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2 Great Cynical Rants From The Goldfinch

10 Sep

>The Imperfectionists: An FAQ“But depression wasn’t the word. This was a plunge encompassing sorrow and revulsion far beyond the personal: a sick, drenching nausea at all humanity and human endeavor from the dawn of time. The writhing loathsomeness of the biological order. Old age, sickness, death. No escape for anyone. Even the beautiful ones were like soft fruit about to spoil. And yet somehow people still kept fucking and breeding and popping out new fodder for the grave, producing more and more new beings to suffer like this was some kind of redemptive, or good, or even somehow morally admirable thing: dragging more innocent creatures into the lose-lose game. Squirming babies and plodding, complacent, hormone-drugged moms. Oh, isn’t he cute? Awww. Kids shouting and skidding into the playground with no idea what future Hells awaited them: boring jobs and ruinous mortgages and bad marriages and hair loss and hip replacements and lonely cups of coffee in an empty house and a colostomy bag at the hospital. Most people seemed satisfied with the thin decorative glaze and the artful stage lighting that, sometimes, made the bedrock atrocity of the human predicament look somewhat more mysterious or less abhorrent. People gambled and golfed and planted gardens and traded stocks and had sex and bought new cars and practiced yoga and worked and prayed and redecorated their homes and got worked up over the news and fussed over their children and gossiped about their neighbors and pored over restaurant reviews and founded charitable organizations and supported political candidates and attended the U.S. Open and dined and traveled and distracted themselves with all kinds of gadgets and devices, flooding themselves incessantly with information and texts and communication and entertainment from every direction to try to make themselves forget it: where we were, what we were. But in a strong light there was no good spin you could put on it. It was rotten top to bottom. Putting your time in at the office; dutifully spawning your two point-five; smiling politely at your retirement party; then chewing on your bedsheet and choking on your canned peaches at the nursing home.”

“And, increasingly, I find myself fixing on that refusal to pull back. Because I don’t care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here’s the truth: life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence — of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do — is catastrophe. Forget all this ridiculous ‘Our Town’ nonsense everyone talks: the miracle of a newborn babe, the joy of one simple blossom, Life You Are Too Wonderful To Grasp, &c. For me — and I’ll keep repeating it doggedly until I did, till I fall over on my ungrateful nihilistic face and am too weak to say it: better never born, than born into this cesspool.”

42 Quotes from The Autobiography of Malcolm X

6 Sep

color_malcolm_xPage numbers in parens, y’all. 

ON PATIENCE:

“I learned early that crying out in protest could accomplish things.” [8]

“The more I began to stay away from home and visit people and steal from the stores, the more aggressive I became in my inclinations. I never wanted to wait for anything.” [15]

“I have always felt…that the black ‘leader’ whom white men consider to be ‘responsible’ is invariably the black ‘leader’ who never gets any results.” [389]

ON WHITE PEOPLE:

“I don’t care how nice one is to you, the thing you must always remember is that almost never does he really see you as he sees himself, as he sees his own kind.” [28]

“…the collective white man had acted like a devil in virtually every contact he had with the world’s collective non-white man.” [181]

“For the white man to ask the black man if he hates him is just like the rapist asking the raped, or the wolf asking the sheep, ‘Do you hate me?’ The white man is in no moral position to accuse anyone else of hate! Why, when all of my ancestors are snake-bitten, and I’m snake-bitten, and I warn my children to avoid snakes, what does that snake sound like accusing me of hate-teaching? ” [245] Continue reading

A Canticle for Leibowitz: Favorite Quotes

20 Feb

Some choice quotes from last week’s read, A Canticle for Leibowitz.

“It was a devil with which he was trying to come to grips, the abbot decided, but the devil was quite evasive. The abbot’s devil was rather small, as devils go: only knee-high, but he weighed ten tons and had the strength of five hundred oxen. He was not driven by maliciousness, as Dom Paulo imagined him, not nearly as much as he was driven by frenzied compulsion, somewhat after the fashion of a rabid dog. He bit through meat and bone and nail simply because he had damned himself, and damnation created a damnably insatiable appetite. And he was evil merely because he had made a denial of Good, and the denial had become part of his essence, or a hole therein. Somewhere, Dom Paulo thought, he’s wading through a sea of men and leaving a wake of the maimed.”

“Men must fumble awhile with error to separate it from truth, I think—as long as they don’t seize the error hungrily because it has a pleasanter taste.”

“Listen, are we helpless? Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall? Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Rome, the Empires of Charlemagne and the Turk. Ground to dust and plowed with salt. Spain, France, Britain, America—burned into the oblivion of the centuries. And again and again and again. Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing?”

“The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.”

“Those who stayed behind had the easier part. Theirs was but to wait for the end and pray that it would not come.”

Stuff Your Eyes With Wonder

6 Jun

To commemorate Ray Bradbury’s death, here are some of my favorite quotes from Fahrenheit 451, my hands-down favorite book of all time.

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”

“With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar.”

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”

“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. …Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”

“Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

“The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.”

“The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.”

“You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”

“It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals.”

“What could he say in a single word, a few words, that would sear all their faces and wake them up?”

“Everyone must leave something in the room or left behind when he dies. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

“Stuff your eyes with wonder.”

“I want to see everything now. And while none of it will be me when it goes in, after a while it’ll all gather together inside and it’ll be me.”

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.” Continue reading

TFIOS: Fav Quotes

11 May

The Fault in Ours Stars was, as a whole, wonderfully written (read my glowing review) but a handful of passages were even more awesome than the rest. Unfortunately some didn’t make the cut here—I am not one to disclose important plot points by way of citation—but here are a few good ones.

“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer.  But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)”

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“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

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“‘How many people do you think have ever died?’

‘I happen to know the answer to that question,’ he said. ‘There are seven billion living people, and about ninety-eight billion dead people.’

‘Oh,’ I said. I’d thought that maybe since the population growth had been so fast, there were more people alive than all the dead combined.

‘There are about fourteen dead people for every living person,’ he said. ‘I did some research on this several years ago. I was wondering if everybody could be remembered. Like, if we got organized and assigned a certain number of corpses to each living person, would there be enough living people to remember all the dead people?’

‘And there are?’

‘Sure, anyone can name fourteen dead people.  But we’re disorganized mourners, so a lot of people end up remembering Shakespeare, and no one ends up remembering the person he wrote Sonnet Fifty-five about.'”

Kevin: Favorite Quotes

28 Feb

It’s difficult to pick out favorite quotes from We Need to Talk About Kevin, both because every sentence is truly beautiful and because repetition seems to somehow imply endorsement, a hard pill to swallow when the topic is mass murder (or even just rampant cynicism). But here are some tidbits I enjoyed.

“I always prefer socializing at night—it is implicitly more wanton.”

“Only a country that feels invulernable can afford political turmoil as entertainment.”

“Hitherto, I had always regarded the United States as a place to leave. After you brazenly asked me out—an executive with whom you had a business relationship—you goaded me to admit that had I been born elsewhere, the U.S. of A. was perhaps the first country I would make a beeline to visit: whatever else I might think of it, the place that called the shots and pulled the strings, that made the movies and sold the Coca-Cola and shipped Star Trek all the way to Java; the center of the action, a country that you needed a relationship with even if that relationship was hostile; a country that demanded if not acceptance at least rejection—anything but neglect. The country in every other country’s face, that would visit you whether you liked it or not almost anywhere on the planet.” Continue reading