense of music continually in writing." [299]
Harold Pinter, playwright

"Music has been a constant companion throughout my life. In a mysterious way, which I find hard to analyse, it has been a continual accompaniment to my research." [299]
Rolf Nevanlinna, mathematician

"Please, gentlemen, a little bluer if you please. This key demands it." [300]
Franz Liszt, composer

"My hands evoke sight and sound out of feeling,
"Intershifting the senses endlessly;
Linking motion with sight, odor with sound."
Helen Keller, author

"I think people are still separating all our senses, which is wrong. It's wrong. I mean, all our senses — of course we have to give names to things, we categorize things — but at the end of the day if I'm blind, I hear something, so I see if. If I see something but I don't hear it, I see it, so my eyes will tell me what it is, therefore I hear. So I don't, perhaps like you or the majority of people, split our senses up, and just because you lose one you assume you simply cannot hear anything at all. That's simply not the case."
Evelyn Glennie, percussionist