It is easy to love people in memory the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.
The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.
Being able to write becomes a kind of shield, a way of hiding, a way of too instantly transforming pain into honey.
Not only are selves conditional but they die. Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?
The thing about her is, she’s good-natured. He knew it the second he saw her standing by the parking meters. He could just tell from the soft way her belly looked. With women, you keep bumping against them, because they want different things, they’re a different race. Either they give, like a plant, or scrape, like a stone. In all the green world nothing feels as good as a woman’s good nature.
[I]n my own case at least I feel my professional need for freedom of speech and expression prejudices me toward a government whose constitution guarantees it.
To say that war is madness is like saying that sex is madness: true enough, from the standpoint of a stateless eunuch, but merely a provocative epigram for those who must make their arrangements in the world as given.
A morning later, Nancy described her first dream, the first remembered dream of her life. She and Judy Thorne were on a screened porch, catching ladybugs. Judy caught one with one spot on its back and showed it to Nancy. Nancy caught one with two spots and showed it to Judy. Then Judy caught one with three spots and Nancy one with four. Because (the child explained) the dots showed how old the ladybugs were. She told this dream to her mother, who had her repeat it to her father at breakfast. Piet was moved, beholding his daughter launched intoanother dimension of life. Like school. He was touched by her tiny stock of imagery the screened porch (neither they nor the Thornes had one; who?), the ladybugs (with turtles the most toylike of creatures), the mysterious power of numbers, that generates space and time. Piet saw down a long amplifying corridor of her dreams, and wanted to hear her tell them, to grow older with her, to shelter her forever.” John Updike, Couples, 1968.
The brontosaurus had thirty-ton body and a two-ounce brain. The anatosaurus had two thousand teeth. Triceratops had a helmet of filled bone seven feet long. Tyrannosaurus rex had tiny arms and teeth like six-inch razors and it was elected President. It ate everything—dead meat, living meat, old bones—
Women, fire in their crotch, won't burn out, begin by fighting off pricks, end by going wild hunting for one that still works.
Dollars had once gathered like autumn leaves on the wooden collection plates; dollars were the flourishing sign of God's specifically American favor, made manifest in the uncountable millions of Carnegie and Mellon and Henry Ford and Catholina Lambert. But amid this fabled plenty the whiff of damnation had cleared of dollars and cents the parched ground around Clarence Wilmot.
He lost his appetite for reading. He was afraid of being overwhelmed again. In mystery novels people died like dolls being discarded; in science fiction enormities of space and time conspired to crush the humans ; and even in P.G. Wodehouse he felt a hollowness, a turning away from reality that was implicitly bitter, and became explicit in the comic figures of futile parsons.
Who'll hold families together, if everybody has to live? Living is a compromise, between doing what you want and doing what other people want.
TV families and your own are hard to tell apart, except your isn't interrupted every six minutes by commercials and theirs don't get bogged down into nothingness, a state where nothing happens, no skit, no zany visitors, no outburst on the laugh track, nothing at all but boredom and a lost feeling, especially when you get up in the morning and the moon is still shining and men are making noisy bets on the first tee.
The mind cannot fall asleep as long as it watches itself. Only when the mind moves unwatched and becomes absorbed in images that tug it as it were to one side does self-consciousness dissolve and sleep with its healing, brilliantly detailed fictions pour in upon the jittery spirit. Falling asleep is a study in trust. Likewise, religion tries to put as ease with the world. Being human cannot be borne alone. We need other presences. We need soft night noises-a mother speaking downstairs. We need the little clicks and sighs of a sustaining otherness. We need the gods.
Writing … is an addiction, an illusory release, a presumptuous taming of reality, a way of expressing lightly the unbearable. That we age and leave behind this litter of dead, unrecoverable selves is both unbearable and the commonest thing in the world — it happens to everybody. In the morning light one can write breezily, without the slight acceleration of one’s pulse, about what one cannot contemplate in the dark without turning in panic to God. In the dark one truly feels that immense sliding, that turning of the vast earth into darkness and eternal cold, taking with it all the furniture and scenery, and the bright distractions and warm touches, of our lives. Even the barest earthly facts are unbearably heavy, weighted as they are with our personal death. Writing, in making the world light — in codifying, distorting, prettifying, verbalizing it — approaches blasphemy.
Children are not a zoo of entertainingly exotic creatures, but an array of mirrors in which the human predicament leaps out at us.
Having children is something we think we ought to do because our parents did it, but when it is over the children are just other members of the human race, rather disappointingly.
The fullness ends when we give Nature her ransom, when we make children for her. Then she is through with us, and we become, first inside, and then outside, junk. Flower stalks.
People go around mourning the death of God; it's the death of sssin that bothers me. Without ssin, people aren't people any more, they're just ssoul-less sheep.
Know Thyself, a wise old Greek once said. Know Thyself. Now what does this mean, boys and girls? It means, be what you are. Don't try to be Sally or Johnny or Fred next door; be yourself. God doesn't want a tree to be a waterfall, or a flower to be a stone. God gives to each one of us a special talent. Janice and Rabbit become unnaturally still; both are Christians. God's name makes them feel guilty. God wants some of us to become scientists, some of us to become artists, some of us to become firemen and doctors and trapeze artists. And He gives to each of us the special talents to become these things, provided we work to develop them. We must work, boys and girls. So: Know Thyself. Learn to understand your talents, and then work to develop them. That's the way to be happy.
My first thought, as a child, was that the artist brings something into the world that didn't exist before, and that he does it without destroying something else. A kind of refutation of the conservation of matter. That still seems to me its central magic, its core of joy.
The difficulty with humorists is that they will mix what they believe with what they don’t—whichever seems likelier to win an effect.
On the single strand of wire strung to bring our house electricity, grackles and starlings neatly punctuated an invisible sentence.
There is no doubt that I have lots of words inside me; but at moments, like rush-hour traffic at the mouth of a tunnel, they jam.
Lucas felt uncommonly depressed and careless. Drunkenness, in a man like August Hay, melts the restraints on cheerfulness. On the contrary with Lucas: he kept up courage consciously. Sap his mind, and the lid was lifted from a cesspool of muddy colors.
We must have sinned greatly, at some juncture long buried in our protozoic past, to deserve such a universe
No matter how cheerful and blameless the day’s activities have been, when you wake in the middle of the night there is guilt in the air, a gnawing feeling of everything being slightly off, wrong — you in the wrong, and the world too, as if darkness is a kind of light that shows us the depth we are about to fall into.
Suddenly summoned to witness something great and horrendous, we keep fighting not to reduce it to our own smallness.
What I'm going to do is pry every stinking tag off these f.ing chairs and make a f.ing collar and throw that cat right in Connor's puked-up face. Pale turd.