Post-Birthday World: An FAQ

15 May

Some great passages from The Post-Birthday World, which was da bomb.

“The feeling was not of being attractive precisely, but rather of not having to entertain. It was breathtaking: to be ensconced in another person’s company, yet to be relieved of the relentless minute-by-minute obligation to redeem one’s existence–for there is some sense in which socially we are all on the Late Show, grinning, throwing off nervous witticisms, and crossing our legs, as a big hook behind the curtains lurks in the wings.”

“It was really rather wretched that you couldn’t will yourself to fall in love, for the very effort can keep falling at bay. Nor could you will yourself to stay that way. Least of all could you will yourself NOT to fall in love, for thus far whatever meager resistance she had put up had only made the compulsion more intense. So you were perpetually tyrannized by a feeling that came and went as it pleased, like a cat with its own pet door. How much more agreeable, if love were something that you stirred up from a reliable recipe, or elected, however perversely, to pour down the drain. Still, there was nothing for it. The popular expression notwithstanding, love was not something you made.  Nor could you dispose of the stuff once manifested because it was inconvenient, or even because it was wicked, and ruining your life, and, by the by, someone else’s.”

“There is one province in which, sooner or later, virtually everyone gets dealt a leading role — hero, heroine, or villain.  Performance in this area is as fierce a test of character as being tempted to sell nuclear secrets to Beijing. Unlike the slight implications of quotidian dilemmas that confront the average citizen in other areas of life — whether to report cash income on your taxes — the stakes in this realm could not be higher. For chances are that at some point along the line you will hold in your hands another person’s heart. There is no greater responsibility on the planet. However you contend with this fragile organ, which pounds or seizes in accordance with your caprice, will take your full measure.”

“Should what you get up to fail to comport with who you think you are, something is surely inaccurate (and likely optimistic) about who you think you are.”

“One of the things you lose in the wisdom of age is the wisdom of youth. Education is not a steady process of accrual, but a touch-and-go contest between learning and forgetting, like frantically trying to fill a sink faster than it can empty through an open drain.”

“Maybe for any parent the hardest prerogative to grant grown children isn’t the right to be treated like real professionals, with their own homes and the respect of important people, but the right to annex adult FEELINGS. You’d have grown too habituated to consoling weepy moppets who are ‘in love’ with the boy in the front row, while certain that next week they would be equally smitten by the boy in the back.”

“For the living, death is thievery.”

“The word love was required to cover such a range of emotions that it almost meant nothing at all. Since the love we distill for each beloved conforms to such a specific, rarefied recipe, with varying soupcons of resentment, pity, or lust, and sometimes even pinches of dislike, you really needed as many different words for the feeling as there were people whom you cared for in your life.”

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