"Can’t you possibly be just a little bit glad that we are alive and that all the year that’s coming we can be together and work and love and get some peace for all the things we’ve paid so much for learning? Stop looking for solace: there isn’t any."
"Cause no matter if they dress real nice and sit up straight and stiff,
And say their prayers in quiet ancient tongues,
They’re no different than the ones who close their eyes and fall down to the ground,
Twitch like all their nerves have come undone."
— "Made Up English Oceans," Drive-By Truckers. This song could be featured on True Detective.
"When I look at you but once, my speech ceases to obey me, my tongue is broken, a subtle fire creeps under my skin, my eyes see nothing, and my ears begin to ring. Sweat pours down over my limbs. A trembling seizes me from head to toe, I am paler than grass, and I appear close to death. But one can endure all."
— Sappho. Just a little lyric poetry in my psychological study today, and that’s the way I like it.
A young, married couple fighting on Christmas day, from Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara.
“She walked out and then came back. “My present is at the bottom of the pile,” she said.
That made him feel worse. Under all the other packages was something she had bought days, maybe weeks, before, when things were not so bad as they now appeared to be. When she bought that she was concentrating on him and what he would like; rejecting this idea and that idea, and deciding on one thing because it was something he wanted or something he would want. Caroline was one person who really did put a lot of thought into a gift; she knew when to choose the obvious thing. One time she had given him handkerchiefs for Christmas; no one else had given him handkerchiefs, and they were what he wanted. And whatever was in that package, she had bought with him alone in mind. He could not guess from the size of the box what was inside it. He opened it. It was two gifts: a pigskin stud box, big enough to hold two sets of studs, with plenty of room inside for assorted collar buttons, collar pins, tie clasps—and Caroline had put in a dozen or so front and back collar buttons. The other gift was of pigskin, too; a handkerchief case that collapsed like an accordion. Both things had J. McH. E. stamped in small gilt letters on the top cover, and that in itself showed thought. She knew, and no one else in the world knew, that he liked things stamped J. McH. E., not just J. E., or J. M. E. Maybe she even knew why he liked it that way; he wasn’t sure himself.
He stood at the table, looking down at the handkerchief case and stud box, and was afraid. Upstairs was a girl who was a person. That he loved her seemed unimportant compared to what she was. He only loved her, which really made him a lot less than a friend or an acquaintance. Other people saw her and talked to her when she was herself, her great, important self. It was wrong, this idea that you know someone better because you have shared a bed and a bathroom with her. He knew, and not another human being knew, that she cried “I” or “high” in moments of great ecstasy. He knew, he alone knew her when she let herself go, when she herself was not sure whether she was wildly gay or wildly sad, but one and the other. But that did not mean that he knew her. Far from it. It only meant that he was closer to her when he was close, but (and this was the first time the thought had come to him) maybe farther away than anyone when he was not close. It certainly looked that way now. “Oh, I’m a son of a bitch,” he said.”
That he loved her seemed unimportant compared to what she was.
The giving and receiving of gifts, to me, is an agonizing social custom that I love and hate. I enjoy passages that capture the agony of it. I am also enjoying watching Julian struggle with his own awareness of what an asshole he is in this book.
JUST A COUPLE OF FUCKING DOPE BROS WHO EVERYONE THOUGHT PEAKED IN THE 90’S AND SLOGGED THROUGH THE AUGHTS NOW TO SHOW UP ON THE OTHER SIDE SUNKISSED AND THIN SERVING FUCKING VARSITY LEVEL THESPIAN SHIT ON PREMIUM CABLE AND IN THE MOVIES. HEAR THE WOLF CRY THROUGH THEIR EYES
"When I look at my life and its secret colours, I feel like bursting into tears. Like that sky. It’s rain and sun both, noon and midnight … I think of the lips I’ve kissed, and of the wretched child I was, and of the madness of life and the ambition that sometimes carries me away. I’m all those things at once. I’m sure there are times when you wouldn’t even recognize me. Extreme in misery, excessive in happiness—I can’t say it."
— Albert Camus, from A Happy Death (Gallimard, 1971)
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. My take away: This book had enough original characters and plot lines for ten books, but maybe not enough sense or purpose for the one? That said, I was wowed by the sheer density of its weirdness and creativity.
"Only a lunatic would want to be president. These lunatics are created deliberately by those who wish to be presided over. You’ve seen it a thousand times. We create a leader by locating one in the crowd who is standing up. This may well be because there are no chairs or because his knees are fused by arthritis. It doesn’t matter. We designate this victim as a ‘stand-up guy’ by the simple expedient of sitting down around him."
"We protect children because they have not yet proven themselves to be hamstrung shitholes. Granted, the odds are lousy that they’ll turn out any other way but it’s been known to happen." How I sometimes feel on any given day of working with kids and parents.
A woman, on buying a gun: "Guy, when I bought it, tried to sell me a little automatic. Told me a lady needed more than four shots. I say to him, Well, if I shoot some sonofabitch I’m not gonna miss, ya know. And he shuts up like a bank on Sunday. I think it’s a cute gun." I need to learn the skill of making people shut up like banks on Sunday.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Writer used to write for Arrested Development, so it’s very funny. Quick read. Gets a little absurd around the end.
An email to a friend the main character hasn’t seen in 20 years: "I suppose I should be honored or angry, but really the word would be nonplussed. (I just looked that up in the dictionary, and you know what’s funny? The first definition is "so surprised and embarrassed one doesn’t know how to react." The second definition is "not at all disturbed." No wonder I never know how to use it! In this case, I’m using it in the latter context.)
Paul Jellinek. How the hell are you? Are you mad at me? Longing for me because life’s just not the same without me? Nonplussed, in either the first or second sense of the word?
I believe I owe you a return phone call.” A small dip in the deep pool of the main character’s intense self-absorption, that I really enjoyed reading.
There are also tons of jokes about Seattle, Microsoft, Subaru parents, and Canadians, if you are into that kind of thing.
"…a certain quality of spirit, a gaiety, a sense of duty, a nobility worn lightly, a sweetness, a gentleness with women—the only good things the South ever had and the only things that really matter in this life.”
"Joyce is leaning on the sill, a brown-haired girl in a leather jacket. She has the voluptuous look of roommates left alone."
2. The Magus
"Handsomely quipped to fail, I went out into the world."
cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet
3. A Moveable Feast
"When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest."
4. Howards End
"She knew her own heart with a thoroughness that commonplace people believe impossible.”
"Away she hurried, not beautiful, not supremely brilliant, but filled with something that took the place of both qualities—something best described as a profound vivacity, a continual and sincere response to all that she encountered in her path through life.”
"Why put yourself through all that hurt, through all that cold and all that dark? In my experience — and this is the important takeaway for the kids who read this — it’s so much worse to deny yourself than to be rejected. When you’re rejected, the wound is hot, and the temptation is to cauterize it with whatever will help you forget. But when the wound is cold, when you silence your wild heart, then the color goes out of your life. It becomes gray. And that moment, when you deny the rare passions that make life worth living, is when you begin to die."