Love is an abstract noun, something nebulous. And yet love turns out to be the only part of us that is solid, as the world turns upside down and the screen goes black.
The universe is a million billion light-years wide, and every inch of it would kill you if you went there. This is the position of the universe with regards to human life.
It is straightforward—and never mind, for now, about plagues and famines: if God existed, and if he cared for humankind, he would never have given us religion.
Religious belief is without reason and without dignity, and its record is near-universally dreadful.
Life is made of fear. Some people eat fear soup three times a day. Some people eat fear soup all the meals there are. I eat it sometimes. When they bring me fear soup to eat, I try not to eat it, I try to send it back. But sometimes I'm too afraid to and have to eat it anyway.
Impartially, shrewdly, I considered suicide, though not in my worst moments. The bottle of pills. The note: 'No hard feelings, everyone, but I've thought about it and it's just not on, is it? It's nearly on, but not quite. No? Anyway, all the best, C.
Why couldn't Rachel be a little more specific about the type of person she was? Goodness knew; if she were a hippie I'd talk to her about her drug experiences, the zodiac, tarot cards. If she were left-wing I'd look miserable, hate Greece, and eat baked beans straight from the tin. If she were the sporty type I'd play her at... chess and backgammon and things.
The deal with multiculturalism is that the only culture you're allowed to disapprove of is your own.
I think: you deserve to be what you are if you could bare to get that way. You must have seen it coming. And now there's nothing for you here. No one will protect you, and people won't see any reason not to do you harm.
How astonishingly intimate the business of fiction is, more intimate than anything that issues from the psychiatrist’s couch or even the lovers’ bed. You see the soul, pinned and wriggling on the wall.
…This remains the great deficiency of literature: its imitation of nature cannot prepare you for the main events. For the main events, only experience will answer.
Marriage is always something of a compromise, as I'm sure you're now aware. Any long-term relationship is - and one does have to see it in the long term, Charles. No, I expect your mother and myself will never divorce. It's uneconomic and, at my age, usually unnecessary.
Only parents and torturers and the janitors of holocausts are asked to stand the sound of so much human grief.
It used to be said, not so long ago, that every suicide gave Satan special pleasure. I don't think that's true—unless it isn't true either that the Devil is a gentleman. If the Devil has no class at all, then okay, I agree: He gets a bang out of suicide. Because suicide is a mess. As a subject for study, suicide is perhaps uniquely incoherent. And the act itself is without shape and without form. The human project implodes, contorts inward—shameful, infantile, writhing, gesturing. It's a mess in there.
You never can tell, though, with suicide notes, can you? In the planetary aggregate of all life, there are many more suicide notes than there are suicides. They're like poems in that respect, suicide notes: nearly everyone tries their hand at them some time, with or without the talent. We all write them in our heads. Usually the note is the thing. You complete it, and then resume your time travel. It is the note and not the life that is cancelled out. Or the other way round. Or death. You never can tell, though, can you, with suicide notes.
Once upon a time there was a king, and the king commissioned his favorite wizard to create a magic mirror. This mirror didn’t show you your reflection. It showed you your soul—it showed you who you really were.The wizard couldn’t look at it without turning away. The king couldn’t look at it. The courtiers couldn’t look at it. A chestful of treasure was offered to anyone who could look at it for sixty seconds without turning away. And no one could.
Whereas I would argue that style is morality: morality detailed, configured, intensified. It’s not in the mere narrative arrangement of good and bad that morality makes itself felt. It can be there in every sentence
It’s possible to be flippant here, when Jihadists fly aircraft into buildings they shout God is Great, what do atheists shout when they do it?
He thought, Yeah. Yeah, non-smokers live seven years longer. Which seven will be subtracted by the god called Time? It won't be that convulsive, heart-bursting spell between twenty-eight and thirty-five. No. It'll be that really cool bit between eighty-six and ninety-three.
The trouble with life (the novelist will feel) is its amorphousness, its ridiculous fluidity. Look at it: thinly plotted, largely themeless, sentimental and ineluctably trite. The dialogue is poor, or at least violently uneven. The twists are either predictable or sensationalist. And it’s always the same beginning, and the same ending.
A writer’s life is half ambition and half anxiety, and there has to be both. It is no good writing a novel and feeling fine, and it is no good writing a whole novel feeling miserable. It has to be both, that mixture of anxiety and ambition, and you get that with every novel, but more so when you write about these epics of human suffering. I felt that just as much when I wrote about the Gulag. Every writer knows what that is. The process goes… you have to think: ‘This novel I am writing is no good.’ Then you have to think: ‘All my novels are no good.’ And then, when you reach that point, you can begin.
I have always derived great comfort from William Shakespeare. After a depressing visit to the mirror or an unkind word from a girlfriend or an incredulous stare in the street, I say to myself: 'Well. Shakespeare looked like shit.' It works wonders.
I am easily moved to tears and rarely survive a visit to the cinema without shedding them, racked, as I am, by the most perfunctory, meretricious or even callously sentimental attempts at poignancy (something about the exterior of the human face, so vast and palpable, with the eyes and the lips: it is all writ too large for me, too immediate for me.)
I peer through the spectral, polluted, nicotine-sodden windows of my sock at these old lollopers in their kiddie gear. Go home, I say. Go home, lie down, and eat lots of potatoes. I had three handjobs yesterday. None was easy. Sometimes you really have to buckle down to it, as you do with all forms of exercise. It's simply a question of willpower. Anyone who's got the balls to stand there and tell me that a handjob isn't exercise just doesn't know what he's talking about. I almost had a heart-attack during number three. I take all kinds of other exercise too. I walk up and down the stairs. I climb into cabs and restaurant booths. I hike to the Butcher's Arms and the London Apprentice. I cough a lot. I throw up pretty frequently, which really takes it out of you. I sneeze, and hit the tub and the can. I get in and out of bed, often several times a day.
Oh man sometimes I wake up feel like a cat runover.Are you familiar with the stoical aspects of hard drinking, of heavy drinking? Oh it's heavy. Oh it's hard. It isn't easy. Jesus, I never meant me any harm. All I wanted was a good time.
I think novelists are in the education business, really, but they're not teaching you times tables, they are teaching you responsiveness and morality and to make nuanced judgments. And really to just make the planet look a bit richer when you go out into the street.
Language leads a double life - and so does the novelist. You chat with family and friends, you attend to your correspondence, you consult menus and shopping lists, you observe road signs, and so on. Then you enter your study, where language exists in quite another form - as the stuff of patterned artifice.