很久没有看family saga这个类型了。盛放毕竟还是对张家女子没有太虐,但不虐不出好戏,小凤仙这条线就最薄弱一些。
  • 在路上他已经想得很清楚,即使他做了一件似乎可以提要求的事情,但也不能在这个时候提出来,怎么提,他已经有了主意。他懊恼的是他就这样被动地接受了小凤仙的一块钱,自己在口袋里摸索的窘样,看在小姑娘眼里,只怕是存心不找吧……想一回,再呆一阵,终于还是摔摔头,让喜悦和充满希望的心情浮了上来。
  • 要到若莲不紧不慢地说:“刘先生,你的情况我略知一二,但窃以为,你的计划有不够周密的地方,你拿到了明铛的请柬恐怕也追不回你失去的东西啊。”的时候,他才觉得头“嗡”就大了,不知道说点什么才好,几乎立刻就从椅子上站起来,又强撑着不动,想不露声色,又觉得真没那个必要——什么都瞒不过面前这个美夫人,
  • 据说宁平的父亲在张雪亭面前连提也不敢提带孩子走的话,只一切听她安排调遣。他最后离开上海的时候,被允许见孩子一面。在他整个后半生,他都被那一幕纠缠:那个孩子孤单地坐在一丛蔷薇前面,托着腮,有一张和他一模一样的脸。蔷薇花呀,粉色的蔷薇花,明明只有那么一丛,可后来出现在他记忆中的时候,总感觉是一天一地。那种锥心刺骨的感觉令他再也不敢看这种花。偏生蔷薇又是那么普通那么普通的品种,无论走到哪里都会碰到。碰到一次便烂醉一次,四十岁上就生了肝病。
  • 甚至,宁秀根本就是她支开,要她兄妹二人永远不能聚首。张燕飞从来不打算让张宁平好过,也从来不打算放过她自己。
  • 问题在于他竟然不知死活地爱上了她,还不幸是真的那种爱情,在某个燃烧的最高点,他几乎觉得为她去死都是毫不动容的。结果,就这样了。李老头在这条类似于贫民窟的街上卖馄饨已近十年,他吃得少穿得少,攒下每一分钱。每年的某个日子,他还会朝某个地址寄去一样东西,据说那是那个女人的生日。这个故事在这条长街上固然颇有传奇味道,但久了也就习惯了,唯一的社会效应是,整条街上的女人都对儿子耳提面命:绝对绝对不能招惹比自己年纪大的女人。
  • 年轻到哪怕是这样的关系,哪怕是李子明和张若莲这样性格的人,在一次次肌肤相亲之后,双眸对望,都曾有那么几个瞬间,一直望到对方的灵魂里去。 那个夏天以后,李子明就要出发,他和张若莲都清清楚楚地看得到他们的结局,所以,他们呆在一起的每一天里都充满了那一声又一声的蝉鸣。那种昆虫,拼了命地,唱出金属一般的亮丽音色,恍若燃烧。
  • 某一个瞬间,她多么希望干这事的人再多聪明那怕一分半分,至少再多那么一点点遮掩,让她哪怕有一丝自欺欺人的余地也好啊。可惜,那个人的智慧,不多不少,刚够这么残酷。
  • 若莲知道,她真的嫉妒了。不但嫉妒人家献上的真心,更嫉妒的是,张爱卿肆意享受的姿态——那种肆意,几乎是要真正的贵族家的,被宠坏的,没有伤过心没有受过一丝一毫的苦的小姐才表现得出的坦然。呶,这才是张爱卿天赋中最最难得的部分:明明是个幼年丧母的娼家女子,偏偏可以活得跟个八旗子弟也似。
  • “我觉得,她那样做,其实就是她想的。”若莲说,“小凤仙,你要记住,这个世上没有什么事是所谓的不得已。”
  • “呵呵……”若莲笑了,黑暗中小凤仙看不见她的笑,但可以想象她的样子,“做都做了,就算开始不愿意,后来一定要告诉自己是愿意的,慢慢,就成了真的。”
  • 燕飞,其实,燕飞并不仅仅是活该而已吧,可是,不能觉得她可怜。这个世界,可曾因为谁比较可怜而换了人间?
  • 然后,是漫长的,差不多七年光景。在最初的半年里,日子真有一点不好过呢。其实,现在回想,似乎也并没有什么大不了。只是有时候会觉得夜有些长,有时候会无端端走神,有时候,会——想。想。那是一种细细碎碎的想念,想到的时候会笑,然后,是无尽的寂寥。明明知道,他不会有信来,有时候仍然免不了有一点不切实际的盼望。在听到他所在的国家的名字的时候,会觉得亲切。在有人说到某条街或者某个馆子的时候,也会觉得有一点点雀跃——那是他住过的街那是他在上海时常下的馆子。甚至,在有客人姓李或者名字里有个子或者明都会觉得亲切。如此种种,说不出是好还是坏。那绝不仅仅是苦涩,也谈不上什么痛彻心肺之类,相反,大多数时候是快活的,仿佛,他还在。当然,也绝不能自虐地说这是什么好。毕竟绝望。
  • 只因为叮当现在所挣的每一毛钱都是她入画的,所以,为了要拔得头筹,竟不惜令自己当众出丑,这对于任何一个别的母亲,只怕下手之前都要犹豫一下吧。但是,入画多半不会呢。
  • 这些年下来,若莲早已学会,一件事,如果好得不象真的,那就一定不是真的。凡事从不敢用力太过,寄托太深。有时候甚至想,如果和李子明相对的日子数目是注定的,那情愿一个月见一次,甚至半年一年见一次也好,不要多,不要密,只求久一点。然,还是生离。
  • 就象小凤仙不敢惊动若莲一样,若莲也不敢惊动她,甚至不敢额外地多寄钱过去——生怕露出一星半点察觉的迹象,那边就只会寄来花好月圆的他乡风物志。  只有彼此硬起心肠,只有双双相信对方可以应付。
  • 她想起了那条胡同,想起了胡同里的那个家,想起了,她成长以后才意识到的,母亲对于命运连不甘也不敢的无法追问的乐天。
  • 多年在人和人的关系中浮浮沉沉,若莲自然清楚所有感情开始的时候,都一定会有那么些个瞬间是真的,只是人们并不是真了那一瞬就立刻死掉,所以,这真在时间里会慢慢地变质,也许好,也许坏,也许无疾而终。可是,当是时,只有这一个刹那也就够了。并且,当是时,这一点真不是男女之情,它是人生值得经历下去的一个理由——在亲眼目睹亲身经历着人可以坏到千倍万倍于禽兽的时刻,这一点真无异于火花甚至是太阳。就算是过后粉身碎骨,又怎样呢?
  • 这个时代有很多这样的名字,存在的时候标志着某种生活方式,为当事人带来巨大的精神快感。然,时间会把一切变得平淡。
  • 象张雪亭这种人,至死也不愿堕了腔调,至死也不肯落了下乘,至死也不肯被单纯的欲望控制。
  • 当初,在一个孩童的心里,把什么都无限放大了。然后,在回忆里删删减减,哪里还有原来的样子?
  • 回忆,是多么不可靠的东西啊。可是,如果没有回忆,每一天都是白纸一般,活下去又有什么意思?
  • 她亦不知道,这样的追索还是危险的,无人引领,作如此纯想,灵魂便被放到同样细若游丝的一条线上锻造,稍有不慎,便会滑到理智的反面。燕飞就这样,带着一个问题,带着心智的一点灵光,彻底地陷入了一个人的世界。
  • 啊,不,那时候共同经历这些事的,还有奶娘的小儿子,在他的记忆中,应该还有一件。这加起来的四件事,到底哪一件是真的呢?似乎应该是真正发生过的那一件是真的,其他的都是它的虚像或者投影。可是,那真正发生过的,早就湮没在时间的流光中,既不可还原亦不可追溯,根本就没有意义。对于自己,真有意义的,应该是记忆中的,自己的那一份感觉和体验。是了,所谓的真实都仅仅是相对的,与其追求真实,不如问询是否具有意义。而有意义的,是自己的思想和体验。记忆的可靠不可靠并不重要,重要的是它对自己的意义。同时,也只有自己才赋予它意义——人的意识一旦消散,它就不再存在。
  • 那个凌晨,刘勇拉着车,带着若莲从码头返回的时候,整个上海似乎静得只剩下他们两个。刘勇清晰地感觉到车上若莲的心事,生离,死别,心碎,却又欣慰。命运大手拨弄下,拼了命还要快活起来的倔强。如果可以,他希望能够在她的肩头放下一只手,什么也不说,只是让她知道他明白她。可是不能。他只能咬紧了牙,硬生生地将所有心疼所有敬意所有爱意所有——自己心中激荡的那种又酸又胀又有些甜蜜的心事压下去,默默地拉着车,在无人的长街上一路小跑。
  • 还有,数年之前的某个晚上,她好端端地睡着,忽然就惊醒,小腹痛得死去活来,浑身汗出如雨,家人当即把她送往医院,在医院中,她莫名其妙地大出血,差一点点就死掉。很奇怪,就是在那样的痛苦中,她竟然清醒地,用直觉意识到,或许,有除了身体以外的其他原因。  “是妹妹。”冯惟敏定了定神,微笑,“她是41年6月在您那里吧?”  “是的。”林巧稚温和地笑,“我记得很清楚,那一次可真够凶险。您的一对外甥差一点点就救不过来。”
  • 往事,呵,人到老来总是会发现有无数的往事挤占于生活当中,它们的体积那么巨大,力量那么强悍,几乎是无孔不入——随时随地都会来。
  • 呵,当年那些颠倒于十七岁的张明铛的马术和枪法的男人们怎么也不会想到她将其派了这种用场。他们更不会想到她如今顶着一个“夜叉王”的匪号。
  • 能这样近距离地看着母亲,真好。小凤仙在心里一万次地感谢若莲,谢谢她这些年来,在那样的时局下仍然好好地活着,活到让自己能有这样的机会,用眼角的余光偷偷凝望她的面颊,然后在心底切实不切实地勾画剩下岁月的相守光景。
  • 人生总有些时候需要傻一点,才会快活。因为“情义”两字最不能分析,细究下来,大半都同利益无关。雪铛和云铛给不了那个人以情,至少还可全以义。
  • 她凝神去听,似乎可以从声音分辨出这城市每一滴雨的不同落点——飞来窗户上的有玻璃的冷,滴在遮阳蓬上的声音有布料的朴,落在不锈钢窗台上的有金属的脆,落在稠密树冠上的有植物的清,落在地上的,则带了一丝水泥的凉。她就这样坐着,仿佛坐在了过往、现在和将来的无尽岁月中。
  • 最困难的年月里,黑市上一个南瓜的价格可以和一个教师的月薪等同。所以,有“南瓜教师”的说法。
  • 其实,如果真要就小军的心态深度追问,会发现,他对燕飞的解读也是出于他的需要——当对生身父母的温情幻想破灭以后,那种被抛弃的巨大孤独感令其迫切地需要一个出口。加上浪潮中的一切常常令懂得思考的他困惑迷茫,心中的茫茫空洞一定要一些别的什么来填补,否则,他的灵魂将失去重量。如果不能破茧成蝶,便只能闷死在蛹中,终生不见阳光。从精神上,他必须找到一个能让他去爱去信任去付出去破茧的支撑点。所以,几个不眠之夜后,他完成了由造反派小军向提菜刀的小军的蜕变。
  • 说真的,要是没有红星宾馆的经历,她对这种到亲戚或者说朋友酒店房间去洗澡的举动多少会有不解甚至是排斥,但有了那一周的经验,她非但觉得是合理的,而且觉得是必须的,甚至立刻想到:“呀,昨天忘了让叮当也洗个澡再走。”
  • 宁秀想,这终于好算是母亲得到的一线光了。当没有阳光照进生命的时候,她试图用微弱的力量去为旁人点一支烛。而这个旁人,在能够站起来之后,助她推开了一扇窗。令她的生命终点,终于沐浴在了阳光之下。
  • 那天有很温柔很温柔的风,他们说的话全都飘散在了风里。那些话语和笑声长出了蝴蝶的羽翼,飞去所有错过的别后光阴,将所有皱褶一一抚平。  “这就是告别了。”若莲想,“这样的告别真的很好。”她对李子明伸出手去:“约个来生。”李子明将手伸过去,喉头轻轻一哽,“约个来生。”
  • 是的,她在人生最后的光阴里开始自省,在病痛折磨中开始痛苦自省。将这一生以为想通其实没通的所有问题一个一个地拎出来,直面藏得最深的自己,提问:“是否真的怀疑,是否真的抱怨,是否真的委曲,是否又真的嫉妒?” 答案是:“不,不,不,不,不。”   我这一生,无有怀疑,无有抱怨,无有委曲,无有嫉妒。过往时光均是好时光,因为不曾迷失。那些坚持和忍耐不是向现实屈服的不甘,而是真正的我最想要的。  若莲,最终打赢了这最艰险的一仗,在没有上帝或者别的神的帮助下,如同初生婴儿一般通透地走向了死亡。无忧无怖,无挂无碍。
  • 她并不知道,她的队伍护送过的人里,也有叮当亲手送出的。他们是国境线内最后一站,
  • “对。”宁秀点头,“靠山山倒,靠水水跑。得从一开始就牢记这个。”
  • “所以,我们这个张家,我们的母亲首先是被要求斩情绝爱,不但是男女之情禁止,而且连母女之情都是不被提倡的——因为这个部分被拿来换了钱。拿钱换了独立生活和将来发展的一线可能。代价很大。”
No wonder Michael Chabon won SF awards for this novel. The alternate universe where the "Frozen Chosen" live is instantly believable and grabbing. And who can be more hard-boiled than the non-chess playing Landsman and his Bina? I lost the plot a bit in the latter half of the book.
  • He picks up the shot glass that he is currently dating, a souvenir of the World’s Fair of 1977.
  • Landsman drinks to medicate himself, tuning the tubes and crystals of his moods with a crude hammer of hundred-proof plum brandy. But the truth is that Landsman has only two moods: working and dead... He has the memory of a convict, the balls of a fireman, and the eyesight of a housebreaker. When there is crime to fight, Landsman tears around Sitka like a man with his pant leg caught on a rocket... The problem comes in the hours when he isn’t working, when his thoughts start blowing out the open window of his brain like pages from a blotter. Sometimes it takes a heavy paperweight to pin them down.
  • But this Lasker. He was like one of those sticks you snap, it lights up. You know? For a few hours. And you can hear broken glass rattling inside of it... Shedding the last of their fading glow on each other and listening to the sweet chiming of broken glass inside.
  • Night is an orange smear over Sitka, a compound of fog and the light of sodium-vapor streetlamps. It has the translucence of onions cooked in chicken fat.
  • In the end Landsman switches on the flash and notches it between his teeth. He hikes up his pants legs and gets down on his knees. Just to spite himself, because spiting himself, spiting others, spiting the world is the pastime and only patrimony of Landsman and his people.
  • a wretched place ruled by men united only in their resolve to keep out all but a worn fistful of small-change Jews.
  • “And don’t give them a hard time, even if they look like they could use one.”
  • grandmaster, and a character famous for having said “The blunders are all there on the board, waiting to be made.”
  • the hard-bitten, half-decrepit town of Sitka, capital of the old Russian Alaska colony. In drafty, tin-roofed huts and barracks, they underwent six months of intensive acclimatization by a crack team of fifteen billion mosquitoes working under contract with the U.S. Interior Department... the raucous frontier energy of downtown Sitka, the work crews of young Jewesses in their blue head scarves, singing Negro spirituals with Yiddish lyrics that paraphrased Lincoln and Marx.
  • “Your father played chess,” Hertz Shemets once said, “like a man with a toothache, a hemorrhoid, and gas.” He sighed, he moaned. He tugged in fits at the patchy remnant of his brown hair, or chased it with his fingers back and forth across his pate like a pastry chef scattering flour on a marble slab. The blunders of his opponents were each a separate cramp in the abdomen. His own moves, however daring, however startling and original and strong, struck him like successive pieces of terrible news,
  • By now they were all staunch Alaskan Jews, which meant they were utopians, which meant they saw imperfection everywhere they looked.
  • Ester-Malke worries he might envy her and Berko their successful program of breeding and their two fine sons. Landsman does, at times, with bitterness. But when she brings it up, he generally bothers to deny it.
  • the bedroom that had once served Meyer and Naomi’s father as Klein bottle for the infinite loop of his insomnia.
  • But to look at, he’s pure Tlingit. Tartar eyes, dense black hair, broad face built for joy but trained in the craft of sorrow.
  • Once more he feels a sharp nostalgia for the fair, for the heroic Jewish engineering of the Safety Pin (officially the Promise of Sanctuary Tower,
  • Bina accepts a compliment as if it’s a can of soda that she suspects him of having shaken... hope that his feelings about her, not that he still has any, of course, might turn to the universal gray of discipline.
  • She is getting old, and he is getting old, right on schedule, and yet as time ruins them, they are not, strangely enough, married to each other.
  • repeat the rash threats of yore does not, I assure you, exist, Detective Shemets,” the reporter says in his swift and preposterous Yiddish. “Evergreen and ripe with the sap of their original violence they remain.”.. Once again he lashes himself to the tiller of his Flying Dutchman version of the mother tongue.
  • “It takes a sour woman to make a good pickle,”
  • He rationalizes this with the thought that from the point of view of, say, God, all human confidence is an illusion and every intention a joke... So every year, it turned out, Uncle Hertz diverted up to half his operating budget to corrupt the people who had authorized it. He bought senators, baited congressional honeypots, and above all romanced rich American Jews whose influence he saw as critical to his plan.
  • The men are still caught up in their game, the way a pair of mountains gets caught up in a whiteout.
  • “When you play him, even though he wins every time, you feel you play better against him than with the assholes in this club,”
  • Now he looks shrunken, depleted, the king in the story reduced by the curse of eternal life to a cricket in the ashes of the hearth. Only the vaulting nose remains as testament to the former grandeur of his face.
  • But then a man not in control of his emotions would never get very far with the Réti Opening.
  • For an instant he handles the bones, horn, and leather of the old man’s hand.
  • Girls hobbled by long skirts go along braided arm in arm, raucous chains of Verbover girls vehement and clannish as schools of philosophers.
  • That’s how it goes for Berko Shemets in the District of Sitka when he breaks out the hammer and goes Indian. Fifty years of movie scalpings and whistling arrows and burning Conestogas have their effect on people’s minds. And then sheer incongruity does the rest.
  • “When it comes to marriage I like to let other people make the mistakes,” Landsman says. “My ex-wife, for example.”
  • call it an eruv. But somebody has to lay down those lines, survey the territory, maintain the strings and the poles, and guard the integrity of the make-believe walls and doors against weather, vandalism, bears, and the telephone company.
  • “No matter how powerful,” (Landsman riffs)... “every yid in the District is tethered by the leash of 1948. His kingdom is bound in its nutshell. His sky is a painted dome, his horizon an electrified fence. He has the flight and knows the freedom only of a balloon on a string.”
  • “Jesus Fucking Christ,” she says with that flawless hardpan accent of hers. It is an expression that always strikes Landsman as curious, or at least as something that he would pay money to see.”
  • But there was always a shortfall, wasn't there? Between the match that the Holy One, blessed be He, envisioned and the reality of the situation under the chuppah. Between commandment and observance, heaven and earth, husband and wife, Zion and Jew. They called that shortfall 'the world.' Only when Messiah came would the breach be closed, all separations, distinctions, and distances collapsed. Until then, thanks be unto His Name, sparks, bright sparks, might leap across the gap, as between electric poles. And we must be grateful for their momentary light.
  • The exaltation of understanding; then understanding's bottomless regret.
  • “Miracles prove nothing except to those whose faith is bought very cheap, sir.”
  • A Messiah who actually arrives is no good to anybody. A hope fulfilled is already half a disappointment.
  • It would require the brain strength of the eighteen greatest sages in history to reason through the arguments against and in favor of classifying the rebbe’s massive bottom as either a creature of the deep, a man-made structure, or an unavoidable act of God.
  • Tough break, to favor simple explanations in a world full of Jews.
  • As a foundation for partnership, mutual pity is not to be despised.
  • (Snow like broken pieces of daylight... silver plate tarnishing fast.)

"Lab Girl"

Jul. 25th, 2017 06:10 pm
I wish I could recall more from my high school biology classes.
  • A willow tree loads these used branches with reserves, fattens and strengthens them and then dehydrates their base such that they snap off cleanly and fall into the river. Carried away on the water, one out of millions of these sticks will wash up onto a bank and replant itself, and before long that very same tree is now growing elsewhere.
  • Can you imagine throwing away all of your possessions once a year because you are secure in your expectation that you will be able to replace them in a matter of weeks? These brave trees lay all of their earthly treasures on the soil, where moth and rust doth immediately corrupt. They know better than all the saints and martyrs put together exactly how to store next year’s treasure in Heaven, where the heart shall be also.
  • A very small minority of these fungi—just five thousand species—have strategically entered into a deep and enduring truce with plants. They cast their stringy webbing around and through the roots of trees, sharing the burden of drawing water into the trunk. They also mine the soil for rare metals, such as manganese, copper, and phosphorous, and then present them to the tree as precious gifts of the magi.
  • By suspending each leaf separately, the tree has stacked its surface area into a sort of ladder for light to fall down. Looking up, you notice that the leaves at the top of any tree are smaller, on average, than the leaves at the bottom. This allows sunlight to be caught near the base whenever the wind blows and parts the upper branches. Look again and you’ll notice that leaves low in the canopy are of a darker green; they contain more of the pigment that helps each leaf absorb sunshine, allowing them to harvest the weaker rays that penetrate shade. When building foliage, a tree must budget for each leaf individually and allocate for each position relative to the other leaves. A good business plan will allow our tree to triumph as the largest and longest-living being on your street. But it ain’t easy, and it ain’t cheap.
  • molecule, and within the bowl of its spoon-shaped structure sits one single precious magnesium atom. The amount of magnesium needed for enough chlorophyll to fuel thirty-five pounds of leaves is equivalent to the amount of magnesium found in fourteen One A Day vitamins, and it must ultimately dissolve out of bedrock, which is a geologically slow process. Magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and the many other micronutrients that our tree needs can be gained only from the extremely dilute solution that flows in between the tiny mineral grains within the soil. In order to accumulate all of the soil nutrients that thirty-five pounds of leaves require, our tree must first absorb and then evaporate at least eight thousand gallons of water from the soil.
  • Researchers generally love their calling to excess, and delight in nothing better than teaching others to love it also; as with all creatures driven by love, we can’t help but breed.
  • Vines cannot take over a healthy forest; they require a disturbance in order to take hold. Some gash has to create open soil, a hollow trunk, a sunny patch that a vine can come into. People can disturb like nothing else: we plow, pave, burn, chop, and dig. The edges and cracks of our cities support only one kind of plant: a weed, something that grows fast and reproduces aggressively.
  • Biologists don’t much study the desert, since plants represent three things to human society: food, medicine, and wood. You’ll never get any of those things from the desert. Thus a desert botanist is a rare scientist indeed and eventually becomes inured to the misery of her subjects.
  • During those strange days of its reawakening the plant lives off of pure concentrated sugar, an intense sustained infusion of sweetness, a year’s worth of sucrose coursing through its veins in just one day. This little plant has done the impossible: it has transcended the wilted brown of death.
  • FULL-BLOWN MANIA LETS YOU SEE the other side of death. Its onset is profoundly visceral and unexpected, no matter how many times you’ve been through it. It is your body that first senses the urgency of a new world about to bloom. Your vertebrae seem to detach from one another and you elongate as if toward the sun’s light.
  • One by one you disembowel the tapes, pulling out reels of shiny brown floss. A curly mess is all that remains from the sprawling ecstasy of those anguished high holidays.
  • I’ll keep describing how the world spins when mania is as strong and ever-present as gravity.
  • THE LITTLE TOWN OF SITKA is probably the most inviting place in Alaska.
  • Most VOC compounds don’t contain nitrogen, thus they are relatively cheap for the plant to produce and are therefore expendable.
  • Love and learning are similar in that they can never be wasted.
  • Three billion years of evolution have produced only one life form that can reverse this process and make our planet significantly less green. Urbanization is decolonizing the surfaces that plants painstakingly colonized four hundred million years ago... The amount of urban area in the United States is expected to double during the next forty years,
  • This frees us to make it as ugly, silly, unwieldy, and inefficient as we want to—we just need to improvise something that works for us. This is how scientific research instruments are built. The creative process born from these necessities gives rise to delightfully quirky creations, unique as their creators. Like all art, they are a product of their period and an attempt to address the issues of their age. Also like art, they appear outmoded and antiquated when viewed from within the future that they helped create.
  • The spaces between the cells are now filled with an ultra-pure distillate of cell water, so pure that there are no stray atoms upon which an ice crystal could nucleate and grow.
  • These trees do not grow during winter; they merely stand and ride planet Earth to the other side of the sun,
  • The discovery of trees that could live in the dark is akin to a discovery of humans that could live underwater.
  • These two organisms—the wasp and the fig—have enjoyed this arrangement for almost ninety million years, evolving together through the extinction of the dinosaurs and across multiple ice ages. Theirs is like any epic love story, in that part of the appeal lies in its impossibility... Such specificity is extremely rare in the plant world, so rare as to be hardly worth mentioning, except as a feel-good example of symbiosis between ecological soul mates.
  • Every living being on the Earth’s surface has been conscripted into a never-ending war over a total amount of water that equals less than one-thousandth of one percent of the planet’s total.
  • There is, however, one reliable act of parental generosity between the maple and its offspring. Each night beneath the ground, the most precious resource of all—water—moves up from the strong and out toward the weak, such that the sapling might live to fight another day.
  • Thus the initial planting of seedlings at the start of a forestry study represents a weary victory won by a stoic researcher with a strong sense of fatalism. This unique intellectual agony shapes the character of the tree experimentalist and selects for those with a religious devotion to science, patient with overtones of masochism.
  • “Why is everything so bloody-bleeding over here?” I launched into a discourse on the gradual contraction of medieval oaths invoking the Virgin Mother Mary’s menstrual blood and the seepage of Christ’s wounds,
  • palm trees are not really trees: they are something different. Inside their trunks you won’t find hard wood growing outward, new tissue added ring by ring. Instead you’ll find a jumble of spongy tissue, scattered instead of arranged. This lack of conventional structure is what gives the palm its flexibility
  • I am comforted by my suspicion that all my private maternal ecstasy is really nothing more than what every mother feels for her son.
  • Eventually it will require more nutrients to maintain the branches and roots that do not grow quite far out enough to capture those nutrients. Once it exceeds the limitations of its environment, it loses all. And this is why you must trim a tree periodically in order to preserve it. Because—as Marge Piercy first said—both life and love are like butter and do not keep: they both have to be made fresh every day.
  • wanted to make him know that he had friends in this world tied to him by something stronger than blood, ties that could never fade or dissolve. That he would never be hungry or cold or motherless while I still drew breath. That he didn’t need two hands, or a street address, or clean lungs, or social grace, or a happy disposition to be precious and irreplaceable. That no matter what our future held, my first task would always be to kick a hole in the world and make a space for him where he could safely be his eccentric self.
  • SOIL IS A FUNNY THING, in that it isn’t really anything in and of itself but is instead the product of two different worlds coming together. Soil is the naturally produced graffiti that results from tensions between the biological and geological realms.
  • Being paid to wonder seems like a heavy responsibility at times.
  • People don't know to make a leaf, but they know how to destroy one.

"Lab Girl"

Jul. 24th, 2017 05:58 pm
Last time I was so bowled over by a clear-eyed obsessive's account of her life was 'H is for Hawk'. Hope Jahren makes me look at trees differently now.
  • The average ocean plant is one cell that lives for about twenty days. The average land plant is a two-ton tree that lives for more than one hundred years. The mass ratio of plants to animals in the ocean is close to four, while the ratio on land is closer to a thousand.
  • Did you see something green? If you did, you saw one of the few things left in the world that people cannot make. What you saw was invented more than four hundred million years ago near the equator. Perhaps you were lucky enough to see a tree. That tree was designed about three hundred million years ago. The mining of the atmosphere, the cell-laying, the wax-spackling, plumbing, and pigmentation took a few months at most, giving rise to nothing more or less perfect than a leaf.
  • THERE IS NOTHING in the world more perfect than a slide rule. Its burnished aluminum feels cool against your lips, and if you hold it level to the light you can see God’s most perfect right angle in each of its corners.
  • In the cupboard by the door there was pH testing tape, which was like a magic trick only better because instead of just showing a mystery it also solved one: you could see the difference in color and thus pH between a drop of spit and a drop of water or root beer or urine in the bathroom but not blood because you can’t see through it (so don’t try).
  • He taught me that there is no shame in breaking something, only in not being able to fix it.

  • garden: efficiency and productivity. She favored sturdy, independent vegetables like Swiss chard and rhubarb, the ones that could be relied upon to yield in abundance and seemed only to thrive in response to frequent harvesting..; instead she preferred the radishes and carrots that could tend to their own needs quietly underground.
  • My mother believed that there was a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and that doing it wrong meant doing it over, preferably a few times.
  • She knew how to stitch a different tension into each of the buttons on a shirt, based on how often it would be called into use. She knew the best way to pick elderberries on a Monday such that their stems wouldn’t clog the old tin colander on Wednesday,
  • Being mother and daughter has always felt like an experiment that we just can’t get right... As much as I desperately wanted to be like my father, I knew that I was meant to be an extension of my indestructible mother: a do-over to make real the life that she deserved and should have had.
  • that my true potential had more to do with my willingness to struggle than with my past and present circumstances.
  • My laboratory is like a church because it is where I figure out what I believe. The machines drone a gathering hymn as I enter.
  • My laboratory is a place where I write. I have become proficient at producing a rare species of prose capable of distilling ten years of work by five people into six published pages, written in a language that very few people can read and that no one ever speaks. This writing relates the details of my work with the precision of a laser scalpel, but its streamlined beauty is a type of artifice, a size-zero mannequin designed to showcase the glory of a dress that would be much less perfect on any real person. My papers do not display the footnotes that they have earned,
  • A definitive dataset, made with integrity and interpreted honestly, is the most innocent thing in the world, but whenever we produce one, Bill and I feel like Bonnie and Clyde celebrating yet another clean getaway. “In your face, universe!”
  • No writer in the world agonizes over words the way a scientist does. Terminology is everything: we identify something by its established name, describe it using the universally agreed-upon terms, study it in a completely individual way, and then write about it using a code that takes years to master. When documenting our work, we “hypothesize” but never “guess”; we “conclude,” not just “decide.” We view the word “significant” to be so vague that it is useless but know that the addition of “highly” can signify half a million dollars of funding.
  • Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not.
  • I must have cracked thousands of seeds over the years, and yet the next day’s green never fails to amaze me. Something so hard can be so easy if you just have a little help. In the right place, under the right conditions, you can finally stretch out into what you’re supposed to be.
  • they discovered that their seedling had been waiting for them within a peat bog in China for no less than two thousand years. This tiny seed had stubbornly kept up the hope of its own future while entire human civilizations rose and fell.
  • Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.
  • Working in the hospital teaches you that there are only two kinds of people in the world: the sick and the not sick. If you are not sick, shut up and help. Twenty-five years later, I still cannot reject this as an inaccurate worldview.
  • my confidence ripened into boredom.
  • it came to me that as hospital workers, we were being paid to trail along behind Death as he escorted frail, wasted bodies over difficult miles, dragging their loved ones along with him. My job was to meet the traveling party at its designated way stations and faithfully provide fresh supplies for the journey.
  • “(Jean) Genet worked as a prostitute and robbed his clients, and then used the time in jail to write books,”
  • “Where is Armenia? I don’t even know,” I asked. “Most of it isn’t anywhere,” he answered. “That’s kind of the problem.”
  • Folded within the embryo are the cotyledons: two tiny ready-made leaflets, inflatable for temporary use. They are as small and insufficient as the spare tire that is not intended to take you any farther than the nearest gas station.
  • The leaves of the world comprise countless billion elaborations of a single, simple machine designed for one job only—a job upon which hinges humankind. Leaves make sugar. Plants are the only things in the universe that can make sugar out of nonliving inorganic matter... Veins bring water from the soil to the leaf, where it is torn apart using light. The energy produced from this tearing apart of water is what glues sugars together after they are fixed from the air.
  • cactus. It was this new idea that allowed a new kind of plant to grow preposterously large and live long in a dry place where it was also the only green thing around to eat for miles—an absurdly inconceivable success. One new idea allowed the plant to see a new world and draw sweetness out of a whole new sky.
  • Each grain of salt in a saltshaker is a perfect cube when viewed up close. Grind one grain into a fine powder and you have shattered it into millions of tiny, perfect cubes.
  • source. I looked forward to my analyses with the same happy anticipation one brings to a baseball game: anything might happen, but it will probably take a long time.
  • I was the only person in an infinite exploding universe who knew that this powder was made of opal. In a wide, wide world, full of unimaginable numbers of people, I was—in addition to being small and insufficient—special. I was not only a quirky bundle of genes, but I was also unique existentially, because of the tiny detail that I knew about Creation, because of what I had seen and then understood.
  • Nothing in the world exposes human helplessness and folly quite like a tree that will not bloom.
  • It is easy to become besotted with a willow. The Rapunzel of the plant world,
"A Whole New Ball Game" / D. T. Max
__ "They can make a movie faster than we can make a toy," Berberian jokes. <> Like the Sphero, the BB-8 had whimsical touches.

"Feel Me" / Adam Gopnik
  • There were so many things to vary! But finally one pattern emerged: a sinusoidal envelope, modulating at one hertz, that fits within the biological range of rhythm and change. Tighten the wave, and tingle becomes touch. It may be coincidence, but that wave, the one that communicates touch, is just around the rhythm of a heartbeat, a sort of essential bodily beat.”
  • For itch we have very dedicated behavior. It’s really cool. We inject a chemical into a face. If it’s painful, the animals use a front paw to gently rub it. If you inject an itchy substance, they use a hind leg to scratch. Almost always animals use their hind paw to scratch. So we can tell if they are itchy or painful.”
  • Even more, the experiments suggest an odd asymmetry between the two systems. You can trade pain for itch, Dong points out: that’s why mice and men both scratch. But it won’t work the other way around... A signature of itch is that it’s specific to the skin. Your bones can ache, but they can’t itch.
  • Kuchenbecker says. “It’s like recording a certain natural sound, like a waterfall, and then being able to generate a synthetic sound that sounds the same but goes on forever and never repeats, so it’s not just a looped recording. The trick is that we constantly change the properties of the waveform to match the exploration conditions, like adjusting how fast the waterfall seems to be flowing. And it creates a fluid, moving, three-dimensional illusion of texture.” Choose your texture, drag the tool across nothing, and you feel touch plus time, which is all that texture is.
  • Pressure is tone, and texture melody, but touch presses itself on us most urgently at the extremities, in the experience of pain and of sexual pleasure.
  • A key to being embodied in this way is tactile experience—what we touch, whom we touch, how many we touch, and why we find them touching. Grasping, hugging, striking, playing, caressing, reaching, scratching backs, and rubbing rears: these are not primitive forms of communication. They are the fabric of being conscious. The work of the world is done by handling it. We live by feel.
Alexandra Kleeman: When you seek out - or seek to avoid - your own reflection, the modern city becomes a hall of mirrors... Your own face runs rampant through the world and, like a word repeated too many times, begins to lose its reference.

"Play Ground" / Alexandra Lange
__ "Ecology in Holland is in grids," Geuze said. "Every frog in Holland is in a line, because all the water is linear."
__ "Olmsted manipulated the perspective in a way that Americans have the illusion of the wilderness," Geuze said. "Park history is related to illusions, and is not far from the realm of poetry and painting.
__ Every inch of an artificial hill costs tens of thousands of dollars.

Louis Menand: The irony.. is that sports is essentially anesthetized labor. It is the spectacle of men and women exerting all their mental and physical powers to produce... nothing.
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"One Man's Trash" / David Owen
"In Nelson I see an outsider curatorial genius,"

"The New Harpoon" / Tom Kizzia
an open graveyard, with skeletal remains arrayed for miles atop funerary racks of bleached whalebones - essential building materials in a land without trees.

"Knives Out" / Ian Parker
__ what counts as fun in middle age- loyalties divided between abandon and an early night. His expressions of enthusiasm often take the form of wariness swept away
__ Experienced for the first time, this covert cosseting feels slightly melancholy, like an episode of Cold War fiction involving futile charades and a likely defenestration.
__ expensive, stage-managed tasting menus with scant choice: Amanda Cohen.. told me that this style of eating can remind her of the fact that powerful people have been known to enjoy recreational powerlessness in bondage clubs.

Burkhard Bilger: (In "Der Struwwelpeter," the most famous German children's book of that era, a character's thumbs are chopped off because he won't stop sucking them.) One of Bode's respondents remembered her mother scolding her after a bombing raid: "Why can't you be happy for once? Just be glad you're alive."
_______________________________

"Patina" / Ian Frazier
__ Even in places nobody can see, the sculpture isn't blank, it's richly detailed - the strands of hair on the top of her head, the bun, the soles of her sandals... Patina is a crystalline structure; it's not opaque like paint. You're looking into it.
__ When you have Statue of Liberty green on the brain, you see it all around you, especially on infrastructure. Being aware of the color somehow makes the city's bindings and conduits and linkages stand out as if they'd been injected with radioactive dye.

"Wild Man" / Nick Paumgarten
  • He was first.. a climber, a renowned pioneer of rock and ice routes around the world... Then a blacksmith: he designed, and made by hand, a host of ingenious new climbing tools.. Next, itinerant thrill-seaker.. Finally, eco-warrior.
  • Their first catalogue, in 1972, opened iwth a clean-climbing manifesto, a rockhead's version of leave-no-trace. A gambit for better gear had begun to extend into an argument for a better world.
  • The Do Boys.. included.. Tom Brokaw.
  • "Whatever you touch first in the freezer you eat. It's mostly game. I touched a goose. Watch your teeth." There was no buckshot in mine.
  • The (fishing) line is made of horsetail hair - from a stallion, since mares pee on their own tails.
"Eat, Memory" / Jane Kramer
__ The truth is that I remember nothing about those oysters or, in fact, about the rest of the meal, perhaps because later that night I conceived a beautiful daughter, somewhat hurriedly, in the middle of a hotel fire that we then managed to flee with two book manuscripts intact. How could a meal compete with that?
_____________________________________
Bertrand de Jouvenel: "There is a tyranny in the womb of every utopia."
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Peter Schjeldahl: Fragonard could do, with terrific panache, anything he liked, providing that other people - and he knew just who they were - liked it, too.

"Presumptive" / Thomas Mallon
  • In (Hilary's) case, fifteen years of jury-rigged self-fulfillment cannot make up for the previous twenty-five of self-suppression and worse... She is always still with all the other compromised, renovated, and discarded Hillaries.
  • E.M.Forster memorably said that "the test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way."
  • When the oyster spread the first real layer of nacre on the grain of sand, and the great bivalve that is the Donald puckered and whispered, "Someday, I swear to God, I'm going to do it"?
Part police procederal, part romance, part writing lesson, with a side of academic skullduggery. All what Richard Russo does best, to bring us up to date with his beloved "Nobody's Fool" characters.
  • after accidentally discharging his weapon, the judge had fixed him with his trademark baleful stare for what had felt like an eternity before turning his attention to Ollie North, the chief back then. “You know my thoughts on arming morons,” he told Ollie. “You arm one, you have to arm them all. Otherwise it’s not even good sport.
  • In fact Flatt had exhibited little affection of any kind, except for an abstract concept he called “small-town justice,” which he claimed to dispense. How that differed from other kinds of justice Raymer never had the temerity to ask, but he suspected it meant “likely to be reversed in a higher court.”
  • What leads you to believe they’ll be interested in any of this? (Well, if they weren’t, why had she assigned this subject to begin with? Did she imagine he was interested?)
  • But her most mysterious and baffling questions always had to do with the speaker. That side of Raymer’s triangle was always so tiny, and the other two so elongated, that the resulting geometric shape resembled a boat ramp. On each of his essays she wrote Who are you? as if Douglas Raymer weren’t printed clearly at the top of the first page... Raymer had tried his best to comprehend the old lady’s triangle, though it remained as deeply mysterious to him as the Holy Trinity’s Father, Son and Holy Ghost. At least that was billed as a profound mystery that you were meant to contemplate, even while knowing that it was beyond human comprehension—a great comfort to Raymer, since it was certainly beyond his.
  • A uniform, he then discovered, was the next best thing to an identity,
  • Raymer repeated what Charice had told him about how these remotes work, implying that his interest was official, that he himself was concerned because “your remote could open my garage door and let you into my house.” “Except I wasn’t pointing mine at your house. You were pointing yours at mine.” “I was speaking hypothetically,” Raymer told him. “I wasn’t,” the man said.
  • The cruel arithmetic of their friendship was such that while Sully was Rub’s only friend, Rub was one of Sully’s many... Indeed, every time someone in his friend’s inner circle died or moved away, it was as if Sully himself was proportionately diminished, so there was never a net gain.
  • That rare lawyer who was less interested in law than justice, Wirf took even joking references to the latter seriously and could always be counted on for both perspective and sound judgment... “When I’m gone,” he’d told Sully more than once, “you’re going to discover how hard it is to find another one-legged lawyer who’s always in a good mood,” and this had proven true.
  • Poor people concluded that the deck was stacked against them, rich ones that a reshuffle would ruin both them and civilization.
  • What appealed to him, as near as he could tell, was its necessity. That was the thing about the work he and Rub used to do: nasty as it was, it all needed to be done. And once completed, it provided satisfaction, and even pleasure, in inverse proportion to the hardship endured.
  • “Into the grave,” Charice repeated, apparently willing to concede the truth of what he was telling her but still unable to wrap her mind around what had happened. “Like…on top of the casket?
  • “One minute you were standing there and the next it was—timber! You went into that hole like it was dug to your exact specifications. You were just gone. You know like when you try to stuff a cat in a bag? How there’s always a leg sticking out?
  • Carl rotated the schematic, considering it from a different angle, and offered it to the mayor. “Show me on this where there’s a power line.” “Why would I show you on that when I can take you to the actual cable your guys just jacked the shit out of.
  • “Well,” Gus sighed, “several things have to happen. First, some imbecile has to sever the collar ties that secure the walls to the roof.” “Why would anybody do that?” “They were working on the penthouse units, is my understanding. They meant to retie them later.” “Still,” Jerome said, “the floor joists—” “Those were compromised a couple weeks ago in order to construct the interior stairwells... “Boom,” said Gus, puffing out his cheeks. “Maybe that’s the lesson. You can skate on the first idiocy, and maybe even the second, but the third brings down the wrath of God.” He regarded Raymer then as if he might be the physical embodiment of the principle he’d just articulated.
  • (In war, as in the courtroom, never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.)
  • “Chief?” she said. “I ever tell you about the tattoo on my ass?” “No, Charice. That I would’ve remembered.” “Butterfly. Tiny little thing. If you don’t let me out from behind this switchboard, it’s gonna be a pterodactyl by the time I’m forty.
  • Fear is a poor fuel, thin and easily burned through, even when there’s a lot of it.
  • What bearing did mere facts have when it came to how you saw yourself? If Sully never thought of himself as seventy, even on days like today when he felt eighty, why shouldn’t a lonely married woman who read romance novels every night think of herself as a girl?
  • At first he might credit Rub as his source, but as he grew more confident, he’d relate the story as if he himself had been the sole eyewitness. With Sully’s best efforts, Rub sometimes wished he’d been there to enjoy the events his friend was describing, until he remembered he actually had been.
  • Their days would be full of long hours, plenty of time for Rub to tell Sully whatever he wanted, and Sully, chastened, would be devoted to getting him back on his feet. Well…foot. Okay, Rub wasn’t crazy about the idea of losing a leg, but if that was the price of friendship, what choice did he have but to pay it? Sully’s pal Wirf had gotten along fine on one leg, and if he could be happy on just the one, then Rub supposed he could, too.
  • At some point, though, certain facts, as hard and uncomfortable as the severed nub of tree limb he was sitting on, began to intrude on his pleasant dismemberment fantasy... And even if he somehow avoided this fate and recovered, he’d be chasing Sully all over Bath on one leg instead of two.
  • Rotten wood, even when painted over, has the soft, porous feel of a badly told lie,
  • The kettle’s dome, which might’ve killed him, landed with a dull thud behind him, then rolled down into the ravine. Even the rain of ashes and the last of the burning embers wouldn’t have been terribly problematic if he hadn’t been looking up. But of course he was.
  • It was as if mundane and mechanistic things were suddenly revealed to have been specifically designed with an eye toward maximum cruelty and guaranteed suffering. Bad enough that our relationships with the living should always be undermined by fear and venality and narcissism and a hundred other things, but it seemed especially awful that we couldn’t be faithful even to the dead. We put them in the ground with expressions of love and admiration and eternal devotion, promising never to forget, though then we did, or tried to.
  • “Also the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition and the Vietnam War,” Carl continued. “Not one of those clusterfucks could truly commence until somebody said, What the hell. We’ve come this far.”
  • Because it was something the way things kept grinding with no apparent reason or need, indifferent to life and death and all else, too.
  • That said, the mechanical world probably wasn’t so different from its living inhabitants, most of whom, Sully included, went about their lives, most days, taking it all for granted. His own happiness, such as it was, had always seemed rooted in his willingness to let each second, minute, hour and day predict the next, today no different from yesterday except in its particulars, which didn’t amount to much.
  • “People generally do notice things,” Kurt continued, “especially when you direct their attention, but they act on very little. Then they wonder why their lives are so full of regret.”
  • judging from the photo, he might as easily have been climbing up, a home-invading burglar. His bruised, swollen face looked like some sort of visual prediction of the damage done by a fall that hadn’t yet occurred. The caption read: What’s up, Chief?
  • “I don’t, Roy. And I’ve tried diets. They don’t work. I bet Janey doesn’t even have to diet.” “I’m not gonna tell you again about not sayin’ her name.” “But that’s what I mean, Roy. She gets to be her and be all lucky and I don’t even get to say her name. And I’m the one bein’ nice to you.
  • When it came to role-playing, Gert, as everyone knew, was without equal. All his life he’d been a sucker for similar conundrums. He leaned one elbow onto the bar to get comfortable. “My car got crushed yesterday, so for me running’s a problem... Gert’s eyes glazed over and crossed slightly as he dove deeper into his role as violent moron. “I’m scared and they gave me painkillers at the hospital, so I’m not thinking straight. I fall back on what I know."
  • Then Dougie reached out with Raymer’s hand, picked up the snake, returned it to the box and secured the lid. Smith was rubbing his eyebrow, which was already ballooning impressively, and looked at Raymer with something like embarrassment. “Fuck,” he said. “I knew better than that."
  • “I know. You said already you’re in love with me.” “You keep leaving out the maybe,” he told her.
  • It was a shame, in fact, that there was only one belligerent asshole in the car, because it would’ve felt good to coldcock a few more. The static in his ears was almost as loud as the honking had been, but as he went back to his car he found himself happily humming a tune from a couple decades earlier and recalled the lyric: I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.
Our ethnic bluestocking's progress through New York's more rarified social spheres is a bit too make-believe,  ("On the morning of Friday, July first, I had a low-paying job at a waning publisher and a dwindling circle of semi-acquaintances. On Friday, July eighth, I had one foot in the door of Condé Nast and the other in the door of the Knickerbocker Club—the professional and social circles that would define the next thirty years of my life.") and it's followed by some romantic plot twists that were a shade lurid. Still, it had its moment with the paper plane flying episode. ("Dear Sir, If you would be so kind, please play us / your interpretation of "It's De-Lovely". / For is it not de-lightful to-nightful? / Your Moonstruck Neighbors")
  • But for me, dinner at a fine restaurant was the ultimate luxury. It was the very height of civilization. For what was civilization but the intellect's ascendancy out of the doldrums of necessity (shelter, sustenance and survival) into the ether of the finely superfluous (poetry, handbags and haute cuisine)?
  • Yes, they’re formulaic. But that’s one of the reasons they are so satisfying. With every character, every room, every murder weapon feeling at once newly crafted and familiar as rote ( the role of the postimperialist uncle from India here being played by the spinster form South Wales, and the mismatched bookends standing in for the jar of fox poison on the upper shelf of the gardener’s shed). Mrs. Christie doles out her little surprises at the carefully calibrated pace of a nanny dispensing sweets to the children in her care.
  • but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane - in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath - she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger. What my father was trying to tell me, as he neared the conclusion of his own course, was that this risk should not be treated lightly: One must be prepared to fight for one's simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements.
  • I knew too well the nature of life's distractions and enticements--how the piecemeal progress of our hopes and ambitions commands our undivided attention, reshaping the ethereal into the tangible, and commitments into compromises.
  • "Most people have more needs than wants. That's why they live the lives they do. But the world is run by those whose wants outstrip their needs".
  • Be careful when choosing what you're proud of--because the world has every intention of using it against you.
  • Anyone can buy a car or a night on the town. Most of us shell our days like peanuts. One in a thousand can look at the world with amazement. I don't mean gawking at the Chrysler Building. I'm talking about the wing of a dragonfly. The tale of the shoeshine. Walking through an unsullied hour with an unsullied heart.
  • How little imagination and courage we show in our hatreds. If we earn fifty cents an hour, we admire the rich and pity the poor, and we reserve the full force of our venom for those who make a penny more or a penny less. That's why there isn't a revolution every ten years.
  • From the end of the pier he could see the city skyline in its entirety - the whole staggered assembly of townhouses and warehouses and skyscrapers stretching from Washington Heights to the Battery. Nearly every light in every window in every building seemed to be shimmering and tenuous - as if powered by the animal spirits within - by the arguments and endeavours, the whims and elisions. But here and there, scattered across the mosaic, were also the isolated windows that seemed to burn a little brighter and more constant - the windows lit by those few who acted with poise and purpose.
    He scuffed out his cigarette and decided to dwell out in the cold a little while longer.
    For however inhospitable the wind, from this vantage point Manhattan was simply so improbable, so wonderful, so obviously full of promise - that you wanted to approach it for the rest of your life without ever quite arriving.
  • I cracked two eggs in a bowl and whisked them with grated cheese and herbs. I poured them into a pan of heated oil and covered them with a lid. Something about heating the oil and putting on the lid makes the eggs puff upon contact. And they brown without burning.
  • I have no doubt that they were the right choices for me. And at the same time, I know that right choices by definition are the means by which life crystallizes loss.
  • (like phosphorescence supporting a night swimmer)
What builds or tears down our allegiance to a given novel? I have mixed feelings about Amor Towles's debut novel. The one-liners, the repartees, and cameos of a bygone New York are certainly winsome:
  • an old fashioned Irish house (GOOD ALE, RAW ONIONS, NO LADIES)
  • This city where all things beautiful are welcomed and measured if, if not immediately adopted, then at least tried on for size.
  • If New York was a many-cogged machine, then lack of judgement was the grease that kept the gears turning for the rest of us.
  • world-weariness, as if a string of successes have towed along an ugly truth or two.
  • Bred with just the right amount of fresh air, roughhousing, and ignorance, these primitive blondes set out from the cornfields looking like starlight with limbs.
  • “I think we all have some parcel of the past which is falling into disrepair or being sold off piece by piece. It’s just that for most of us, it isn’t an orchard; it’s the way we’ve thought about something or someone."
  • (Ukrainian vaudeville bar), where they could keep a watchful eye on one another. In such proximity, time slowly strengthened their sentiments, while diluting their resolve.
  • The one thing for certain at Belmont was that on Wednesday at 5:00 A.M., there was no place for the common man. This was like the circles of Dante's Inferno - populated with men of varied sins, but also with the shrewdness and devotion of the damned... Hands grip cups where the absence of steam said the cup was filled with liquor.
  • St. Patrick’s on Fifth Avenue and Fiftieth Street is a pretty powerful example of early nineteenth-century American Gothic... The stained-glass windows were made by craftsmen from Chartres. Tiffany designed two of the altars and a Medici designed the third. And the Pieta in the southeast corner is twice the size of Michelangelo’s. In fact, the whole place is so well made that as the Good Lord sees about His daily business, He can pass right over St. Patrick’s confident that those inside will take pretty good care of themselves.
  • As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion....if the next thing you're going to say makes you feel better, then it's probably the wrong thing to say. This is one of the finer maxims that I've discovered in life. And you can have it, since it's been of no use to me.
  • But there are tens of thousands of butterflies: men and women like Eve with two dramatically different colorings—one which serves to attract and the other which serves to camouflage—and which can be switched at the instant with a flit of the wings.
  • Because when some incident sheds a favorable light on an old and absent friend, that's about as good a gift as chance intends to offer.
  • If we only fell in love with people who were perfect for us, then there wouldn't be so much to fuss about love in the first place.
  • - You're rather well read for a working-class girl.
    - Really? I've found that all my well-read friends are from the working classes.
    - Oh my. Why do you think that is? The purity of the poverty?
    - No. It's just that reading is the cheapest form of entertainment.
    - Sex is the cheapest form of entertainment.
    - Not in this house.
  • I suppose we don't rely on comparison enough to tell us whom it is that we are talking to. We give people the liberty of fashioning themselves in the moment - a span of time that is so much more manageable, stageable, controllable than is a lifetime.
  • He always looked his best, I thought to myself, when circumstances called for him to be a boy and a man at the same time.
  • Slurring is the cursive of speech...
  • That's the problem with living in New York. You've got no New York to run away to.
  • Really. Is there anything nice to be said about other people's vacations?
  • Old times, as my father used to say: If you're not careful, they'll gut you like a fish.
  • New Eglanders respect all aspects of money but its use.
  • Hiker and a talker. This is a reason of self-discovery.
  • elbow to elbow, ethos to ethos / a rifle you can wear to your wedding.
萧如瑟的文笔也是异端,把这么狗血的剧情都hold 住了。 还是太虐,有HE的番外暂时没力气看。

  • 那柔曼飘舞的,并不是珊瑚,而是女子湛青的长发。那女子卧在珊瑚中,懒懒抬手,以指尖自海水中搅出丝缕缠绕的澄碧冷蓝。女子将澄碧经线一线一线横展于面前,以冷蓝为纬,纤指穿梭,把那些颜色纺作一幅几近无形的轻绡,姿态宛妙,犹如采撷无数梦幻空花。
  • 男子静默了片刻。“做我的儿子,除了安逸,什么都有。做我的女儿,却是除安逸之外什么都没有。”   “那我要做你的儿子。”男子胸前干燥柔软的衣料,有着微淡的香气。海市将头埋得更深,觉得身上的筋肉一点点松懈下来,声音逐渐模糊,沉沉睡去。
  • 浓碧的水流穿过指间与发间,万千银砂般闪亮细碎的气泡摇曳着汩汩上浮。
  • 这方海市身穿大典朝服,少年身姿英挺,肤色蜜金,眉宇秀丽仿如女子,又听说是个得势太监的养子,直看得张承谦心灰。官少爷见得不少,没有一个出息,已不抱什么指望,只求他不要死在边关教他们难做,也就很好了。这一路来,倒觉出这少年心性坚忍,什么苦都吃得,像借了旁人的躯壳还魂似的,毫不爱惜自己,
  • 那年头的时势,好似壮阔无情的怒涛巨流,史官笔下不动声色溅起一星细浪,便是几千几万条人命。
  • 回到营中的时候,已看不见一个奔跑的迦满孩子了。那天晚上,营内的迦满人久久不见同胞进关,既而发觉大军上山,哗乱起来,终于全体断送了性命。可是,即便不哗乱,他们亦没有活路。
  • 顶不住了。他听见空气中有个声音在耳语,轻微而宏大的声音,无所不在,如一阵瘴风在混战的人群中穿行。那是人们的心声,脱离了肉体与意识,汇集成命运的低语。男人们持刀的手已失去知觉,臂膊麻木,虎口裂至见骨,他们只是不停地砍,砍,砍。
  • 造化小儿,你如此弄人。可是为什么——青年抹了抹面颊上沾染的血迹,直直昂首望向云破天开的星空深处。冷诮的眼神,不像是要寻求答案,倒像是在挑衅——为什么我非得听命于你不可呢?
  • 二十五年人生,前十七年是水波上神光离合的浮华倒影,后八年却是狰狞杂错的刀痕,一刀一刀地,将他那一颗人心尽数斩碎。重返紫宸殿时,眼角已刻上纹路,二十五岁的鬓角,也居然霜华斑驳。
  • 夏季衣物本来不尚刺绣,多取印花织染之术,惟恐绣纹厚重,使穿者溽热不适,衣物重垂。若针脚稀薄,袖裾固然飘逸,却又失了刺绣本身一番浮凸玲珑的好处。这衣裳绣工却不寻常,针脚细密,绝无堆叠板结,绣工巧如天孙,更因使新缫的原色桑蚕丝挑绣,光泽润滑,自然有了浮凸之感,触手却依然如清风流泻,不滞不涩。好一个柘榴姑娘,看这衣裳手工,即便是在禁中织造坊内也是一等一的,想见其人,该是何等灵秀剔透。
  • “心里若是有了什么人,便找个空隙销了军籍,改回女儿模样,回霁风馆住上一年半载,义父去替你说合。”他微笑地说。他亦知道自己忍心,看着眼前那一张天然清艳的面孔神色逐渐哀戚,他只是微笑着说下去,如少年征战时候,在沙场上将刀送入敌人胸膛,深一寸,更深一寸,手下分明觉出骨肉劈裂,一拔刀,血雾便要喷溅出来似的。他却只是微笑着说下去。“即便是王公子弟,也手到擒来。”
  • 那塞外平川冬夏无尽更迭,一年到尾皆是飞沙走石的日子,只有夏季短短三四个月里牧草疯长,迫得草原上的人们只能纵马奔驰,跑在豺狼的前头,跑在日子的前头,跑在暴雪严霜的前头,跑在死的前头,跑得停不下来。天赐予草原之民的,就只有那样严苛的生涯,可是在这样的日子中草原之民依然保有他们的游戏歌咏之心。他们坦然地活着,将生命视作愿赌服输的一局骑射摔角,迟缓者死,犹疑者死,衰弱者死,技艺不如人者死,毫无怨怼。
  • 那茶碗早已为濯缨握碎,只是被手掌生生箍住一刻之久,施力极巧,是以薄脆碎片之间如刀锋互切,却密合得滴水未漏。那筋络分明修长美丽的手渐渐展开,茶碗亦随之分裂为六七片,清茶薄瓷,在月色下闪耀着剔透的光,纷纷落入霜平湖中。
  • 重烟楼台十里。无数青金琉璃瓦的檐顶在月光下起伏连绵成一片静默的碧海,浪尖上偶然一颗金砂闪烁,是吞脊兽眼中点的金睛。
  • 夏日花事盛极,已到了强弩之末的时分。风骏过处,青天下扬起一路落花。濯缨一鞭递一鞭地抽着,只想着早一刻回到宫中也是好的——柘榴,柘榴。<...> 此别经年,今生亦未必可期。她的脾性是端正剔透不劳人挂心的那一种,他知道,无需他叮咛多添衣、加餐饭、少思虑,仔细珍重种种种种,柘榴亦能将她自己安排妥当,然而总是要听她亲口答应了他,才算是就此别过,便要等待,也总有这一句叮咛的念想。
  • 小院内静寂欲死,乱红飞渡,任性零乱得像是也知道它们从此便无人收管似的。    自正午至日暮。天色层层染染,一笔笔添重靛蓝,著上艳橙,又晕散了绯紫,终于黑透了。
  • 宫内用的是特制落地灯笼,隔十五步便安放一个。灯笼约一人半高,长鼓形,均是整张白牛皮蒙制,不使针线缝合,用以煅压收口的黄金亦打造成空花宝相纹,内里安有河络工匠造出的精钢灯盏,燃鲸脂蜡与剑麻芯,少烟少热,明亮耐久。这上百座灯,使得金城宫中从此没有了影子,一切行止无从遁形。
  • “翼垂图南,这召风之术都说是绝迹世间,原来传人却在蛮族。”帝旭似是感叹,又似是欣喜。“鉴明,活着倒还有些意思。”
  • 那伊瓦内惶急扭头,却已不及。一道流丽的金翠光芒急划而来,自他大张的嘴内穿入上颚,直透脑髓,瞳孔立时散开。血与涎水混杂着淌下嘴角,满口里是精工镶嵌的柘榴石与橄榄石璎珞。
  • 因多年不见阳光的缘故,方诸少年时麦色的肌肤褪成了苍青的白。那袒露着的肩膊上,密密杂错着殷紫的浅白的大大小小伤痕——形如铜钱贯穿肩背的是箭伤,纵横浮凸的是刀伤,黑紫永难消褪的,是火伤与冻伤。
  • 濯缨于海市是兄长朋党,可豪饮论剑齐驱并驾,亲如一胞同出。方诸却是她的师,她的父,她的友,是她混沌世界里开天辟地的电与光。她原知道她与他是不能的,亦没有奢望过什么。不问前尘,不顾后路,杀人如麻只为得他一句称许,结果,却换得了这样一个下场。
  • 草原的黄昏分外炽烈艳丽。天际垒起万状云堡,金乌未沉,冰轮已然东升,日月星辰皆明媚硕大,与关内所见的天穹竟似是全然两样。夏草芃茂,高与马背相齐,夕阳下,眼见得那离离之草如赤金的波涛,自广袤远方一浪浪涌动而来。
  • “想不到……这老狐狸。”年轻男子收起了一贯的嬉笑表情。“我们费尽心思拣选的两只上好苍隼,反而成了他局中的踏脚石。现在可好,这方濯缨投身关外,因身负刺杀徵朝皇帝的死罪,鹄库庶民非但不疑心于他,更当他是个忍辱负重十五年的少年英杰。方诸这一手算盘,呵,打得实在精细。”
  • 御驾出城冬狩之日,永安、永乐两大道与承稷门照例不许庶民通行,路旁馔饮买卖商肆一概歇业。五十里积雪大道两侧张设着一丈高的连绵锦幛,为防车辇打滑,路面更洒有匀细海沙,宽广平直澄黄洁净,有如足金铺陈。永安大道上五色衣冠仪仗自成鲜明方阵,相衔而行,一时旌旗冠盖遮天蔽日。
  • 她早该知道,幸福不会来得如此轻易。他是何等绝情无义的男人,怎能奢望他独对她一人真心以待。他那样轻易便舍弃了濯缨,又怎么不能舍弃了她?    然而奇怪的是,她不愤怒,亦不悲伤了。许多年来,他的瞳孔内仿佛始终有面镜子,隔绝内心,只是将外界投映的一切冷冷反射回去。可是那一瞬间,镜面劈开一道裂痕,她深刻清晰地望进了他的眼底,浓烈沉潜的窅黑在那双秀长的眼里沸腾翻搅着,却被死死按捺住,不能夺眶而出。
  • “好一着置之死地而后生。”昶王轻哂,“若那姑娘落在我的手里,怕是真能对方诸有所挟制——也就难怪他宁可将这样一个美人拱手送给皇帝。”静了片刻,又道:“那方濯缨也是个棘手角色,如今大雪封关,亦不知左菩敦王那边情势如何。”
  • 五彩丝绦绾成同心结,左右系起两只满盛醇酿的错金云纹双瓠酒爵。两对金镶头牙箸亦是如此,齐齐整整系了丝绦,连在一处。    百子石榴团花、紫苏余甘子、碧糯佳藕、缕金香药、瑶柱虾脍、鸳鸯炸肚、双百合炊鹌子,满桌吉祥彩头的菜肴未下一箸,眼看着一点点散失了热气,原样冷透。
  • 他幽冷的眼逼近了海市,“六百七十多年来,清海公几乎没有一个得享天年。战死、病死、溺死、毒死、雷殛而死、无故暴毙,死状千奇百怪,满门孤儿寡母,为什么?——因为,方氏一家本不是战将,他们是秘术世家,是我褚氏的柏奚。”
  • “小公子您也知道,这两年为着黄金一事,周边诸国多有不满。除了迦满与鹄库正在交战,无暇顾及之外,其余的都已多半暗地里有了动作。”硝子低声道。从硝子那些言语中,海市仿佛能听见那个人的声音正冷冷重叠于后——嗓音醇净平缓,唇边的旧刀痕一定正微微扬起,成为一抹笑意。“南方各国皆视鲛人为航海通商之守护神祗,我国中若有鲛人守护,多少能有慑服之效。仪王之乱平靖尚不足二十年,眼下正值民间金铢筹算混乱,只要有数月的外征内乱,国体崩毁百姓涂炭之大势即难以挽回。难道小公子要犯下这六千万人命的罪愆么?”    “你错了。”海市昂然地扬起头,冷冷睨视着硝子,仿佛是在对硝子身后的那个幻影说道,“何必自欺欺人?将六千万人拖下深渊,那只能是皇帝的罪愆。”
  • 帝旭的眼里,逐渐浮现一贯的魔魅神情,“如果把天下的刀剑都铸为犁铧、兵书都化为粪肥,会不会从此便太平些?——那不行。人天生便知道争执仇杀,不过是因为杀的人多了,才讲究起技法与效率,终于有了兵书与刀剑。怎么办?”
  • 那十年,他从孩童成长为青年,像从沙漠中脱困的焦渴旅人需要很多很多的水,他需要很多很多的权势,否则夜间便不能安眠。
  • 紫宸殿的重檐庑殿顶上风势浩大,并肩站立其上的二人衣袂飘舞,直欲飞去。街衢纵横如棋盘,屋宇如豆,广袤帝都尽收眼底,直到视线为黯岚山脉所遮挡。
  • 黑白棋子错落于翡翠棋枰,势力消长,侵吞倾轧,永远困囿于经纬纵横之间,是命运巨手下朝生暮死的蜉蝣。半枰残棋间,数十年人生隐约峥嵘。
  • 那自由奔驰于草原的蛮族少年,是从他双臂中放出的鹰隼,亦将会是君临瀚州的王者。而海市——念及于此,另一道劈裂的疼痛撕开了他的胸膛。那英姿飒爽的少女将回到尘土飞扬的人间,结婚生子,在平凡日子的间隙中,偶尔怀想起他,又或许会将他全部忘却。终其一生,她不会知道他是如何珍爱她。如射手珍爱自己的眼睛,如珠蚌珍爱双壳中唯一的明珠——他亦从来不需要她知道。他愿将自己躺平成路,送她去到平安宁静的所在。
  • 可是,至少她做了能为他做的最后一件事。然后她将阖闭双眼,放弃所有坚执与挣扎,永远沉眠于深海之下——她已经疲倦至极。他是她胸中一道长年不能愈合的伤,非死亡不能治愈
  • 那年七月,鹄库王夺罕征服了居兹,七千里瀚北终归统一,各部咸呼夺罕为“渤拉哈汗”,鹄库语意为“乌鬃王”。兴建王都,名庞歌染尼,意即“红花柘榴之城”。其后裔统治传承近五百年,史称庞歌染尼王朝,王徽为千叶红花柘榴。    那是景衡九年夏天,帝都正是柘榴如火的时节,焚风萧萧穿城而过,于青天之下扬起一地残红。
大风刮去的上一篇《皇叔》弯弯绕绕多了些,CP又混乱,就没看完。这篇相比之下简单明了。
  • 丙子年五月初二,本仙君踩着一朵祥云降至尚川府上空,徐风乍起,路人仰头观望,皆缩颈疾奔,摊贩手忙脚乱,本仙君模糊听得一声叫喊:“天阴有雨,赶紧收摊回家!”    世人愚钝,本仙君不与他们一般见识。
  • 轻飘飘做了几千年神仙,再世为人,足踏实地头顶方圆,四肢熟悉的沉重,五味在胸尘音入耳,竟十分塌实的亲切。
  • 劈里啪啦一阵,哭声引来丫鬟,丫鬟去喊家丁,家丁去喊总管和奶妈子,奶妈子扶出夫人。两个忠心耿耿的家丁壮汉抖擞出武松上山的气概从我身边挟起两位小少爷,我向他两人亲切微笑,壮汉面露惊恐之色,一路狼烟狂奔回廊下。一颗颗人头,闪在八丈二尺远的地方,看鬼魂一样看本仙君。    有眼不识真仙,本仙君也不同他们一般见识。
  • 法师起身,“王爷,小公子仙君临世,当然与常人不同,古人曾道,卧虎如石。星君数年潜气钝行,世人碌碌者,却不可知。”    东郡王爷对儿子是老虎星下凡一说很是满意,小儿子之所以傻,乃是老虎星一二十年都在睡觉,这种混话他也信了。
  • 天枢转世,果然还是和在天庭一样爱不动声色,端清高架子。心里闹着,脸上撑着,直把自己撑成个病秧子。
  • 方才又玩得过了……    喊人、传大夫、上药、开方子、煎药、人仰马翻。    本仙君蹲在天枢床头,十分忧郁。我觉得玉帝派我下界,不是让我折腾天枢,实是让天枢折腾我。
  • 晋宁的眼晶亮亮地一闪,挺起小胸脯道:“小叔叔你放心,我一定不会和别人说。我明白了,男人和女人是亲嘴,小叔叔和叔叔都是男人,就叫渡气。”
  • 青衫公子站起身,本仙君惊且喜,恍若东风拂过,三千桃树,花开烂漫。   他在三千树桃花的灼灼风华中向我轻轻一笑。    “在下赵衡,见过思明公子。”       第九章    本仙君如一棵被霜打雪压的老树,忽见东风,不由自主花满枝头。    浅近些说,本仙君心花怒放了。
  • 本仙君没和他客气。这几日白天折腾,晚上还要惦记天枢在旁边,翻身的时候别压着,睡着的时候别梗着颈子,打鼾把他惊着。牵三挂四,不得塌实。本仙君翻身上床,在内侧打了个呵欠,昏昏欲睡。
  • 衡文道:“命格星君写册子一向爱偷懒省事,辞不达意还罔生歧义。只盼他这次写得清楚点,别节外生枝。”
  • 我对他的样貌还没看熟,又呆了一呆,也笑着接道:“当真当真,我到天庭第一次喝这么痛快。”
  • 所谓下棋之趣味,就是要与那对面同下的人为着一子两子的得失,三分两分的局面你争我夺。你喜我怒,你洋洋得意我森森冷笑,彼时抓耳挠腮它时冷汗潸潸踌躇难下,图得就是这个乐子。
  • 天枢的双目如近看的秋水,南明的两眼是远看的秃山。这厢盛着说不尽的凄楚哀伤思慕欣喜与绵绵情意,那厢装着沉甸甸的思念与光秃秃的情。
  • 我将落到地上的诗本捡起来放到桌上,没话找话地道:“没想到你看这个。我还以为你好看王摩诘与孟襄阳。”虽然本仙君在天庭时,每逢有行令联句献诗之类需弄文墨事,都要靠衡文帮我过关,但其实我做凡人的时候也念过诗的,也能和人谈谈。    慕若言道:“王诗与孟诗虽以淡泊悠远著,其实一位是富贵生闲一位是闲想着富贵。倒不如高适图名利便公然的图了,却痛快。”    我道:“也是,此公虽然言大行怯,诗写得铿锵,战场上无能。但这世上行同于言的又有几个?大多如高公尔。”
  • 我陪笑道:“你莫躁,欠你的情回了天庭慢慢还,今天晚上我捅南明给你看解闷,可好么?”    衡文道:“你今儿一天都在琢磨着一刀扎在南明身上什么位置罢。”
  • 我如此待天枢,他竟替我拦下刀子,一喜。    我如此待他,他竟说我不是坏人,不是我未唱够火候,就是他脑子过了火候,一忧。    至于那一愁……    背后衡文道:“你的刀在墙角的大花瓶里立着。”    本仙君立刻道:“阁下夜半入房,未能及时相迎,失礼。白日家丁活计粗重腌杂,委屈了单将军,实在不好意思。但不知单将军半夜将我的人从床上拐下来,欲做些甚。”    我含笑负手,踱到花瓶旁,拎出无鞘的长刀。
  • 本仙君立在殿上,从容惮定,我站理儿“玉帝英明,宋珧此下凡界,事事都按交代做,事事都与交代不同,吃的苦受的罪也没当什么,就不提了。玉帝明鉴万事,是非对错,定能公断。”
  • 天庭的四天门,南天门通如今界,西天门通过往界,东天门通未来界,北天门通随常界。    本仙君打算从西天门转回李思明还在床上诊治的时候,日游神刚将我真身提出,李思明刚咽气,本仙君在这个瞬间再附进去,衡文把那颗扎烂的心还回原样,万事大吉。
  • 身上无处不痒,我伸手在脖子后挠了挠,搓出个颇可观的灰疙瘩。弹了,再搓,再弹,颇有意趣。
  • 我捋须微笑,先向掌柜的微笑,再向慕若言微笑。待张口时,才察觉豆腐干还没咽,于是从容咽下,又微笑,先对掌柜的道:“举手之劳,何必客气。”再蔼声问床上的慕若言,“公子觉得身子好些了么?”
  • 我与狐狸在山腰落地,参参树影深深长草,我问狐狸此山的名字,狐狸冷声道:“宣清山。”宣离的宣,衡文清君的清,本仙君一阵肉紧,道:“你未起这个名字之前,这座山叫什么。”    狐狸悻悻道:“枯藤山。”闷头走了几步,道:“你怎么知道名字是我改的?”
  • 本仙君这个老壳子蹲在一旁,看着青春年少的衡文和青春年少的天枢手拉手站着,颇有种东华帝君在我眼前跳水袖舞滋味。
  • 衡文似懂非懂地眨眼。天枢欲止又言道:“我和衡文下午与他们下棋,他们下不过,就拍桌子说再和我们下棋就给我们做儿子做孙子。在凡间,给人做儿子是不是一件很丢脸的事情。那你为什么……”
  • 我此时像是块闷在锅里的锅贴,又被油煎又被气闷,熬得十分难受。我只能道:“你喜欢这间房,我便和你换一换,从今天中午起你就在这间房中住,我去你的房里睡罢。”
  • 衡文无奈道:“命格这次是一番好意救你,你反而该谢他。你在天庭这些年,众仙与你都有些交情,不忍心见你就这么着灰飞烟灭了。因此命格才向玉帝说,虽然据说仙契线死结不是灰飞烟灭再不能解,但你这个神仙算是意外飞升,这些年没见你和天枢生情,说不定还有别的解决的法子。又因为月老说,毁他人姻缘十分造孽,会自断姻缘做为报应。于是命格就想了这么一出,天枢他向玉帝说愿意一试。南明对青童和芝兰太过狠辣,正有一笔债要还。于是,便有了你下界一场。”
  • 命格星君道:“玉帝本以为,你只是乱了天枢星君和南明帝君天命的变数。没想到你还是衡文清君与那只狐狸之间的引线。”    欠的债,就必定要还。我和天枢栓在仙契线上。命格星君说,他是杜宛铭时,那一世欠了我的债。于是他在天庭护着我吃尽苦头,。狐狸对衡文一片痴心,拼了自己的性命与千年的修为。衡文欠了狐狸,而今我又欠着天枢。    原来一概的缘份,不过是一场要还的债。
  • 我道:“那你记得今天跟我说的话。衡文他喝茶喜欢喝淡茶,写字时常把笔搁在笔洗里忘了收,喝酒不醉不算完,不能由着他喝。睡觉倒是没什么毛病,但记着他起床一定要喝雀舌沏的头遍茶。一看公文就忘了时辰,要时常拖他出来各处散心,他案前有个叫陆景的,时时刻刻都能拿出一堆公文让他看,勿须理会此仙。要是东华帝君碧华灵君太白星君他们找他吃酒时,留神小心着,他有些丢三落四的毛病,离席起身后看看他桌子上有没有忘记拿的扇子之类的。他不怎么吃甜东西,果仁只吃盐培的不吃蜜渍的。枕头要矮,褥子要软,茶水注意温热合宜。”
  • 我这段话比方才天枢的遗言我觉得更动情些,狐狸的眼圈儿都隐约有些红了。
Oh and also Sully's one-legged attorney friend.
  • To Rub’s mind, Sully’s one human flaw was that he didn’t seem to want much more than he had, which seemed unaccountable. If you were standing outside in the cold and wet, it was only natural to wish you were inside where it was warm and dry, so Rub wished it, and not just selfishly for himself, but for Sully too. That was friendship. Maybe Peter was Sully’s son, but Rub was pretty sure Peter had no such strong feelings for Sully.
  • The problem seemed to be that the animal’s good side, which responded as it always had, was impatient with the defective side, which refused to function at high speed, causing the dog to circle itself, like a boat with only one oar in the water, until finally the animal collapsed and had to start over again. Only when the dog was sufficiently exhausted for the functioning side of his body to go slowly enough to meet the requirements of the stroke-damaged side could he stand. By then he was ready for another nap.
  • But all this had been before Thanksgiving, before Peter showed up needing things and bringing his own needy little boy with him, before Janey had come looking for him when she needed a place to hide, before he learned of Ralph and Vera’s troubles and that Wirf was sick. Maybe there were strings. Maybe you caused things even when you tried hard not to. If that was the case, he probably should find a new place to live.
  • Miss Beryl studied the child too, thinking, as she often had when she surveyed her eighth-grade classes, that maybe people did wear chains of their own forging, but often those chains were half complete before they’d added their own first heavy link. Maybe completing other people’s work was the business of life.
  • li>“Probably not. I’d make them enter the tape into evidence, and my guess is a tape showing you at work would do us as much good as them. They’d be going to a lot of trouble for nothing. See, we got one of the original Ten Commandments on our side.” “Only one?” “Thou Canst Not Get Blood from a Turnip.”
  • For Rub there were a great many mysteries, but none was more perplexing than the way his best friend would team up with any human being on earth against himself. It was almost enough to make Rub doubt that they were best friends... Rub was contemplating all of this, including the unfairness of his own reflection being inside the car while he was kept out,
  • Rub’s wishes didn’t travel well. They came out best when he didn’t have to raise his voice, when he was in a ditch, for instance, and Sully was there in the same ditch a few feet away and ready to receive them. He didn’t like to expel wishes forcefully but rather to release them gently, allow them to locate Sully of their own impetus, on their own struggling wings. Like recently hatched birds, Rub’s wishes were too new to the world and too clumsy to sustain extended flight. They liked the nest.
  • The next morning, the bright morning sun streaming in the bedroom window, Sully saw that his father was right. Swiping a slender, gold-plated letter opener from a dead priest was something a person could do. But you couldn’t steal the whole world.
  • Across the street a pickup truck was driving on the sidewalk, two of its wheels on the concrete, the other two on her neighbors’ terraces. A few short paces in front of the truck, a short, almost dwarflike man, looking maniacally determined, bent forward into the teeth of the wind which had been making the ancient elms moan all afternoon.
  • But he made the mistake of getting out again and grinning triumphantly at Sully, who, when he saw this, saw too that he was not through with his stupid streak. I’m about to fuck up, he thought clearly, and his next thought was, but I don’t have to. This was followed closely by a third thought, the last of this familiar sequence, which was, but I’m going to anyway. And, as always, this third thought was oddly liberating, though Sully knew from experience that the sensation, however pleasurable, would be short-lived.
  • But at such moments of liberation, the clear knowledge that he was about to do himself in coexisted with the exhilarating, if entirely false, sense that he was about to reshape, through the force of his own will, his reality.
  • Rub’s wishes, when you totaled them up, meant simply that he’d have preferred a different sort of world, one where he got his share—of money, pussy, food, warmth, ease. Sully’s job, as he perceived it, was to defend the world they were stuck with, a task made infinitely easier by Rub’s presence.
  • “I need a few paying customers to offset my pro bono work.” “Meaning me?” “No,” Wirf said. “You’re my pro bonehead work. You I do strictly for laughs.” Sully ignored this
  • in human nature that sought to ignore or absolve obvious guilt on the one hand even as it sought to establish connections and therefore responsibility in the most unrelated things.
  • though he doubted making people feel good was much of a talent. More tellingly, he understood that the mechanism behind making people feel good was providing them with an object lesson that things could be worse.
  • He felt again, without fear, the play in the wheel, that he was neither in nor out of control. So this, he reflected, was what it felt like to be Sully.
  • It wasn’t even as powerful as the affection mixed with aggravation that he felt toward Carl Roebuck. Strangely, it was closer to his feeling for Carl’s wife, Toby, a feeling he couldn’t articulate that resided in the pit of his stomach and made him feel foolish, warning him away—perhaps for the same reason, the deep-down knowledge that these were things he couldn’t have, that would not be granted him, a beautiful young woman he had no right to expect, a son he didn’t deserve.
  • An imperfect human heart, perfectly shattered, was her conclusion. A condition so common as to be virtually universal, rendering issues of right and wrong almost incidental.
  • Will had talked of nothing but the leg, and Ralph knew that touching it, bringing the limb to the crippled lawyer, was the bravest thing his grandson had ever done and that the boy was full of pride.
The parts about Sully's wretched childhood marred (as it was meant to) my complete enjoyment of the book. The bright spots: hapless Rub, Sully's elder grandson Will, and Miss Beryl.
  • that pain could have a cumulative effect. Your ability to withstand it had much to do with your ability to catch your breath between its assaults... What Sully feared now was that he was facing a new kind of pain, one that wouldn’t know or care when he’d had all he could take. It might never be satisfied.
  • What she looked like was a complete list of a man’s past sins come to life, bent on retribution.
  • Miss Beryl remembered one of her mother’s favorite quips, which she now shared with her companion. “Well,” she told Mrs. Gruber. “Either you told a lie or you ‘et’ something.” {??}
  • The responsibility and burden of affection had always weighed heavily on her ex-husband. Given half a chance, he gravitated naturally to the easy camaraderie of the lunchroom, the barroom, the company of men, of another man’s wife.
  • Only Will, her grandson, seemed aware of her distress, and he watched her so fearfully that she wished there was a way to reassure him that this feeling would pass, that truth was something she’d always been able to swallow and keep down.
  • the old man managed to take in each person efficiently—his unhappy daughter, Vera, and her long-suffering husband, his crippled ex-son-in-law, Sully, the little boy’s father, Peter, and his large, graceless, sad wife, and the boy himself, his great-grandson, little dick in hand, so full of life and energy. Robert Halsey took them all in, felt affection for one and all, but concluded then and there that even if his next breath of pure oxygen proved to be his last, he wouldn’t trade places with any of these people,
  • what to say to a kid with a perpetual frown who always watched the speedometer and reported back to his mother how fast Sully had driven. They usually went somewhere where there’d be a crowd—a movie or an amusement park—so they’d seem less alone.
  • the Joyce woman who had whimpered for half an hour in the bathroom was grieving the loss of a loved one—the self she had been when she was flush with the currency of youth.
  • Sully, even as a sophomore, was everything Clive Jr., an eighth-grader, aspired to be—reckless, imaginative, contemptuous of authority and, above all, indifferent to pain.
  • When he thought it through objectively, Clive Jr. didn’t see what was so wrong about a young boy wanting to keep his own family intact. Yet he and his father made no mention of their visit to Miss Beryl. It remained their unspoken secret, and yet instead of drawing father and son closer together, it had driven a further wedge between them.
  • Sully might even manage to kill everybody else, but it would be his own personal destiny to be thrown clear of one head-on collision after another, always the worse for the experience but never dead of it.
  • Trying to get Sully to see things her way was like trying to put a cat into a bag—there was always a leg left over.
  • Peter did as he was told. As things got crazier, he was actually getting the hang of coexisting with his father. Following orders was pretty much essential, far more important than understanding them. Different rules entirely from those that governed his life as an educator. Out on the blacktop the El Camino did a three-point turn and backed into the drive, right up to the gate.
  • Like all the mistakes a man made in his life, which could be worried and picked at like scabs but were better left alone.
  • “So I wouldn’t be you,” Peter said so quickly that Sully wondered if he’d imagined this conversation in advance and had an answer all prepared. As usual, Sully was surprised at how quickly Peter’s resentment surfaced. It wasn’t that he didn’t have reason, just that they’d be going along fine and then, without immediate cause, there it would be. “Actually, that was Mom’s reason. She was the one that wanted it.”
  • “I’ve never wanted you to be more like me,” he said. “There’ve been times I wished you were less like your mother, but that’s a different issue.” Peter’s smirk was less contemptuous now. “Terrific,” he said. “She’s afraid I’ll end up like you, you’re afraid I’ll end up like her.”
  • “When I could,” Sully admitted. In fact, giving his son a car he didn’t own had buoyed his spirits considerably. For much of the evening he had considered that in his son’s hour of need Sully had nothing to give him, and it was good to realize now that he hadn’t been thinking clearly. They shook hands on it more or less successfully, since irony and resentment were difficult to convey through the medium of palms.
  • Sully bent down to see. DON’T REMOVE THIS DEAR, it said, and down in the corner, POLICE DEPT. The note had been scrawled in pen, and someone had inserted, in pencil, a comma between the words “this” and “dear.” Sully considered the various riddles presented by both the dead animal and the note for about thirty seconds before giving up, glad that there were some riddles in this always strange life that had nothing to do with himself, a conclusion that was probably valid in general, if not in this instance.
Rereading the book after more then ten years was close to reading a new book, but along with "Straight Man", I'm starting to recognize Richard Russo's comedic voice.  Now I want to rewatch the Paul Newman movie.
  • If there was a recurring motif in today’s world, a world Miss Beryl, at age eighty, was no longer sure she was in perfect step with, it was cavalier open-mindedness. “How do you know what it’s like if you don’t try it?” was the way so many young people put it. To Miss Beryl’s way of thinking—and she prided herself on being something of a freethinker—you often could tell, at least if you were paying attention,
  • Where was the middle ground between a sense of adventure and just plain sense? Now there was a human question.
  • “visionary,” which, as everyone knew, was what you called a foolish idea that worked anyway.
  • One of the problems of being eighty was that you built up a pretty impressive store of allusions. Other people didn’t follow them, and they made it clear that this was your fault.
  • Sully... was a careless man, there was no denying it. He was careless with cigarettes, careless, without ever meaning to be, about people and circumstances.
  • Part of getting old, she knew, was becoming unsure... For longer than any of her widowed neighbors, Miss Beryl had staved off the ravages of uncertainty by remaining intellectually challenged and alert. So far she’d been able to keep faith in her own judgment, in part by rigorously questioning the judgment of others.
  • His existence had always been so full of breakage that he viewed it as one of life’s constants
  • to smoke in her house, this exception granted on the grounds that he honestly couldn’t remember that she didn’t want him to. He never took note of the fact that there were no ashtrays. Indeed, it never occurred to him even to look for one until the long gray ash at the end of his cigarette was ready to fall. Even then Sully was not the sort of man to panic. He simply held the cigarette upright, as if its vertical position removed the threat.
  • He didn’t like to go anywhere people wouldn’t recognize him as the North Bath football coach, which put them on a pretty short leash.
  • Throughout his life a case study underachiever, Sully—people still remarked—was nobody’s fool, a phrase that Sully no doubt appreciated without ever sensing its literal application—that at sixty, he was divorced from his own wife, carrying on halfheartedly with another man’s, estranged from his son, devoid of self-knowledge, badly crippled and virtually unemployable—all of which he stubbornly confused with independence.
  • In fact, Sully could tell just by looking at him how much Rub wanted (twenty dollars), how much he’d settle for (ten), and how long it would take for them to arrive at this figure (thirty minutes).
  • throughout his life, such sudden sensations of well-being were often harbingers of impending catastrophe. They were, in fact, leading indicators of the approach of a condition that Sully had come to think of as a stupid streak,
  • First he disproved things like chairs and trees that fell in the forest, and then he moved on to concepts like cause and effect and, most recently, free will. Sully’d gotten a kick out of it, watching everything disappear but the bad grades he got along with all the other students.
  • everybody romanticized old people, seeing in them their own lost parents and grandparents, most of whom had bequeathed to their children the usual legacy of guilt, along with the gift of selective recollection.
  • Indeed, Rub looked to be on the verge of tears when Sully finally relented and waved him over. Jumping up quickly, he came toward them at a trot, like a dog released from a difficult command.
  • He was devoted to Sully and just regretted that, with Sully, whenever there were three people, it ended up two against one, and Rub was always the one.
  • The citizenry of Bath were not fetched by this argument. To most people it didn’t seem that the word “up” needed to be symbolically abbreviated, brevity being the word’s most obvious characteristic to begin with. After all, the banner stretched all the way across the street, and there was plenty of room for a two-letter word in the center of it.
  • glad he wasn’t driving every day to the community college where he didn’t belong, glad to be taking the judge’s advice about not blaming people for the way things were, glad not to be placing his trust in lawyers and courts.
  • When Sully needed it most, money had a way of first liquefying, then evaporating, and finally leaving just a filmy residue of vague memory.
  • Sully had been one of the few older students in the large class and had never said much, but he wished he had the professor here now so he could explain why this wasn’t really a choice. He’d probably go about it by disproving the truck. To Sully it looked for all the world like a choice. His. Fuck it, he decided.
  • But other people’s stupidity elicited only sympathy in Rub, who identified so strongly and immediately with dumbness that he lost all advantage.
  • But the real reason he hadn’t let them operate was that the whole idea of a new knee had seemed foolish. In fact, Sully had laughed when the doctor first suggested it, thinking he was joking. The idea of getting a new anything ran contrary to Sully’s upbringing.
  • The only thing Sully envied these men was that they were finished, like ballplayers in an old-timers game who could look back on an episode in their lives that had a particular shape. Having completed it, they could move on to something else. Their lives were full of dates.
  • “I wisht she’d take an interest in me. I’d let her be on top.” Where women were concerned, Rub knew no higher compliment.
  • Ruth said, her thumbs digging deeper now between Sully’s shoulder blades, skillfully crossing the boundary between pleasure and pain. “No,” Sully countered. “I thought you meant seven. I thought you wanted Gregory graduated and away at college.” An indirect hit, apparently, since Ruth’s thumbs returned a little closer to affection mode.
  • Tiny put it into his pocket. “That make you happy, you mallet head?” “Yes,” Sully told him. “I’ve never been happier.” “You remain the uncontested master of the futile gesture,”

  • like most physical labor, there was a rhythm to it that you could find if you cared to look, and once you found this rhythm it’d get you through a morning. Rhythm was what Sully had counted on over the long years—that and the wisdom to understand that no job, no matter how thankless or stupid or backbreaking, could not be gotten through.
  • If for some reason—like they were being paid by the hour—they needed to go slow, then Rub was even more of a marvel the way he was able to stay in motion without accomplishing anything. Rub was a perfect laborer, born to follow orders, not minding in the least when he was told to do things wrong, able to convey the impression of progress even as he ensured that the job wouldn’t get done today. If need be, you could rest easy that the job wouldn’t get done until there was another one to replace it. All of this without ever appearing to stall or even rest.
  • One of his father’s favorite jokes had been the one that went “Why did the moron beat his head against the wall? Because it felt so good when he stopped.” Sully understood that the reason his father liked the joke was not so much that it was funny as because it was literally true.
E. L. Konigsburg's tale is sweet, and short enough not to strain the reader's credibility. The siblings' tiffs are adorable.
  • Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her pack. She didn't like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere.
  • Jamie liked perspiration, a little bit of dirt, and complications.
  • "I doubt that. Who would drop a whole candy bar and not know it? That's like leaving a statue in a taxi".
  • What happened was: they became a team, a family of two. There had been times before they ran away when they acted like a team, but those were very different from feeling like a team. Becoming a team didn't mean the end of their arguments. But it did mean that the arguments became a part of the adventure, became discussions not threats. To an outsider the arguments would appear to be the same because feeling like part of a team is something that happens invisibly. You might call it caring. You could even call it love. And it is very rarely, indeed, that it happens to two people at the same time-- especially a brother and a sister who had always spent more time with activities than they had with each other.
  • Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.
  • I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow.
  • Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts.
  • Flattery is as important a machine as the lever, isn't it, Saxonberg? Give it a proper place to rest, and it can move the world.
The 小蝌蚪找爸爸 part. The journey is harrowing at times but ends sweetly and fittingly.
  • but I thought I could safely point out more abstruse errors of fact, and this would be the type of thing I could sign Steven aged 11. It was hard to know how simply I should put the selfish gene theory: since he hadn’t understood it I didn’t want to make the explanation complicated, but I thought it would sound obnoxious if I stuck to words of one syllable.
  • I said I liked Amundsen and Scott and I liked King Solomon’s Mines and I liked everything by Dumas and I liked The Bad Seed and The Hound of the Baskervilles and I liked The Name of the Rose but the Italian was rather difficult.
  • Though of course the Icelandic words don’t really have the same register as English words of Anglo-Saxon derivation because they’re not in opposition to a register of Latinate vocabulary. He said: You know Icelandic?
  • It was not hard to imagine a world where my body stood in this room with something else inside it. If I said something he would see that other world.
  • All right, said Sib. Just remember that you are perfect, whatever your father may be. It may be that other people need a sensible father more. We’re not talking about an exhaustible resource, I said.
  • the term originally fixed in the undertaker’s mind. He that runs against Time, has an antagonist not subject to casualities.
  • abstract nouns would have to be turned into clauses, she digressed to explain that Lytton Strachey on Johnson on the Poets, on the other hand, was the type of thing that was very easy to turn into Latin,
  • HC had none of the Socratic scruples that plagued RD, but he carried sportsmanship to so fanatical an extreme that it had a very similar effect
  • He said: You don’t actually ARGUE all the way THROUGH you decide the endgame you want to play you incorporate an opening which might lead to it by REFERENCE as it might be Black played an unusual version of the Queen’s Indian you incorporate the middle game largely by REFERENCE
  • Now Fraenkel once said in a class that a scholar should be able to look at any word in a passage and instantly think of another passage where it occurred; HC was unperturbed by this remark, but RD took it to heart, and the longer he worked the more any text was like a pack of icebergs each word a snowy peak with a huge frozen mass of cross-references beneath the surface. So that now in addition to Socratic reservations on answering any question was added a conviction that in any linguistic analysis a real scholar would haul up the whole iceberg.
  • RD said: I can’t do this any more. I can’t do this to PHILOSOPHY. I can’t write some piece of rubbish in half an hour and say they MADE me do it. HC said: Opening middle game endgame.
  • English as a foreign language. RD was rather tired. Everyone can imagine a life’s regret for a moment of cowardice, but you could just as easily regret a moment’s courage;
  • The written language was constructed of ideograms compatible with many spoken realisations of the words & he felt that people spoke here any way they liked, while the written language flew on kites overhead. He felt at last free of philology.
  • The sky had cleared above, as if a solution of air and fine rain had separated until the heavier of the two had silted the valley in thick white mist leaving the clear pure air above.
  • HC would never back down. He was a linguist, and therefore he had pushed the bounds of obstinacy well beyond anything that is conceivable to other men.
  • Anything will have lift if its front edge is higher than its back, and it will have more if the top surface area is greater than the bottom. His idea was that if you made a pair of silk wings open at the front and cut the bottom shorter than the top the air rushing in would inflate them and the resultant taut surface would produce lift.
  • There was light in the upper air, but as soon as he reached the ground the light was gone. The sun was a bloody ball on the horizon.
  • he would find that if he asked a question of a man, no matter how slim or even non-existent the knowledge might be on which an answer might be given, it would always be given as a statement of fact—whereas you might ask a woman whether it was raining outside and she would commit herself only to saying that it might be so.
  • I was surprised by the shining wooden floors and thick rugs and stuffed sofas. An interesting form of the subjunctive is not something you can bring back as a trophy but still this was not what I had expected.
  • I plan to learn to work as a member of a team when the other members of the team are out of their teens.
  • I stumbled down the street. He had not killed to learn those moodless verbs and uninflected nouns, but he had brought a slave into existence for their sake.
Arch:  mischievous, teasing, knowing, playful, roguish, impish, cheeky, tongue-in-cheek;
  • Sorabji always liked to say that the unfortunate consul had travelled hundreds of miles into the interior to rescue a British citizen, only to find Gunga Din. It was true that the loincloth had come from Gieves & Hawkes, but this was not something you’d notice on a casual inspection.
  • That boy, said Sorabji very gravely, can add all the numbers between 1 and 500 in 20 seconds. The consul said: Hm. Sorabji was a Zoroastrian but he was not much of a believer, and he had been to chapel a lot at school but he believed even less in that, and yet he found himself saying Please Please Please Please. Please let him not know about Gauss please please please please please.
  • Her brother’s other friends were unfailingly charming, so that she could not talk to one without instantly afterwards taking out a horse and setting it at a six-foot fence. She had never met a man who could open his mouth without imperilling the life of a horse.
  • The first time he ran away was at night. He looked up at the Northern sky; it was like going from a Bond Street jeweller to a street trader hawking chips of glass on cheap velvet.
  • The whole time he was saying it, even though he was saying it seriously, he would suddenly break into a smile as if he had been saving the smile for the son he had always wanted and never had.
  • when you get right down to it you can’t beat the religious for sheer wanton contempt for Creator and Creation alike
  • It seemed to me that things were easier in the days when I just had Val Peters to worry about. He had his faults. Mixing up DNA and RNA. Dabbling in sexual tourism. One could go on. But no one would ever blame me for having a father like that - he just came that way.
  • I thought suddenly that it was stupid to be so sentimental. What we needed was not a hero to worship but money. If we had money we could go anywhere. Give us the money and we would be the heroes.
  • Journey into Danger! was out so I got Half Mile Down instead.
  • It was of an indefinable translucent blue quite unlike anything I have ever seen in the upper world, and it excited our optic nerves in a most confusing manner. We kept thinking and calling it brilliant, and again and again I picked up a book to read the type, only to find that I could not tell the difference between a blank page and a coloured plate. I brought all my logic to bear, I put out of mind the excitement of our position in watery space and tried to think sanely of comparative colour, and I failed utterly. I flashed on the search-light, which seemed the yellowest thing I have ever seen, and let it soak into my eyes, yet the moment it was switched off, it was like the long vanished sunlight—it was as though it had never been—and the blueness of the blue, both outside and inside our sphere, seemed to pass materially through the eye into our very beings. This is all very unscientific; quite worthy of being jeered at by optician or physicist; but there it was … I think we both experienced a wholly new kind of mental reception of colour impression.
  • that might be true up to a point. But in the capsule you were inside a pocket of air. What it felt like was being in a pocket of blue light—light that was blue the way water is wet.
  • Looking for a father had turned out to be an unexpectedly high-risk activity. Stand behind the door, Kambei tells Katsushiro. Bring down the stick as hard as you can, it will be good training for you. Any more training and I might not live to see 12.
  • I knew what she was thinking anyway. The silence stretched out, for my mother was debating inwardly the right of one rational being to exercise arbitrary authority over another rational being on the ground of seniority.
  • You could say it to me because it wasn’t true? he said. I see! He saw it in a single second. He laughed suddenly. But this is marvellous!
  • Life is such a chancy business, you may lose everything you have at any moment—if a stroke of luck can rob you of whatever it is you live by, where does that leave you?
  • We’re such cowards in front of a piece of paper these days—my mother was an Egyptian, and my father was from Hungary, both countries with a particularly impressive tradition of bureaucracy, and it gave me an indescribable frisson to cock a snook at the official channels.
  • (At a movie:) suitable moment at which to place your arm around the shoulders of your companion and kiss her. You cannot? No more could I. After half an hour, no suitable moment presenting itself, I chose an unsuitable moment—I was rebuked. With nothing to distract me, my mind returned with ever greater foreboding to my partner, at that very moment imbibing pernicious heresy from the lips of our fellow club members.
  • She’s not really pretty, I said. She’s beautiful. When she’s excited. When she’s bored she looks like someone who’s got two weeks to live.
  • would have liked to hear him talk this way about anything, as if you could be impervious to sorrow just by being a man.
  • When you play bridge with beginners—when you try to help them out—you give them some general rules to go by. Then they follow the rule and something goes wrong. But if you’d had their hand you wouldn’t have played the thing you told them to play, because you’d have seen all the reasons the rule did not apply... People who generalise about people are dismissed as superficial. It’s only when you’ve known large numbers of people that you can spot the unusual ones—when you look at each one as if you’d never seen one before, they all look alike.
  • I thought that I was beginning to get the hang of this. I had started by picking the wrong kind of father, but now I knew what to look for I could build up a collection of 20 or so. I felt ashamed, really ashamed of all the years I’d spent trying to identify the father who happened to be mine, instead of simply claiming the best on offer.
  • He said even if you weren’t interested in music wouldn’t the idea that things could be different— He stopped by the piano. He said But actually people don’t really like a piece of music until they’re used to it.
  • But we don’t live in a society where every schoolchild has Korner’s The Pleasures of Counting, or Steiner’s The Chemistry Maths Book, where every library has a copy of Lang’s Astrophysical Formulae
It's always thrilling to read about boy geniuses - sadly and unjustly girl geniuses don't appear in novels as much.
  • Brain left school at six while body did time: Well that wasn’t very nice now was it? L: If someone’s about to eat you you don't have to be nice.
  • Excellent idea as Greek so helpful for reading New Testament, camel through eye of needle for example mistranslation of very similar word for rope:
  • L is up to the pentekaipentekontapus under the admiring & indulgent eyes of people who get on and are able to get off again after a few stops.
  • so may salve conscience by just touching on highlights like Sound of Music cutting from Doe A Deer to seven-part harmony or heptaphony as some people (naming no names) would probably call it.
  • I said politely but firmly I think if you see the film again you will find that the samurai are not, in fact, an elite band. Lesser directors have of course succumbed to the glamour of the eliteness of a band, with predictable results; not Kurosawa. She said there was no need to take that tone
  • & I said politely Essentially the film is about the importance of rational thought. We should draw our conclusions from the evidence available rather than from hearsay and try not to be influenced by our preconceptions. We should strive to see what we can see for ourselves rather than what we would like to see.
  • smiling pleasantly through 273 verses (10 + 0 + –262) of the green bottles song. Could I be sure that he would not start up again at –263 or rather would anyone familiar with the child offer even straight odds that he would not? No.
  • there’s a stomach-turning swerve into another key and you’re in the middle of Over the Rainbow, swerve, Climb Every Mountain, swerve, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, swerve, swerve, swerve. Well then, you have only to imagine Liberace, hands, mouth, penis now here, now there, no sooner here than there, no sooner there than here again, starting something only to stop and start something else instead, and you will have a pretty accurate picture of the Drunken Medley.
  • how cruel that we must wake each time to answer to the same name, revive the same memories, take up the same habits and stupidities that we shouldered the day before and lay down to sleep.
  • All I would have to do was write down a short passage of Greek, as if for this interested sceptic, with translation transliteration vocabulary and grammatical comments—taking pains, of course, to write the latter as if for the type of person who can’t get enough of things like the middle voice, dual number, aorist and tmesis. I am usually not very good at dealing with social dilemmas, but this seemed a stroke of genius. It would take about an hour (comparing favourably with the five-hour unwritable note)
  • By the looks of things I have about three days’ grace before I start teaching Japanese to a child with no sense of proportion whatsoever.
  • And DON’T YOU DARE colour in ANY OTHER BOOK without ASKING ME FIRST. That was all I said, & it was too much. A chittering Alien bursts from the breast to devour your child before your eyes. He looked down at the page
  • Drums over Africa was written by an Australian named Peter McPherson
  • Once you saw that you saw that you could potentially have dozens of fragments that could not be part of the finished work, and what you saw was that it was perceiving these fragments as fragments that made it possible to have a real conception of what wholeness might be in a work
  • It was as if after the illusion that you could have a thing 500 ways without giving up one he said No, there is only one chance at life once gone it is gone for good you must seize the moment before it goes, tears were streaming down my face as I heard these three pieces each with just one chance of being heard if there was a mistake then the piece was played just once with a mistake if there was some other way to play the piece you heard what you heard and it was time to go home.
  • I said Well do you want me to show you some kanji? He said I think I can probably do it myself. I knew what this meant, it meant for all my good intentions I had been a monster.
L takes over:
  • I said so are you picking four, and Sibylla said yes because she could not wait four days for the term jinsai which was obviously an indispensable euphemism for small child.
  • I have read Kon Tiki, Into the Heart of Borneo, Arabian Sands, Journey into Danger!, Quest for Adventure!, The Snow Leopard, In Patagonia, Amazon Nights, To Caucasus, Tents on the Steppe, Igloo Winter, With Camel and Compass, Among Pygmies and After Alexander.
  • Sibylla put the magazine on the floor. She said, You will not be ready to know your father until you can see what’s wrong with these things... I said, It’s not fair, nobody else has to wait until they’re old enough to know who their father is. She said, We should not elevate the fortuitous to the desirable.
  • I said, ‘Let’s take two people about to undergo 10 years of horrible excruciating boredom at school, A dies at the age of 6 from falling out a window and B dies at the age of 6 + n where n is a number less than 10, I think we would all agree that B’s life was not improved by the additional n years.
  • The hero is a man actively engaged in becoming himself—never a very reassuring sight. The villain, on the other hand, has already become something.
  • I said: According to one reviewer this writer I am supposed to regard from a state of grace beyond pity
  • I said: Well just tell me this. He didn’t rape you did he? (Everything I know about delicacy I learned at my mother’s knee.)
  • There is a strange taboo in our society against ending something merely because it is not pleasant—life, love, a conversation, you name it, the etiquette is that you must begin in ignorance & persevere in the face of knowledge,
  • thought you thought disenfranchisement on grounds of age the hallmark of a BARBARIC SOCIETY. I thought of saying, How do you know something I don’t know is something I don’t want to know?
  • the problem is that they are classicistic rather than classic, pursuing both truth and beauty not for themselves but because manifested in these forms in the great works of the past. It would be harder, of course, to seem as though I saw these faults from a state of grace, but maybe she would overlook that.
  • You can tell just from the names of the mathematicians. Bernoulli’s equation—Euler’s equation—Gauss’s divergence theorem—I have no idea what these actually ARE, but essentially the mathematics at the heart of the subject seems to be post-Newtonian developments in calculus, 18th 19th century stuff. How hard can it be?
  • could try the hunchbacked midget costume I had to wear when we went to see The Crying Game—but I thought I might have trouble getting into a bar even as a midget sensitive about his height.
I've wanted to read Helen DeWitt's book for ages and it didn't let me down. Sib's voice is instantly eccentric and captivating:
  • The children could all play five or six instruments with flair but they hated to practice: They emerged from each piece either bloody but unbowed or miraculously unscathed, and they had all assumed they would be musicians. Buddy was the first to find they would not.
  • My father stood by the piano and he suddenly thought What would be the odds against going to a seminary and going to synagogue and learning to play pool, just suppose he fell in love with a Jewish girl from Philadelphia and made a fortune in motels and lived happily ever after, say the odds were a billion to one that was still not the same as impossible so it was not actually impossible that his father had not, in fact— Linda plunged down
  • There are people who think contraception is immoral because the object of copulation is procreation. In a similar way there are people who think the only reason to read a book is to write a book; people should call up books from the dust and the dark and write thousands of words to be sent down to the dust and the dark which can be called up so that other people can send further thousands of words to join them in the dust and the dark.
  • It took five to ten minutes to read a sentence—an hour a page. Slowly the outlines of the argument loomed out of the mist, like Debussy’s drowned cathedral sortant peu à peu de la brume.
  • they loved scenes in which people who had gone berserk raved in strange, fractured speeches studded with unjustly neglected vocabulary; they loved to focus on some trivial element of a myth and spin it out and skip the myth—they could make a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of any Hamlet. As scholars, as scientists, as mathematicians, as poets who led the flower of Roman youth astray, they crowd their way into books not mainly about them; given a book to themselves they burst out at once into a whole separate volume of footnotes—I speak of course of Fraser’s Ptolemaic Alexandria
  • Having settled on stupidity as the criterion of inauthenticity he went on to discard one stupid remark after another as really by Zenodotus or Aristophanes
  • Each bedside table, he explains, has a copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species in the top drawer. In fact it’s a really good day because that very morning one of the guests stole the Origin of Species instead of a towel.
  • Surely Oxford would not insist on mindless enthusiasm just to prove you can be enthusiastic about something. Surely Oxford would not accept hearsay as evidence. Surely Oxford wouldn’t hold a reference against you without knowing anything about the writer.
  • I had spent 46+ hours on this bizarre piece of logic at a time when I had read not a word of Musil, or Rilke, or Zweig. But I did not have a scholarship to read things that were merely good; I had a scholarship to make a contribution to knowledge.
  • But I suddenly thought that this was exactly the problem, this was the diabolical thing about life: one minute of a Carling Black Label ad to two hours of Ghostbusters XXXV that you didn’t even want to see in the first place.
  • I thought suddenly: Rilke was the secretary of Rodin.
  • How is it possible to argue this, you say, AND to know that a brother and sister may have no genes in common, without being committed to the unlikely theory that any man could be a Mozart with similar training? You say it, and I thought it; but the fact is that a clever man so seldom needs to think
  • The Alien has a long eel-like neck and little reptilian eyes. I put both hands around its throat & I said: Rot in hell. It coughed & said sweetly: So sorry to intrude. Admirable maternity! All time devoted to infant amelioration. Selflessly devoted!
  • Emma was really the next worst thing to the States. She loved America in the way that the Victorians loved Scotland, French Impressionists Japan.
  • The fact is that though things were better than when I had been reading things people had thrown their lives away on seventy years before at any moment a passion would fling itself on the first idea standing by and gallop off ventre à terre—how quietly and calmly some people argue.
  • it was depressing in a literature to see all the languages fading into English which in America was the language of forgetfulness.
  • it was preposterous that people who were by and large the most interesting the most heroic the most villainous the newest immigrants could appear in the literature of the country only as character actors speaking bad English or italics & by & large both they & their descendants’ ignorance of their language & customs could not be represented at all in the new language, which had forgotten that there was anything to forget.
  • In the same way a composer does not for the most part think that he would like to imitate this or that sound—he thinks that he wants the texture of a piano with a violin, or a piano with a cello, or four stringed instruments or six, or a symphony orchestra; he thinks of relations of notes... but if a book just used them so that the English spoke English & the Italians Italian that would be as stupid as saying use yellow for the sun because the sun is yellow.
  • Perhaps a writer would think of the monosyllables and lack of grammatical inflection in Chinese, and of how this would sound next to lovely long Finnish words all double letters & long vowels in 14 cases or lovely Hungarian all prefixes suffixes, & having first thought of that would then think of some story about Hungarians or Finns with Chinese.
  • that compromise which we call the tempered system, which amounts to an indefinitely extended truce
  • & in my mind I would hear languages related like a circle of fifths, I would see languages with shades of each other,
  • I realised that, faced with coming up with a reply, I had thought of the question and not the questioner.
  • No one had ever asked me if he was boring me who wasn't.
  • Lord Leighton (the painter of Greek Girls Playing at Ball) specialised in scenes of antiquity in which marvellous perplexities of drapery roamed the canvas, tarrying only in their travels to protect the modesty of a recruit from the Tyrone Power school of acting. His fault was not a lack of skill: it is the faultlessness of his skill which makes the paintings embarrassing to watch, so bare do they strip the mind of their creator.
  • so did Lord Leighton (the writer) bring the most agitated emotions to an airless to a hushed to an unhurried while each word took on because there was all the time in the world for each word to take on the bloom which only a great Master can give to a word using his time to allow all unseemly energy to become aware of its nakedness and snatch gratefully at the fig leaf provided until all passion in the airlessness in the hush in the absence of hurry sank decently down in the slow death of motion to perpetual stasis
  • he is like a man who plays Yesterday on the piano with Brahmsian amplitude & lushness and so casually kicks aside the very thing which is the essence of the song.
  • In a less barbarous society children would not be in absolute economic subjection to the irrational beings into whose keeping fate has consigned them: they would be paid a decent hourly wage for attending school.
  • is a tiresome feature of piano music that (since 10 or more notes may be played simultaneously) it involves anything up to 10 times the amount of sight reading of any other instrument.
  • She said: What about the violin? Is there anything you’d like me to do on the violin? The homely man started to laugh & said No I don’t think so. He said he also had no advice to offer on the viola, the mandolin or the flute.
  • But even after just three weeks of the exercise she thought that she would never again be able to walk innocently into a room to show what she could do.
  • But after the audition my mother thought it might work some other way. If there was this desert of technical work to be crossed before you could play the piano, maybe every other instrument and maybe the voice was also surrounded by a desert.
  • If I could read anything I wanted I would read The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap.
There's much moral urgency in Paul Kalanithi's book.
  • He had reached some compromise in his mind that fatherhood could be distilled; short, concentrated (but sincere) bursts of high intensity could equal…whatever it was that other fathers did. All I knew was, if that was the price of medicine, it was simply too high.
  • For every country fact that seemed preposterous, there was one that felt solid and true. Always check your shoes for scorpions.
  • Books became my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views of the world.
  • Meaning, while a slippery concept, seemed inextricable from human relationships and moral values. T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land resonated profoundly, relating meaninglessness and isolation, and the desperate quest for human connection.
  • If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?
  • And then we would sit and watch as the first hint of sunlight, a light tinge of day blue, would leak out of the eastern horizon, slowly erasing the stars. The day sky would spread wide and high, until the first ray of the sun made an appearance. The morning commuters began to animate the distant South Lake Tahoe roads. But craning your head back, you could see the day’s blue darken halfway across the sky, and to the west, the night remained yet unconquered—pitch-black, stars in full glimmer, the full moon still pinned in the sky. To the east, the full light of day beamed toward you; to the west, night reigned with no hint of surrender. No philosopher can explain the sublime better than this, standing between day and night. It was as if this were the moment God said, “Let there be light!” You could not help but feel your specklike existence against the immensity of the mountain, the earth, the universe, and yet still feel your own two feet on the talus, reaffirming your presence amid the grandeur.
  • "I don’t believe in the wisdom of children, nor in the wisdom of the old. There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment."
  • (Then I learned that Virginia Woolf once boarded a battleship dressed as Abyssinian royalty, and, duly chastened
  • A word meant something only between people, and life’s meaning, its virtue, had something to do with the depth of the relationships we form. It was the relational aspect of humans—i.e., “human relationality”—that undergirded meaning.
  • Everything teeters between pathos and bathos: here you are, violating society’s most fundamental taboos, and yet formaldehyde is a powerful appetite stimulant, so you also crave a burrito.
  • Cadavers reverse the polarity. The mannequins you pretend are real; the cadavers you pretend are fake.
  • Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici: “With what strife and pains we come into the world we know not, but ’tis commonly no easy matter to get out of it.”
  • And as I sat there, I realized that the questions intersecting life, death, and meaning, questions that all people face at some point, usually arise in a medical context. In the actual situations where one encounters these questions, it becomes a necessarily philosophical and biological exercise. Humans are organisms, subject to physical laws, including, alas, the one that says entropy always increases. Diseases are molecules misbehaving; the basic requirement of life is metabolism, and death its cessation.
  • While all doctors treat diseases, neurosurgeons work in the crucible of identity: every operation on the brain is, by necessity, a manipulation of the substance of our selves
  • Because the brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer this question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?
  • Still, when you work in a hospital, the papers you file aren’t just papers: they are fragments of narratives filled with risks and triumphs.
  • Some days, this is how it felt when I was in the hospital: trapped in an endless jungle summer, wet with sweat, the rain of tears of the families of the dying pouring down.
  • As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives—everyone dies eventually—but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness...  In these moments, I acted not, as I most often did, as death’s enemy, but as its ambassador.
  • The call to protect life—and not merely life but another’s identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another’s soul—was obvious in its sacredness.
  • Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.
  • During our final weekly chat, he turned to me and said, “You know, today is the first day it all seems worth it. I mean, obviously, I would’ve gone through anything for my kids, but today is the first day that all the suffering seems worth it.” How little do doctors understand the hells through which we put patients.
  • If boredom is, as Heidegger argued, the awareness of time passing, then surgery felt like the opposite: the intense focus made the arms of the clock seem arbitrarily placed.
  • Most lives are lived with passivity toward death—it’s something that happens to you and those around you. But Jeff and I had trained for years to actively engage with death, to grapple with it, like Jacob with the angel, and, in so doing, to confront the meaning of a life. We had assumed an onerous yoke, that of mortal responsibility.
  • Is that what hope was? Could we divide the curve into existential sections, from “defeated” to “pessimistic” to “realistic” to “hopeful” to “delusional”? Weren’t the numbers just the numbers? Had we all just given in to the “hope” that every patient was above average? It occurred to me that my relationship with statistics changed as soon as I became one.
  • What patients seek is not scientific knowledge that doctors hide but existential authenticity each person must find on her own. Getting too deeply into statistics is like trying to quench a thirst with salty water. The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.
  • My body was frail and weak—the person who could run half marathons was a distant memory—and that, too, shapes your identity.
  • Day after day I kept at it, and every tiny increase in strength broadened the possible worlds, the possible versions of me.
  • Years ago, it had occurred to me that Darwin and Nietzsche agreed on one thing: the defining characteristic of the organism is striving. Describing life otherwise was like painting a tiger without stripes.
  • Hemingway described his process in similar terms: acquiring rich experiences, then retreating to cogitate and write about them. I needed words to go forward.
  • The monolithic uncertainty of my future was deadening; everywhere I turned, the shadow of death obscured the meaning of any action.
  • decision: I would push myself to return to the OR. Why? Because I could. Because that’s who I was. Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.
  • The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget. You may decide you want to spend your time working as a neurosurgeon, but two months later, you may feel differently. Two months after that, you may want to learn to play the saxophone or devote yourself to the church.
  • Death maybe be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.
  • the physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.
  • Emma hadn’t given me back my old identity. She’d protected my ability to forge a new one.
  • --to make science the arbiter of metaphysics is to banish not only God from the world but also love, hate, meaning—to consider a world that is self-evidently not the world we live in... It is to say, though, that if you believe that science provides no basis for God, then you are almost obligated to conclude that science provides no basis for meaning and, therefore, life itself doesn’t have any. {Um, where do I start...}
  • My life up until my illness could be understood as the linear sum of my choices. As in most modern narratives, a character’s fate depended on human actions, his and others... From the Enlightenment onward, the individual occupied center stage. But now I lived in a different world, a more ancient one, where human action paled against superhuman forces, a world that was more Greek tragedy than Shakespeare.
  • Graham Greene once said that life was lived in the first twenty years and the remainder was just reflection. So what tense am I living in now? Have I proceeded beyond the present tense and into the past perfect? The future tense seems vacant and, on others’ lips, jarring.
Maria Semple's prose certainly hasn't lost its screwball energy or its penchant for lists, but the hasty reveal and resolution in the last 20 pages is a letdown. In contrast, her previous book stuck the landing and left a much stronger impression.
  • ”I don’t mean to ruin the ending for you, sweet child, but life is one long headwind. To make any kind of impact requires self-will bordering on madness. The world will be hostile, it will be suspicious of your intent, it will misinterpret you, it will inject you with doubt, it will flatter you into self-sabotage. My God, I’m making it sound so glamorous and personal! What the world is, more than anything? It’s indifferent.”  “Say amen to that,” Spencer said.  “But you have a vision. You put a frame around it. You sign your name anyway. That’s the risk. That’s the leap. That’s the madness:thinking anyone’s going to care.”
  • That was happiness. Not the framed greatest hits, but the moments between. At the time, I hadn't pegged them as being particularly happy. But now, looking back at those phantom snapshots, I'm struck by my calm, my ease, the evident comfort with my life. I'm happy in retrospect.
  • Every person has it in him to be either the Competent Traveler or the Helpless Traveler. Because Joe is so clearheaded and sharp, I’ve been able to go through life as the Helpless Traveler.
  • The world isn’t your friend,” Joe told Eleanor. “It’s not designed to go your way. All you can do is make the decision to muscle through and fight the trend.
  • “Smell the soup, cool the soup,” Timby said. “Huh?” “It’s what they teach us in school when we’re upset. Smell the soup.” He took a deep breath in. “Cool the soup.” He blew out.
  • As far as I’m concerned, the only thing sweeter than seeing a friend is that friend canceling on me.
  • “Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I speak to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. Today I’ll play a board game with Timby. I’ll initiate sex with Joe. Today I will take pride in my appearance. I’ll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend. Today I won’t swear. I won’t talk about money. Today there will be an ease about me. My face will be relaxed, its resting place a smile. Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.”
  • One thing that happens when you have an alcoholic for a parent is you grow up the child of an alcoholic. ... For a quick trip around the bases, it means you blame yourself for everything, you avoid reality, you can't trust people, you're hungry to please. Which isn't all bad: perfectionism makes the straight-A student; lack of trust begets self-sufficiency; low self-esteem can be a terrific motivator; if everyone were so gung-ho on reality, there'd be no art.
  • A live concert needs to be listened to live. Otherwise, it’s like eating day-old salad.
  • Because the other way wasn’t working. The waking up just to get the day over with until it was time for bed. The grinding it out was a disgrace, an affront to the honor and long shot of being alive at all.
  • As everybody knows, being raised Catholic with half a brain means becoming an atheist.
  • Living too long in New York does that to a girl, gives her the false sense that the world is full of interesting people. Or at least people who are crazy in an interesting way.
  • Violet once told me, "Change is the goal. Insight is the booby prize." She was right, of course.
__________________________________________

Christopher Healy reminds me of Robert Asprin, down to the affable cover art.
  • When facing unbeatable odds, just think of yourself as unbeatably odd. (The Hero's Guide to Being a Hero)
  • No one is defined by a single act," Frederic said. "Whether it was years ago or weeks ago. We're all given chances to change, to make up for things we've done wrong. It's how we handle those opportunities that really matters.
  • When writing down a plan, I suggest numbering the steps. But just in case your plan falls into enemy hands, make sure you number them in the wrong order.
  • It's still a cowl," Frederic grumbled (few things could cause him to summon up his inner courage like improper word usage).
  • a shish kabob of kingdoms
  • Gustav kicked the table. “Never mind, I’m out,” he grumbled. “But, Gustav,” Ella said. “You might still get the chance to punch someone.” “All right, I’m back in.”
There's a lot more clammy heat in this book than in Edmund de Waal's previous one on netsuke. It's more about making than possessing.
  • Pinch a walnut-sized piece between thumb and forefingers until it is as thin as paper until the whorls of your fingers emerge. Keep pinching. It feels endless. You feel it will get thinner and thinner until it is as thin as a gold leaf and lifts into the air. And it feels clean. Your hands feel cleaner after you have used it. It feels white.
  • I want poems that compare white porcelains to smoke coiling up from a chimney, or from incense on an alter, or mist from a valley, or, at the very least, an egret in a paddy field poised.
  • There are the pleasures of being envied and the pleasures of being feared and the pleasures of looking down on a sea of new possessions but of all the pleasures. More is the only thing that works.
  • The connoisseurs sniff, categorise, rank, price, demote.
  • Celadons, the colour caught between green and blue, get sky after rain, and kingfishers, and iced water, all of which are lyrical.
  • “In many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas, and pearls,” Herman Melville wrote.
  • “The Auroras of Autumn” by Wallace Stevens: being visible is being white, / Is being of the solid white, the accomplishment / Of an extremist in an exercise….
  • If you make God in your own image, then William's God is an interested God. Not kind, perhaps, too many bereavements have knocked away that pietism, but good on detail, and definitely good on surprise.
  • All emperors look like Dorothy L. Sayers, legs planted firmly apart, hands on lap, solid, unknowable.
Of a necessity, there's a lot about doings of autocratic rulers:
  • Augustus II, elector of Saxony, an omnivorous collector of both mistresses and china, wrote, “The same is true for oranges as for porcelain, that once one has the sickness of one or the other, one can never get enough of the things and wishes to have more and more.”
  • The tale here comes very close to fairy story. There are tests, kilns, firing, failures. The boy is imprisoned, and then freed on condition he keep good his promise to transmute clay. Tschirnhaus invents large lenses capable of concentrating enough heat to melt Chinese porcelain. Between them, after years of error, they manage to produce one white translucent cup, whereupon Tschirnhaus dies.
  • Louis XIV built a porcelain pavillion for his mistress. In it, they made love: "in a Chinese bed below a ceiling painted with Chinese birds."
  • In 1909, someone writing on behalf of the boy emperor, then five years old, requests “one white porcelain vase, four white porcelain ju vessels, one white porcelain bowl, and twelve large white porcelain dishes. The vessels will be placed in front of the portrait of the late Empress Xiao Qin Xian for ritual purposes.” A response to another request arrives two years later, and it is the last imperial correspondence regarding porcelain—a staggering detail, when one realizes that such letters were exchanged for more than a millennium. Here, de Waal paraphrases: “It says that we received your letter, but we cannot fulfill a demand for one hundred seven-inch dishes glazed in sacrificial red. We no longer have the skills. So we are sending a hundred white dishes with red dragons on them.” <> “A thousand years of imperial porcelain ends on this,” De Waal writes. “For the first time in decades I feel like a cigarette.”
  • The emperor Zhu Di, who seized the imperial throne in a bloody act of usurpation in 1402, slaughtering hundreds of relatives in the process, was so fascinated by its purity he commissioned a towering pagoda of white porcelain brick that rose nine storeys and was celebrated as one of the wonders of the world.
  • The last section in which the author's pilgrimage to the lands and people who make porcelain takes him to Dachau where he uncovers the dark history of Allach porcelain.
Reviews are respectful but mixed, which align with my takeaways from this book:
  • He applies it to delicious effect in the strongest section of “The White Road,” which describes the travails of Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus — student of Spinoza, friend of Newton and Leibniz — as he rattled around Europe seeking an aristocrat to fund his research: “If you are interested in optics or mineralogy or funding a dictionary of philosophy, you are lucky to get two minutes of the attention of a margrave who lives for killing stags or boar in inventive ways.”
  • De Waal juxtaposes Cookworthy’s small-time ­efforts to fire the stuff with the enterprises of Josiah Wedgwood, the potentate of English pottery, who sent a factotum all the way to a mountain in the Cherokee Nation in the Carolinas to retrieve five tons of white clay.
  • De Waal is concerned also with ownership; and the undertow is one of misery and forced labour on the part of those who will never own anything much.
  • De Waal can tease a lot of atmosphere out of the most unprepossessing archival research — an imperial order for “hundreds of shallow dishes for narcissi” leads him to “imagine walking down one of those endless corridors in the Forbidden City, a paced rhythm of steps and scent.” He’s not, however, a natural travel writer, and the many places he visits flicker past without making much of an impression, backdrops to his perpetual agitation.
  • There was something almost holy in his earnestness: any holier and The Hare with Amber Eyes would have lost its poise and toppled into piety.
  • There emerged a robust market of export ware: porcelain exclusively made in China for Europe. Today, one can still marvel at the strange game of decorative, Orientalist telephone that this development created. A porcelain ewer has the seal of Portugal painted across its bulbous body in mild blue brushstrokes—except the seal is upside down.
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