Jun. 12th, 2017

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.

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