For there are two kinds of forgiveness in the world: the one you practice because everything really is all right, and what went before is mended. The other kind of forgiveness you practice because someone needs desperately to be forgiven, or because you need just as badly to forgive them, for a heart can grab hold of old wounds and go sour as milk over them.
This is what comes of having a heart, even a very small and young one. It causes no end of trouble, and that’s the truth.
Many people in this room have an Etsy store where they create unique, unreplicable artifacts or useful items to be sold on a small scale, in a common marketplace where their friends meet and barter. I and many of my friends own more than one spinning wheel. We grow our food again. We make pickles and jams on private, individual scales, when many of our mothers forgot those skills if they ever knew them. We come to conventions, we create small communities of support and distributed skills--when one of us needs help, our village steps in. It’s only that our village is no longer physical, but connected by DSL instead of roads. But look at how we organize our tribes--bloggers preside over large estates, kings and queens whose spouses’ virtues are oft-lauded but whose faces are rarely seen. They have moderators to protect them, to be their knights, a nobility of active commenters and big name fans, a peasantry of regular readers, and vandals starting the occasional flame war just to watch the fields burn. Other villages are more commune-like, sharing out resources on forums or aggregate sites, providing wise women to be consulted, rabbis or priests to explain the world, makers and smiths to fashion magical objects. Groups of performers, acrobats and actors and singers of songs are traveling the roads once more, entertaining for a brief evening in a living room or a wheatfield, known by word of mouth and secret signal. Separate from official government, we create our own hierarchies, laws, and mores, as well as our own folklore and secret history. Even my own guilt about having failed as an academic is quite the crisis of filial piety--you see, my mother is a professor. I have not carried on the family trade.We dwell within a system so large and widespread, so disorganized and unconcerned for anyone but its most privileged and luxurious members, that our powerlessness, when we can summon up the courage to actually face it, is staggering. So we do not face it. We tell ourselves we are Achilles when we have much more in common with the cathedral-worker, laboring anonymously so that the next generation can see some incremental progress. We lack, of course, a Great Work to point to and say: my grandmother made that window; I worked upon the door. Though, I would submit that perhaps the Internet, as an object, as an aggregate entity, is the cathedral we build word by word and image by image, window by window and portal by portal, to stand taller for our children, if only by a little, than it does for us. For most of us are Lancelots, not Galahads. We may see the Grail of a good Classical life, but never touch it. That is for our sons, or their daughters, or further off.And if our villages are online, the real world becomes that dark wood on the edge of civilization, a place of danger and experience, of magic and blood, a place to make one’s name or find death by bear. And here, there be monsters.
I wonder sometimes what the memory of God looks like. Is it a palace of infinite rooms, a chest of many jeweled objects, a long, lonely landscape where each tree recalls an eon, each pebble the life of a man? Where do I live, in the memory of God?
Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.
You should always listen to minotaurs. Anybody with four stomachs has to have a firm grip on reality.
Their happiness was the kind which is fashioned of the comfortable disorder of sauvignon bottles and coffee cups in the sink, paperback thrillers with split spines on the nightstand, bathrobes hung haphazard on high-backed, brocade-seated chairs, shutters left open all night, and the hallway ever in need of new paint.
Just remember that the only question in a house is who is to rule. The rest is only dancing around that, trying not to look it in the eye.
I will not let her speak because I love her, and when you love someone, you do not make them tell war stories. A war story is a black space. On the one side is before and on the other side is after, and what is inside belongs only to the dead.
The rapt pupil will be forgiven for assuming the Tsar of Death to be wicked and the Tsar of Life to be virtuous. Let the truth be told: There is no virtue anywhere. Life is sly and unscrupulous, a blackguard, wolfish, severe. In service to itself, it will commit any offense. So, too, is Death possessed of infinite strategies and a gaunt nature- but also mercy, also grace and tenderness. In his own country, Death can be kind.
Death is not a checkmate…it is more like a carnival trick. You cannot win, no matter how you move your Queen.
And as we watched, the Tsar of Death lifted up his eyelids like skirts and began to dance in the streets of Leningrad.
If you are a monster, stand up.If you are a monster, a trickster, a fiend,If you’ve built a steam-powered wishing machineIf you have a secret, a dark past, a scheme,If you kidnap maidens or dabble in dreamsCome stand by me.If you have been broken, stand up.If you have been broken, abandoned, aloneIf you have been starving, a creature of boneIf you live in a tower, a dungeon, a throneIf you weep for wanting, to be held, to be known,Come stand by me.If you are a savage, stand up.If you are a witch, a dark queen, a black knight,If you are a mummer, a pixie, a sprite,If you are a pirate, a tomcat, a wright,If you swear by the moon and you fight the hard fight,Come stand by me. If you are a devil, stand up.If you are a villain, a madman, a beast,If you are a strowler, a prowler, a priest,If you are a dragon come sit at our feast,For we all have stripes, and we all have horns, We all have scales, tails, manes, claws and thornsAnd here in the dark is where new worlds are born.Come stand by me.
Robots are like Mars: they needgirls. Boys won't do,the memesoup is all wrong. They stompwhen they should kissand they're none too keenon having things shoved inside them...It's not a robotuntil you put a girl inside. Sometimes I feel like that. A junkyard the Company forgot to put a girl in.
First, the avid student must be aware that when the world was young it knew only seven things: water, life and death, salt, night, birds and the length of an hour.
Hearts set about finding other hearts the moment they are born, and between them, they weave nets so frightfully strong and tight that you end up bound forever in hopeless knots, even to the shadow of a beast you knew and loved long ago.
It is harder, usually, to find a person who wants to walk the streets of me, to taste the teas of my country, to... immigrate, you could say.
... relationships required such vigilance, such attention. You had to hold them together by force of will, and other people took up so much space, demanded so much time. It was exhausting.
All time is mean young man. It takes and does not give, it rushes when you wish it would linger and drags when you wish is would fly. It flows sullenly, only in one direction, when it might take a thousand turns. You cannot get anything back once time has taken it. Time cheats and steals and lies and kills. If anyone could arrest it, they would have time behind bars faster than you can check your watch.
One: A Book Is A Universe and the Universe is a Book. Inside a book, any Physiks or Magical Laws or Manners or Histories may hold sway. A book is its own universe and while in it, you must play by their rules. More or less. Some of the more modern novels are lenient on this point and have very few policemen to spare. This is why sometimes, when you finish a book, you feel strange and woozy, as though you have just woken up. Your body is getting used to the rules and your own universe again. And your own universe is just the biggest and longest and most complicated book ever written—except for all the other ones. This is also why books along the walls make a place feel different—all those universes, crammed into one spot! Things are bound to shift and warp and hatch schemes!Two: Books Are People. Some are easy to get along with and some are shy, some are full of things to say and some are quiet, some are fanciful and some are plainspoken, some you will feel as though you've known forever the moment you open the cover, and some will take years to grow into. Just like people, you must be introduced properly and sit down together with a cup of something so that you can sniff at each other like tomcats but lately acquainted. Listen to their troubles and share their joys. They will have their tempers and you will have yours, and sometimes you will not understand a book, nor will it understand you—you can't love all books any more than you can love every stranger you meet. But you can love a lot of them. And the love of a book is a precious, subtle, strange thing, well worth earning, And just like people, you are never really done with a book—some part of it will stay with you, gently changing the way you see and speak and know.Three: People Are Books. This has two meanings. The first is: Every person is a story. They have a beginning and a middle and an end (though some may have sequels and series).They have motifs and narrative tricks and plot twists and daring escapes and love lost and love won. The rules of books are the rules of life because a book must be written by a person alive, and an alive person will usually try to tell the truth about the world, even if they dress it up in spangles and feathers. The other meaning is: When you read a book, it is not only a story. It is never only a story. Exciting plots may occur, characters suffer and triumph, yes, It is a story. But it is also a person speaking to you, directly to you. A person far away, perhaps in time, perhaps in space, perhaps both. A person who wanted to say something so loud that everyone could hear it. A book is a time-travelling teleportation machine. And there's millions and millions of them! When you read a book, you have a conversation with the person who wrote it. And that conversation is never quite the same twice. Every single reader has a different chat, because they are different people with different histories and ideas in their heads. Why, you cannot even have the same conversation with the same book twice! If you read a book as a child, and again as a Grown-Up, it will be something altogether other. New things will have happened to you, new folk will have come into your life and taught you wild and wonderful notions you never thought of before. You will not be the same person—and neither will the book. When you read, know that someone somewhere wrote those very words just for you, in hopes that you would find something there to take with you in your own travels through time and space.
Oh, September! It is so soon for you to lose your friends to good work and strange loves and high ambitions. The sadness of that is too grown-up for you. Like whiskey and voting, it is a dangerous and heady business, as heavy as years. If I could keep your little tribe together forever, I would. I do so want to be generous. But some stories sprout bright vines that tendril off beyond our sight, carrying the folk we love best with them, and if I knew how to accept that with grace, I would share the secret.
Such lonely, lost things you find on your way. It would be easier, if you were the only one lost. But lost children always find each other, in the dark, in the cold. It is as though they are magnetized and can only attract their like. How I would like to lead you to brave, stalwart friends who would protect you and play games with dice and teach you delightful songs that have no sad endings. If you would only leave cages locked and turn away from unloved Wyverns, you could stay Heartless.
When I was a young girl, I studied Greek in school. It's a beautiful language and ever so many good things were written in it. When you speak Greek, it feels like a little bird flapping its wings on your tongue as fast as it can. This is why I sometimes put Greek words into my stories, even though not so many people speak Ancient Greek anymore. Anything beautiful deserves to be shared round, and anything I love goes into my stories for safekeeping.The word I love is Arete. It has a simple meaning and a complicated meaning. The simple one is: excellence. But if that were all, we'd just use Excellence and I wouldn't bring it up until we got to E. Arete means your own excellence. Your very own. A personal excellence that belongs to no one else, one that comes out of all the things that make you special and different. Arete means whatever you are best at, no matter what that is. You might think the Greeks only meant things like fighting with bronze swords or debating philosophy, but they didn't. They meant whatever you're best at. What makes you feel like you're doing the rightest thing in the world. And that might be fighting with bronze swords and it might mean debating philosophy—but it also might mean building machines, or drawing pictures, or playing the guitar, or acting in Shakespeare plays, or writing books, or making a home for people who need one, or listening so hard and so well that people tell you the things they really need to say even if they didn't mean to, or running faster than anyone else, or teaching people patiently and boldly, or even making pillow forts or marching in parades or baking bread. It could be lending out just the right library book to just the right person at just the right moment. It could be standing up to the powerful even if you don't feel very powerful yourself, even if you're lost and as far away from home as you can get. It could be loving someone with the same care and thoroughness that a Wyvern takes with alphabetizing. It could be anything in the world. And it isn't easy to figure out what that is. It's even harder to get that good at it, because nothing, not even being yourself, comes without practice. But your arete goes with you everywhere, just waiting for you to pay attention to it. You can't lose it. You can only find it. And that's my favorite thing that starts with A.
In both marriage and war you must cut up the things people say like a cake and eat only what you can stomach.
Her father’s shadow looked sadly down at her. “You can never forget what you do in a war, September my love. No one can. You won’t forget your war either.
We love WWII because the cause was so obviously just, because you can't be a good person and say you wouldn't fight against an evil like that. It was so black and white on our side, and on our side so few died. (Our side meaning the lantern-jawed John Wayne Greatest Generation constantly canonized soldiers who strode in late to the graveyard that was Europe. Compared to Jewish, Russian, Roma, and other casualties, our losses were minimal.) We felt so strong. In some ways I think we're always trying to recapture that feeling of being a country of superheroes. With every war we invoke that one, we hope it will be that good. -from her blog
And in her long nights, in her long house of smoke and miller's stones, she baked the bread we eat in dreams, strangest loaves, her pies full of anguish and days long dead, her fairy-haunted gingerbread, her cakes wet with tears.
This is what it means to be a woman in this world. Every step is a bargain with pain. Make your black deals in the black wood and decide what you’ll trade for power. For the opposite of weakness, which is not strength but hardness. I am a trap, but so is everything. Pick your price. I am a huckster with a hand in your pocket. I am freedom and I will eat your heart.
Marya Morevna, we are better at this than you are. We can hold two terrible ideas at once in our hearts. Never have your folk delighted us more, been more like family. For a devil, hypocrisy is a parlour game, like charades. Such fun, and when the evening is done we shall be holding our bellies to keep from dying of laughter.
I do so love my witches and wicked queens. I find myself drawn to feminine archetypes that previous generations have found threatening or dangerous: crones, oracles, madwomen, Amazons, virgins who aren’t helpless, bad mothers. I love to give the vagina dentata voice. It so rarely gets to speak for itself.