there has to be more to life than just biomechanics...this extract from a book i've read recently says something about that other world.


"I'm just trying to distract you," Clarissa said. "And humor you."..."Maybe you should keep a diary."
"I'll commit suicide before I keep a fucking diary. Diaries are for weaklings and old queer professors. Which I'm not."

The Lay of the Land,  by Richard Ford [Bloomsbury, London, 2006, p. 240]


[previous - death]




















Earlier quotes:


Whatever he had done for us, or not done, must have seemed justifiable to him at the time. My mother, too, had done what she could in the midst of her illness, by asking little of us, except that we not watch her too closely. They, like most people, had done their best. You love whom you love, you fail whom you fail, and almost always we fail the ones we meant to love. Not intentionally, that's just how it happens. We get sick or distracted or frightened and don't listen, or listen to the wrong things. Time passes, we lose track of our mistakes, neglect to make amends. And then, no matter how much we might like to try again, we're done.

A Ghost at the Table,  by Suzanne Berne [Penguin, Camberwell, 2006, p. 288]



I was so much looking forward to watching those baby crows learn to fly! Now I'm going to miss it, I'll be gone at just the wrong time.

One more misplacement, but how could she help it? You couldn't put a crow family before your own daughters, thought Nell wryly, circling the rows of the shopping-mall lot for a space near her store; though she had begun to find a pleasure she had not thought possible in simple solitude. There was a sort of mellow ecstasy in just letting yourself go in the sun, contemplating the shifts of light in a day, or the wind in the trees, or the life of a bird family. When the struggle to "be yourself", and "hold your own" - and hold on to the people you thought you could not lose and still live without - was over, you could actually find pleasure in being nobody. Or you could be yourself, but without all that unnecessary pain of assertion, and simply sit and possess all the moments in your life that a certain sunlight or a particular wind reminded you of. So many moments had come back to Nell recently. Lost moments were capable of finding themselves in you if you let "yourself" go.

A Mother and Two Daughters,  by Gail Godwin [Heinemann, London, 1982, pp. 327-328]



What intelligence resides in the interplay between two beings? None, as far as I can see. When people are in a room together they feel compelled to talk. Marie's dinner party, for example: people sat around a table eating together, eating well-prepared food they didn't pay nearly enough attention to because they felt compelled to talk. I speak, therefore I am not. Talking precludes thought or consideration; most interpersonal yakking is prompted by the concomitant desires to appear to be something and to get something, commerce and advertising masked as "social communion."


I am glad I lived alone. Human bonds and bondages tear at the fragile fabric of each self: betrayal, misunderstanding, heart-break, loss, anger, grief. We can't be both true to ourselves and in some sort of relationship to each other, and in almost every instance, minute and overarching, one or the other has to give. I chose what I chose; other people choose otherwise.

The epicure's lament: a novel,  by Kate Christensen [Doubleday, New York, 2004, p. 139, p.309]



The man who had written it, famous as it was, had perished. Shakespeare had perished; so had Thomas Jefferson who designed this university; so had the man Jesus, whose brief public life had given countless people, my father among them, an occupation. All these great ones had exerted themselves and then perished, and the sun went right on rising and setting according to schedule without them, and the current crop of living bodies shuffled through the shopping malls of their lives, coveting and spending and wasting and always wanting more, the more powerful and greedy among them tearing down whole mountains and causing landslides and traffic jams because they wanted more, more, more. What good was it to try to do anything? Christ had died to prove that His kingdom was not of this world, and the world had taken Him at His word. The majority of people dabbled in His kingdom when it suited them, but beware if His kingdom got in the way of the world, or even slowed down a few Cadillacs en route to their condominiums.

Father Melancholy's Daughter,  by Gail Godwin [Andre Deutsch, London, 1991, p. 107]



...what he'd learned was nothing when measured against the inevitable onslaught that is the end of life. Had he been aware of the mortal suffering of every man and woman he happened to have known during all the years of professional life, of each one's painful story of regret and loss and stoicism, of fear and panic and isolation and dread, had he learned of every last thing they had parted with that had once been vitally theirs and of how, systematically, they were being destroyed, he would have had to stay on the phone through the day and into the night, making another hundred calls at least. Old age isn't a battle; old age is a massacre.

...But now it appeared that like any number of the elderly, he was in the process of becoming less and less and would have to see his aimless days through to the end as no more than what he was - the aimless days and the uncertain nights and the impotently putting up with the physical deterioration and the terminal sadness and the waiting and waiting for nothing. This is how it works out, he thought...

Everyman,  by Philip Roth [Jonathan Cape, London, 2006, pp. 155-156; p. 161]



In Mr. Hakimi's opinion, European history was not the best choice of fields. "You propose to do what with this? To teach," he said. "You will become a professor, teaching students who'll become professors in turn and teach other students who will become professors also. It reminds me of those insects who live only a few days, only for the purpose of reproducing their species. Is this a practical plan? I don't think so!"

Digging to America,  by Anne Tyler [Chatto & Windus, London, 2006, p. 85]



On a recent Sunday evening Theo came up with an aphorism: the bigger you think, the crappier it looks. Asked to explain he said, "When we go on about the big things, global warming, world poverty, it all looks pretty terrible, with nothing getting better, nothing to look forward to. But when I think small, closer in - you know, a girl I've just met, or this song we're going to do with Chas, or snowboarding next month, then it looks great. So this is going to be my motto - think small."

Saturday,  by Ian McEwan [Vintage, Sydney, 2006, p. 34,35]



...It was me who let you down. Me who failed. Me who was never good enough. Not for your mother. Not for Don. Not for you.
Sad, that that should be a dying thought. Sad, that worthiness had been so important to him. A man without a conscience had it easy, John decided. A man without a conscience didn't have a worry in the world.
Gus had a conscience. So did John.
Gus wanted to be worthy. So did John.
Gus built beautiful stone walls. John wrote beautiful articles. But neither was enough to guarantee worthiness.
It was simple, really. Building walls and writing articles was fine. But the essence of worthiness had to do with people.

Lake News,  by Barbara Delinsky [Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1999, p. 279]



...that little shimmering capsule of time is like listening to cello music in the morning, or watching birds in a flutter of industry building a nest, it simply reminds you that even if God is dead, or never existed in the first place, there is, nevertheless, something tender at the center of creation, some meaning, some purpose and poetry.

A Ship Made of Paper,  by Scott Spencer [Ecco, New York, 2003, p. 2]



Sex seemed to me all surrender - not the woman's to the man but the person's to the body, an act of pure faith, freedom in humility. I would lie, washed in these implications, discoveries, like somebody suspended in clear and warm and irresistibly moving water, all night.

Lives of Girls and Women,  by Alice Munro [Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1982, p. 215]



He would also like to tell them that other people's lives are seldom as settled as they appear. That every hour contains at least a moment of bewilderment or worse. That a whim randomly adopted grows forlorn with time, and that people who have lived together for thirty-five years still apprehend each other as strangers.


Mirrors,  by Carol Shields in Dressing Up for the Carnival [Fourth Estate, London, 2000, pp. 79-80]



I thought that the difference between a successful life and an unsuccessful life, between me at that moment and all the people who owned the cars that were nosed into their proper places in the lot, maybe between me and that woman out in the trailers by the gold mine, was how well you were able to put things out of your mind and not be bothered by them, and maybe, too, how many troubles like this one you had to face in a lifetime. Through luck or design they had all faced fewer troubles, and by their own characters, they forgot them faster. And that's what I wanted for me. Fewer troubles, fewer memories of trouble.


Rock Springs, by Richard Ford  [William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, Sydney, 1988, p. 36]



Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.


My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult  [Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2004, p. 156]



Bev lit a cigarette, the thought of cancer making her nervous....

...Bev knew why she smoked. She smoked for the same reason she ate: it gave her something to look forward to. It was as simple as that. Life could get dull, and you had to look forward to something. When she was first married she had looked forward to going to bed with her husband, Bill, every night in that hot little apartment on Gangover Street. Boy, they used to have a good time. It made up for everything, all their squabbles over money, dirty socks, drops of pee in front of the toilet - all those little things you had to get used to when you married someone; none of it mattered when you got into bed.

Funny how it could wear off, something that good. But it did.


Amy and Isabelle, by Elizabeth Strout  [Simon and Schuster, London, 1999, p. 40]



Already, she was twenty-three, married a year and a half. And last summer, she hadn't remembered her wedding anniversary at all...

...Anniversaries: maybe she just remembered death instead of life. That was bad. But death wouldn't let you forget, would it? Life did; life let you go on for weeks and never think at all.


Machine Dreams, by Jayne Anne Phillips [Faber and Faber, London, 1993, p. 97, 98]



"You're happy, Mom? It seems...kind of quiet now. Your life."

"Well, I don't know that I'd say happy exactly. But I'm content," she said.

He could feel something rehearsed, something self-satisfied in the way she summoned and used the word, and he understood that she'd said this before, perhaps more than once. That she'd used it to sweep aside the need to look at herself and her life, to try to change things.


Lost in the Forest, by Sue Miller [Bloomsbury Publishing plc, London, 2005, p. 195, 196]



[current quote - death quotes]




Copyright Michael Lee 2007
updated 18 april 2007