Sunday, June 06, 2004

"I'd begun to realise that there was an unspoken prejudice among book-learned people, a secret conviction they all seemed to share, that life as we know it is an imperfect vision of reality, and that only art, like a pair of reading glasses, can correct it. The scholars and intellectuals I met at our dinner-table always seemed to hold a grudge against the world. They could never quite reconcile themselves that our lives don't follow the dramatic arc that a good author gives to a great literary character. Only in accidents of pure perfection does the world actually become a stage. And that, they seemed to think, was a shame."
- The Rule of Four, Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason
"Yes," he continued, "that is one of the great secrets of life. Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes."

~Oscar Wilde,The Picture of Dorian Gray
And this was perhaps the first time in my life that death occurred to me as a reality. I thought of the people before me who had looked down at the river and gone to sleep beneath it. I wondered about them. I wondered how they had done it--it, the physical act. I had thought of suicide when I was much younger, as, possibly, we all have, but then it would have been for revenge, it would have been my way of informing the world how awfully it had made me suffer. But the silence of the evening, as I wandered home, had nothing to do with that storm, that far-off boy. I simply wondered about the dead because their days had ended and I did not know how I would get through mine.
-James Baldin, Giovanni's Room

Monday, May 17, 2004

"We are an exceptional model of the human race. We no longer know how to produce food. We no longer can heal ourselves. We no longer raise our young. We have forgotten the names of the stars, fail to notice the phases of the moon. We do not know the plants and they no longer protect us. We tell ourselves we are the most powerful specimens of our kind who have ever lived. But when the lights are off we are helpless. We cannot move without traffic signals. We must attend classes in order to learn by rote numbered steps toward love or how to breast-feed our baby. We justify anything, anything at all by the need to maintain our way of life. And then we go to the doctor and tell the professionals we have no life. We have a simple test for making decisions: our way of life, which we cleverly call our standard of living, must not change except to grow yet more grand. We have a simple reality we live with each and every day: our way of life is killing us."

Blood Orchid by Charles Bowden

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Quote from Sexus by Henry Miller
"Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes deperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there."
"You know the feeling of recognition you get when you look in a mirror? 'That's me,' you think to yourself, 'My hair needs to be combed and, hey, there's a pimple on my nose!' Well I got that same feeling no matter where I looked. I looked at the asphalt road and it was my face. I looked at the bridge and the bridge was me staring back at myself. It was a physical sensation, as if the sky had my eyes and could see me staring up at it. There was no doubt that this state was 'true.' It was far more true than the state I had considered to be normal up until then. I had no need to confirm it with anyone.
It's all me."-Brad Warner, Hardcore Zen
"...There are four kinds of people in this world: cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics."

"And that covers everybody?"

"Oh, yes, including us. Or at least me. If you take a good look, everybody fits into one of these categories. Each of us is sometimes a cretin, a fool, a moron, or a lunatic. A normal person is just a reasonable mix of these components, these four ideal types."

Foucault's Pendulum
Umberto Eco

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

STANLEY: Your looks are okay.
STELLA: I was fishing for a compliment, Stanley.
STANLEY: I don't go in for that stuff.
STELLA: What--stuff?
STANLEY: Compliments to women about their looks. I never met a woman that didn't know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they've got. I once went out with a doll who said to me, "I am the glamorous type, I am the glamorous type!" I said, "So what?"

-A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
..And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion or government which limits or destroys the individual.
--John Steinbeck, East of Eden
"Why? Why does what was beautiful suddenly shatter in hindsight because it concealed dark truths? Why does the memory of years of happy marriage turn to gall when our partner is revealed to have had a lover all those years? Because such a situation makes it impossible to be happy? But we were happy! Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily. Because happiness is only real if it lasts forever? Because things always end painfully if they contained pain, conscious or unconscious, all along? But what is unconscious, unrecognized pain?"

-The Reader, Bernhard Schlink

Monday, May 10, 2004

“Love, desire, and need get all confused and they fight and switch clothes just to fuck with me. But all three burn and ache and when mixed are this dangerous chemical compound that releases poisonous gases from my eyes, clouds of readable smoke, inscribed with all my naked wishes and poetry. And these are the times I want to close my eyes to the world, and these are the times that they are so wide open I scarcely take the time to blink, usually racing from one club, one bed, to another. Love is what makes me keep writing and trying and doing it over and over until I get it right.”
-Thea Hillman, from Depending on the Light
“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger than reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”
-Anais Nin, Oct. 27, 19333, from Incest

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

"Everyone has a moment in his history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment when his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person 'the world today' or 'life' or 'reality' he will assume you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past. The world, through his unleashed emotions, imprinted itself upon him, and he carries the stamp of that passing moment forever."-John Knowles, A Separate Peace
“I dreamt that I had learned a way of saving time I didn’t want to spend, and having it to spend when I needed it. Like the time you spend waiting in a doctor’s office, or coming back from someplace you didn’t enjoy going to, or waiting for a bus-- all the little useless spaces. Well, it was a matter of taking them and folding them up, like broken boxes, so that they took up less room. It was really an easy trick, once you knew you could do it. Nobody seemed surprised when I told them I’d learned how; Mother just nodded and
smiled, you know, as though of course everybody learns at a certain age how to do these things. Just break it along the seams; be careful not to lose any; fold it flat.”

John Crowley
Little, Big
"America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but it's people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves.... It is in fact a crime for an american to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters.
Kurt Vonnegut "Slaughterhouse Five"
"When I opened my eyes, the window across from us was dark red and I coudl feel that there was not much time left. Outside, the world I had watched for so long was living and breathing on the same earth I now was. But I knew I would not go out. I had taken this time to fall in love instead-- in love with the sort of helplessness I had not felt in death -- the helplessness of being alive, the dark bright pity of being human -- feelingas you went, groping in corners and opening your arms to light-- all it part of navigating the unknown." -The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold
Excerpt from "'Jiving' with Your Teen," by Seaton Smith
"Anyone who has observed the youths of American knows they frequently take liberties with the English language in order to flaunt their illiteracy and impress the opposite sex. As a parent, it is vital that you understand their vocabulary - like a cheetah, your teen can sense your confusion and fear. When you master thein vocabulary you can finally tell them, in their own language, that the police at the front door are for them.

Here are a few mandatory words and phrases to use when speaking to your teen:

Dope - A slang word that refers to every teenager's horrific need to associate what he or she considers 'good' with deadly narcotics. When this phrase is uttered, do not panic. Simply reply with: 'Yeah, dog, I got the stash up my cavity.'

It's all good - A shortened term from its original version, 'It's all good when you're employing illegal narcotics and eganing in immoral sexual activity.' Your teen doesn't mean that everything in the world is 'good.' He or she means that everything in the poverty-stricken inner-city ghetto is 'good.'

Cool - One of the most enduring slang terms in American culture. The word "Cool" has seen many forms. As a youth, you probably used the term sensibly: 'Hot dog! It's cool outside, Mabel.' Your teenager uses it in a different context:

'That's Cool.'
Translation: Marijuana is being smoked.

'That is so Cool.'
Translation: A lot of marijuana is being smoked.

'Not Cool.'
Translation: The dog is being smoked."
from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
translated by Alan B. Clarke

That was what made traveling appeal to [the shepherd boy]--he always made new friends, and he didn't need to spend all of his time with them. When someone sees the same people every day, as had happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person's life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn't what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

"He had this weird thing where he would look at the stars, and imagine they were the lights of a city, and think about what kinds of people would live there. It's like he knew he couldn't understand the stars.

..."I think he wanted people to look at them like he looked at the stars, and think about what kind of person would live in that body."

-From My Loose Thread, by Dennis Cooper
Now and then sprays of rain flew over and misted our faces. Every time I refused to wipe away the wetness. It made the world seem so alive to me. I couldn't help but envy the way a good storm got everyone's attention.

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
I tried finding solace looking at the squirrels in the front yard. . . -- and then I got to thinking about how short their lives are -- so short that their dreams can only possibly be a full mirroring of their waking lives. So I guess for a squirrel, being awake and being asleep are the same thing. Maybe when you die young it's like that too.
Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus!
And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality, when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end, when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then--whether you were man or woman, rich or poor, dependent or independent, fortunate or unfortunate, whether you ranked with royalty and wore a glittering crown or in humble obscurity bore the toil and heat of the day, whether your name will be remembered as long as the world stands and consequently as long as it stood or you are nameless and run nameless in the innumerable multitude, whether the magnificence encompassing you surpassed all human description or the most severe and ignominious human judgment befell you--eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not, whether you have despaired in such a way that you did not realize that you were in despair, or in such a way that you covertly carried this sickness inside of you as your gnawing secret, as a fruit of sinful love under your heart, or in such a way that you, a terror to others, raged in despair. And if so, if you have lived in despair, then, regardless of whatever else you won or lost, everything is lost for you, eternity does not acknowledge you, it never knew you--or, still more terrible, it knows you as you are known and it binds you to yourself in despair.
These words are Soren Kierkegaard, from "The Sickness Unto Death."

Friday, April 16, 2004

She strolled between shelves, looking at titles, smiling as she met old friends-books she had read three times or five times or a dozen. Just a title, or an author's name, would be enough to summon up happy images. Strange creatures like phoenixes and psammeads, moving under smoky London daylight of a hundred years before, in company with groups of bemused children; starships and new worlds and the limitless vistas of interstellar night, outer space challenged but never conquered; princesses in silver and golden dresses, princes and heroes carrying swords like sharpened lines of lights, monsters rising out of weedy twarns, wild creatures that talked and tricked once another...

I used to think the world would be like that when I got older. Wonderful all the time, exciting, happy. Instead of the way it is...

So you want to be a Wizard, Diane Duane
The photo has been cut; a third of it has been cut off. In the lower left corner there's a hand, scissored off at the wrist, resting on the grass. It's the hand of the other one, the one who is always in the picture whether seen or not. The hand that will set things down.

How could I have been so ignorant? she thinks. So stupid, so unseeing, so given over to carelessness. But without such ignorance, such carelessness, how could we live? If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next--if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions--you'd be doomed. You'd be as ruined as God. You'd be a stone. You'd never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You'd never love anyone, ever again. You'd never dare to.

Drowned now--the tree as well, the sky, the wind, the clouds. All she has left is the picture. Also the story of it.

The picture is of happiness, the story not. Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there's no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It's loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.

--Margaret Atwood, "The Blind Assassin"
William Faulkner-As I Lay Dying
"He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear."

"...I would think how words go straight up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly doing goes along the earth, clinging to it, so that after a while the two lines are too far apart for the same person to straddle from one to the other; and that sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words."
"Everything with me is either worship and passion or pity and understanding. I hate rarely, though when I hate, I hate murderously. For example now, I hate the bank and everything connected with it. I also hate Dutch paintings, penis-sucking, parties, and cold rainy weather. But I am more preoccupied with loving."
--Anais Nin, Henry and June.
As for myself, I'd rather not say very much. When I breathe, the air feels good in my chest. And when I think of the mirrored room, as of course I still do, I understand now that it's empty, filled with chimeras like Charlotte Swenson--the hard, beautiful seashells left behind long after the living creatures within have struggled free and swum away. Or died. Life can't be sustained under the pressure of so many eyes. Even as we try to reveal the mystery of ourselves, to catch it unawares, expose its pulse and flinch and peristalisis, the truth has slipped away, burrowed further inside a dark, coiled pirvacy that replenishes itself like blood. It cannot be seen, much as one might wish to show it. It dies the instant it is touched by light.

Once or twice a year I still call my old voice mail, just to see if the outgoing message is the one I recorded myself. My hand shakes as I dial the phone, and I wonder who will answer.
"Hi, it's me," comes the childish, cigarette voice from the digital void. "Leave a message, but keep it short."
"Hello," I say. "It's me."

- from Look At Me, by Jennifer Egan

Coyote said,"what are these places?"
Sam tried to think of a quick explanation, but was too weary from lack of sleep to tackle the concept of Las Vegas in twenty-five words or less. Finally he said,"These are places where you go if you want to fuck up your life and you don't have a lot of time to do it in."
"are we going to stop?"

-Coyote Blue Christopher Moore

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

"The world is supposed to be full of possibilities, but they narrow down to pretty few in most personal experience. There's lots of good fish in the sea...maybe...but the vast masses seem to be mackerel or herring, and if you're not mackerel or herring yourself you are likely to find very few good fish in the sea. "
- D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
Dave Eggers- You Shall Know Our Velocity!
People say I talk slowly. I talk in a way sometimes called laconic. The phone rings, I answer, and people ask if they've woken me up. I lose my way in the middle of sentences, leaving people hanging for minutes. I have no control over it. I'll be talking, and will be interested in what I'm saying, but then someone- I'm convinced this is what happens-someone-and I wish I knew who, because I would have words for this person- for a short time, borrows my head. Like a battery is borrowed from a calculator to power a remote control, someone, always, is borrowing my head.
From "Why I Write":

I collected those long, melancholy lists of the great books that high school English teachers passed out to college-bound students, and I relied on having consumed those serious litanies of books as a way to ease my way into the literary life.

Even today, I hunt for the fabulous books that will change me utterly and for all time. Great writing sticks to your soul the way beggar's lice adheres to your pants cuffs after a walk through untended fields. I find myself happiest in the middle of a book in which I forget that I am reading, but am instead immersed in a made-up life lived at the highest pitch.

Here is what I want from a book, what I demand, what I pray for when I take up a novel and begin to read the first sentence: I want everything and nothing less, the full measure of a writer's heart. I want a novel so poetic that I do not have to turn to the standby anthologies of poetry to satisfy that itch for music, for perfection and economy of phrasing, for exactness of tone. Then, too, I want a book so filled with story and character that I read page after page without thinking of food or drink because a writer has possessed me, crazed me with an unappeasable thirst to know what happens next.

All through my life I have told myself -- no, ordered myself -- to read more deeply, read everything of consequence, let the words of some new writer settle like the dust of silica into the ledges and sills of my consciousness.
It is simply a fact that some people long to travel the entire world, and do not flinch from nights in wild forests or from the heat of the desert or from the anger of a tempest. It is simply a fact that some men long to climb the loftiest of mountains, others to explore the harshness of Antarctica, others still to circumnavigate the world in hot-air balloons. Why do they do it? For the challenge, we are expected to believe. And the newspapers and the journalists will not shut up about these people. But there are other, more modest people, whom for the most part the journalists avoid, who are frightened to step out into a street. It is a fact that it is too challenging for them. They cannot do it. This latter group of people, who almost always exist in solitude, are so panicked by the world that they close themselves up inside houses, inside rooms, and never leave again. The longer they stay inside the harder it is for them to peer out; they may be brave enough at first to touch door handles but very soon it will be impossible for them to turn them.
--from Alva & Irva: The Twins Who Saved a City, Edward Carey
...and we may be pretty certain that persons whom all the world treats ill, deserve entirely the treatment they get. The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.

Vanity Fair, William M. Thackeray
He covered page after page with wild words of sorrow and wilder words of pain. There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution. - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
There was a line for Santa and a line for the women's bathroom, and one woman, after asking me a dozen questions already, asked, "Which is the line for the women's bathroom?" I shouted that I thought it was the line with all the women in it.

She said, "I'm going to have you fired."

I had two people say that to me today, "I'm going to have you fired." Go ahead, be my guest. I'm wearing a green velvet costume; it doesn't get any worse than this. Who do these people think they are?

"I'm going to have you fired!" and I wanted to lean over and say, "I'm going to have you killed."


From Barrel Fever, by David Sedaris

Monday, March 29, 2004

“I was functioning, moving forward, solving problems one at a time, but it was as if the very ground I walked on, the air I breathed was precarious and new. As if everything had changed, because I had changed. I knew better. I knew that no matter how bad you feel, or whatever horrible thing happens to you, that the world just keeps on going. The rest of the world doesn’t even realize that the monsters are eating your heart. A long time ago it used to bother me that I could be in such confusion, such pain, and the world just didn’t give a shit. The world, the creation as a whole, is designed to move forward, to keep on keeping on without any one individual person. It feels damned impersonal, and it is. But, then, if the world stopped rotating just because one of us was having a bad day, we’d all be floating out in space.”

~Anita, Narcissus in Chains, Laurell K. Hamilton
Edward glanced at me, then back at Olaf. "The Greeks believed that once there were no male and female, that all souls were one. Then the souls were torn apart, male and female. The Greeks thought that when you found the other half of your soul, your soul mate, that it would be your perfect lover. But I think if you find your other half, you would be too much alike to be lovers, but you would still be soul mates."

-"Obsidian Butterfly"
I'll tell you the real horrible truth, Anita. No matter what you do or how bad you feel about it, life goes on. Life doesn't give a fuck that you're sorry or upset or deranged or tormented. Life just goes on, and you gotta go on with it or sit in the middle of the road and feel sorry for yourself.

-"Blue Moon"
"This was one of those days when I thought that maybe a new life, a different life, wouldn't be so bad. But where the hell had I put the receipt, and could you return something that was over twenty yers old?" -Laurell K. Hamilton, Cerulean Sins

Friday, March 26, 2004

You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
- Franz Kafka, In Senses
We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken us a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.---Nicholas Sparks - The Notebook

Monday, March 22, 2004

"For being a foreigner is a sort of lifelong pregnancy - a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that the previous life had vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect."

- Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence. To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream. [W]herever I sat - on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok - I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.
~The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

Saturday, February 14, 2004

When you've suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling. My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition. I mock this skull. I look at it and I say, "You've got the wrong fellow. You may not believe in life, but I don't believe in death. Move on!" The skull snickers and moves ever closer, but that doesn't surprise me. The reason death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity - it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.
-Life of Pi by Yann Martel