May. 15th, 2017

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.”

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