高军在豆瓣上是风行水上。老早小柯就推荐过他,很中肯的评论

电风扇
  • “我那良人啊!你躺在竹椅上,如同狐狸盘在香草山上。”小秦收回他那一双毒眼,心里暗自叹道。
  • 她们都长得两个奶奶亚塞岳云的一对雷鼓翁金锤。人胖就都怕热,在没有顾客的时候就把衣服下摆撩开,拿大蒲扇往里面鼓两把风。梨园行的人都知道“武扇肚,文扇胸。媒婆扇后脖梗子”。
  • 小孩捧着碗在旁边看。他们对我们扬扬板手,让我们走远点!别把小零件踢找不到了。我们都怀着一种非常敬畏心情看着他们,心里默默念道:做人当做这样的人!
  • 这架风扇发出了巨大的轰鸣,一阵强风迎面扑来。飞砂走石,连地上的猫狗都被吹得斜飞起来。当时就把陈老六他爹的小炕桌给吹翻了。糊了一脸辣椒丝,正往下抓的时候,刚想骂娘。一看不好,妈的,这风扇不是要起飞了!这架风扇挣扎着要甩开身后的大石头,摇摇摆摆的往右边栽。似乎坐在眼前的陈老六的爹就是它不共戴天的仇人。陈老六他爹慌了神,双拐又捞摸不到,只好连滚带爬闪避这个妖物。这架风扇一看一击不中,又转向左边。左边坐着冯歪嘴家一家老少,一看风扇显灵了。端着绿豆汤就跑。坐在后面的马妮娜的布拉吉被吹起来了,两条大白腿一览无余,马妮娜半屈着身子,拼命用手往下掩,可怎么也掩不住。这个姿态后来在梦露的电影中才得以旧梦重温。全院的人以各种姿态在半空中飞行,跟夏加尔的油画似的。凡手边能抱的东西抱住,能拽的拽住,实在腾不出手的,拿嘴叼个晾衣服绳子也成。所有的人跟东洋国鲤鱼旗一样横着飞起来了。
  • 它被缚在两棵法梧之间,如同普鲁米修司缚在高加索山上。它咆哮着,摇摆着,时时想挣脱身上的束缚,时而向前,时而向后。服务着院内百来号人家。
__ 后来我工作了,经常还会遇见何老师。她早已退休了。她的个子更矮了,一头银发。她喜欢一边说话,一边用手摘我身上的线头,我就感觉自己象个永远摘不干净的毛线团子。

__ 夜里他扛一根竹竿到山坡下,不知从谁家的屋檐下挑了一只火腿回来。捡了一只绿毛长得最长的。半夜里他抱着半截猪腿当琵琶弹来弹去的撒疯,我没有理他。我说明天人家不骂死你。果然,第二天早晨一个农妇捧了一块砧板,一边走一边斩。且斩且骂:那个烂肚肠的偷了我家火腿呀,吃了害烂肠瘟啊!我斩你祖宗十八代呀!
__ 我在家里把被子泡上洗衣粉,泡透了。然后到桃花溪上游,把被子在溪水里展平。被子就象被激活了似的,乘风破浪而下。我赶紧跑到下游接着被子。拎上来一抖,干净了。

__ 我在彩衣巷茅房被一个大妈拿自来水冲了出来,努力提着裤子露着半个屁股仓皇而逃。打扫男厕所也不喊一声,真是民风淳朴,不辨雌雄。
__ 他惜命得很,树叶掉下来都怕打了头。不过命是穷人唯一的宝贝了,你不惜难道还要人家帮你惜不成?所以吃好、喝好、睡好就显得格外重要。

__ 每天晚上下班后他站在自己那辆标致 607轿车门边准备拉开车门之前,总是习惯性在锃亮的车身上端详一下自己,用手或左或右弄几下头上已经救济不过来的头发,抿一下嘴唇,心里寻思所谓成功人士也就是这样子吧。他感觉自己像站在一个山坡上,可以定心定意看看山下的景色了。

__ 新郎上下其手,就把新娘的乳房给打掉了,假发也打掉了,没想到是个秃小子,身手之矫健不亚于新郎,真是惊出一身冷汗。家里父母一听这不是传宗接代的动静,一齐冲进去,擒住男新娘送往乡政府去。乡政府也没办法断这么离奇的案子,只好把该新娘拴在电线杆上,等派出所来处理。新郎官牙还被新娘打淌血了,一路走,一路往地上吐口水。呸!呸!

__ 后来有人建议搞个体育学校,我真他妈的拍案叫绝:妙啊!在这里训练出来的运动员,个个都能在奥运赛场上拿金夺银的,会跑得更快,跳得更高,小鬼附体一般!夏天晚上这里的草地上会飞出一大群磷火,美不死你!因为火葬场烧不掉或者烧不透的骨头渣就深埋在后面的草地里,骨灰盒里给你拣细的撮一把就行了。夏天起风,把骨头中的磷点着了,李贺不说:鬼灯如漆点松花。冷冷的火,东一点,西一点。人一跑起来,磷火随着手脚舞蹈。
 吊唁大厅里一个女的在剥毛豆,准备晚上的小菜。孝子贤孙进去后,哭声动地。那个女的一边剥毛豆一边喊:“快一点啊!后面人还在等着呢。”我把写好的挽联拴在一根绳子上,然后在下面抽动绳子,挽联渐升渐高。这一回响器班奏哀乐,终于奏准了。天天演奏几十回,不可能不熟。全家亲友尽情一哭,人就被推走了。响器班子也急急地走了,赶下一场去了。外面又响起咚咚开玩笑似的鼓声。殡仪馆像个死亡流水线一样,守吊唁厅的那个女的剥了有小半碗毛豆米了,够晚饭的菜了。

__ 我跟一个福建仔坐对面,夜里睡不着,两人互相敬烟,抽得嘴不能要了。
__ 他感叹鼓浪屿真乃要饭之一方宝地,冬天不冷,夏天不热。真是人生充满了选择,
__ 二十年前,我离开厦门时,把口袋里的钱花个精光,口袋比砂纸打的还干净。

__ 冬天的荷塘像一场盛宴之后的曲终人散,杯盘狼藉;像两军对阵后的战场,断戈荒烟,战马无主,闲啃初春发出的草芽;像夜游人的晚归,举火烧天,越走越黯然了。雪落下来,断梗残叶,不依不饶,像铁像墨,七个不服,八个不忿的。我以前写字爱看个书法理论,画画爱看个画论,其实看字看画就行了,其他究竟属于多余。我不画荷花,画不到苍凉处,真正的此身如寄。
__ 疯子买了一辆凤凰牌自行车,他对这车很爱惜,在前后轮上都扎了一撮鸡毛,车子一跑起来,自动刷前后轮的钢圈。他的车子前后轮总是锃亮的。

__ 也就是很多年前一个初夏季节,孙老头养的白兰花开了。街坊邻居闻到花香,都耸耸鼻子说好香。傍晚的时候,孙老头的老伴切了两牙咸鸭蛋,蛋黄红得淌油,二两酒放在小桌上,然后喊老孙出来喝酒。
__ 国庆兄说到这里长叹一口气:“你说说这人的死活可由得了你!你就说这回日本大地震。这死的人哪个不是过得兴兴头头的,马上樱花就要开了,
__ 米歇尔?图尔尼埃《礼拜五或太平洋上的灵薄狱》里就说过一个很另类的造人方法:闲极无聊的鲁宾逊,要在一个无人岛上解决性苦闷。
__ 我说就你这样的还想做人类始祖呢!你真应了鲁迅先生所说的:他但愿世界上的人全死绝了,就剩一个女的和一个卖烧饼的。
__ 古诗十九首《从军行》中不是说:兔从狗窦入,雉从梁上飞。中庭生旅谷,井上生旅葵。再说就算是找到吃的,做得了,一个人吃着也不香,后面不是有一句:羹饭一时熟,不知贻阿谁。大约就是这种光景。亲友故交一个也没得了,

__ 医者意也!不就那么一个意思,哪有那么较真。比如李时珍《本草纲目》上说:“男子失眠需寡妇枕头席子,煎水炖服。”这不是狗戴嚼子 胡勒嘛!失眠跟寡妇有什么必然关系?真是想不通。
__ 但明清之际的傅山是个异数,他老人家是个很好的妇科大夫,写字画画倒是余事。民间传说他治疗妇人难产,一针炙下,小儿抓住母亲心的手松开了,呱呱坠地了。
__ 那天晚上他喝多了酒,风摆杨柳似的回家,没想到小区的窨井盖让人给偷走了,他立刻像土遁一样掉到井里去了,
__ 但他那个破字,实在不敢恭维,就是拿着毛笔在纸上绞。有时一天能绞一刀纸。

__ 他说你看有那写字单薄的,他举赵佶为例子,你看他写的那个瘦金书,蛇摇蛋晃的,一看就知道是个颓丧气。亡国之君!这种字千万学不得!他说你要学颜体字,颜真卿气息正!大马金刀,往那儿一坐,凛然不敢犯的样子。字肥,看了解馋。我就努力学颜体字,尽量往肥里写。

__ 迟迟钟鼓初长夜,耿耿星河欲曙天,夏天燠热,夜里在床上贴烧饼,翻来翻去睡不着,心里暗念谭嗣同的诗:“有心杀贼,无力回天。”过去那些热烈追求她的爱情猾贼怎么一个残余的也没有了?哪怕剩下个把也好呀,也好让老娘消遣一下则个?  刘清她妈对她这个宝贝女儿很伤脑筋。她妈就像个孤独而焦虑的老臣,看着这个任性的昏君昏天黑地地败坏江山社稷,忧心忡忡地看着刘清向着岁月的黑洞滑下去-滑下去,却又不敢进谏,
__ 相遇的理由是打麻将,谁都想挣对方几个。老陈嘴里叼着烟,香烟熏得老陈微微眯着眼睛,两只手哗哗啦啦洗牌,烟灰长长的一截,险拎拎地挂着。刘清一见之下,惊为天人,心里惊呼道:蓦然回首,那人却在灯火阑珊处 -就他了!奶奶的,太潇洒了!心脏受不了了!看老陈打牌真是享受,自有一段“手挥五弦,目送归鸿”的风流。刘清就拿眼睛电他。老陈可是好相与的?也是冰雪聪明,虚眯了眼睛回电她。牌桌上,电流在空中相击,铮然有声。

__ 我无来由的喜欢猫头鹰。喜欢它的大眼睛,蓬松的毛,落拓的样子。松鼠就差点事,虽然它毛也长,尾巴也蓬松。终究有点鬼头鬼脑的形迹。松鼠吃东西时,有点馋痨。不从容,左右看,
__ 秋天,山里有虫子万千繁响。猫头鹰始终沉默着。后来月亮决定果断的一跳,升到山头上。草尖,岩石,竹叶上便是一片清晖。红月亮变成黄月亮啦!一片经霜的红叶在月光闪烁的溪水中不能自持。随着流水急急地回旋,水上如同撒了一地的碎银子,难收难管。
Becky Chambers offers a most comfortable read with well sketched, endearing characters. Medic techie Kizzy reminds me of Kaylee from Firefly so much, in the best way. 'Specist' is a great epithet.
  • Ashby doesn't care much for gravity that can't be turned off.
  • We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.
  • Humans’ preoccupation with ‘being happy’ was something he had never been able to figure out. No sapient could sustain happiness all of the time, just as no one could live permanently within anger, or boredom, or grief.
  • She would never, ever understand the idea that a child, especially an infant, was of more value than an adult who had already gained all the skills needed to benefit the community. The death of a new hatchling was so common as to be expected. The death of a child about to feather, yes, that was sad. But a real tragedy was the loss of an adult with friends and lovers and family. The idea that a loss of potential was somehow worse than a loss of achievement and knowledge was something she had never been able to wrap her brain around.
  • The people we remember are the ones who decided how our maps should be drawn. Nobody remembers who built the roads.
  • That’s such an incredibly organic bias, the idea that your squishy physical existence is some sort of pinnacle that all programs aspire to.
  • "Want and intelligence,’ the historian had written, ‘is a dangerous combination.
  • Such a quintessentially Human thing, to express sorrow through apology.
  • Behold, my wonderboots! All the kick-ass of an Aeluon assault squad, combined with total ergonomic perfection! It’s podiatric madness! What are they? Are they big tough stompers? Are they comfy kick-arounds? No one knows! There are feats of science happening right over my socks as we speak!
  • Harmagians had money. Aeluons had firepower. Aandrisks had diplomacy. Humans had arguments.
  • So we travel to one end – whoosh – and all the people seeing us fly by are like, oh my stars, look at that totally amazing ship, what genius tech patched together such a thing, and I’m like, oh, that’s me, Kizzy Shao, you can all name your babies after me – whooosh – and then we get to our start point.
  • Perhaps the most crucial stage is that of ‘intraspecies chaos.’ This is the proving ground, the awkward adolescence when a species either learns to come together on a global scale, or dissolves into squabbling factions doomed to extinction, whether through war or ecological disasters too great to tackle divided.
  • In the space beyond was Hedra Ka. A cracking scab of a planet, choked with storms and veins of lava. A mist of rocks floated in orbit, a reminder of its recent formation. It was a young world, unwelcoming, resentful of its existence. ‘That is the angriest looking thing I’ve ever seen,’ Ashby said.
  • We are all made from chromosomes and DNA, which themselves are made from a select handful of key elements. We all require a steady intake of water and oxygen to survive (though in varying quantities). We all need food. We all buckle under atmospheres too thick or gravitational fields too strong. We all die in freezing cold or burning heat. We all die, full stop. <so convenient!>
"The Race for a Zika Vaccine" / Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Tried-and-true doesn’t mean straightforward. The inactivation of a virus is as much a culinary exercise as a chemical one. If you “overcook the virus,” Michael says, “you can damage it to the point that there’s no resemblance to the original, and the immune response becomes useless to combat the native virus.” The “cooking” process consists of growing the virus in cells using enormous roller bottles.
  • The liquid containing the virus—more than five gallons of it—is then purified on long glass columns packed with filtering resin. Formaldehyde—the mortuary chemical—is added to preserve the virus’s structural components but destroy its capacity to infect cells and reproduce. (Heat or radiation can also be used.) The formaldehyde is then removed, and the inactivated virus is packaged in rubber- topped glass vials, ready for inoculation. Every batch must be tested and retested to confirm complete inactivation: even the barest trace of an active virus in a vaccine might unleash an infection in a vaccine recipient.
  • Vaccines that look promising in lab experiments can certainly fail in the field. The inoculum may not stimulate enough immunity to resist the viral challenge. The virus may mutate and become resistant. Or the vaccine can turn out to have unexpected side effects. For Zika, that’s a particularly ominous consideration. In the case of dengue, Zika’s distant cousin, there’s some evidence—debated among virologists—that immunization against one strain might increase the severity of disease with another strain. Other studies have suggested that antibodies to some strains of dengue might cross-react with Zika proteins, promoting Zika immunity in dengue-exposed patients. How a Zika vaccine might perform in areas with endemic dengue, or chikungunya, remains an open question.
  • There’s a strange quandary, then, for the development of certain vaccines. Too fast an epidemic, and a vaccine may become untestable (prospective trial subjects are already exposed and therefore immune, obviating the need for a vaccine). Too slow an epidemic, and the vaccine becomes untestable again (prospective trial subjects aren’t exposed to the viral infection at a significant rate, so a vaccine’s benefits can’t be demonstrated).
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"The Country Restaurant" / Nick Paumgarten
__ He worked through the items on display. Lily tuber, cattail stems, milkweed, bull thistle. By watching deer in the woods, he had discovered that the inner barks of certain trees have a salty taste. While chopping wood, he found that a particular lichen takes on an oniony flavor for three weeks a year. He made a cooked powder from it. “You’re gonna love it!” Baehrel relies heavily on starch and stock made from rutabagas. He uses wild-violet stems as a thickener. He inoculates fallen logs with mushroom spores. He’ll spend seven hours gathering three-quarters of a pound of clover—enough to fill a steamer trunk. “I do it at night, with a headlamp,” he said.

"The Earth Mover" / Dana Goodyear
__ The use of valueless materials is strategic, a hedge against what he sees as inevitable future social unrest. “My good friend Richard Serra is building out of military-grade steel,” he says. “That stuff will all get melted down. Why do I think that? Incans, Olmecs, Aztecs—their finest works of art were all pillaged, razed, broken apart, and their gold was melted down."

"Learning from the Slaughter in Attica" / Adam Gopnik
__ There are sins of omission but there are also virtues of patience. Many of the wisest things we do, in life and in politics, are the things we don’t. Affairs not started, advice not given, distant lands left uninvaded—the null class of non-events is often more blessed than the enumerated class of actions, though less dramatic.

"The Detectives Who Never Forget a Face" / Patrick Radden Keefe
  • He speaks about his team members with the dainty protectiveness of an orchid keeper. He describes Porritt as “an artist.”
  • One quirk of facial recognition is that, from infancy, we tend to be better at recognizing faces of the ethnicity that we are most frequently exposed to: white people are generally better at recognizing white faces, black people tend to be better at recognizing black faces.
  • “People don’t want to believe that humans could be better than a machine,” he told me. “And the sad truth in this wicked world we live in is that people don’t want to pay a human. They want to buy a machine.”
James Wood on Joy Williams:  It’s a tale at once filled with apparently irrelevant details and about the fraught status of apparently irrelevant details.
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"Yuja Wang and the Art of Performance" / Janet Malcolm
  • More crucial, the tiny dresses and spiky heels draw your focus to how petite Ms. Wang is, how stark the contrast between her body and the forcefulness she achieves at her instrument. That contrast creates drama. It turns a recital into a performance.” When Yuja played the “Jeunehomme” in the girlish pink dress, that contrast was absent. The sense of a body set in urgent motion by musical imperatives requires that the body not be distractingly clothed. With her usually bared thighs, chest, and back demurely covered by the black-splotched pink fabric, this sense was lost.
  • Yuja’s customary self-presentation as a kind of stripped-down car is, of course, only one way of appearing onstage to artistic advantage.
  • She spoke of leaving Earl Blackburn not regretfully, exactly, but with a kind of cold wisdom about the possible pointlessness of the gesture that people three times her age don’t often achieve. “There was nothing wrong with the old manager. He really built my career. He was really caring. But I was, like, if I don’t make a change, I’ll never make a change. I’m bad at confrontation. So I just did it out of the blue. But nothing much has changed. It’s a little better here and there. But it’s still the same circus.”
Adam Kirsch: Modern life, which we tend to think of as an accelerating series of gains in knowledge, wealth, and power over nature, is predicated on a loss: the loss of contact with the past. Depending on your point of view, this can be seen as either a disinheritance or an emancipation; much of modern politics is determined by which side you take on this question. But it is always disorienting.
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"Keeping it Off" / Rivka Galchen
__ The umbilical incision was used to inflate the abdomen by pumping in carbon dioxide, providing a vaulted internal space for the surgeons to work in.
__ Paul Mason, a British man who went from nine hundred and eighty pounds to three hundred and fifty, following a gastric bypass, needed to have some seventy pounds of excess skin removed.

"Street Cred" / Adam Gopnik
  • She was one of three people I have met in a lifetime of meeting people who had an aura of sainthood about them, the others being Iona Opie, the British folklorist who collected children’s rhymes, and I. F. Stone, the independent American journalist. What they had in common was a sort of radiant self-reliance. They could say an obvious thing—that children are citizens of another country, that all governments lie—with the conviction that comes from having really found it out. They spoke for many, because they thought for themselves. Iona Opie made hanging around schoolyards to find small variants in jumping-rope rhymes seem essential to understanding humanity, and Izzy Stone made you feel unpatriotic for not printing your own biweekly page of political commentary. The ability to radiate certainty without condescension, to be both very sure and very simple, is a potent one, and witnessing it in life explains a lot in history that might otherwise be inexplicable—for instance, how a sixteen-year-old girl could lead the French Army to victory. <> Jane Jacobs’s aura was so powerful that it made her, precisely, the St. Joan of the small scale.
  • The sad truth is that the saints we revere for thinking for themselves almost always end up thinking by themselves. We are disappointed to find that the self-taught are also self-centered, although a moment’s reflection should tell us that you have to be self-centered to become self-taught. (The more easily instructed are busy brushing their teeth, as pledged.)
  • The small ballet of the street depends on the liberty of people to buy where they like, open stores as they choose, live as they please, have the neighbors they like; the demand to have decent housing, and cities that are open to all, means that city governments must build where they can, spend as they have to, zone as they think they ought to, and cut corners where they must. Some basic differences in what’s desirable in human affairs can never be resolved, only reconciled on an episodic and empirical basis, as best we can manage. <> That’s where planning matters and politics counts. Jacobs seldom gives a good account of the place of politics in city-making. Politics for her is Robert Moses telling moms where the expressway should run. Politics is the planners, and exists as an afterthought to the natural order of cities. And it’s true: politics isn’t a self-organizing system. It’s not a ballet. It’s a battle. But it remains essential to reconcile goods, like free streets and fair housing, that will never reconcile themselves.
Jennifer Senior drafted many memorable phrases in this non-guide on parenting.
  • "Ego depletion" - the idea that self-control or willpower draw upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up.
  • Avg of 6.8 hr of sleep for parents of children under 10.
  • One of the most difficult things about being a parent is that you have to bear the fact that you have to frustrate your child.
  • No graph in the world can do full justice to these unexpected moments, these sweet little bursts of grace, and they leave sense memory on the skin - the smell of the child's shampoo, the smoothness of his arms, that's why we are here leading this life, isn't it, to know this kind of enchantment? The question is why such moments, at least with small children, feel so hard won, so shatterable and so fleeting, as if located between parentheses.
  • (Flow: balanced between boredom and anxiety.) Yet parents of young children often describe the sensation of lurching back and forth between these two poles, boredom and anxiety.
  • (Children) are the last binding obligations in a culture that asks for almost no other permanent commitment.
  • Women... cannot afford the luxury of unambivalent love for their husbands. Many women carry into their marriage the distasteful and the unwieldy burden of resenting their husbands. (due to chore division)
  • Compliance requests are usually associated with time-sensitive matters, (which leads to stress.)
  • Edmund Burke: “Law sharpens the mind by narrowing it."
  • energetic details / an aria of conflict and over-commitment
  • "the accomplishment of natural growth" vs "concerted cultivation"
  • Children became 'economically worthless and emotionally priceless"
  • In early 19th century, first high chair made its appearance, literally signifying children's new found elevated role; they'd earned themselves a place at the table.
  • Modern childhood was invented 70 years ago, the length of a cat nap in historical terms.
  • The moment children stopped working for adults, everybody became confused about who's in charge.
  • (The way things were:) Behind the ignorance and ineptness of any individual laid the sureness of folkways. .. (yet in America, there are no folkways to rely on.) The whole promise of America.. was that its citizen are not hidebound by tradition or immutable social structures.
  • The word Mead uses to describe American father's relationship with his son is "'autumnal".. he's preparing his son to surpass him.
  • Uncertainty make (parents) vulnerable.
  • (Overscheduling): it's the problematic logic behind any arms race.
  • In adolescence, ingratitude is seasoned with contempt.
  • It's a dicey business, being someon'es prefrontal cortex by proxy
  • the painful art of self control / flood of dopamine during teenage years

  • Both more parents survived and more children survived early childhood (in forming the new demographic)
  • (Through mass media) children's aspirant age has risen while their parents' has fallen.
  • Adulthood is about an overcoming, "disciplining developmentally inappropriate insanity".
  • Helplessness born of experience for adults, and the lack of for teenagers.
  • C.S. Lewis: Love must work towards its own abdication.
  • (Parental joy tends to be passive, grounded in attachment, and leads to slower heart beat.)
  • constant pressure to maximize one's emotional returns
  • a self that happiness would be a fitting response to
  • Therapists helping despairing parents should not be afraid of creating a sound amount of tension through reorientation towards meaning towards one's life. Choosing parenthood gives strength and structural integrity of one's life through meaningful tension.
  • the experiencing self (how we live) loses out to the remembering self, (which is who we are)
  • Children as our superegos
The last chapters come as a downer.
  • how songbirds have “speech defects” just as we do (they stutter, for instance) and the way song learning in a bird literally crystallizes brain structure, teaching us about the neurological nature of our own learning.
  • But songbirds go through the same process of vocal learning that people do—they listen to adult exemplars, they experiment, and they practice, honing their skills like children learning a musical instrument.
  • Close to half the birds on the planet are songbirds, some four thousand species, with songs ranging from the mumbled melancholy chortle of the bluebird to the forty-note aria of the cowbird, the long, byzantine song of the sedge warbler, the flutelike tune of the hermit thrush, and the amazing seamless duets of male and female plain-tailed wren.
  • In the open, sound travels best a few feet or so above the vegetation, so birds sing from perches to reduce interference. Those singing on the forest floor use tonal sounds and lower frequencies than those singing in the canopy. Some use frequencies that avoid the noise from insects and traffic. Birds living near airports sing their dawn chorus earlier than normal to reduce overlap with the roar of airplanes.
  • Certain songbirds, such as European starlings and zebra finches, can contract and relax these tiny vocal muscles with submillisecond precision—more than a hundred times faster than the blink of a human eye.
  • You can tell where a mockingbird lives by the songs he sings. So particular is a song to its bird that individual birds within a population may share only 10 percent of their song patterns.
  • The ideal model organism for studying any kind of learning is a rare beast, says biologist Chip Quinn: It “should have no more than three genes, be able to play the cello or at least recite classical Greek, and learn these tasks with a nervous system containing only ten large, differently colored, and therefore easily recognizable neurons.”
  • This discovery—that some young birds are capable of learning almost any song they hear yet possess a genetic template that predisposes them to their species’ song—has a human parallel.
  • This, says Jarvis, may be one reason vocal learning is rare. “All the varied vocalizations an animal learns make it an easy target.”
  • Extravagance in nature is so often found in proximity to sex.
  • “It’s like a superstimulus,” he says. “Like the allure of a big egg to a chicken.” (As ethologist Niko Tinbergen learned, hens like big eggs: Give a hen a giant egg to sit on, even an artificial one, and she will prefer it to a small egg. In her mind, bigger is better, even if it’s not natural.)
  • It’s what’s known as vocal consistency, the ability to perfectly replicate the acoustic features of a song—the notes, the rhythms, the pauses—from one rendition to the next. To a bird, these subtleties make all the difference.
  • To make the walls symmetrical, he uses a mental tool called templating. “In templating, a male picks up a stick and positions himself along the midline of the bower avenue,” explains Borgia. He puts the stick in or against one wall and, still holding on to it, pulls it away from the wall—then, using a precise reversal of his movements, he places the stick in an identical position in the opposite wall.
  • Great bowerbirds apparently do just the opposite: They put smaller objects closer to the bower entrance and bigger stones and bones farther away. To the female looking out from her cozy enclosure, the researchers speculate, this creates the illusion that the court is smaller than it is. The foreshortened stage may make the parading male himself and his colored objects look bigger and more vibrant.
  • The painter and colorist Raoul Dufy reportedly said that “blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones . . . it will always stay blue.”
  • In nature blue is unusual in part because vertebrates never evolved the ability to make or use blue pigments. The deep electric blue an eastern bluebird carries on its back is an example of what scientists call a structural color: It’s generated by light interacting with the three-dimensional arrangement of keratin in the bird’s feathers.
  • In other words, says Patricelli, sexual selection seems to favor both the evolution of elaborate display traits and also the ability to use them appropriately. And this may be where our hero fell short. He lacked social grace.
  • When a young male visits the bower of a mature male, he often plays the female’s part while he closely observes the older male. He may be a bit more fidgety than his feminine counterpart, but the older bird tolerates his presence because the mentor, too, benefits from practicing with a live audience. “It’s a win-win situation,” says Borgia; “otherwise you can bet it wouldn’t happen.”
  • In the case of the bowerbird, the beauty of the bower is shaped by the perception of the female. In other words, her mind shapes male display; she is the architect of the male bird’s artistic creation and the brains required to achieve it, just as the female songbird is the architect of the male’s elaborate song and the fancy neural networks that produce it.
  • I think I could distinguish a bad ballet dancer from a good one. But could I tell a 3.7-second grand jeté from a 3.8-second one? Somehow, the female golden-collared manakin registers these whiskers of temporal difference.
  • The Arctic tern, a bird who lives by his love of long daylight and bent for high mileage, circles the world in orbit with the seasons, flying from its nesting grounds in Greenland and Iceland to its wintering grounds off the coast of Antarctica—a round-trip of almost forty-four thousand miles. In an average thirty-year lifetime, then, a tern may fly the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back.
  • In fact, pigeons are better than most people—and even better than some mathematicians—at solving certain statistical problems: the Monty Hall Dilemma
  • In 2014, Mouritsen and his team reported in Nature that even extremely weak electromagnetic “noise” generated by human electronic devices in urban environments may disrupt the magnetic compasses of migrating European robins. We’re not talking cell towers or high-voltage transmission lines here; more like the background buzz of everything run by electrical currents.
  • To fuel their air derbies, they have to harvest hundreds of flowers per day; they don’t want to waste a dime visiting blossoms they’ve already sucked dry. So they keep track. And they do it, apparently, not on the basis of color or shape or other visual tips offered by the flowers themselves, but rather through spatial cues,
  • “A honeyguide has to find a suitable nest to drop her eggs into at just the right time. If she puts them in a nest where chicks will be hatching the next day, her babies will be bumped off as runts; if she drops it in too early, the host bird may not be ready to lay or incubate. So she has to monitor the position of nests and the stages they’re in.”
  • After Sandy passed, the whole eastern edge of the continent was swarming with vagrants. It’s an interesting term, commonly used for someone who travels idly with no means of support.
  • the polarized light cues available at sunset. (Twilight is a rich source of information for navigating animals of all types. It’s the only period in the day when birds and other animals can combine light-polarization patterns, stars, and magnetic cues.)
  • Zebra finches, whose bulbs are tiny indeed, use their sense of smell to spot their relatives, just as mammals do, to avoid inbreeding and facilitate cooperation with their kin.
  • Shanahan sees in the similarity what he calls a common blueprint for high-level cognition. In simplified terms: The human brain is thought to be a so-called small-world network, not unlike Facebook. Different modules—or regions—of the brain are connected by a relatively small number of neurons known as hub nodes.
  • In 1889, just a few decades after the house sparrow’s introduction, sparrow clubs were formed with the sole objective of destroying the birds, and county and state officials were offering two cents a head for each sparrow killed.
  • Big brains are costly in terms of development and maintenance. But they’re thought to enhance a bird’s survival by allowing it to rapidly adjust to unusual, novel, or complex ecological challenges such as finding new food or avoiding unfamiliar predators. It’s called the cognitive buffer hypothesis. A big brain “buffers” an animal from environmental change by allowing it to adapt to novel resources—
  • two ecologists watched house sparrows working their way along a line of parked cars in a parking lot, gleaning insects trapped in the radiators.
  • In some cities, you can find smoked cigarette butts in sparrow nests, which effectively function as a parasite repellent.
  • On Mount Karimui, an extinct volcano on the main island, the range of the magnificent bird-of-paradise had ascended more than three hundred feet as a result of warming of just 0.7 degree Fahrenheit. “Because a mountain is like a pyramid,” says Freeman, “there’s less area for habitat available as they move up the mountain. They’re being squeezed both by temperatures and for space.”
  • “A long reproductive life can increase the productivity of these slow-living species—but they will never achieve the high productivity of fast-living species that prioritize reproduction over survival.”
Corvids are the star of the show.
  • In fact, as far as we know, only four groups of animals on the planet craft their own complex tools: humans, chimps, orangutans, and New Caledonian crows. And even fewer make tools they keep and reuse.
  • Especially when you look at the catalog of, say, orangutan tools, which range from toothpicks and teeth cleaners to autoerotic tools and missiles aimed at predators, from leaf napkins and moss sponges to leafy branch fans and scoops, chisels, hooks, nail cleaners, and bee covers—branches or leaves used as a hat to protect against stinging bees.Green-backed herons are expert bait fishers, known to entice their prey with bread, popcorn, seeds, flowers, live insects, spiders, feathers, even pellets of fish food. Dung is the decoy of choice for the burrowing owl.
  • It takes many complex moves conducted in a very precise manner to complete the tool—snipping at one spot and tearing along that edge, then snipping at another spot and tearing from there, several times in a row. The final version looks a lot like a miniature saw but is used as a probe to wheedle out grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, slugs, spiders, and other invertebrates from otherwise inaccessible nooks and crannies.
  • On the island of Mare, just adjacent to New Caledonia, says Hunt, the crows make only wide tools. In other words, it seems there may be local styles or traditions of toolmaking that are passed down over generations. Faithful transmission of local tool designs: If it’s true, that fairly well defines the term culture.
  • Islands are castles of experiment surrounded by moats. Competition is less fierce and predators less abundant than on continents, so evolutionary experimentation is not so quickly or ruthlessly punished. That includes behavioral experimentation, like tooling around with tools.
  • suggests that the two traits may be causally related. It’s called the early learning hypothesis. Perhaps possessing learning-intensive tool skills plays a role in lengthening the juvenile period. In this way, New Caledonian crows may provide a good model for investigating the evolutionary effect of tool use on life history, not just for birds but for people.
  • This suggests that the crows understand water displacement, a fairly sophisticated physical concept, on par with the comprehension of a child five to seven years old. It also suggests that they’re able to grasp the basic physical properties of objects and make inferences about them.
  • In fact, we owe the expression “pecking order” to studies of the social relations among chickens by the Norwegian zoologist Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe, who found that pecking orders are ladderlike
  • The idea that a demanding social life might drive the evolution of brainpower was developed by Nicholas Humphrey, a psychologist at the London School of Economics received. “Leaving gifts suggests that crows understand the benefit of reciprocating past acts that have benefited them and also that they anticipate future reward,”
  • Corvids and cockatoos can delay gratification if they think a reward is worth waiting for—a form of emotional intelligence involving self-control, persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself.
  • A colorful member of the intelligent crow family, the male Eurasian jay appears to intuit his mate’s state of mind—or at least her appetite—and responds by giving her what she most desires.
  • The team also found that different species of tits—great, blue, and marsh—share news of food with one another. “The marsh tits are the best information providers,”

  • Nine years later, the masked scientists returned to the scene of the crime. The crows in these neighborhoods—including those that weren’t even hatched at the time of the capture—reacted to the people with the dangerous masks as if they were a threat, dive-bombing, scolding, and mobbing them.
  • Scientists have observed experienced tandem-running ants modifying their journeys when trailed by a naïve follower, pausing en route to let a follower-pupil explore landmarks and resuming the journey only when the follower taps them with an antenna.
  • Highly intelligent, accomplished mimics, they sound false alarm calls of babblers and other species, which make the babblers drop their mealworms and run for cover. Drongos then steal in to seize the dropped food even if it’s abandoned only for an instant, right beside the unwitting victim. Ridley and her team recently found that drongos fool the babblers by varying the type of alarm calls they produce, making it harder for the babblers to detect the deception.
  • the young birds use at least two clever social strategies to boost the amount of food they get. First, they’re picky about whom they follow, choosing to tag along with adults who are especially proficient at capturing prey. Second, when they’re hungry, they “blackmail” adults into feeding them at higher rates by venturing into riskier open locations.
  • Nancy Burley of the University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues who study the budgerigar suspect that this may be the evolutionary reason for the ability of parrots to parrot—to quickly learn and mimic new sounds: “It could also explain why parrot enthusiasts suggest that the ‘best talkers’ among pet budgerigars are typically males that were obtained when very young and kept in isolation from other budgerigars,”
  • New research shows that food sharing in chimps raises oxytocin levels more than grooming does. This is evidence, perhaps, for the truth of the maxim “The way to your lover’s heart is through her stomach”
  • Birds have their own versions of these neurohormones, called mesotocin and vasotocin.
  • The highly social, flocking zebra finches and spice finches had far more mesotocin receptors in the dorsal lateral septum—a key part of the brain involved in social behavior—than did their more solitary relatives.
  • West proposes that it’s not just the challenges of maintaining pair-bonds in birds that have boosted their brainpower. Rather, she says, it’s “the complexity of achieving a successful pair bond and extra-pair copulations that is simultaneously driving the increase.” It’s what she calls an “intersexual arms race.”
  • DNA analysis has revealed that extra-pair copulations occur in about 90 percent of bird species. In any given nest, up to 70 percent of chicks are not sired by the male caring for them.
  • In essence, by not putting all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, females are pumping up the public good, encouraging safer and more productive neighborhoods. “Where maternity certainty makes females care for offspring at home, paternity uncertainty and a potential for offspring in several broods make males invest in communal benefits and public goods,” say the Norwegian scientists.
  • A scrub jay will think to do this—to resort to these clever cache-protection tactics—only if he’s had his own piratical experience. Birds that have never pilfered themselves hardly ever recache. In other words, say the researchers, “it takes a thief to know a thief.”
  • Asian elephants were lately added to the list with a study showing that they may console a distraught individual with their trunks, gently touching its face or putting their trunk in its mouth—akin to an elephant hug.
Jennifer Ackerman's book reminds me of "The Sports Gene" quite a bit. Biology as destiny.
  • Among the published studies tumbling from scientific journals are some with titles that lift the brows: “Have we met before? Pigeons recognize familiar human faces”; “The syntax of gargles in the chickadee”; “Language discrimination by Java sparrows”; “Chicks like consonant music”; “Personality differences explain leadership in barnacle geese”; and “Pigeons on par with primates in numerical competence.”
  • the dawn chorus, that mysterious moment when birds sing with a thousand voices in “A Music numerous as space— / But neighboring as Noon,” as Emily Dickinson wrote.
  • a friend saw perched just above a nest of tent caterpillars: The cuckoo waited as the caterpillars climbed out of the nest to scale the tree, then plucked them off one at a time, like sushi from a conveyor belt.
  • Perhaps it’s because they’re so unlike people that it’s difficult for us to fully appreciate their mental capabilities. Birds are dinosaurs, descended from the lucky, flexible few that survived whatever cataclysm did in their cousins. We are mammals, related to the timid, diminutive shrewlike creatures that emerged from the dinosaurs’ shadows only after most of those beasts died off. While our mammal relatives were busy growing, birds, by the same process of natural selection, were busy shrinking.
  • More recently, genius has been defined as “nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly.”
  • We also share with birds similar ways of meeting nature’s challenges, which we’ve arrived at through very different evolutionary paths. It’s called convergent evolution... To meet the challenges of filter feeding, creatures as far apart on the tree of life as baleen whales and flamingos show striking parallels in behavior, body form (large tongues and hairy tissues known as lamellae), even body orientation during feeding.
  • startlingly similar gene activity in the brains of humans learning to speak and birds learning to sing, suggesting that there may be a kind of core pattern of gene expression for learning shared by birds and humans alike and arrived at through convergent evolution.
  • New Caledonia, a remote tropical finger of land in the southwest Pacific, halfway between Australia and Fiji. The Parc des Grandes Fougères is named for the giant tree ferns that grow to seven stories
  • For Darwin, even earthworms “show some degree of intelligence” in their manner of dragging pine needles and vegetable matter to plug up their burrows, protection from the proverbial “early bird.”
  • “Those who are in anthropodenial,” says de Waal, “try to build a brick wall to separate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.”
  • I watched the whole shimmering sheet of them dark against the sky, wheeling, twisting, eddying in intricate movements with the cohesion of a single organism—
  • The great naturalist Edmund Selous, who loved birds passionately and observed them with scientific fervor, attributed this flocking phenomenon to telepathic thought transference from one bird to the next. “They circle; now dense like a polished roof, now disseminated like the meshes of some vast all-heaven-sweeping net, now darkening, now flashing out a million rays of light . . . a madness in the sky,”..  Instead, each bird is interacting with up to seven close neighbors, making individual movement decisions based on maintaining velocity and distance from fellow flock members and copying how sharply a neighbor turns, so that a group of, say, four hundred birds can veer in another direction in a little over half a second. What emerges is almost instantaneous ripples of movement in what appears to be one living curtain of bird.
  • Maybe a good way to measure bird cognition, Lefebvre thought, would be to look at these sorts of occurrences—birds doing unusual new things in the wild... Among the more inventive examples: bald eagles ice fishing in northern Arizona.
  • One of Lefebvre’s favorites was the report of vultures in Zimbabwe that perched on barbed-wire fences near minefields during the war of liberation, waiting for gazelles and other grazers to wander in and detonate the explosives. It gave the birds a ready-made meal already pulverized.
  • Chickadees are also possessed of a prodigious memory. They stash seeds and other food in thousands of different hiding places to eat later and can remember where they put a single food item for up to six months.
  • To meet the constraints of flight, nature has in fact considerably lightened a bird’s load with a skeleton that blends strength and airiness. Some bones have been fused or eliminated. A light beak made largely of keratin has replaced a heavier, toothy jaw. Other bones, such as wing bones, are pneumatic, almost hollow but reinforced with strutlike trabeculae to keep them from buckling. A bird’s bones are dense only where needed—even denser than the bones of their mammal counterparts—in the legs and in the deep solid breastbone that anchors the wings.
  • that birds possess more than twice as many genes for bone remodeling and resorption than mammals do. Most bird bones are hollow and thin walled, yet surprisingly stiff and strong. The paradoxical result sometimes boggles the mind: A frigate bird with a seven-foot wingspan has a skeleton that weighs less than its feathers.
  • A bird’s wild knot of a heart is four-chambered and double-barreled like our own, but tiny, with a beat far more rapid (between 500 and 1,000 times a minute for black-capped chickadees; 78 for humans). Its respiratory system is quite extraordinary, proportionately larger than in mammals (one fifth of its body volume, compared with one twentieth in mammals), but much more efficient. Its “flow-through” lung, encased in a rigid trunk, maintains a constant volume (in contrast with mammalian lungs, which expand and contract in a flexible body) and is connected to an intricate web of balloonlike sacs that store air outside the lungs.
  • The condensed genomes of birds may also be an adaptation to powered flight. Birds have the smallest genomes
  • Dinosaurs gave rise to chickadees and herons in part through a process of relentless shrinking, a kind of Alice in Wonderland phenomenon known as sustained miniaturization.
  • As it happens, we humans may have pulled just such a Peter Pan–like move. As adults, we share the big head, flat face, small jaw, and patchy body hair of baby primates. Paedomorphosis may have enabled us to develop bigger brains, just as it did in birds.
  • In other words, nest sitters end up with bigger brains than nest quitters.
  • “Overall, the parallels between mammalian and avian sleep raise the intriguing possibility that their independent evolution may be related to the function served by this pattern of sleep: the evolution of large, complex brains in both birds and mammals.”
  • MIGRATION IS ANOTHER TRADE-OFF. Birds that migrate have smaller brains than their sedentary relatives.
  • elephant brains have three times the number of neurons found in the human brain (257 billion to our average 86 billion). But 98 percent of them are in the elephant cerebellum, she says, where they may be involved in control of the trunk, a two-hundred-pound appendage with fine sensory and motor capabilities.
  • this suggests that what determines cognitive abilities is not the number of neurons in the whole brain but in the cerebral cortex—or its equivalent in birds.
  • Whereas the nerve cells in a mammal’s neocortex are stacked in six distinct layers like plywood, those in the bird’s cortexlike structure cluster like cloves in a garlic bulb. But the cells themselves are basically the same, capable of rapid and repetitive firing, and the way they function is equally sophisticated, flexible, and inventive.
The survey of the digital revolution calls for a cast of thousands, and Walter Isaacson didn't quite do them justice with at most a brief chapter or two on the most fascinating of characters -- and that's not even the part I wanted to learn most.

__ RFC: request for comment, and other attempts at keeping a low profile
__ Robert Noyce
__ "The Mother of All Demos"

_______________________________
作者:魏香音 书名:戏骨
  • 别人行色匆匆,他却慢悠悠地在校园里踱步。从主楼转到食堂,再从食堂踱到体育场,然后穿过种满了泡桐树的小路,经过电影博物馆往西走。表演系和导演系共用的小楼就隐藏在林翳深处。深灰色的砖墙上爬满了落了叶的爬山虎,纵横如同铁线,交织出这幢小楼里每个学生错综复杂的前途。
  • 两位漂亮的学姐走过来,开始分发卸妆湿巾。收到湿巾的大多都是女生。然而走到陆离跟前的时候,一位学姐盯着他左看右看,居然抬手也送上了一张。  陆离接过来就往脸上抹,抹完再摊开让学姐检查。当然结果并不重要,重要的是这是一个好兆头——当年他和同学们也做过类似的考务工作,搭讪长得好看的小学妹是他们的“特权”
  • 陆离依旧一个人在街头游荡,累了就坐在长椅上看人在后海溜冰。他忽然发现溜冰居然是一件如此富于哲理的事:你越是急于朝一个人靠拢,那人就越是会被你撞飞出去。除非彼此间伸出手臂,才能互相扶持。
  • “电影的事儿咱们先不提,你可知道中国每年生产多少电视剧?一万八千集,差不多六百部!每部六个主角,就算不重复也才一千八百个坑。可光这北京城里头就有四五十万号人等着吃演员这口饭。兄弟,这可比中影入学难得多了。
  • 据她的分析,徐如林如此频繁地更换生活助理,必然给生活制片惹了不少麻烦。所以这一次,生活制片故意不告诉徐如林,陆离是沈星择介绍进来工作的——否则,就算徐如林吃了熊心豹子胆,也不敢对沈星择的关系户吆五喝六。    根据徐如林的尿性,过不了多久就会辞退陆离,生活制片就以此来挑起沈星择的不满,从而达到借刀杀人的目的。
  • 毕竟剧组表面上看起来关系融洽,实际却是等第森严。身在高位者可以与人为善,却不能坐视低位者的挑衅。因为每一次挑衅都是一种试探;多容忍一次,就会有成双成倍的人妄想着要骑到你的脖子上来。

  • 沈星择是个念旧的人,又或者说,是个在时间面前都不肯轻易服输的固执者。
  • 都说坐地日行八万里,一年半五百多天,差不多就是从地球到金星的一半距离。其实我们早就远离了过去、远离了记忆里的那些人和事。
  • 沈星择将陆离给的冰桔子放进嘴里。甘甜的冰渣降低了口腔的温度。这样,说台词的时候就不会吐出白汽,出现季节上的穿帮。
  • 娱乐圈有点像这件事的放大版本:过程(程序)不重要,结果才重要。
  • 陆离是程序正义的支持者。但显然,在这个逐渐失序的世界观里,程序正义已经被结果正义踩在了脚下。
  • 拓扑图像的用处还远不止这些——通过对于前后两张传播范围图的比较,可以直观地得到二者之间的差集。那些对于艺考舞弊谣言的传播起到了重要推动作用,却对辟谣无动于衷的微博账号,立刻如退潮之后裸泳的小丑,暴露在了星择公关们的眼前。
  • 爆炸一般突然膨胀起来的学业,彻底充填了他的二十四小时。满溢到容不下片刻的胡思乱想。他觉得自己好像被无数个安全气囊紧紧地挤压,尽管无法动弹,却也有着非同一般的安心感觉。

"Nutshell"

Mar. 7th, 2017 04:39 pm
An aficionado of podcasts is a baby after my own heart. His yen for vin? Amusing but less endearing.
  • beautiful beyond realism’s reach / What’s said hangs in the air, like a Beijing smog.
  • “Ice cream being out of the question.” Plain sense. Worth saying. Who would or could make ice cream out of antifreeze?
  • To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things. And even this universe may be a speck in a multitude of actual and possible universes. So why not be an owl poet?
  • No child, still less a foetus, has ever mastered the art of small talk, or would ever want to. It’s an adult device, a covenant with boredom and deceit.
  • When love dies and a marriage lies in ruins, the first casualty is honest memory, decent, impartial recall of the past.
  • Our love was so fine and grand, it seemed to us a universal principle. It was a system of ethics, a means of relating to
  • Boredom, said this Monsieur Barthes, is not far from bliss; one regards boredom from the shores of pleasure... This was my patrimony, until my mother wished my father dead. Now I live inside a story and fret about its outcome. Where’s boredom or bliss in that?
  • To them the untied plastic bags rise like shining residential towers with rooftop gardens. The flies go there to graze and vomit at their ease. Their general bloated laziness invokes a society of mellow recreation, communal purpose, mutual tolerance. This somnolent, non-chordate crew is at one with the world, it loves rich life in all its putrefaction.
  • Sex, I begin to understand, is its own mountain kingdom, secret and intact. In the valley below we know only rumours.
  • But lately, don’t ask why, I’ve no taste for comedy, no inclination to exercise, even if I had the space, no delight in fire or earth, in words that once revealed a golden world of majestical stars, the beauty of poetic apprehension, the infinite joy of reason.
  • Hours of scheming have accidentally delivered the conspirators into the art of deliberative lovemaking.
  • slumbering Claude, a hump, a bell-curve of sound baffled by bedclothes. On the exhalation, a long, constipated groan, its approaching terminus frilled with electric sibilants. Then an extended pause which, if you loved him, might alarm you. Has he breathed his last? If you don’t, there’s hope he has. But finally, a shorter, greedy intake, scarred with the rattle of wind-dried mucus and, at the breezy summit, the soft palate’s triumphant purr.
  • Blood-borne well-being sweeps through me and I’m instantly high, thrown forwards by a surfer’s perfect breaking wave of forgiveness and love. A tall, sloping, smoothly tubular wave that could carry me to where I might start to think fondly of Claude. But I resist it. How diminishing, to accept at second hand my mother’s every rush of feeling and be bound tighter to her crime.
  • The crime, once a sequence of plans and their enactment, now in memory resembles an object, unmoveable, accusing, a cold stone statue in a clearing in a wood. A midwinter’s bitter midnight, a waning moon, and Trudy is hurrying away down a frosty woodland path. She turns to look back at the distant figure, partly obscured by bare boughs and skeins of mist, and she sees that the crime, the object of her thoughts, is not a crime at all. It’s a mistake. It always was.
  • the exercise yard of dumb existence
  • But the raised hand, the actual violent enactment, is cursed. The maths says so. There’ll be no reversion to the status quo ante, no balm, no sweet relief, or none that lasts. Only a second crime. Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, Confucius said. Revenge unstitches a civilisation.
  • How wearying, on top of all else (a hangover, a murder, enervating sex, advanced pregnancy), for my mother to be obliged to exert her will and extend fulsome hatred to a guest.
  • It’s an accusation, a rejection, a cold withdrawal bundled into a hospitable gesture.
  • I note at this point that my father has receded. Like a particle in physics, he escapes definition in his flight from us: the assertive, successful poet-teacher-publisher, calmly intent on repossessing his house, his father’s house; or the hapless, put-upon cuckold, the unworldly fool cramped by debt and misery and lack of talent. The more we hear of one, the less we believe of the other.
  • I’ll feel, therefore I’ll be. Let poverty go begging and climate change braise in hell. Social justice can drown in ink. I’ll be an activist of the emotions, a loud, campaigning spirit fighting with tears and sighs to shape institutions around my vulnerable self.
  • Her status as a murderer is a fact, an item in the world outside herself. But that’s old thinking. She affirms, she identifies as innocent.
  • Auden’s ‘Autumn Song.’ ‘Now the leaves are falling fast, / Nurse’s flowers will not last.’ Why is the missing syllable at the end of the line so
  • Long ago, someone pronounced groundless certainty a virtue. Now, the politest people say it is.
  • It’s already clear to me how much of life is forgotten even as it happens. Most of it. The unregarded present spooling away from us, the soft tumble of unremarkable thoughts, the long-neglected miracle of existence.
  • The effective lie, like the masterly golf swing, is free of self-awareness. I’ve listened to the sports commentaries.
  • the chief inspector. I wonder if she has a gun. Too grand. Like the queen not carrying money. Shooting people is for sergeants and below.
  • I wonder what disorder tells suspicious eyes. It can’t be morally neutral. A contempt for things, for order, cleanliness, must lie on a spectrum with scorn for laws, values, for life itself.
  • I’m not troubled. What was in his day a vagina is now proudly a birth canal, my Panama, and I’m greater than he was, a stately ship of genes, dignified by unhurried progress, freighted with my cargo of ancient information.

"Nutshell"

Mar. 6th, 2017 04:31 pm
Bravo, Mr. Ian McEwan. Once I got over the "Look Who's Talking" gimmick, this adaptation makes a lot of sense. Who's better to muse on to be or not to be than the unborn?
  • My eyes close nostalgically when I remember how I once drifted in my translucent body bag, floated dreamily in the bubble of my thoughts through my private ocean in slow-motion somersaults, colliding gently against the transparent bounds of my confinement, the confiding membrane that vibrated with, even as it muffled, the voices of conspirators in a vile enterprise. That was in my careless youth. Now, fully inverted, not an inch of space to myself, knees crammed against belly, my thoughts as well as my head are fully engaged. I’ve no choice, my ear is pressed all day and night against the bloody walls.
  • I’m immersed in abstractions, and only the proliferating relations between them create the illusion of a known world. When I hear “blue,” which I’ve never seen, I imagine some kind of mental event that’s fairly close to “green”—which I’ve never seen.
  • No one to contradict or reprimand me, no name or previous address, no religion, no debts, no enemies. My appointment diary, if it existed, notes only my forthcoming birthday.
  • Long ago, many weeks ago, my neural groove closed upon itself to become my spine and my many million young neurons, busy as silkworms, spun and wove from their trailing axons the gorgeous golden fabric of my first idea, a notion so simple it partly eludes me now. Was it me? Too self-loving. Was it now? Overly dramatic. Then something antecedent to both, containing both, a single word mediated by a mental sigh or swoon of acceptance, of pure being, something like—this? Too precious. So, getting closer, my idea was To be.
  • The beginning of conscious life was the end of illusion, the illusion of non-being, and the eruption of the real. The triumph of realism over magic, of is over seems.
  • palmy Norway—my first choice on account of its gigantic sovereign fund and generous social provision; nor my second, Italy, on grounds of regional cuisine and sun-blessed decay; and not even my third, France, for its Pinot Noir and jaunty self-regard.
  • He lingers on “pan-fried.” What is pan but a deceitful benediction on the vulgar and unhealthy fried?
  • I know that alcohol will lower my intelligence. It lowers everybody’s intelligence. But oh, a joyous, blushful Pinot Noir, or a gooseberried Sauvignon, sets me turning and tumbling across my secret sea, reeling off the walls of my castle, the bouncy castle that is my home. Or so it did when I had more space. Now I take my pleasures sedately, and by the second glass my speculations bloom with that licence whose name is poetry. My thoughts unspool in well-sprung pentameters, end-stopped and run-on lines in pleasing variation. But she never takes a third, and it wounds me.
  • Who cares? Besides, she told him out loud, whatever power she was supposed to have was only what men conferred in their fantasies.
  • I also blend John and Trudy in my daydreams—like every child of estranged parents, I long to remarry them, this base pair, and so unite my circumstances to my genome.
  • Whenever she and I listen, I sense in her slowing heart a retinal crust of boredom that blinds her to the pathos of the scene
  • like those famed creations of bank employees The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Waste Land
  • But as warm as the embrace of brothers are John Keats and Wilfred Owen. I feel their breath upon my lips. Their kiss. Who would not wish to have written Candied apple, quince, and plum and gourd, or The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall?
  • one exposed foot, its line of diminishing, innocent toes like children in a family photo
  • In my mother’s usage, space, her need for it, is a misshapen metaphor, if not a synonym. For being selfish, devious, cruel. But wait, I love her, she’s my divinity and I need her. I take it back! I spoke in anguish. I’m as deluded as my father. And it’s true. Her beauty and remoteness and resolve are one.
  • paper plates with loathsome wounds of ketchup, teetering teabags like tiny sacks of grain that mice or elves might hoard.
  • Not everyone knows what it is to have your father’s rival’s penis inches from your nose.
  • On each occasion, on every piston stroke, I dread that he’ll break through and shaft my soft-boned skull and seed my thoughts with his essence, with the teeming cream of his banality.
  • I’ve heard it all. Maggot farming in Utah. Hiking across The Burren. Hitler’s last-chance offensive in the Ardennes. Sexual etiquette among the Yanomami. How Poggio Bracciolini rescued Lucretius from oblivion. The physics of tennis.
  • She considered two common states of mind: self-pity and aggression. Each one a poor choice for individuals. In combination, for groups or nations, a noxious brew.
  • And foe-of-convenience, the United States, barely the hope of the world, guilty of torture, helpless before its sacred text conceived in an age of powdered wigs, a constitution as unchallengeable as the Koran. Its nervous population obese, fearful, tormented by inarticulate anger, contemptuous of governance, murdering sleep with every new handgun.
  • We’ve built a world too complicated and dangerous for our quarrelsome natures to manage. In such hopelessness, the general vote will be for the supernatural. It’s dusk in the second Age of Reason. We were wonderful, but now we are doomed.
  • We’ll always be troubled by how things are—that’s how it stands with the difficult gift of consciousness.
  • Nature, a mother herself, ordains a struggle for resources that may be needed to nurture my future sibling rivals.
  • Among much else, people are sociable and kind. Ripeness isn’t everything.
  • But here’s life’s most limiting truth—it’s always now, always here, never then and there. And now we are frying in a London heatwave
  • If hypocrisy’s the only price, I’ll buy the bourgeois life and consider it cheap.
  • Adversity forced awareness on us, and it works, it bites us when we go too near the fire, when we love too hard. Those felt sensations are the beginning of the invention of the self.
  • God said, Let there be pain. And there was poetry. Eventually.
"The Emperor’s New Museum" / Jiayang Fan
__ The first of them, the Xujiahui Museum, was founded in 1868, by a French Jesuit priest and zoologist who combined his missionary work with collecting animal and plant specimens from the Yangtze Delta. Once missionaries realized that exhibiting the wonders of the natural world made the local population more enthusiastic about Christianity, similar museums followed. It was in such museums that the Chinese public first encountered maps, and saw China as a physically demarcated territory, rather than as the entire world, as many had supposed it to be.

"The Cinematic Traumas of Kenneth Lonergan" / Rebecca Mead
__ character—of how people metabolize an experience in different ways
__ You have to go back to Hopkins. You have to think of the mysteries that Hopkins is grappling with: that growth and maturity is desirable, but it leaves devastation in the wake of its progress. It is not purely and simply the fulfillment of a plan; it also leaves a path of destruction, and it destroys the thing that it transforms.

"Fox News, a Melodrama" / Emily Nussbaum
__ The TV critic Todd VanDerWerff once compared the Fox format to ABC’s “Lost”: you need to immerse yourself entirely to grok the breadth of its world-building paranoias and mythologies.
__ (Megyn Kelly)’s got the advantage of the ultra-beautiful: she is gorgeous enough so that sexist insults rebound off her as envy.

"The Case Against Democracy" / Caleb Crain
__ (In fact, in Mill’s day, select universities had had their own constituencies for centuries, allowing someone with a degree from, say, Oxford to vote both in his university constituency and wherever he lived. The system wasn’t abolished until 1950.)

"Red Neighbor, Blue Neighbor" / Joshua Rothman

  • As election day approached, life in the village seemed to have divided into two streams—a neighborly stream, which ran pure and clear, and a political stream, which was muddied and turbulent.
  • Politics, Rosenblum points out, hinges on abstractions. To participate in political life, one must adopt an abstract identity (“progressive,” “conservative”) and stand up for abstract ideas (“equality,” “liberty,” “American exceptionalism”). We tend to justify our political positions by citing airy principles: the separation of church and state, the efficiency of the market. Neighborhood life, by contrast, is practical and concrete. When our neighbors approach us on the sidewalk, they do so as idiosyncratic individuals, rather than as embodiments of sociopolitical categories. The quality of neighborly life hinges not on abstractions but on actions... The essence of neighborliness, she finds, is reciprocity: one good turn for another. And yet neighbors, unlike friends, don’t always share tastes and interests, and so end up trading unlike goods.
  • All the same, it’s tempting to see this kind of neighborliness as a potential cure for our political ills. Call it the unified theory of democratic life: good neighbors make for good citizens, and vice versa.
  • As individuals, she writes, “we are many-sided, if not protean, personalities,” and we each inhabit many “differentiated spheres with their own identifiable norms and institutions.” We are, simultaneously, citizens, workers, neighbors, parents, lovers, and souls; in each of these spheres, we observe and uphold different rules and values. Sometimes these values are in conflict with one another. But “preservation of multiple spheres is the great promise and charge of liberal democracy,” Rosenblum maintains.
  • This nebulous give-and-take contributes to “the delicacy of neighbor relations.” So does the fact that neighbors stick around. We may encounter our neighbors in spontaneous situations, but we can’t react to them spontaneously.
-----------------------------------------

"A Failing State" / William Finnegan
__ Polar.. actually stands out among big Venezuelan enterprises for its record of careful abstention from politics. But having survived seventeen years of Chavismo - and innumerable threats of expropriation, as the government seized more than a thousand factories and farms - is itself a potent political statement.

"Desert Bloom" / Alex Ross
__ The flowers were especially thick along the shoulders of the roads, since runoff soaks the ground on either side. They seemed to greet you as you went by, like bystanders cheering a parade - or, perhaps, like protesters silently resisting the incursion of asphalt.
__ Norment thinks so. "We need their beauty and otherness, their delicate and fragile strength.. We need the refugee species, the discards that ask for nothing more than the home that each and every one of us desires."
__ John McPhee "It is a soundless immensity with mountains in it."

-----------------------------------------

"Chris Kraus, Female Antihero" / Elaine Blair
__ Until recently, a comic female antihero was nearly inconceivable. There’s nothing funny about failing if you’ve been overwhelmingly obstructed by sexism and social conventions. If you want to make people laugh, you really have to fail on your own merits. The comedy of “I Love Dick” shows us an overlooked milestone. Somewhere between second-class status and full equality, there is a point at which women are expected to make their own way in the world, as men do. How can we tell that we’ve passed this milestone? It’s not by the presence of a few successful women like, say, Nan Goldin, but by the widespread feelings of inadequacy, envy, and anxiety that a success like Goldin’s inspires in her peers like Chris. This is existential freedom, and this is where the female antihero comes in.

"The Tough Guy" / Adrian Chen
__ In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos, a young provincial senator, won the Presidency of the Philippines with the pledge "This nation can be great again."
__ One Davao Death Squad said that the police had established a bidding process to choose among various cells of hit men. "If several cells want the job, they would discuss which cell can do it better," he said.

-----------------------------------------

"Cold Remedy" / Nicola Twilley
__ One nurse wanted to know how the team would be paged, by whom, and when; the protocol requires specially trained medics to materialize from various hospital departments within minutes, as the potential candidate flatlines. Another pointed to a risk that the entire unit might flood, given that the patient would leak not only every last drop of blood but also a potentially limitless amount of salt water.

"The Factory of Fakes" / Daniel Zalewski
__ Perfecting the digital printout, he told me, had involved hundreds of hours of analog assessment: thousand of paint samples were mixed by hand, in Luxor, to match the tones in the original tomb, then compared with ink-jet outputs.
__ "With current technology, subtracting is better than adding," he said.
__ "Caravaggio has a relatively limited palette, and so the reds - from the work we did in San Luigi dei Francesi, we have exact color matching."

-----------------------------------------

"The Teacher" / James Wood
__ The story of social class in Britain is, figuratively, one of emigration and immigration: a voyaging out of one station or place and into another.
The final crisis:
  • "it is a strange story. So our mercurial Ladislaw has a queer genealogy! A high-spirited young lady and a musical Polish patriot made a likely enough stock for him to spring from, but I should never have suspected a grafting of the Jew pawnbroker.
  • The business was felt to be so public and important that it required dinners to feed it, and many invitations were just then issued and accepted on the strength of this scandal concerning Bulstrode and Lydgate; wives, widows, and single ladies took their work and went out to tea oftener than usual;
  • as to listening to what one lawyer says without asking another--I wonder at a man o' your cleverness, Mr. Dill. It's well known there's always two sides, if no more; else who'd go to law, I should like to know?
  • People glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbors."
  • was not at home; but against that, there was a sudden strong desire within her for the excitement of an interview in which she was quite determined not to make the slightest allusion to what was in her mind. Hence Mrs. Bulstrode was shown into the drawing-room,
  • Her honest ostentatious nature made the sharing of a merited dishonor as bitter as it could be to any mortal. But this imperfectly taught woman, whose phrases and habits were an odd patchwork, had a loyal spirit within her.
  • it was as if they were both adrift on one piece of wreck and looked away from each other.
  • Even this trouble, like the rest, she seemed to regard as if it were hers alone.
  • Casaubon must have raised some heroic hallucination in her.
  • for pain must enter into its glorified life of memory before it can turn into compassion.
  • a future where he himself was sliding into that pleasureless yielding to the small solicitations of circumstance, which is a commoner history of perdition than any single momentous bargain.
  • after her sweet dim perspective of hope, that along some pathway they should meet with unchanged recognition and take up the backward years as a yesterday.
  • trusted--who had come to her like the spirit of morning visiting the dim vault where she sat as the bride of a worn-out life;
  • within her, and rule her errant will. "What should I do-- how should I act now, this very day, if I could clutch my own pain, and compel it to silence, and think of those three?"
  • knife-wound within her. The revulsion of feeling in Dorothea was too strong to be called joy. It was a tumult in which the terrible strain of the night and morning made a resistant pain:--she could only perceive that this would be joy when she had recovered her power of feeling it.
  • but hunger tames us, and Will had become very hungry for the vision of a certain form and the sound of a certain voice.
  • But it is given to us sometimes even in our every-day life to witness the saving influence of a noble nature, the divine efficacy of rescue that may lie in a self-subduing act of fellowship. If Dorothea, after her night's anguish, had not taken that walk to Rosamond--why
  • presence--all their vision, all their thought of each other, had been as in a world apart, where the sunshine fell on tall white lilies, where no evil lurked, and no other soul entered.
  • "That was a wrong thing for you to say, that you would have had nothing to try for. If we had lost our own chief good, other people's good would remain, and that is worth trying for.
  • "It must be about Dodo," said Celia, who had been used to think of her sister as the dangerous part of the family machinery.
  • wrong action in marrying Ladislaw." "My dear fellow, we are rather apt to consider an act wrong because it is unpleasant to us," said the Rector, quietly.
  • "It must be admitted that his blood is a frightful mixture!" said Mrs. Cadwallader. "The Casaubon cuttle-fish fluid to begin with, and then a rebellious Polish fiddler or dancing-master, was it?
  • placed--by opening a little window for the daylight of her own understanding to enter among the strange colored lamps by which Dodo habitually saw.
  • "Oh, dear, because I have always loved him. I should never like scolding any one else so well; and that is a point to be thought of in a husband."
  • He once called her his basil plant; and when she asked for an explanation, said that basil was a plant which had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man's brains.
  • Certainly those determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion. For there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it.
  • But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
The plot thickens:
  • As to any provincial history in which the agents are all of high moral rank, that must be of a date long posterior to the first Reform Bill, and Peter Featherstone, you perceive, was dead and buried some months before Lord Grey came into office.
  • and what is promising, if making everybody believe is not promising? And you see he did leave him ten pounds.
  • Apart from his dinners and his coursing, Mr. Vincy, blustering as he was, had as little of his own way as if he had been a prime minister:
  • And in the mean while the hours were each leaving their little deposit and gradually forming the final reason for inaction, namely, that action was too late.
  • Rosamond, she was in the water-lily's expanding wonderment at its own fuller life,
  • We may handle even extreme opinions with impunity while our furniture, our dinner-giving, and preference for armorial bearings in our own case, link us indissolubly with the established order.
  • half from that personal pride and unreflecting egoism which I have already called commonness,
  • they sat quite still for many minutes which flowed by them like a small gurgling brook with the kisses of the sun upon it. Rosamond
  • transform life into romance at any moment; who was instructed to the true womanly limit and not a hair's- breadth beyond--docile, therefore, and ready to carry out behests which came from that limit.
  • but she had the ardent woman's need to rule beneficently by making the joy of another soul.
  • However slight the terrestrial intercourse between Dante and Beatrice or Petrarch and Laura, time changes the proportion of things, and in later days it is preferable to have fewer sonnets and more conversation.
  • we mortals have our divine moments, when love is satisfied in the completeness of the beloved object.
  • But it is very difficult to be learned; it seems as if people were worn out on the way to great thoughts, and can never enjoy them because they are too tired."
  • give another good pinch at the moth-wings of poor Mr. Casaubon's glory
  • And when gratitude has become a matter of reasoning there are many ways of escaping from its bonds.
  • the other great dread-- of himself becoming dimmed and forever ray-shorn in her eyes.
  • too late to undress his mind of the day's frivolous ceremony and affairs
  • Dorothea's entrance was the freshness of morning.
  • stint--of vexation because he was of too little account with her, was not formidable enough, was treated with an unhesitating benevolence which did not flatter him.
  • "That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil--widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower."
  • "A bad workman of any sort makes his fellows mistrusted. Things hang together," he added, looking on the floor and moving his feet uneasily with a sense that words were scantier than thoughts. "
  • our impartiality is kept for abstract merit and demerit, which none of us ever saw.
  • A human being in this aged nation of ours is a very wonderful whole, the slow creation of long interchanging influences: and charm is a result of two such wholes, the one loving and the one loved.
  • Every proud mind knows something of this experience, and perhaps it is only to be overcome by a sense of fellowship deep enough to make all efforts at isolation seem mean and petty instead of exalting.
  • Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.
  • lofty limes were falling silently across the sombre evergreens, while the lights and shadows slept side by side:
  • He was at present too ill acquainted with disaster to enter into the pathos of a lot where everything is below the level of tragedy except the passionate egoism of the sufferer.
  • "Come, my dear, come. You are young, and need not to extend your life by watching."
  • that controlled self-consciousness of manner which is the expensive substitute for simplicity.
  • But let the wise be warned against too great readiness at explanation: it multiplies the sources of mistake, lengthening the sum for reckoners sure to go wrong.
  • of which her husband only knew (like the emotional elephant he was!)

  • But it is one thing to like defiance, and another thing to like its consequences.
  • tendency to unsoundness in intellectual men / only the painful eagerness of unfed hope
  • The only conscience we can trust to is the massive sense of wrong in a class, and the best wisdom that will work is the wisdom of balancing claims.
  • Motives are points of honor, I suppose-- nobody can prove them.
  • the spring whose spirit filled the air--a bright creature, abundant in uncertain promises.
  • anything which had sharper collisions than an elaborate notion of Gog and Magog: it was as free from interruption as a plan for threading the stars together.
  • It seemed clear that where there was a baby, things were right enough, and that error, in general, was a mere lack of that central poising force.
  • most blameless men I ever knew. He has neither venom nor doubleness in him, and those often go with a more correct outside."
  • But with regard to critical occasions, it often happens that all moments seem comfortably remote until the last. "
  • They outlive their love, but they don't outlive the consequences of their recklessness."
  • The memory has as many moods as the temper, and shifts its scenery like a diorama.
  • my dear. You will see visions. We have all got to exert ourselves a little to keep sane, and call things by the same names as other people call them by.
  • Life would be no better than candle-light tinsel and daylight rubbish if our spirits were not touched by what has been, to issues of longing and constancy.
  • "You must be sure of two things: you must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honorable to you to be doing something else. You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well, and not be always saying, There's this and there's that--if
  • At that time the opinion existed that it was beneath a gentleman to write legibly, or with a hand in the least suitable to a clerk. Fred wrote the lines demanded in a hand as gentlemanly as that of any viscount or bishop of the day: the vowels were all alike and the consonants only distinguishable as turning up or down,
  • Mrs. Garth had not yet discharged itself. It was a little too provoking even for her self-control that this blooming youngster should flourish on the disappointments of sadder and wiser people--making a meal of a nightingale and never knowing it--
  • When a tender affection has been storing itself in us through many of our years, the idea that we could accept any exchange for it seems to be a cheapening of our lives.
  • but to most mortals there is a stupidity which is unendurable and a stupidity which is altogether acceptable-- else, indeed, what would become of social bonds? Captain Lydgate's stupidity was delicately scented, carried itself with "style," talked with a good accent, and was closely related to Sir Godwin. Rosamond found it quite agreeable
  • Expenditure--like ugliness and errors--becomes a totally new thing when we attach our own personality to it, and measure it by that wide difference which is manifest (in our own sensations) between ourselves and others.
  • Borthrop Trumbull had a kindly liquid in his veins; he was an admirer by nature, and would have liked to have the universe under his hammer, feeling that it would go at a higher figure for his recommendation.
  • There is no general doctrine which is not capable of eating out our morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow-feeling with individual fellow-men.
  • It is certainly trying to a man's dignity to reappear when he is not expected to do so: a first farewell has pathos in it, but to come back for a second lends an opening to comedy,
  • Unwonted circumstances may make us all rather unlike ourslves: there are conditions under which the most majestic person is obliged to sneeze, and our emotions are liable to be acted on in the same incongruous manner.
  • still--it could not be fairly called wooing a woman to tell her that he would never woo her.
  • there is no escape from sordidness but by being free from money-craving, with all its base hopes and temptations, its watching for death, its hinted requests.
  • the tender devotedness and docile adoration of the ideal wife must be renounced, and life must be taken up on a lower stage of expectation, as it is by men who have lost their limbs.
  • Perhaps Mr. Farebrother's might be concentrated into a single shrug and one little speech. "To think of the part one little woman can play in the life of a man, so that to renounce her may be a very good imitation of heroism, and to win her may be a discipline!"

From Rome and back:
  • I am amateurish if you like: I do not think that all the universe is straining towards the obscure significance of your pictures.
  • After all, the true seeing is within; and painting stares at you with an insistent imperfection.
  • There are characters which are continually creating collisions and nodes for themselves in dramas which nobody is prepared to act with them.
  • now been five weeks in Rome, and in the kindly mornings when autumn and winter seemed to go hand in hand like a happy aged couple one of whom would presently survive in chiller loneliness
  • whose ardent nature turned all her small allowance of knowledge into principles
  • ceilings; the long vistas of white forms whose marble eyes seemed to hold the monotonous light of an alien world: all this vast wreck of ambitious ideals, sensuous and spiritual, mixed confusedly with the signs of breathing forgetfulness and degradation
  • the vastness of St. Peter's, the huge bronze canopy, the excited intention in the attitudes and garments of the prophets and evangelists in the mosaics above, and the red drapery which was being hung for Christmas spreading itself everywhere like a disease of the retina.
  • we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy
  • If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.
  • The large vistas and wide fresh air which she had dreamed of finding in her husband's mind were replaced by anterooms and winding passages
  • There is hardly any contact more depressing to a young ardent creature than that of a mind in which years full of knowledge seem to have issued in a blank absence of interest or sympathy.
  • Having made his clerical toilet with due care in the morning, he was prepared only for those amenities of life which were suited to the well-adjusted stiff cravat of the period, and to a mind weighted with unpublished matter.
  • about as important as the surplus stock of false antiquities
  • There is a sort of jealousy which needs very little fire: it is hardly a passion, but a blight bred in the cloudy, damp despondency of uneasy egoism.
  • We are all of us born in moral stupidity, taking the world as an udder to feed our supreme selves:
  • its sadness would have been winged with hope. No nature could be less suspicious
  • Ladislaw--I think it is perfect so far." Will vented those adjuring interjections which imply that admiration is too strong for syntax; and Naumann said in a tone of piteous regret-- "Ah--now--if I could but have had more--but you have other engagements-- I could not ask it--or even to come again to-morrow."
  • many things," said Dorothea, simply. "I should like to make life beautiful--I mean everybody's life. And then all this immense expense of art, that seems somehow to lie outside life and make it no better for the world, pains one. It spoils my enjoyment of anything when I am made to think that most people are shut out from it." "I call that the fanaticism of sympathy," said Will, impetuously.
  • And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delight-- in art or in anything else.
  • variety on the chords of emotion--a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge. One may have that condition by fits only." "But you leave out the poems," said Dorothea. "I think they are wanted to complete the poet.
My favorite persons in the book are the Garth:
  • agreeable young gentleman. With a favor to ask we review our list of friends, do justice to their more amiable qualities, forgive their little offenses, and concerning each in turn, try to arrive at the conclusion that he will be eager to oblige us, our own eagerness to be obliged being as communicable as other warmth.
  • If he had to blame any one, it was necessary for him to move all the papers within his reach, or describe various diagrams with his stick, or make calculations with the odd money in his pocket, before he could begin; and he would rather do other men's work than find fault with their doing. I fear he was a bad disciplinarian.
  • With regard to horses, distrust was your only clew. But scepticism, as we know, can never be thoroughly applied, else life would come to a standstill: something we must believe in and do, and whatever that something may be called, it is virtually our own judgment, even when it seems like the most slavish reliance on another.
  • "The theatre of all my actions is fallen," said an antique personage when his chief friend was dead; and they are fortunate who get a theatre where the audience demands their best.
  • Certainly, the exemplary Mrs. Garth had her droll aspects, but her character sustained her oddities, as a very fine wine sustains a flavor of skin.
  • Looking at the mother, you might hope that the daughter would become like her, which is a prospective advantage equal to a dowry--the mother too often standing behind the daughter like a malignant prophecy-- "Such as I am, she will shortly be."
  • "Yes, ultimately," said Mrs. Garth, who having a special dislike to fine words on ugly occasions
  • the felling and lading of timber, and the huge trunk vibrating star-like in the distance along the highway, the crane at work on the wharf, the piled-up produce in warehouses, the precision and variety of muscular effort wherever exact work had to be turned out,--all these sights of his youth had acted on him as poetry without the aid of the poets.
  • But there was no spirit of denial in Caleb, and the world seemed so wondrous to him that he was ready to accept any number of systems, like any number of firmaments, if they did not obviously interfere with the best land-drainage, solid building,
  • how can you bear to be fit for nothing in the world that is useful?
  • finally he turned his eyes on his daughter--"a woman, let her be as good as she may, has got to put up with the life her husband makes for her. Your mother has had to put up with a good deal because of me."
Marriage and inheritance. The twin pillars of Victorian fiction.
  • brandy was the best thing against infection. "I shall drink brandy," added Mr. Vincy, emphatically--as much as to say, this was not an occasion for firing with blank-cartridges.
  • will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent--
  • falsehoods, and if her statements were no direct clew to fact, why, they were not intended in that light-- they were among her elegant accomplishments, intended to please.
  • his chin had too vanishing an aspect, looking as if it were being gradually reabsorbed.
  • and ideas, we know, tend to a more solid kind of existence, the necessary materials being at hand.
  • "Mrs. Cadwallader says it is nonsense, people going a long journey when they are married. She says they get tired to death of each other, and can't quarrel comfortably, as they would at home.
  • but why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage? I protest against all our interest, all our effort at understanding being given to the young skins that look blooming in spite of trouble; for these too will get faded
  • Society never made the preposterous demand that a man should think as much about his own qualifications for making a charming girl happy as he thinks of hers for making himself happy. As if a man could choose not only his wife hut his wife's husband!
  • it was that proud narrow sensitiveness which has not mass enough to spare for transformation into sympathy, and quivers thread-like in small currents of self-preoccupation
  • spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self-- never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action
  • "Why do you attribute to me a wish for anything that would annoy you? You speak to me as if I were something you had to contend against. Wait at least till I appear to consult my own pleasure apart from yours."
  • appeal--this cry from soul to soul, without other consciousness than their moving with kindred natures in the same embroiled medium, the same troublous fitfully illuminated life.
  • Mrs Bulstrode's eyes, which were rather fine, rolled round that ample quilled circuit, while she spoke. "I have just heard something about you that has surprised me very much, Rosamond." "What is that, aunt?" Rosamond's eyes also were roaming over her aunt's large embroidered collar.
  • She felt that she had spoken as impressively as it was necessary to do, and that in using the superior word "militate" she had thrown a noble drapery over a mass of particulars which were still evident enough.
  • There are many wonderful mixtures in the world which are all alike called love, and claim the privileges of a sublime rage which is an apology for everything (in literature and the drama).
  • That moment of naturalness was the crystallizing feather-touch: it shook flirtation into love.
  • The right word is always a power, and communicates its definiteness to our action.
  • Tom looked at his legs, but left it uncertain whether he preferred his moral advantages to a more vicious length of limb and reprehensible gentility of trouser.
  • here her voice broke under the touching thought which she was attributing to her speechless brother; the mention of ourselves being naturally affecting.
  • in a soft tone of humility, in which he had a sense of luxurious cunning
  • And she had already come to take life very much as a comedy in which she had a proud, nay, a generous resolution not to act the mean or treacherous part. Mary might have become cynical
  • not a blood-relation, but of that generally objectionable class called wife's kin.
  • When I married Humphrey I made up my mind to like sermons, and I set out by liking the end very much. That soon spread to the middle and the beginning, because I couldn't have the end without them."
  • "But I am not taking it in that light. I can't wear my solemnity too often, else it will go to rags.
  • When the animals entered the Ark in pairs, one may imagine that allied species made much private remark on each other, and were tempted to think that so many forms feeding on the same store of fodder were eminently superfluous, as tending to diminish the rations.
  • with a determination not to show anything so compromising to a man of ability as wonder or surprise.
Onto Lydgate and Rosamond:
  • said the Rector's wife, much too well-born not to be an amateur in medicine.
  • a charming woman, not so quick as to nullify the pleasure of explanation.
  • "she ought to produce the effect of exquisite music." Plain women he regarded as he did the other severe facts of life, to be faced with philosophy and investigated by science. But Rosamond Vincy seemed to have the true melodic charm
  • Destiny stands by sarcastic with our dramatis personae folded in her hand.
  • while a few personages or families that stood with rocky firmness amid all this fluctuation, were slowly presenting new aspects in spite of solidity, and altering with the double change of self and beholder.
  • But on this side too there was a cheering sense of money;
  • But a prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions."
  • "And if that's to be it, what has it pleased the Almighty to make families for?" Here Mrs. Waule's tears fell, but with moderation.
  • property was gone out of the family? The human mind has at no period accepted a moral chaos; and so preposterous a result was not strictly conceivable. But we are frightened at much that is not strictly conceivable.
  • antithesis, that she had all the virtues. Plainness has its peculiar temptations and vices quite as much as beauty; it is apt either to feign amiability, or, not feigning it, to show all the repulsiveness of discontent:
  • "My liking always wants some little kindness to kindle it. I am not magnanimous enough to like people who speak to me without seeming to see me."
  • she even acted her own character, and so well, that she did not know it to be precisely her own.
  • The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes.
  • About his ordinary bearing there was a certain fling, a fearless expectation of success, a confidence in his own powers and integrity much fortified by contempt for petty obstacles or seductions of which he had had no experience.
  • he certainly liked him the better, as Rosamond did, for being a stranger in Middlemarch. One can begin so many things with a new person!
  • It's a good British feeling to try and raise your family a little:
  • "It's this sort of thing---this tyrannical spirit, wanting to play bishop and banker everywhere--it's this sort of thing makes a man's name stink."
  • But a full-fed fountain will be generous with its waters even in the rain, when they are worse than useless; and a fine fount of admonition is apt to be equally irrepressible.
  • What can the fitness of things mean, if not their fitness to a man's expectations? Failing this, absurdity and atheism gape behind him.
  • had of course left him free to read the indecent passages in the school classics, but beyond a general sense of secrecy and obscenity in connection with his internal structure, had left his imagination quite unbiassed, so that for anything he knew his brains lay in small bags at his temples, and he had no more thought of representing to himself how his blood circulated than how paper served instead of gold.
  • the world was made new to him by a presentiment of endless processes filling the vast spaces planked out of his sight by that wordy ignorance which he had supposed to be knowledge.
  • The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardor in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardor of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly.
  • in spite of venerable colleges which used great efforts to secure purity of knowledge by making it scarce
  • that a change in the units was the most direct mode of changing the numbers.
  • him a title to everlasting fame: each of them had his little local personal history sprinkled with small temptations and sordid cares, which made the retarding friction of his course towards final companionship with the immortals.
  • for character too is a process and an unfolding. The man was still in the making,
  • one's self-satisfaction is an untaxed kind of property which it is very unpleasant to find deprecated.
  • This was one of the difficulties of moving in good Middlemarch society: it was dangerous to insist on knowledge as a qualification for any salaried office.
  • Rosamond could say the right thing; for she was clever with that sort of cleverness which catches every tone except the humorous.
  • gave forth his large rendering of noble music with the precision of an echo. It was almost startling, heard for the first time. A hidden soul seemed to be flowing forth from Rosamond's fingers; and so indeed it was, since souls live on in perpetual echoes, and to all fine expression there goes somewhere an originating activity, if it be only that of an interpreter.
  • that feminine radiance, that distinctive womanhood which must be classed with flowers and music, that sort of beauty which by its very nature was virtuous, being moulded only for pure and delicate joys.
  • Our passions do not live apart in locked chambers, but, dressed in their small wardrobe of notions, bring their provisions to a common table and mess together, feeding out of the common store according to their appetite.
  • Mr. Farebrother, quite unaffectedly. "I don't translate my own convenience into other people's duties."
  • made his character resemble those southern landscapes which seem divided between natural grandeur and social slovenliness
  • For the first time Lydgate was feeling the hampering threadlike pressure of small social conditions, and their frustrating complexity.
  • Dr. Sprague was superfluously tall; his trousers got creased at the knees, and showed an excess of boot at a time when straps seemed necessary to any dignity of bearing; you heard him go in and out, and up and down, as if he had come to see after the roofing.
  • at which everybody turned away from Mr. Hackbutt, leaving him to feel the uselessness of superior gifts in Middlemarch.
  • Romanticism, which has helped to fill some dull blanks with love and knowledge, had not yet penetrated the times with its leaven and entered into everybody's food;
__ "Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea,"
__ Her favorite poem was "Lalla Rookh."
So it took me almost a year to read Ms. George Eliot, though it grabbed me from the start.
  • Saint Theresa, which by the side of provincial fashion gave her the impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible,
  • a quiet country-house, and attending a village church hardly larger than a parlor, naturally regarded frippery as the ambition of a huckster's daughter.
  • that common-sense which is able to accept momentous doctrines without any eccentric agitation.
  • For the most glutinously indefinite minds enclose some hard grains of habit;
  • Women were expected to have weak opinions; but the great safeguard of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on.
  • Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.
  • Riding was an indulgence which she allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms; she felt that she enjoyed it in a pagan sensuous way, and always looked forward to renouncing it.
  • or any of the other great men whose odd habits it would have been glorious piety to endure; but an amiable handsome baronet, who said "Exactly" to her remarks even when she expressed uncertainty,--how could he affect her as a lover? The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it.
  • are, used to wear ornaments. And Christians generally--surely there are women in heaven now who wore jewels."
  • "Souls have complexions too: what will suit one will not suit another."
  • trinkets to keep you in countenance. If I were to put on such a necklace as that, I should feel as if I had been pirouetting.
  • "It is strange how deeply colors seem to penetrate one, like scent.
  • The younger had always worn a yoke; but is there any yoked creature without its private opinions?
  • I went into science a great deal myself at one time; but I saw it would not do. It leads to everything; you can let nothing alone.
  • her annoyance at being twitted with her ignorance of political economy, that never-explained science which was thrust as an extinguisher over all her lights.
  • be talked to by Mr. Brooke, who was just then informing him that the Reformation either meant something or it did not, that he himself was a Protestant to the core, but that Catholicism was a fact;
  • "It is so painful in you, Celia, that you will look at human beings as if they were merely animals with a toilet, and never see the great soul in a man's face." "Has Mr. Casaubon a great soul?" Celia was not without a touch of naive malice.
  • Notions and scruples were like spilt needles, making one afraid of treading, or sitting down, or even eating.
  • He was made of excellent human dough,
  • A man's mind--what there is of it--has always the advantage of being masculine,--as the smallest birch-tree is of a higher kind than the most soaring palm,--and even his ignorance is of a sounder quality.
  • but a kind Providence furnishes the limpest personality with a little gunk or starch in the form of tradition.
  • Dorothea's inferences may seem large; but really life could never have gone on at any period but for this liberal allowance of conclusions, which has facilitated marriage under the difficulties of civilization.
  • a fresh young nature to which every variety in experience is an epoch.
  • the pathetic loveliness of all spontaneous trust
  • by a social life which seemed nothing but a labyrinth of petty courses
  • She never could understand how well-bred persons consented to sing and open their mouths in the ridiculous manner requisite for that vocal exercise.
  • "but he does not talk equally well on all subjects." "I should think none but disagreeable people do," said Celia, in her usual purring way.
  • what Mrs. Cadwallader said and did: a lady of immeasurably high birth, descended, as it were, from unknown earls, dim as the crowd of heroic shades--who pleaded poverty, pared down prices, and cut jokes in the most companionable manner, though with a turn of tongue that let you know who she was. Such a lady gave a neighborliness to both rank and religion, and mitigated the bitterness of uncommuted tithe.
  • Who could taste the fine flavor in the name of Brooke if it were delivered casually, like wine without a seal? Certainly a man can only be cosmopolitan up to a certain point. "
  • "Yes; she says Mr. Casaubon has a great soul." "With all my heart." "Oh, Mrs. Cadwallader, I don't think it can be nice to marry a man with a great soul."
  • As to his blood, I suppose the family quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant.
  • Miserliness is a capital quality to run in families; it's the safe side for madness to dip on.
  • "She says, he is a great soul.--A great bladder for dried peas to rattle in!" said Mrs. Cadwallader.
  • you are well rid of Miss Brooke, a girl who would have been requiring you to see the stars by daylight.
  • was hardly more than a sort of low comedy, which could not be taken account of in a well-bred scheme of the universe.
  • He would never have contradicted her, and when a woman is not contradicted, she has no motive for obstinacy in her absurdities.
  • the amiable vanity which knits us to those who are fond of us
  • Brooke is a very good fellow, but pulpy; he will run into any mould, but he won't keep shape."
  • but pride only helps us to be generous; it never makes us so, any more than vanity makes us witty.
  • And certainly, the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.
  • The small boys wore excellent corduroy, the girls went out as tidy servants, or did a little straw-plaiting at home: no looms here, no Dissent;
  • But what a voice! It was like the voice of a soul that had once lived in an AEolian harp.
  • Celia had become less afraid of "saying things" to Dorothea since this engagement: cleverness seemed to her more pitiable than ever.
  • We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes may be disguised in helpless embryos.--In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities.
  • but knowing classical passages, we find, is a mode of motion, which explains why they leave so little extra force for their personal application.
  • for we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the
  • For to Dorothea, after that toy-box history of the world adapted to young ladies which had made the chief part of her education,
Zany, virtuosic, and pretty well-served by the deadpan delivery of Sam Freed in the audiobook.
  • No. Simplicity and justice require that thought and deed not be carelessly elided.
  • I can’t help ruminating on her lament that breasts like hers are wasted in a small media market like Railton,
  • the increasingly militant ignorance of our students
  • he lumbers off, looking oddly innocent, as if he himself believes in the concept of accidental extortion.
  • “I didn’t love to read until about then. It’s the love that makes the rut.”
  • and that may be one of my father’s great gifts—his ability to suggest through a pose, a gesture, that he was himself all he needed.
  • “Efficient?” I say. “Education?” “You bet.” “Higher education?” “Lean and mean.” “Well, it’s always been mean,” I concede.
  • I am no longer, if indeed I ever was, a romantic with respect to authorship. Bad books call to authors with the same haunting siren song as good ones, and there’s no law that says you have to listen, not when there’s an ample supply of cotton for the ears.
  • in truth Mr. Purty has cheered me up. The task he has chosen for himself, of wooing my mother with a bright red pickup truck, a Patsy Cline tape, and a string of malapropisms, is ample justification to me for not taking the world too seriously, its relentless heartbreak notwithstanding.
  • I realize that the subtext of this discussion is very different from its text. On the surface Herbert wants me to know that I’m indispensable to the cause. Below it, I’m to know that my department and my friends have already aligned themselves against me. I can be point man, or I can cease to exist. It’s testimony to Herbert’s rhetorical sophistication that text and subtext do not appear to contradict each other. It makes no difference.
  • Despite having endured endless faculty meetings, I can’t remember the last time anyone changed his (or her!) mind as a result of reasoned discourse. Anyone who observed us would conclude the purpose of all academic discussion was to provide the grounds for becoming further entrenched in our original positions.
  • A man like me, who gravitates so naturally to omniscient storytelling, probably should not be married to an oracle. He’ll spend all his time trying to prove the oracle wrong, an uphill battle. Ask Oedipus. Ask Macbeth. Ask Thurber.
  • It’s possible to overlook character flaws of in-laws for the simple reason that you feel neither responsible for them nor genetically implicated.
  • Sad little vessels all. Scuffy the Tugboat, lost and scared on the open sea. All elegantly written, all with the same artistic goal—to evidence a superior sensibility.
  • It’s a hell of a fine man who’ll write a novel and keep it to himself.
  • As he explained to June over the weekend, his contempt for the pervasive sexism of our culture is so powerful, so profound, that he wouldn’t mind being sacrificed to further the cause of gender equality. Still, he’s afraid that his position may have been misunderstood and possibly misstated. What if, in paraphrase, it sounded like he just didn’t want tenure? What if his deepest convictions were misinterpreted as personal dissatisfaction, which was the way June herself, he was horrified to discover, had taken them.
  • My argument, that comedy and tragedy don’t mix, that they must remain discrete, runs contrary to their experience.
  • There may be no harder admission for a man of my years to make than that he has wet his pants, but this, to my horror, is what I have done.
  • Other people make their peace with who they are, what they’ve become. Why can’t I? Why live the life of a contortionist, scrunched in among the rafters? So that I can maintain the costly illusion that I am not what my father is?
  • In the end it all comes down to horse trading, and being traded breaks, if not the heart, then some mechanism in the heart necessary to its proper functioning.
  • Many things will occur to a man like me when trapped in a filthy crawl space, separated from light and camaraderie by asbestos-contaminated ceiling tiles and insulation.
  • I use my own solitude to consider what may well be my worst character flaw, the fact that in the face of life’s seriousness, its pettiness, its tragedy, its lack of coherent meaning, my spirits are far too easily restored.
  • He stares over at me through moist, confused eyes. “No, the stereo cabinet.” “Oh, sorry,” I say. In my writing workshop I’d have explained to my students why, for symmetry, it had to be the chair.
  • William of Occam would be pleased with my deduction, which accounts for the major facts, is contradicted by none of them, and is not unnecessarily complex. All my theory lacks is reasons, human motives, the truth behind the known facts. The former novelist in me wonders this: How close could I get to the deeper truths, proceeding from the factual outline?
  • Tony’s mock investigation of the vomit on the hood of my car suggests how wide is the gap between known facts and a genuine understanding of their meaning.
  • I was not jealous, the truth is that I am. Not of her success. The envy I feel has less to do with accomplishment or validation than with the necessary artistic arrogance that these breed.
  • She will consider the possibility that the leaky vessel of her talent may be seaworthy after all.
  • Last week, in the hot tub with the local press, I’m in the low to midfifties tops, which is where I like to be, because in the fifties you got options. You can zig, you can zag. There’s the possibility of dignity.
  • These last few years, having limited my creative endeavors to the op-ed page of The Rear View, I’ve had little opportunity to indulge omniscience, though I continue to teach it, out of duty, to my fiction writers, even as I warn them against it. Omniscience requires a combination of worldly experience and chutzpah, in more or less equal measures, a technique I’m drawn to now in advancing middle age, perhaps because, as my wife and daughter never tire of reminding me, I tumble to the truth of things late and would prefer to give the impression that I’ve known all along. By making use of omniscience I may be able to explain to myself life’s mysteries, which I’m not even close to grasping in the first person, a more modest form, even when you’re William Henry Devereaux, Jr.
  • Julie, my wife would insist, is living evidence of our skill in parenting, that rare adult who doesn’t see the world as a dangerous, treacherous place. She expects to be loved, to be rewarded for her efforts, to be treated generously. She had tenure as a child and now expects it as an adult.
  • Bobo entertains this question with high seriousness, as if I’d just asked him to explain the disappearance of the Fool after Act Three of King Lear.
  • “I want,” I tell him as solemnly as I know how, because I don’t want this to be mistaken for irony or any other literary device, “to pee.”
  • I feel for her, but I also wish my fiction-writing students were here. Angelo could teach them something about the nature of suspense. He’s had this narrative shotgun cocked, safety off, for a long time, but he’s a patient storyteller. He’s got time slowed down, and even though we’ve known from the beginning of the story that he’s going to pull the trigger, we’re still waiting to find out if he will.
  • the world is divided between kids who grow up wanting to be their parents and those like us, who grow up wanting to be anything but. Neither group ever succeeds.
  • So I don’t have a lot of room to wiggle here. Maybe I never should have counted to three. I don’t know. But now that I’m here, now that I’m at three, I no longer have what you’d call a wide range of options. Also not a lot of time to consider the ones I do have, because after you say three, you got exactly one beat, the same amount of time it took you to get from two to three is the time you now got. The next sound you hear after three is not supposed to be four. It’s supposed to be bang. You don’t hear bang, all bets are off.”
  • Only after we’ve done a thing do we know what we’ll do, and by then whatever we’ve done has already begun to sever itself from clear significance, at least for the doer. Which is why we have spouses and children and parents and colleagues and friends, because someone has to know us better than we know ourselves. We need them to tell us. We need them to say, “I know you, Al. You’re not the kind of man who.”
  • Perhaps no man should possess the key to his wife’s affections, what makes and keeps him worthy in her eyes. That would be like gaining unauthorized access to God’s grace.
  • That afternoon I came to understand that one of the deepest purposes of intellectual sophistication is to provide distance between us and our most disturbing personal truths and gnawing fears.
  • his conviction that he was not put here in this world to learn other people's lessons. He'll accept his punishment because he has no choice, but he'll pass when it comes to the education...If we were capable of learning our lessons we'd become obedient. Sensing this, we're dead set against moral instruction.
For those who think the world doesn't need another academic novel, Richard Russo certainly proves them wrong.
  • They divorced when I was in junior high school, and they agree on little except that I was an impossible child. The story they tell of young William Henry Devereaux, Jr., and his first dog is eerily similar in its facts, its conclusions, even the style of its telling, no matter which of them is telling it.
  • duration of visit a year or two at most, perhaps because it’s hard to remain distinguished among people who know you.
  • My father seldom listened to anything I said, but I began to see signs that the underpinnings of my mother’s personality were beginning to corrode in the salt water of my tidal persistence, and when I judged that she was nigh to complete collapse, I took every penny of the allowance money I’d been saving and spent it on a dazzling, bejeweled dog collar and leash set at the overpriced pet store around the corner.
  • I was in and out that door dozens of times a day, and my mother said it was like living in a shooting gallery. It made her wish the door wasn’t shooting blanks.
  • I’m not a guilt provoker by nature, but I can play that role. / In my view, I am not an ingrate, but I can play that role.
  • In the English department they are known as Fred and Ginger for the grace with which they move together, without a hint of passion, toward a single, shared destination.
  • I don’t see how you could not kid about love and still claim to have a sense of humor.
  • Anger is one of several emotions Teddy’s never sure he’s entitled to, and he wants to make certain it’s justified in this instance.
  • It’s his plan to do several furious laps around the house to dispel the humiliation. I know and understand my dog well. We share many deep feelings.
  • He’s like a tone-deaf man trying to sing, sliding between notes, tapping his foot arhythmically, hoping his exuberance will make up for not bothering to establish a key. It makes for painful listening, and I privately edit his account—restructuring the elements, making marginal notes, subordinating, joining, cleaving, reemphasizing.
  • Finny, who brought to meetings he chaired the emotional equilibrium of a cork in high seas,
  • only then did I realize that the barbed end of the spiral ring had hooked and punctured my right nostril, that I was gigged like a frog and leaning across the table toward Gracie like a bumbling suitor begging a kiss.
  • “This is crazy,” Orshee kept repeating, as if he were being forced to witness the sort of thing he would have preferred not to see happen, even to a white male.
  • Were it not for Occam’s Razor, which always demands simplicity, I’d be tempted to believe that human beings are more influenced by distant causes than immediate ones. This would be especially true of overeducated people, who are capable of thinking past the immediate, of becoming obsessed by the remote.
  • No doubt some marriage counselor would explain to us that our problem is a failure to communicate, but to my way of thinking we’ve worked long and hard to achieve this silence, Lily’s and mine, so fraught with mutual understanding.
  • Fine by me. It’s the attendant pretense that mangles me. We have to pretend they’re being smart when they’re being dumb. Such pretenses, I have tried to explain to Lily, fly in the face of Occam’s Razor, which demands that entities must not be multiplied beyond what is necessary. Lies and pretenses, I explain, always require more lies and pretenses.
  • “From me, of course,” my wife said, as if this were one of life’s mysteries that even I should be able to plumb on my own. “You gave them our house plans?” I said, life’s essential sense of mystery undiminished.
  • Have I brought this on myself, I wonder, that people who know me refuse to take me seriously, while to virtual strangers my ironic sallies are received with staunch, serious outrage?
  • Is it wrong of me to regret this nearly complete lack of irony in my offspring?
  • They seem to have rejected our wisdom as completely as our suggested reading lists, refusing to see the applicability of either The Scarlet Letter (Lily) or Bartleby (whose title character is, like me, a disciple of William of Occam) to their own lives.
  • Instead I choose to pretend that I am wounded by her touch, this woman whose touch has been so light and knowing through the years. And so she stands, looks down at me, disappointed, as if she knows full well the choice I’ve made and why I’ve made it. If she understands the why, she’s ahead of me.
  • And if I have come into conflict with Gracie, goaded her to violence against my person, then I owe her, not her husband, an apology. Yet here we stand, the two of us, sharing an invalid emotion.
  • Only Billy Quigley, who normally had no use for Finny, seemed glad to see him. He offered Finny a seat and a generous belt from his flask. “I’ve drunk with uglier broads than you,” he informed his colleague, adding, “Not much uglier though.”
  • There’s no reason a wife shouldn’t take her husband in stride, of course, yet it’s disappointing to be so taken, especially for a man like me, so intent on breaking people’s gait. “
  • And I admit that a moral man wouldn’t get sidetracked pondering irrelevant details, like whether the boy also noticed the old woman as he passed her floor, whether seeing her there so unexpectedly provided him a lucid moment before he set off that horn. Back when I was a writer, I might have been able to justify such musings, since odd details and unexpected points of view are the stuff of which vivid stories are made, but now such thoughts seem more like evidence of an unbalanced mind, a warped sensibility.
  • Next to his query concerning the rape scene, I write: “Always understate necrophilia.”
  • Meg’s beauty is almost breathtaking, and, in the manner of most truly beautiful women, she reminds you of no one but herself,
  • When easy things can’t get done, and there’s no good reason, it’s more than too bad. It makes everything seem deep down mean and petty.
  • For Mr. Purty, listening to my mother talk is not unlike watching a bear dance. It’s just the damndest thing.
  • both were impatient with athletic injuries, small or large, which they perceived as willful.
  • "I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but the truth is that there’s nothing more shallow than cleverness. You’ve become a clever man.”
  • But imagination without energy remains inert
  • In English departments the most serious competition is for the role of straight man.
  • This is where the most beguiling feature of our contests comes in. Tony has decided that it’s all right for him to play racquetball if he takes no more than one step in any direction from center court, which means it’s my job to hit the ball back to him within this radius. Otherwise he deems the ball unplayable and takes the point. I’m allowed to kill the ball directly in front of him if I’m able, but I can’t use angles. Since racquetball is a game of angles, my handicap is so huge that he has to give me points, usually six to eight a game, and even then I seldom win. When he gets too far ahead, he turns and glowers at me, his bushy eyebrows knitted, and tells me to bear down... I’ve grown used to losing on my best shots.
  • These are not men of great imagination, but one can hardly blame them for not being prepared for this particular contingency, the sight of a tweed-jacketed, tenured, middle-aged senior professor and department chair in a fake nose and glasses, brandishing a live, terrified goose.
因为是蓝紫青灰,所以不介意BE。根据一些流行语和手机的出现,故事应该是发生在上世纪九十年代末吧 —— 至少主人公的气质很符合那年代。
  • 景天到黑龙江去的时候,正是那个极北之地最美丽的季节。白天早早地就来了,阳光射进窗户来叫醒她,夜晚又迟迟不肯离去,吃了晚饭还有大把的时间可以挥霍。草甸上野花开满,地榆结着紫色的小果子,老鹳草的花有一枚硬币那么大,剪夏罗有毛绒的花边,亚麻的花小得像一粒米,柳兰开得一片一片的玫瑰粉最是亮眼,浅水里是半池半池的金色荇菜花,松果那么大的蓝刺头上停着水鸟,每走一步都要惊起十七八只蚱蜢。景天去之前买了几本草花图集,每天采一把野花回来对着书辨认。
  • “看不出你原来这么笨。”她妈妈点一下她的头,说:“就去找你周伯伯呀,他可是一下笔就横扫千军的,当年拿起笔作刀枪的先锋,后来光是检查就写了几抽屉……哎,不提当年了。”
  • 从新华路到淮海路有一点距离,换了两部车,花了点时间才到。淮海路早不是从前的模样,它现在围着隔离的钢板,一头延伸到另一天,弯弯折折像一道墙,从两块板的接缝里向里望,淮海路从上面整个地掀开,往下挖掘直到地底。这个巨大的深坑一点不像一个无底的黑洞,也不让人看了害怕,这只是一个杂乱的工地。
  • 此情此景,让人心生恍惚。景天一时忘情,笑着学了一句:“晚上好,德温特先生。“
    蒲瑞安回她道:“晚上好,景天小姐。”
    恰好货车开到,当当当的警声响起,把他的声音淹没。景天就看见他张了张嘴,脸上带着笑,却听不见他在说什么。她大声问:“你说什么?”
    蒲瑞安又笑着说了一遍。景天仍然没听见,但忽然觉得这样的情景很暧昧,她转过头看着迎面过来的货车,心跳得和火车轮子撞着铁轨发出的震天巨响一样重。
  • 蒲瑞安看她了有那么几秒种,然后说:“好。记得把湿衣服换了,马上去洗个热水澡。”捡起雨衣,拖泥带水地经过她的身边。
    景天听到这两句,几乎柳眉都竖了起来。文明人讲究绅士风度,凡是与身体有关的词语都不会出现在对话中,尤其是蒲瑞安这样的老派人家出来的人,更是在这方面注意,这是一个人平素的修养。除非是关系非常紧密的人,才会说这样亲密的话。他说这句话的口气,和一个男朋友的口气没什么两样。
  • 她看着这盒可可粉就发笑,她承他的情的地方多了,两人认识时间不算长,交情不算深,纠葛倒不少。她要是有志气,不想和这个人再牵扯,就该冷静地把这盒可可粉扔进垃圾桶里,像所有电影里有志气的女主角一样,人家连钻石戒指都舍得扔的。而她却舀了三勺到杯子里,冲进热水,搅拌均匀了,觉得不够厚稠,再加两勺。
  • 蒲瑞安看了却说:“你这人很奇怪,该哭的时候不哭,不该哭的时候又哭那么大声。王连长今天要被你吓破胆了。你要是涂碘酒的时候刚才哭一下,那个小卫生兵肯定吓得不敢这么粗枝大叶,他还以为你跟他们一样皮糙肉厚的,涂碘酒像刷墙壁灰。现在你要是跟我大哭特哭,我就不好追究了。你尽可以无赖耍到底,我还真拿你没办法。”
    景天忍不住扑嗤一声笑出来。
    “哭哭笑,两只眼睛开大炮。”蒲瑞安拿小孩子的儿歌取笑她。
    他一放软档,景天就知道混过去了,马上换她凶,
  • 因为在恋爱中,是被包裹在甜蜜里的,从语言到眼神到怀抱到心灵。是由自己和那个人共同散发出的甜蜜气氛搭出的一个秘密花园,那个地方只有两个人才知道。就像她现在,自己抱着自己的手臂,闭上眼睛,回味着刚才被人抱紧的感觉。腿上火辣辣的痛,嘴角却是在笑。情不自禁的想笑,想哈哈一声笑出来,想冲那个人大喊说“滚”,“呸”,“滚蛋”,“去死”……  所有无理的无礼的无厘头的单音节字,每一个字都是在说“好”,“真可爱”,“想咬你”,“抱紧我”。想怎么放肆都可以,想怎么反复无常都有理,只是因为有个人愿意享受这里面释放出来的亲昵。就像蒲瑞安说的,“如果你只是在我面前这么反复,我不会介意,我准备好好享受一下这种感觉”。这就是恋爱的感觉。
  • 和年轻姑娘谈恋爱就是累,她们不肯务实,非要玩很多花样,其实最终结果无非是结婚一条路,却偏要玩七擒孟获的游戏... 时代发展到今天,什么都得自己来,自已读书自己吃饭自己讨女孩欢心自己挣钱娶媳妇,一个人一双手忙不过来,只好往后推,推到过了三十岁,还要玩十八岁孩子的游戏。但是三十多岁人哪里有十八岁的激情和精力?
  • 也许他那边也在埋怨为什么女朋友就不肯来看他?也许这世上真的有误会有错过,而当事人因为骄傲不肯去解释不肯去俯就,只会失望地抱怨,说爱情已死,爱人变心?  景天在这个时候忽然原谅了前男友,因为她的骄傲,她惩罚了他,同时她纵容自己沉溺在伤心中自怜自艾,不肯痊愈。但是这样做,除了她自己伤心难过外,谁又得到任何好处了?
  • 出去转转,除了马路就是人,连一个想让她掏出相机来的地方都没有,触目所及,水泥从脚底直砌上天穹。如果地球是人也要呼吸的话,那城市,肯定是它结痂的地方。板结成比花岗岩还要结实的石块,敲一敲,梆梆响。
  • 安先生,她想,你还真是像一个老师,逼着她坚强、往前走、不退缩,他要逼她成为和他一样的人。他喜欢她,因此他不纵容她,也从来没有想过要放弃她。
  • 蒲瑞安笑笑,解释给她听:“我不是说我买了个私家园林,我是说我买了个私家园子。是你自己领会错了。这个园子有三进庭院,十四间房,占地面积是五百多平方,我打算拆掉第一进,把天井扩大,后面两进形成一个前后房一样的格局,前面做起居,后面做卧室。你来看,这里有一口井,”指着墙角的一口长满青苔的老井,“还能打出水来,这里清理出来后就是一个庭院,种一架紫藤,你看如何?”
  • 傅和晴说:“你一时要说吃焦泡饭,我到哪里去弄,只好现炒米。夏天吃也正好。”接了一盆凉水,连锅带饭放在冷水里凉着,再把景至琛买回来的熟菜一样样倒在盘子里,用筷子摆整齐,是咸鸡糟肚和西芹拌腐竹。傅和晴做了一只热菜是霉干菜蒸咸鲞鱼肉饼,正是下泡饭的菜,还有一个凉拌海带结,悄声说:“蒜蓉我就不放了,拌了点姜汁。”景天只好闷声发笑,说:“妈妈侬真搞得来。”
  • 景天想明白这一点,又是好气又是好笑,这人得有多大的毅力才能做到这一点,她任他搓圆摁扁,而他也笑纳她的献媚,但就是不投降。这一场持久拉锯仗一直在两人间暗潮汹涌地翻滚着,两人表面都不露声色,却在较着劲。她都有点后劲不足了,而他却依然谈笑风生,好像诸葛亮坐在城楼上,手挥五弦,谈笑退敌。她对他只有五体投地的份。
  • 好象以前看过一本什么书,说是晋朝的贵族,上厕所时手边有一个盘子,里面放的是红枣,进去就取两粒红枣塞进鼻子里,下面的坑里放的是鹅毛。
  • 景天回过神来说,“妈妈,这个就叫一不做二不休。”指一下自己:“一不做,”指一下走进去的蒲瑞安:“二不休。”
  • 傅和晴说:“景儿说的这个,倒叫我想起那出京剧《卖水》来了。”清一清嗓子,唱一段流水:“什么花姐?什么花郎?什么花的帐子?什么花的床?什么花的枕头床上放?什么花的褥子铺满床?”  景天接口数板道:“红花姐,绿花郎。干枝梅的帐子、象牙花的床,鸳鸯花的枕头床上放,木樨花的褥子铺满床。
  • 景天噗嗤一笑,这个“野人婆婆吃琵琶梗”是上海的老人家编出来骗小孩子要他们注意陌生人的,“野人婆婆”相当于童话故事里的熊外婆和狼外婆,“琵琶梗”原是一种撒了白糖的油炸糯米果子,这里是指小孩子白嫩的手指头。
  • 那座位于乐清坊的老宅,让他们给出主意要买些什么家具,怎么布置房间。老宅修葺一新,但又不是彻骨里新那种刺目的惨白的新,这个新带点自来旧的新,看上去是新的,但无一处不是带着旧时的风貌。  进屋的台地铺的是真正的旧物,箩底的尺半见方的大方砖,吸湿防潮又保水分,还防滑不生尘。这种青砖早就不生产了,是把三进房子的旧砖撬起来重新铺的,一共才捡出这些完整的来。几间正房铺的是细长条的柚木地板,是从一幢拆掉的旧银行大楼里淘来的,刨掉了表面的陈年泥垢,打上地板蜡,光亮得可以开舞会。顶棚上的椽子和棢砖用桐油漆过,不掉灰尘。屋顶上的瓦请瓦匠捡过,坏掉的都换了。窗还是原来的槅扇子窗,破损的地方全用旧木头修补过了,铜插销是从旧货店买的全新的旧货。
  • 所有的房间都是四白落地,干干净净,冬日的阳光从玻璃窗里照进来,略有些灰尘在光线的瀑布里浮沉,看上去让人觉得温暖。  院子里朝南向阳的地方放了一些盆栽,冬天少花,盆里种的是茶玫,开着粉色的精致花朵,还有两棵苏州人爱种的白兰花放在屋内有太阳晒得到的地方。靠院墙是几大盆杜鹃,碧青碧青的叶子像用水洗过。围墙上是不知年的爬山虎,老藤足有茶杯口粗。天井角落那一口老井的井壁上全是绒绒的青苔,还有凤尾蕨的叶片茂盛地遮了一小半的井口,往下张一张,泛着水光。旁边放了一只桶底穿洞钉了一块橡皮的专用吊桶,景天拎起那桶看了看,问为什么桶底有洞,被景至琛取笑没见识。
  • “是的,他们在成全我们。如果他们和你依然如同从前那样的亲密,他们会觉得是在纵容我们的荒唐和不计后果,这是他们摆出来的姿态。所以他们是出去旅游了,而不是来这里兴师问罪。小景,你有全天下最好的爸妈,只是我不够好,让你失去了他们的疼爱。我会尽力让你不觉得遗憾,可惜遗憾终究是遗憾,不会因我的努力就不存在了。”
  • “我的意思是,我会趁着这个时间,把这块地从教育用地变成住宅用地,跑这个很花时间,有很多关节要打通,不是一朝一夕可以办到的。因此我还不能把我在厂里的股份转让掉。等批文弄好,原来的班级也毕业了,到时候就可以大展拳脚了。这么大块地,一百余亩,可以建一个中型楼盘,我已经找建筑师粗略算过了,容积率按2.90算,建筑密度百分之十八到十九,可以建十三幢高层建筑,建筑面积可以达到二十三四万平方米,地上二十万地下三万多,绿化面积也可达到百分之四十,总套数估计会有两千余套,停车位一千多个。我打算分三期建成出售,第一期先建三栋二十五层的高层,有五百余户,可销售面积有三万五百余平方米,按照当地的楼盘均价,两三年后就算不升,还是两千八,那就是一亿。除掉先期卖地的五百万,补交的土地出让金,后期投入的建安成本,利润按百分之三十算,也有三千万。要是做成了,光是这一块地,我就可以成功转型,从制造业转入房地产。”
  • 蒲瑞安慢悠悠笃定说:“你要入股,未尝不行。但是这样一来,你的股份就是主要资金,这间公司就变成你的公司了,虽然法人的名字是我。爸爸,我们亲父子明算账,这是我的事业我的公司,我要做这个董事长。你用资金来入股当然可以,你借我三百万,余下的两百万是你入股的资金。事情有我做,不用你操一点心,你坐着分红,仍然是董事会的成员。”
  • 每次在苏熙那里受了气,倪慧就会来找景天诉苦,按说景天实在不必受这个折磨,但是她又想听苏熙这次又在发什么神经,因此倪慧约她,她都应约前往,两人约个地方吃饭喝茶,听一些苏熙的闲话,对蒲瑞安也算是一种另类的关心。
  • 傅和晴放下心来,说:“这就好。”景至琛带了疑问看着她,示意她讲她的想法。傅和晴说:“死亡证明在景儿这里,那她就是主家,办起丧事来,是景儿致词。要是落在苏熙那里,景儿就成了媳妇,是陪祭的了。这个关节可不能错。
  • 二姨再白她一眼说:“等打起仗来,你也描眉画眼地去逃难吧。”傅和晴说:“那也没什么难的,捡段烧焦的木头就画了。打仗肯定烧房子,烧了房子就有焦木头。”
  • 最后说;小安子妈妈那里,请代我致意。我家小景就不过去了,免得婆媳两人见了面除了哭还是哭,对两个人的身体都不好。到时我们在追悼会上见面罢,希望小安子的妈妈不要太伤心,小安等于也是我们的儿子,失去儿子的心情我们能够理解。何况阿德还小,正是需要爸爸的时候。这孩子可怜,这么小就没了爸爸,他将来还是要靠我们两家四个老人一起扶绑他。过去的事,是我做得不好,请小安子的妈妈看在阿德的未来上,别再计较我家景儿这些年的失礼。“她话里软中带硬,却又说得滴水不漏,蒲原自然是听得出的
  • 苏熙仍然不回答,景天贴在她耳边说:“那我来问吧,是不是因为白苓的原因,你后来嫁了你不爱的人,生了你不想要的儿子,为了表示你的不甘心,才故意让所有人都不快乐?你牺牲了瑞安,教坏了苏照,还辜负了瑞安的爸爸。他为了你可以容忍你所有的胡作非为,你就一点不感动?”
It chagrins me a bit that it took the Felicity Jones/Carey Mulligan movie to persuade me give this book another try. Surely the breeziest of all Austen books.
  • Mrs. Morland, who did not insist on her daughters being accomplished in spite of incapacity or distaste, allowed her to leave off.
  • and in many other points she came on exceedingly well; for though she could not write sonnets, she brought herself to read them;
  • But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.
  • with a degree of moderation and composure, which seemed rather consistent with the common feelings of common life, than with the refined susceptibilities, the tender emotions which the first separation of a heroine from her family ought always to excite.
  • Mrs. Allen did all that she could do in such a case by saying very placidly, every now and then, "I wish you could dance, my dear—I wish you could get a partner." For some time her young friend felt obliged to her for these wishes; but they were repeated so often, and proved so totally ineffectual, that Catherine grew tired at last, and would thank her no more.
  • it appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars." "And what are they?" "A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar."
  • for if it be true, as a celebrated writer has maintained, that no young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman's love is declared,* it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her.
  • Their joy on this meeting was very great, as well it might, since they had been contented to know nothing of each other for the last fifteen years.
  • This brief account of the family is intended to supersede the necessity of a long and minute detail from Mrs. Thorpe herself, of her past adventures and sufferings, which might otherwise be expected to occupy the three or four following chapters; in which the worthlessness of lords and attornies might be set forth, and conversations, which had passed twenty years before, be minutely repeated.
  • Thorpe, in what they called conversation, but in which there was scarcely ever any exchange of opinion, and not often any resemblance of subject, for Mrs. Thorpe talked chiefly of her children, and Mrs. Allen of her gowns.
  • they passed so rapidly through every gradation of increasing tenderness that there was shortly no fresh proof of it to be given to their friends or themselves.
  • Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?... Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried.
  • "Those will last us some time." "Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"
  • You must not betray me, if you should ever meet with one of your acquaintance answering that description." "Betray you! What do you mean?" "Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much. Let us drop the subject."
  • "But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our seeing them at all." "I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them."
  • "Curricle-hung, you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing-board, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete; the iron-work as good as new, or better. He asked fifty guineas; I closed with him directly, threw down the money, and the carriage was mine."
  • with the scores of other young ladies still sitting down all the discredit of wanting a partner.
  • her air, though it had not all the decided pretension, the resolute stylishness of Miss Thorpe's, had more real elegance.
  • her father, at the utmost, being contented with a pun, and her mother with a proverb; they were not in the habit therefore of telling lies to increase their importance,
  • how little it is biased by the texture of their muslin, and how unsusceptible of peculiar tenderness towards the spotted, the sprigged, the mull, or the jackonet. Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it.
  • Oh! That we had such weather here as they had at Udolpho, or at least in Tuscany and the south of France!—the night that poor St. Aubin died!—such beautiful weather!"
  • instead of proudly resolving, in conscious innocence, to show her resentment towards him who could harbour a doubt of it, to leave to him all the trouble of seeking an explanation, and to enlighten him on the past only by avoiding his sight, or flirting with somebody else—she took to herself all the shame of misconduct, or at least of its appearance, and was only eager for an opportunity of explaining its cause.

  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday have now passed in review before the reader; the events of each day, its hopes and fears, mortifications and pleasures, have been separately stated, and the pangs of Sunday only now remain to be described,
  • and how do I know that Mr. Thorpe has—He may be mistaken again perhaps; he led me into one act of rudeness by his mistake on Friday. Let me go, Mr. Thorpe; Isabella, do not hold me... If I could not be persuaded into doing what I thought wrong, I never will be tricked into it."
  • my heroine was most unnaturally able to fulfill her engagement, though it was made with the hero himself.
  • Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement—people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word." "While, in fact," cried his sister, "it ought only to be applied to you, without any commendation at all. You are more nice than wise.
  • "I wish I were too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all—it is very tiresome
  • At this rate, I shall not pity the writers of history any longer. If people like to read their books, it is all very well, but to be at so much trouble in filling great volumes, which, as I used to think, nobody would willingly ever look into, to be labouring only for the torment of little boys and girls, always struck me as a hard fate; and though I know it is all very right and necessary, I have often wondered at the person's courage that could sit down on purpose to do it."
  • She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others,
  • With all the chances against her of house, hall, place, park, court, and cottage, Northanger turned up an abbey, and she was to be its inhabitant.
  • In vanity, therefore, she gained but little; her chief profit was in wonder. That he should think it worth his while to fancy himself in love with her was a matter of lively astonishment.
  • And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important! To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.
  • Mr. Allen's house, he was sure, must be exactly of the true size for rational happiness.
  • "But now you love a hyacinth. So much the better. You have gained a new source of enjoyment, and it is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible... "At any rate, however, I am pleased that you have learnt to love a hyacinth. The mere habit of learning to love is the thing; and a teachableness of disposition in a young lady is a great blessing. Has my sister a pleasant mode of instruction?"
  • She was all impatience to see the house, and had scarcely any curiosity about the grounds. If Henry had been with them indeed! But now she should not know what was picturesque when she saw it.
  • But in the central part of England there was surely some security for the existence even of a wife not beloved, in the laws of the land, and the manners of the age. Murder was not tolerated, servants were not slaves, and neither poison nor sleeping potions to be procured, like rhubarb, from every druggist... Among the Alps and Pyrenees, perhaps, there were no mixed characters. There, such as were not as spotless as an angel might have the dispositions of a fiend. But in England it was not so; among the English, she believed, in their hearts and habits, there was a general though unequal mixture of good and bad.
  • Any further definition of his merits must be unnecessary; the most charming young man in the world is instantly before the imagination of us all. Concerning the one in question, therefore, I have only to add—aware that the rules of composition forbid the introduction of a character not connected with my fable—that this was the very gentleman whose negligent servant left behind him that collection of washing-bills, resulting from a long visit at Northanger, by which my heroine was involved in one of her most alarming adventures.
  • professing myself moreover convinced that the general's unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.
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