I had jumped off the edge, and then, at the very last moment, something reached out and caught me in midair. That something is what I define as love. It is the one thing that can stop a man from falling, powerful enough to negate the laws of gravity.
I felt the taste of mortality in my mouth, and at that moment I understood that I was not going to live forever. It takes a long time to learn that, but when you finally do, everything changes inside you, you can never be the same again. I was seventeen years old, and all of a sudden, without the slightest flicker of a doubt, I understood that my life was my own, that it belonged to me and no one else.I’m talking about freedom, Fogg. A sense of despair that becomes so great, so crushing, so catastrophic, that you have no choice but to be liberated by it. That’s the only choice, or else you crawl into a corner and die.
Deep down, I don’t believe it takes any special talent for a person to lift himself off the ground and hover in the air. We all have it in us—every man, woman, and child—and with enough hard work and concentration, every human being is capable of…the feat….You must learn to stop being yourself. That’s where it begins, and everything else follows from that. You must let yourself evaporate. Let your muscles go limp, breathe until you feel your soul pouring out of you, and then shut your eyes. That’s how it’s done. The emptiness inside your body grows lighter than the air around you. Little by little, you begin to weigh less than nothing. You shut your eyes; you spread your arms; you let yourself evaporate. And then, little by little, you lift yourself off the ground.Like so.
As long as a man had the courage to reject what society told him to do, he could live life on his own terms. To what end? To be free. But free to what end? To read books, to write books, to think.
it's a rare day when she speaks in anything but platitudes--all those exhausted phrases and hand-me-down ideas that cram the dump sites of contemporary wisdom
Our lives carry us along in ways we cannot control, and almost nothing stays with us. It dies when we do, and death is something that happens to us every day.
The moon people do not eat by swallowing food but by smelling it. Their money is poetry - actual poems, written out on pieces of paper whose value is determined by the worth of the poem itself.
The pen will never be able to move fast enough to write down every word discovered in the space of memory. Some things have been lost forever, other things will perhaps be remembered again, and still other things have been lost and found and lost again. There is no way to be sure of any this.
And that's why books are never going to die. It's impossible. It's the only time we really go into the mind of a stranger, and we find our common humanity doing this. So the book doesn't only belong to the writer, it belongs to the reader as well, and then together you make it what it is.
Surely it is an odd way to spend your life - sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist, except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice.
Writing is a solitary business. It takes over your life. In some sense, a writer has no life of his own. Even when he’s there, he’s not really there.
To care about words, to have a stake in what is written, to believe in the power of books - this overwhelms the rest, and beside it one's life becomes very small.
I've been trying to fit everything in, trying to get to the end before it's too late, but I see now how badly I've deceived myself. Words do not allow such things. The closer you come to the end, the more there is to say. The end is only imaginary, a destination you invent to keep yourself going, but a point comes when you realize you will never get there. You might have to stop, but that is only because you have run out of time. You stop, but that does not mean you have come to an end.
And if Amsterdam was hell, and if hell was a memory, then he realized that perhaps there was some purpose to his being lost. Cut off from everything that was familiar to him, unable to discover even a single point of reference, he saw that his steps, by taking him nowhere, were taking him him nowhere but into himself. He was wandering inside himself, and he was lost. Far from troubling him, this state of being lost because a source of happiness, of exhilaration. He breathed it into his very bones. As if on the brink of some previously hidden knowledge, he breathed it into his very bones and said to himself, almost triumphantly: I am lost.
Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author's words reverberating in your head.
[T]he only luxury he allows himself is buying books, paperback books, mostly novels, American novels, British novels, foreign novels in translation, but in the end books are not luxuries so much as necessities, and reading is an addiction he has no wish to be cured of.
For the first time in his life, he stopped worrying about results, and as a consequence the terms “success” and “failure” had suddenly lost their meaning for him. The true purpose of art was not to create beautiful objects, he discovered. It was a method of understanding, a way of penetrating the world and finding one’s place in it, and whatever aesthetic qualities an individual canvas might have were almost an incidental by-product of the effort to engage oneself in this struggle, to enter into the thick of things.
And if, as all philosophers on the subject have noted, art is a human activity that relies on the senses to reach the soul, did it not also stand to reason that dogs -- at least dogs of Mr. Bones' caliber -- would have it in them to feel a similar aesthetic impulse? Would they not, in other words, be able to appreciate art? As far as Willy knew, no one had ever thought of this before. Did that make him the first man in recorded history to believe such a thing was possible? No matter. It was an idea whose time had come. If dogs were beyond the pull of oil paintings and string quartets, who was to say they wouldn't respond to an art based on the sense of smell? Why not an olfactory art? Why not an art for dogs that dealt with the world as dogs knew it?
Would it be possible, he wondered, to stand up before the world and with the utmost conviction spew out lies and nonsense? To say that windmills were knights, that a barber’s basin was a helmet, that puppets were real people? Would it be possible to persuade others to agree with what he said, even though they did not believe him? In other words, to what extent would people tolerate blasphemies if they gave them amusement? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? To any extent. For the proof is that we still read the book. It remains highly amusing to us. And that’s finally all anyone wants out of a book—to be amused.
Memory, therefore, not simply as the resurrection of one’s private past, but an immersion in the past of others, which is to say: history - which one both participates in and is a witness to, is a part of and apart from. Everything, therefore, is present in his mind at once, as if each element were reflecting the light of all the others, and at the same time emitting its own unique and unquenchable radiance.
Everybody make words,' he continued. 'Everybody write things down. Children in school do lessons in my books. Teachers put grades in my books. Love letters sent in envelopes I sell. Ledgers for accountants, pads for shopping lists, agendas for planning week. Everything in here important to life, and that make me happy, give honour to my life.'The man delivered his little speech with such solemnity, such a grave sense of purpose and commitment, I confess that I felt moved. What kind of stationery store owner was this, I wondered, who expounded to his customers on the metaphysics of paper, who saw himself as serving an essential role in the myriad affairs of humanity? There was something comical about it, I suppose, but as I listened to him talk, it didn't occur to me to laugh.
I hear her slip into bed with him, and I hear everything that happens after that. Sex is such a strange and sloppy business, why bother to recount every slurp and moan that ensued? Tom and Honey deserve their privacy, and for that reason I will end my report of the night's activities here. If some readers object, I ask them to close their eyes and use their imaginations.
Novels are fictions and therefore they tell lies, but through those lies every novelist attempts to tell the truth about the world.
Quinn froze. There was nothing he could do now that would not be a mistake. Whatever choice he made--and he had to make a choice--would be arbitrary, a submission to chance. Uncertainty would haunt him to the end. At that moment, the two Stillmans started on their way again. The first turned right, the second turned left. Quin craved an amoeba's body, wanting to cut himself in half and run off in two directions at once. (Chapter 7)
I always sense the future, the antithesis of everything is always before my eyes. I have never seen a child without thinking that it would grow old, nor a cradle without thinking of a grave. The sight of a naked woman makes me imagine her skeleton.
I learned that books are never finished, that it is possible for stories to go on writing themselves without an author.
This is what is called speaking. I believe that is the term. When words come out, fly into the air, live for a moment, and die. Strange, is it not? I myself have no opinion. No and no again. But still, there are words you will need to have. There are many of them. Many millions, I think. Perhaps only three or four. Excuse me. But I am doing well today. So much better than usual. If I can give you the words you need to have, it will be a great victory. Thank you. Thank you a million times over.
It is also true that memory sometimes comes to him as a voice. It is a voice that speaks inside him, and it is not necessarily his own. It speaks to him in the way a voice might tell stories to a child, and yet at times this voice makes fun of him, or calls him to attention, or curses him in no uncertain terms. At times it willfully distorts the story it is telling him, changing the facts to suit its whims, catering to the interests of drama rather than truth. Then he must speak to it in his own voice and tell it to stop, thus returning it to the silence it came from. At other times it sings to him. At still other times it whispers. And then there are the times it merely hums, or babbles, or cries out in pain. And even when it says nothing, he knows it is still there, and in the silence of this voice that says nothing, he waits for it to speak.
In the good mystery there is nothing wasted, no sentence, no word that is not significant. And even if it is not significant, it has the potential to be so - which amounts to the same thing. The world of the book comes to life, seething with possibilities, with secrets and contradictions. Since everything seen or said, even the slightest, most trivial thing, can bear a connection to the outcome of the story, nothing must be overlooked. Everything becomes essence; the center of the book shifts with each event that propels it forward. The center, then, is everywhere, and no circumference can be drawn until the book has come to its end.
Words tend to last a big longer than things, but eventually they fade too, along with the pictures they once evoked. Entire categories of objects disappear - flowerpots, for example, or cigarette filters, or rubber bands - and for a time you will be able to recognize those words, even if you cannot recall what they mean. But then, little by little, the words become only sounds, a random collection of glottals and fricatives, a storm of whirling phonemes, and finally the whole thing just collapses into gibberish.
We all want to believe in impossible things, I suppose, to persuade ourselves that miracles can happen.
A meal was no more than a fragile defense against the inevitability of the next meal. Food itself could never answer the question of food, it only delayed the moment when the question would have to be asked in earnest.
That is the idea he is toying with, Renzo says, to write an essay about the things that don’t happen, the lives not lived, the wars not fought, the shadow worlds that run parallel to the world we take to be the real world, the not-said and the not-done, the not-remembered.