Intelligent, thinking people could take things like this in their stride, just as they took the larger absurdities of deadly dull jobs in the city and deadly dull homes in the suburbs. Economic circumstances might force you to live in this environment, but the important thing was to keep from being contaminated. The important thing, always, was to remember who you were.
Dying for love might be pitiable, but it wasn't much different, finally, from any other kind of dying.
So it hadn’t been wrong or dishonest of her to say no this morning, when he asked if she hated him, any more than it had been wrong or dishonest to serve him the elaborate breakfast and to show the elaborate interest in his work, and to kiss him goodbye. The kiss, for that matter, had been exactly right—a perfectly fair, friendly kiss, a kiss for a boy you’d just met at a party, a boy who’d danced with you and made you laugh and walked you home afterwards, talking about himself all the way.The only real mistake, the only wrong and dishonest thing, was ever to have seen him as anything more than that. Oh, for a month or two, just for fun, it might be all right to play a game like that with a boy; but all these years! And all because, in a sentimentally lonely time long ago, she had found it easy and agreeable to believe whatever this one particular boy felt like saying, and to repay him for that pleasure by telling easy, agreeable lies of her own, until each was saying what the other most wanted to hear—until he was saying “I love you” and she was saying “Really, I mean it; you’re the most interesting person I’ve ever met.” What a subtle, treacherous thing it was to let yourself go that way! Because once you’d started it was terribly difficult to stop; soon you were saying “I’m sorry, of course you’re right,” and “Whatever you think is best,” and “You’re the most wonderful and valuable thing in the world,” and the next thing you knew all honesty, all truth, was as far away and glimmering, as hopelessly unattainable as the world of the golden people. Then you discovered you were working at life the way the Laurel Players worked at The Petrified Forest, or the way Steve Kovick worked at his drums—earnest and sloppy and full of pretension and all wrong; you found you were saying yes when you meant no, and “We’ve got to be together on this thing” when you meant the very opposite; then you were breathing gasoline as if it were flowers and abandoning yourself to a delirium of love under the weight of a clumsy, grunting, red-faced man you didn’t even like—Shep Campbell!—and then you were face to face, in total darkness, with the knowledge that you didn’t know who you were. (p.416-7)
You see? I don’t know what ‘mature’ means, either, and you could talk all night and I still wouldn’t know. It’s all just words to me, Frank. I watch you talking and I think: Isn’t that amazing? He really does think that way; these words really do mean something to him. Sometimes it seems I’ve been watching people talk and thinking that all my life. And maybe it means there’s something awful the matter with me, but it’s true.
He couldn't even tell whether he was angry or contrite, whether it was forgiveness he wanted or the power to forgive.
The whole point of crying was to quit before you cornied it up. The whole point of grief itself was to cut it out while it was still honest, while it still meant something. Because the thing was so easily corrupted, let yourself go and you started embellishing your own sobs.
And Emily had yet to shed a single tear. It troubled her all the way back to the city, and she rode with one hand sandwiched between her cheek and the cool, shuddering glass of the limousine window, as if that might help. She tried whispering 'Daddy' to herself, tried closing her eyes and picturing his face, but it didn't work. Then she thought of something that made her throat close up: she might never have been her father's baby, but he had always called her 'little rabbit.' And she was crying easily now, causing her mother to reach over and squeeze her hand; the only trouble was that she couldn't be sure whether she cried for her father or for Warren Maddock, or Maddox, who was back in South Carolina now being shipped out to a division. But she stopped crying abruptly when she realized that even that was a lie: these tears, as always before in her life, were wholly for herself—for poor, sensitive Emily Grimes whom nobody understood, and who understood nothing.
With their mother lying in a coma twenty miles away, they clung together drunkenly and wept for the loss of their father.
How small and neat and comically serious the other men looked, with their grey-flecked crew cuts and their button-down collars and their brisk little hurrying feet! There were endless desperate swarms of them, hurrying through the station and the streets, and an hour from now they would all be still. The waiting mid-town office buildings would swallow them up and contain them, so that to stand in one tower looking out across the canyon to another would be to inspect a great silent insectarium displaying hundreds of tiny pink men in white shirts, forever shifting papers and frowning into telephones, acting out their passionate little dumb show under the supreme indifference of the rolling spring clouds.
Warren Cox, God knew, was no prize; a commercial person, a sales person, the kind of man who said things like x numbers of dollars. At lunch today, laboriously trying to explain some business procedure, he had said x number of dollars three times.
I seem to have to lost confidence in just about everything else. I've come to believe that only a very, very few matters in the world can ever be trusted to make sense.
Don't worry, I can't be bothered! You're not worth the trouble it would take to hit you! You're not worth the powder it would take to blow you up. You are an empty, empty, hollow shell of a woman. I mean, what the hell are you doing in my house if you hate me so much? Why the hell are you married to me? What the hell are you doing carrying my child? I mean, why didn't you just get rid of it when you had the chance? Because listen to me, listen to me, I got news for you - I wish to God that you had!
if you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.
Our ability to measure and apportion time affords an almost endless source of comfort.“Synchronise watches at oh six hundred,” says the infantry captain, and each of his huddled lieutenants finds a respite from fear in the act of bringing two tiny pointers into jeweled alignment while tons of heavy artillery go fluttering overhead; the prosaic, civilian looking dial of the watch has restored, however briefly, an illusion of personal control. Good, it counsels, looking tidily up from the hairs and veins of each terribly vulnerable wrist; fine: so far, everything’s happening right on time…“Oh, let me see now,” says the ancient man, tilting his withered head to wince and blink at the sun in bewildered reminiscence, “my first wife passed away the spring of -” and for a moment he is touched with terror. The spring of what? Past? Future? What is any spring but a mindless rearrangement of cells in the crust of the spinning earth as it floats in endless circuit of its sun? What is the sun itself but one of a billion insensible stars forever going nowhere into nothingness? Infinity! But soon the merciful valves and switches of his brain begin to do their tired work, and “The spring of Nineteen-Ought-Six,” he is able to say. “Or no, wait-” and his blood runs cold again as the galaxies revolve. “Wait! Nineteen-Ought — Four.”… He may have forgotten the shape of his first wife’s smile and the sound of her voice in tears, but by imposing a set of numerals on her death, he has imposed coherence on his own life and on life itself… “Yes sir,” he can say with authority, “nineteen-Ought-Four,” and the stars tonight will please him as tokens of his ultimate heavenly rest. He has brought order out of chaos.
As a writer, I like the list of things to strive for that Richard Yates kept above his typewriter:genuine claritygenuine feelingthe right wordthe exact English sentencethe eloquent detailthe rigorous dramatization of story
Do you know what the definition of insane is? Yes. It’s the inability to relate to another human being. It’s the inability to love.
I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere, as far ahead of me as the seniors at Rye when I was in the sixth grade; people who knew everything instinctively, who made their lives work out the way they wanted without even trying, who never had to make the best of a bad job because it never occured to them to do anything less then perfectly the first time. Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I'd suddenly know that I Belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I'd been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in teh meantime had been a mistake; and they'd know it too. I'd be like the ugly duckling among the swans.