|burn||Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.|
|mock||This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.|
|don't||Don't read this book.|
|desert||If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.|
|fan||If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.|
|worth||This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.|
|strongly||I strongly recommend this book|
|amazing||OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.|
When I started reading this book, I became very excited at its potential to teach me about the passions for hockey that The Art of Fielding taught me about baseball. The beginning of the book was about the passion for the sport, how it can overwhelm you, how great players are obsessive and can never really leave. The book whispers about strength and weakness of the athletes, about coaches and how their decisions can make or break a player, about how a team is more than the sum of its players.
While the book is heavy-handedly, overwhelmingly full of quotable parts, beautiful commentaries about human nature and becoming a better person, I was all-in, enthusiastically looking forward to recommending this book to everyone.
And then the act of violence that is the narrative conflict of the book happens.
Suddenly, the book becomes difficult to read. I didn't read it more slowly, I did read it less enthusiastically. And that's fine. The book isn't REALLY about hockey, it is about human nature. It is about who we believe, about being a better person, about becoming more than we were by our actions.
It's a good book, worth reading.
“Never trust people who don’t have something in their lives that they love beyond all reason.”
He was the one who saw the makings of a brilliant coach when everyone else saw a failed player.
There are two things that are particularly good at reminding us how old we are: children and sports.
We love winners, even though they’re very rarely particularly likeable people. They’re almost always obsessive and selfish and inconsiderate. That doesn’t matter. We forgive them. We like them while they’re winning.
Their home is white and precise, an advertisement for right angles. When he’s sure no one’s looking, Benji silently nudges the shoe-rack one inch out of line and touches a couple of the photos on the wall so that they’re hanging ever so slightly crooked,
One of the hardest things about getting old is admitting mistakes that it’s too late to put right. The worst thing about having power over other people’s lives is that you sometimes get things wrong.
Hockey is a simple sport: when your desire to win is stronger than your fear of losing, you have a chance.
All adults have days when we feel completely drained. When we no longer know quite what we spend so much time fighting for, when reality and everyday worries overwhelm us and we wonder how much longer we’re going to be able to carry on. The wonderful thing is that we can all live through far more days like that without breaking than we think. The terrible thing is that we never know exactly how many.
You never stop being scared of falling from the top, because when you close your eyes you can still feel the pain from each and every step of the way up.
Not a second has passed since she had children without her feeling like a bad mother. For everything. For not understanding, for being impatient, for not knowing everything, not making better packed lunches, for still wanting more out of life than just being a mother.
Not that any of this feels the slightest bit better as a result. All he knows is that he keeps disappointing people. Always.
“Culture is as much about what we encourage as what we permit.”
What was it she said to him? “Have you ever considered not feeling so sorry for yourself?”
Her colleague is single to the extreme, whereas Kira is fanatically monogamous. The lone she-wolf and the mother hen, doomed to envy each other.
This evening he’ll hold one of his last training sessions with the A-team, and when the season is over he’ll go home and — deep down — will wish what we all wish whenever we leave something: that it’s going to collapse. That nothing will work without us. That we’re indispensible. But nothing will happen, the rink will remain standing, the club will live on.
That tendency exists in all sports: parents always think their own expertise increases automatically as their child gets better at something. As if the reverse weren’t actually the case.
People sometimes say that sorrow is mental but longing is physical. One is a wound, the other an amputated limb, a withered petal compared to a snapped stem. Anything that grows closely enough to what it loves will eventually share the same roots.
“For me, culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit.” David asked what he meant by that, and Sune replied: “That most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”
If Peter has learned one thing about human nature during all his years in hockey, it’s that almost everyone regards themselves as a good team player, but that very few indeed understand what that really means. It’s often said that human beings are pack animals, and that thought is so deeply embedded that hardly anyone is prepared to admit that many of us are actually really rubbish at being in groups. That we can’t cooperate, that we’re selfish, or, worst of all, that we’re the sort of people other people just don’t like. So we keep repeating: “I’m a good team player.” Until we believe it ourselves, without actually being prepared to pay the price.
She never told him how much that hurt her.
No social scientist nor any member of a sports team really knows what makes them who they are, the leaders we follow. Only that we don’t hesitate when we see them.
An object in motion wants to keep going in the same direction, and the larger a rolling snowball gets, the more of a fool you have to be to dare to stand in its path.
Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe—comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanize our enemy. There are many ways of doing that, but none is easier than taking her name away from her.
It doesn’t take long to persuade each other to stop seeing a person as a person. And when enough people are quiet for long enough, a handful of voices can give the impression that everyone is screaming.
People were so quick to decide what the truth was that they bought pay-as-you-go phones just to be able to tell her what she is without her knowing who they are.
“Big secrets turn us into small men.”
There are damn few things in life that are harder than admitting to yourself that you’re a hypocrite.
Because if you love hockey, if you love anything, really, you’d really prefer it to exist inside a bubble, unaffected by anything happening outside. You want there to be one place, one single place, which will always be exactly the same, no matter how much the world outside might change.
“What is it with hockey?” the bass player asks.
“What is it with violins?” Benji counters.
“You have to switch off your brain in order to play it. Music is like taking a break from yourself,” the bass player replies.
Fighting isn’t hard. It’s the starting and stopping that are hard. Once you’re actually fighting, it happens more or less instinctively. The complicated thing about fighting is daring to throw the first punch, and then, once you’ve won, refraining from throwing that very last one.
Sometimes life doesn’t let you choose your battles. Just the company you keep.
The love a parent feels for a child is strange. There is a starting point to our love for everyone else, but not this person. This one we have always loved, we loved them before they even existed.
“I don’t have any children, David. But do you want to hear my best advice about being a parent?”
“‘I was wrong.’ Good words to know.”
Another morning comes. It always does. Time always moves at the same rate, only feelings have different speeds. Every day can mark a whole lifetime or a single heartbeat, depending on who you spend it with.
People don’t often say thank you in Beartown. Nor sorry. But this is their way of showing that some people in this town can actually carry more than one thought in their head at the same time. That you can want to punch a man in the face but still refuse to let anyone hurt his children. And that you respect a crazy bitch who walks in here without being afraid. No matter who she is.
I commented to Mom not long ago that I read too many happy ending books. Said happy ending books do not prepare one for real life. Real life rarely has happy endings. Sure, sometimes things work out and work out very well, but bad things happen to good people, and the universe is truly random. Bad things happen, through no fault of anyone sometimes, through active hostility and assholery other times.
Mom responded by suggesting this book. "This one doesn't have a happy ending," she said. She was correct. This book doesn't have a happy ending. It does, however, have the right ending.
If you want the short version, I'm told there is a movie. I haven't seen it.
This book reminded me of Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), which describes the real-world phenomenom of good people doing horribly wrong things, and how they rationalize the wrong to themselves. They do it one small decision at a time. No decision seems bad, each is close to the previous decision, but in total a very wrong action occurs.
This is pretty much what happens in this book. And then it all comes crumbling down.
Couple all of this with a woman's desire for motherhood, and yeah, you don't get a happy ending.
I started and finished this book in less than a day. I read this one so fast from start to finish, I didn't have time to set up an in-progress page. I'll admit to being sick, and sitting for hours to read it instead of sleeping, but it was still an engaging read. The writing is really close to being great, but tried too hard and is "only" good. The book itself is worth reading.
If he can only get far enough away—from people, from memory—time will do its job.
Of course, the losing of children had always been a thing that had to be gone through. There had never been guarantee that conception would lead to a live birth, or that birth would lead to a life of any great length. Nature allowed only the fit and the lucky to share this paradise-in-the-making.
His body craved sleep, but he knew too well that if you don’t eat you can’t work.
He knows keepers who swear under their breath at the obligation, but Tom takes comfort from the orderliness of it. It is a luxury to do something that serves no practical purpose: the luxury of civilization.
“Is that so?” asked Tom, as amused as he was surprised. He had a sense of being waltzed backward.
“I’ll tell you if you really want. It’s just I’d rather not. Sometimes it’s good to leave the past in the past.”
“Your family’s never in your past. You carry it around with you everywhere.”
“More’s the pity.”
“If I can’t talk about the past, am I allowed to talk about the future?”
“We can’t rightly ever talk about the future, if you think about it. We can only talk about what we imagine, or wish for. It’s not the same thing.”
If the war had taught her anything, it was to take nothing for granted: that it wasn’t safe to put off what mattered. Life could snatch away the things you treasured, and there was no getting them back.
Able to cure and to poison; able to bear the whole weight of the light, but capable of fracturing into a thousand uncatchable particles, running off in all directions, escaping from itself.
A life had come and gone and nature had not paused a second for it. The machine of time and space grinds on, and people are fed through it like grist through the mill.
“Then why upset them? Please, Tom. It’s our business. My business. We don’t have to tell the whole world about it. Let them have their dream a bit longer."
As he put it decades later, that sort of experience either gives you a taste for death, or a thirst for life, and he reckoned death would come calling soon enough anyway.
This is a small community, where everyone knows that sometimes the contract to forget is as important as any promise to remember.
History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent.
That’s how life goes on — protected by the silence that anesthetizes shame.
“But it’s not always plain sailing, even when you’ve found the right girl. You’ve got to be in it for the long haul. You never know what’s going to happen: you sign up for whatever comes along. There’s no backing out.”
There was a need in Isabel that he could now never fill. She had given up everything: comforts, family, friends—everything to be with him out here. Over and over he told himself — he couldn’t deprive her of this one thing.
Tom was very still, sensing bodily the relief that would follow the unburdening of the truth about Lucy.
"Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot ’em both, and then it’s too late.”
“Christ—the quickest way to send a bloke mad is to let him go on re-fighting his war till he gets it right.”
“You’re the one who always says that if a lighthouse looks like it’s in a different place, it’s not the lighthouse that’s moved.”
A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.
She’d reached her edge, that was all. Everyone had one. Everyone.
There was nothing he was going through that the stars had not seen before, somewhere, some time on this earth. Given enough time, their memory would close over his life like healing a wound. All would be forgotten, all suffering erased.
“There’s nothing you can do,” her father had said. “Once a horse bolts, you can only say your prayers and hang on for all you’re worth. Can’t stop an animal that’s caught in a blind terror.”
When it comes to their kids, parents are all just instinct and hope. And fear. Rules and laws fly straight out the window.
He is embraced by nature, which is waiting, ultimately, to receive him, to re-organize his atoms into another shape.
“Sometimes life turns out hard, Isabel. Sometimes it just bites right through you. And sometimes, just when you think it’s done its worst, it comes back and takes another chunk.”
"I’m not sure if or when I’ll be able to speak to you again. You always imagine you’ll get the chance to say what needs to be said, to put things right. But that’s not always how it goes."
“You’ve had so much strife but you’re always happy. How do you do it?”
“I choose to,” he said. “I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget.”
“But it’s not that easy.”
He smiled that Frank smile. “Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”
Putting down the burden of the lie has meant giving up the freedom of the dream.
"Izz, I’ve learned the hard way that to have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past.”
Years bleach away the sense of things until all that’s left is a bone-white past, stripped of feeling and significance.
No point in thinking like that. Once you start down that road, there’s no end to it. He’s lived the life he’s lived. He’s loved the woman he’s loved. No one ever has or ever will travel quite the same path on this earth, and that’s all right by him.
This is Book 7 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
I think this book should have been titled Further Up and Further In to be honest, what with the sixty page denouement after the Last Battle.
I have to say, this book was a lot more obvious in the allegorical sledgehammer department. Hey, look, there's a false god. Hey, look, there's a greedy, manipulating, ape of a man who twists and turns the word of God^H^H^HAslan for his own purposes. Hey, look, there are a bunch of people cowed by the words of said ape of a man! Hey, look, there are people who think for themselves! Hey, look, there's the kingdom of heaven. Hey, look, there's a literal Gate.
The Sledgehammer of Allegorical Christ didn't lessen at all during this book. There are the Dwarves who turned away from God, refusing to believe. There is also the lesson that, welllllllll, if you didn't really know the Christian God, but were good and steadfast and trustworthy, then, hey, whatever god you prayed to was a valid substitute, and you can still come into Heaven.
The ending of this book, though, wow, they all died in the end. Though, really, that's kinda the point, no?
The book was a fast read. I'm happy to have read the series. I'm not likely read it again.
“Kiss me, Jewel,” he said. “For certainly this is our last night on earth. And if ever I offended against you in any matter great or small, forgive me now.”
Eustace stood with his heart beating terribly, hoping and hoping that he would be brave. He had never seen anything (though he had seen both a dragon and a sea-serpent) that made his blood run so cold as that line of dark-faced bright-eyed men.
Very few troops can keep on looking steadily to the front if they are getting arrows in their faces from one side and being pecked by an eagle on the other.
A man who is fighting a dozen enemies at once must take his chances wherever he can; must dart in wherever he sees an enemy’s breast or neck unguarded.
But in Narnia your good clothes were never your uncomfortable ones. They knew how to make things that felt beautiful as well as looking beautiful in Narnia: and there was no such thing as starch or flannel or elastic to be found from one end of the country to the other.
So, cords are my good clothes? If so, sign me up!
“I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”
Sums up much of American culture.
“Only I think you and I, Polly, chiefly felt that we’d been unstiffened. You youngsters won’t understand. But we stopped feeling old.”
They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly.
"They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out."
Then Jill and Eustace remembered how once long ago, in the deep caves beneath those moors, they had seen a great giant asleep and been told that his name was Father Time, and that he would wake on the day the world ended.
This would have been amazing, to see Father Time wake.
This part of the adventure was the only one which seemed rather like a dream at the time and rather hard to remember properly afterward. Especially, one couldn’t say how long it had taken. Sometimes it seemed to have lasted only a few minutes, but at others it felt as if it might have gone on for years.
This could be an interesting set of stories surrounding Narnia. A collection of tales about how different Talking Animals and people lived, and ended up heading to Stable Hill at just the right time to enter the Gate at the Ending of the World.
You could see all the rivers getting wider and the lakes getting larger, and separate lakes joining into one, and valleys turning into new lakes, and hills turning into islands, and then those islands vanishing.
The Dogs were still with them. They joined in the conversation but not very much because they were too busy racing on ahead and racing back and rushing off to sniff at smells in the grass till they made themselves sneeze.
"Has not one of the poets said that a noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best?”
"For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him."
Sixteen: Farewell to Shadowlands
If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.
The very first thing which struck everyone was that the place was far larger than it had seemed from outside.
“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are — as you used to call it in the Shadowlands — dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
This is Book 6 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
I did not like this book. This would have been the first book of two books triggering my rule "stop reading a series after two consecutive bad books," except it is the second to last book of the series, and, well, I intend to read the whole series. Suffice it to say, I'm glad I have this book from the library.
Part of my dislike of this book is the shallow treatment given to the long trek the main characters, and the seriously little sh-ts said main characters are. Though, really, Pole and Scrubb likely are little sh-ts, as they are kids, and how could one expect a kid to be honest and thoughtful and strong and good and steadfast, without the experience needed to understand how important these characteristics are.
Of course, many adults also lack these characteristics, so I'm unsure why I was so frustrated with these kids, except maybe that Christ-Analogy told them what to do and they ignored him. How many times does someone get to see Asland? How many lives never saw him? Pole sees him, talks with him, receives instructions from him, and still ignores his words. Frustrating.
I will, of course, finish the series, since I'm reading all these classic children's books. I'm glad to be done with this one. Blah.
Jill suddenly flew into a temper (which is quite a likely thing to happen if you have been interrupted in a cry).
"Now a job like this — a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has ever seen — will be just the thing. If that doesn’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.”
Jill thought that when, in books, people live on what they shoot, it never tells you what a long, smelly, messy job it is plucking and cleaning dead birds, and how cold it makes your fingers.
“The bright side of it is,” said Puddleglum, “that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we’re safe from being drowned in the river.”
Puddleglum! What a great character! He spends his time imagining the worst and is delighted when things aren't so bad! Too bad the kids ignore him.
“And why were you so stiff and unpleasant? Didn’t you like them?”
“Them?” said the wiggle. “Who’s them? I only saw one.”
“Didn’t you see the Knight?” asked Jill.
“I saw a suit of armor,” said Puddleglum. “Why didn’t he speak?”
I'm laughing at that. He also takes things literally.
“Oh, bother his ideas!” said Scrubb. “He’s always expecting the worst, and he’s always wrong."
But delighted when wrong - very Stoic in his imagining the worst and being able to accept it.
“That’s all very well,” said Puddleglum. “But what I was saying was — ”
“Oh, shut up,” said Jill crossly.
Oh, look, Jill being a b--ch!
If you want to get out of a house without being seen, the middle of the afternoon is in some ways a better time to try it than in the middle of the night. Doors and windows are more likely to be open; and if you are caught, you can always pretend you weren’t meaning to go far and had no particular plans.
How often they woke and slept and ate and slept again, none of them could ever remember. And the worst thing about it was that you began to feel as if you had always lived on that ship, in that darkness, and to wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not been only a dream.
“Where I come from,” said Jill, who was disliking him more every minute, “they don’t think much of men who are bossed about by their wives.”
Well, Jill, go back to the horrible world you live in, where women are second-class citizens.
Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.
"All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so."
"It would not have suited well either with my heart or with my honor to have slain a woman."
Note to self, grow up to be an evil empress.
"And all’s one, for that. Now, by my counsel, we shall all kneel and kiss his likeness, and then all shake hands one with another, as true friends that may shortly be parted."
Kiss... his likeness. Uh, false idols much?
“Friends,” said the Prince, “when once a man is launched on such an adventure as this, he must bid farewell to hopes and fears, otherwise death or deliverance will both come too late to save his honor and his reason."
Jill held her tongue. (If you don’t want other people to know how frightened you are, this is always a wise thing to do; it’s your voice that gives you away.)
Even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are the most childish and the stupidest grownups who are the most grown-up.
This is book 2 of The Themis Files.
I enjoyed the first book enough to read the second book, and this was the second book. It starts about a decade after the last one ended, where everyone has pretty much become used to having a large (like 200' large), alien robot hanging out on the world doing book readings and press conferences.
And then another robot shows up and starts killing everyone.
The book moved at a more frenetic pace than the first one did, which is reasonable given the first one needed to world-build and this one can coast along on those words. Not everyone dies in the end, and we don't see enough of the characters we saw in the first one, and the rough edges have been smoothed off everyone's personality, all which contributed to this being a typical sophomoric book: less good than the first, but sufficient.
There's one more book in the series, coming out in May, which I'll read. I think this book is better experienced on audiobook, to be honest.
Military people — people like me — need intelligence to be useful. We need to know what’s going on. Without intelligence, take my word for it, you do not want your fate in the hands of the military. We do not improvise.
Scientists are like children: They always want to know everything, they all ask too many questions, and they never follow orders to the letter.
— Do you remember what you told me the second time around to get me to take this job?
— I do.
— You said: “I found you a military post where you’ll never have to kill anyone ever again.”
— I know. I still intend to keep that promise.
People do what people do, and you’ll be miserable in the end because you’ll blame yourself for something you really have no power over.
Every thought you have is a physical process. We know this for a fact, we can see it happening. We also know that emotions can be described in similar terms. Obviously, what you see, hear, touch, taste, smell is tied to your body.
Your soul, if you had one, the part of you that can’t be summed up as a bunch of atoms, would have no physical presence, couldn’t hear, smell, touch, or see anything. It would be incapable of thinking. No thoughts whatsoever, no sense of self. It wouldn’t feel anything either. Your soul would be… a hole… emptiness. There’s nothing special about that.
I still find it impolite to give anyone lessons in their field of specialty.
It’s not that I dislike the tame version of her — she’s doing it for me. I’d have to be a real asshole to blame her for it — but sometimes I wonder if she’s wiser or just broken. The thing is, she doesn’t seem unhappy. She says she’s happy, and a lot of the times I believe her.
— Before Ms. Resnik became… Ms. Resnik, she was a little girl, with a mother of her own. No relationship is perfect, and I imagine that this little girl knew exactly what kind of person she wished her mother to be. Do not underestimate how powerful the wishes of that little girl are, to this day.
"If I have, in any way, willingly or not, led you to believe I was remotely interested in your opinion of me, it was my mistake. It will not happen again."
I started small and tried to make Themis move by a distance of one. I didn’t know one what, exactly, but I figured I’d probably end up somewhere on the empty lot in front of the hangar.
I laughed at this. "One, in the appropriate unit."
"I still disagree with you. I think this is a bad way to die. It’s pointless. I just don’t have anything better to offer."
While I am reasonably confident you are not “the chosen one,” you are without doubt one who has been chosen.
We cheat and we lie at peacetime because we know the other side does it too. This might be war, and in war, you don’t try to scam your allies.
The cost of an eradication effort is, generally speaking, inversely proportional to the population density.
"Four million dead is indeed terribly sad."
"I don’t mean that. I mean it’s sad that their deaths aren’t as important just because there are so many."
"And therein lies the fundamental difference between us. You would not sacrifice your principles for a greater good. I would not stop to think about it. I am… pragmatic, and you, Dr. Franklin, are an idealist."
"Parents feel a great deal of responsibility for the way their children turn out, but there is very little a parent can do that will remotely rival the influence a friend or lover can have."
I started out thinking I could remove the bad from the world one piece at a time until there was none left. The world, unfortunately, does not work that way.
Remove a bad man from power, and a year later the person you put in his place is just as corrupt. If a policeman stops a drunken man from beating on his wife, what are the odds he will never have to go back? Can he really prevent anything, or is he just delaying the inevitable?
Well, you’re not special, no more special than every other magnificent thing in the universe.
Kara had the most beautiful smile when she was proud of herself. Smug, like you wouldn’t believe. Made you want to punch her in the face, but it was beautiful.
I sure wish you were here with me. I’m better with you around. You know when I’m about to do something dumb. You put your hand on my shoulder to stop me from doing it, or you don’t and we do something even dumber together. Either way, I know everything’ll be OK. I’d give anything to have you with me now. See if you’d put that hand on my shoulder or not. I’d feel a whole lot better if you were here to help me plan this thing.
Remember how unhappy I was awhile back? I didn’t even know I was, but I was. It was because I thought I had to be someone else.
I’d never do anything if I waited for good ideas.
Now I’m overanalyzing everything, wasting time thinking about wasting time.
In the Susan Slack, Kristin asked for dystopian book recommendations. Rob immediately responded, "American War." He responded emphatically, "American War." I added it to my library hold list, not expecting it to drop into my borrowed list until next year. Well, it dropped, and I read it, and wow. This book is good.
The book tells the tale of Serat growing up through the end of the second American Civil War. The war triggered on the ban of gasoline and oil, with the South saying, "Nope." We see, as in most dystopian novels, how people can be awful to each other. What makes this book particularly difficult to read is that we can see our current culture, political environment, and temperament, what we have right now, become this world. We are in the declining years of the American Empire. Other empires will rise after its fail. This book gives the tale of a fictional and completely plausible version.
This book is worth reading, even if you don't really like dystopian fictions. Be in a place where death is bearable, though, it's a rough read.
"Bury me in the same grave because I can’t go on alone. Life’s not worth living alone."
This was in the days before — before Julia Templestowe became the rebel South’s first martyr, its first killer, the patron saint of its war.
It is often forgotten: There’s always a before.
If you lived in the South during that war, maybe you were never forced from your home at gunpoint, but you knew someone who was. Maybe you didn’t lose a loved one when the Birds came and rained down death with no rhyme or reason, but you knew someone who had.
Now for most of people, just knowing wasn’t enough to make them take up arms — not everyone can face the thought of getting shot or torn to bits by shrapnel or, even worse, getting captured and sent to rot in Sugarloaf or some other detention camp.
But damned if it didn’t make you want to do something.
Work provided purpose, a sense of place, a sense of agency.
But for the refugees who paid or begged Martina to write these pleadings on their behalf, hopelessness was no impediment to hope.
“Ahh, it’s all long gone now. Time buries time, my mother used to say."
“No matter what they tell you, some things are just wrong, war or no war.”
Even then, at such a young age, she understood that smile for what it was: a mask atop fear, a balm for the crippling insecurity of childhoods deeply damaged. They were fragile boys who wore it, and their fragility demanded menace. Sarat knew the boys better than they knew themselves. And she knew there was no winning this dare. That was the point — for there to be no winning, only different magnitudes of losing.
“Yeah, but I bet you the whole time he was busy being mean, the other guys were busy fighting,” another replied. “Mean don’t mean nothing.”
“I’m not sorry and none of them can make me sorry. They’re liars and cowards, all of them. They pretend like this is normal, like it’s normal to live this way. But it’s not normal. Your dad’s right. We’re just waiting to die, waiting for the Blues to come up over that fence one day and kill every last one of us. I’m not sorry. I’m not the one who’s wrong.”
“I don’t think you’re wrong,” Marcus said. “I’ve never thought you were wrong.
She moved the clipper slowly, in part out of caution but also to prolong the act; the shearing felt good against her skin. Soon the clipper glided along smoothly, and no more hair fell.
I f'ing understand this sensation.
“That’s what an empire is,” he said, “an orchestrator of gravity, a sun around which all weaker things spin.”
"But my father was a doctor, and he wanted me to study medicine. He used to say the only truly stable profession is blood work — the work of the surgeon, the soldier, the butcher. He said all industries rise and fall but as long as there’s even a single man still alive, there will always be use for blood work."
It seemed sensible to crave safety, to crave shelter from the bombs and the Birds and the daily depravity of war. But somewhere deep in her mind an idea had begun to fester — perhaps the longing for safety was itself just another kind of violence — a violence of cowardice, silence, submission. What was safety, anyway, but the sound of a bomb falling on someone else’s home?
She’d learned recently that solid land was not the natural skin of the world, only a kind of parasitic condition that surfaced and receded in million-year cycles. The natural skin of the world was water, and all water on earth was connected.
"He said people think of that war now the way they think about most wars: just a bunch of young men killing young men on the orders of old men. But he said it was women who were left to clean it all up in the end, women who rebuilt the scorched Southern country and nursed what was left of those young men."
What is the first anesthetic?
And if I take your wealth?
And if I demolish your home, burn your fields?
And if I make it taboo to sympathize with your plight? Family. And if I kill your family?
…Hasn’t said a word in two thousand years.
“You see, we have a habit in this country of deciding the wisdom of our wars only after we’re done fighting them, and I guess we decided the war I’d been sent to fight wasn’t a very good idea after all."
“I sided with the Red because when a Southerner tells you what they’re fighting for — be it tradition, pride, or just mule-headed stubbornness — you can agree or disagree, but you can’t call it a lie. When a Northerner tells you what they’re fighting for, they’ll use words like democracy and freedom and equality and the whole time both you and they know that the meaning of those words changes by the day, changes like the weather. I’d had enough of all that. You pick up a gun and fight for something, you best never change your mind. Right or wrong, you own your cause and you never, ever change your mind.”
“Do you know how to use a knife?” asked Gaines, pointing the blade toward her.
“Everyone knows how to use a knife,” said Sarat.
“No, everyone knows how to stab.”
"But I also believe that all reasonable people of the world — regardless of race or ethnicity or religion — yearn for the same right to liberty, democracy, and self-determination. These are truly universal human ideals, and what we do today to advance them is the most important gift we leave for our children. Wars are temporary; these principles are not."
"I saw in the people of this country a spirit I had rarely seen elsewhere, a dedication to liberty so overpowering, it made of many, one."
Of course others had suffered; some arrived at the camp missing limbs or sight or kin and some were nothing but hollow shells in the shape of the living, but she had suffered too.
And as she imagined these possibilities, Sarat thought of something else: of desertion, of treason against one’s own. But what the man and his son had done didn’t feel to her like treason, only the grim work of the hopeless.
Sarat paused at the threshold. She tried to steel herself for what she might find inside, tried to preemptively imagine her mother’s body, the life gone from it. But she was incapable of making herself imagine it. Instead, her mind recoiled and offered only a feeble, child’s defense: My mother cannot be dead because she is my mother. Everyone else can die but not my mother.
Once, during a rare moment of candor, Miss Dana told Karina that all their lives the Chestnuts had lived at the feet of rivers and walls. Always bounded, always trapped — trapped by movement, trapped by stillness.
The room, dark and dank, smelled overwhelmingly of that sweet bile, that old fossil fuel smell. The scent always jump-started ancient memories in Karina’s mind, memories from a childhood spent on the other side of the world: army jeeps refueling, well fires wild and unquenchable, wounds tended to by the light of headlamps. To her, the smell of any old-world fuel was invariably the smell of war.
She knew from experience that there existed no soldier as efficient, as coldly unburdened by fear, as a child broken early.
Husbands never wore black. Husbands were never confined to that kind of passive declaration, were never compelled to sulk across the world for the remainder of their lives, walking signposts of mourning. Husbands were permitted rage, permitted wrath, permitted to avenge their loss by marching out and inflicting on others the very same carnage once inflicted upon them.
And what she understood — what none of the ones who came to touch Simon’s forehead understood — was that the misery of war represented the world’s only truly universal language. Its native speakers occupied different ends of the world, and the prayers they recited were not the same and the empty superstitions to which they clung so dearly were not the same — and yet they were. War broke them the same way, made them scared and angry and vengeful the same way. In times of peace and good fortune they were nothing alike, but stripped of these things they were kin. The universal slogan of war, she’d learned, was simple: If it had been you, you’d have done no different.
“He’s doing real well,” Karina said. She knew the Widow Bentley hated it when she interjected, so she did it as much as possible.
She soon learned that to survive atrocity is to be made an honorary consul to a republic of pain. There existed unspoken protocols governing how she was expected to suffer. Total breakdown, a failure to grieve graciously, was a violation of those rules. But so was the absence of suffering, so was outright forgiveness.
She had seen them do these things both publicly — in defiant, chest-thumping speeches — and privately, pragmatically, in the backrooms of Atlanta and Augusta. She saw them do these things and she was disgusted by it. They were to her nothing more than prideful, opportunistic captains, arguing over the boundaries of long-obsolete star maps as all the while the opposing armada’s cannonballs tore their hull to shreds.
"He’s caught up in the old way of doing things, still thinks he’s in the desert, still fighting that old, faraway war. All that tradition he’s saddled with, it’s too late to shake it off."
The exits came as they always did, in a cascade. As soon as the shame of being the first fighter down was gone, the men’s threshold for pain suddenly plummeted, and those who knew they had little chance of winning were almost happy to find themselves in a headlock or an arm-bar from which they could tap out.
Instinctively, they expected of him the same chivalrous defiance they believed they themselves, placed in the same position, would show.
It had once belonged to Layla’s mother, and had reached that useless middle age between novelty and antique — it was simply old.
“So let him,” Sarat said. “I’m not afraid to die.”
“That’s because you’re young and you think dying’s quick,” Bragg Sr. said. “But they got ways to make dying take just as long as living.”
“All these old men want it to be like it was when they were young. But it’ll never be like that again, and they’ll never be young again, no matter what they do. And it’s not just ours that do it. It’s theirs too. Imagine if the North had just let us be. Imagine if they didn’t fight us tooth and nail, kill all those innocent people, just to keep us from having a country of our own and doing things our own way — would it really have been so bad? No, of course it wouldn’t. But it wasn’t that way when all those old people that run everything were young, so they can’t let it be."
Rising, she looked at the hollowed remains of the guard and she felt the inverse of fulfillment — the empty undoing of a castaway who, rabid with thirst, resorts to drinking from the ocean.
"They didn’t understand, they just didn’t understand. You fight the war with guns, you fight the peace with stories."
“Why’d you do it?” she asked me.
“I just wanted to know.”
“Don’t ever apologize for that,” she said. “That’s all there is to life, is wanting to know.”
"They still think the miracle is that he survived. But bad people survive too; lucky people survive. The miracle isn’t that he survived, the miracle is that he’s healing.”
“But I’ll love you anyway. And your brother will love you anyway. And your nephew will love you anyway. That’s what family does. Take what time you need, Sarat. Heal how you want to heal.”
“Come here,” she said. I shook my head.
“Good,” she said. “Now you have something you can kill. Come here.”
She held the nail in place. “One soft one to set it, one hard one to drive it,” she said.
“My people have created an empire. It is young now, but we intend it to be the most powerful empire in the world. For that to happen, other empires must fail."
"It said in the South there is no future, only three kinds of past — the distant past of heritage, the near past of experience, and the past-in-waiting."
“Sarat told me you were a sweet boy, Benjamin, but you must understand that in this part of the world, right and wrong ain’t about who wins, or who kills who. In this part of the world, right and wrong ain’t even about right and wrong. It’s about what you do for your own.”
This is a book about baseball, in the way that the Chariots of Fire is a movie about running. Baseball is a part of this book, but it isn't a book about baseball. It's a book about a kid who wants nothing more than to play baseball, who has incredible natural talent, who is willing to put in the work, who finds someone who can help him achieve his baseball dreams, and who makes a mistake.
Sorta. Because it is a book about baseball.
The title refers to a fictional book in the book, also about baseball. The fictional book is a zen-like non-fiction book on how to be the best shortstop ever, from the best shortstop ever. The quoted passages of the fictional book inside this also-fictional book (the one I read, not the one I read about the character reading), are inspiring and very zen, which I liked. I was expecting baseball in this book, and got it.
What I wasn't expecting in this book was Stoicism and the realization of just how much I f'ing know about baseball. I was also not expecting to understand the want and the need to play baseball. Well, not so much baseball, but the need for movement, the need for flow, the need for the joy of being so excellent at something to the point of stillness in action. I may have had moments of brilliance in my ultimate career, but it wasn't consistent, I didn't own it. I had glimpses, though. Enough to understand what this book is trying to say, with the beauty of baseball and the stillness in action.
Growing up, baseball for me was exactly how Affenlight, the college president in the book, views baseball:
Baseball—what a boring game! One player threw the ball, another caught it, a third held a bat. Everyone else stood around.
After being with Kris for years, I learned about baseball through osmosis, just being near and hearing what he had to say. It was years before I understood enough, and he started talking strategy to me, explaining some of the nuances on the field, describing what pitch was going to happen and how the players would adjust to the play that would likely occur, watching the play happen as he described. His enthusiasm ignited mine, and I began to enjoy watching the game, seeing it through his eyes. I still didn't (and don't) like to go with big groups, and I won't go to a game without a baseball-knowing companion to talk to me through the game (which is to say, I still don't go to games much), but I will enjoy a game from time to time, actually enjoy it. I'll watch a game on the television at a bar.
I thought I understood baseball at a fairly good level.
And then this book happened. I see now, in retrospect, that Kris gave me a coach's perspective, a strategist's perspective of the game. I still didn't understand, hadn't seen yet, what a joy baseball could be. This book is about baseball, but it's about the joy of being incredible, talented, hungry, obsessed with a single-minded goal of performing in a sport flawlessly, with excellence. Harbach does an incredibly good job of showing the reader the mind, the thoughts, the need to sacrifice for that goal of perfection. This book gave me a player's perspective of baseball.
I strongly recommend this book. I liked this book more than I was expecting. I will buy you a copy.
All his life Schwartz had yearned to possess some single transcendent talent, some unique brilliance that the world would consent to call genius. Now that he'd seen that kind of talent up close, he couldn't let it walk away.
And we are off to a good start in the book, a good quote on only page six. I have high hopes for this book. No, wait, a book about baseball, I don't have high hopes.
He should have known that Sophie would spill the beans. Sophie always spilled the beans. She was as keen to get a rise out of people, especially their parents as Henry was to placate them.
I understand Sophie.
Henry looked toward third base to see if Coach Cox would put the take sign on. "Letting him swing away," he reported.
"Really?" Rick said. "That sounds like a bad i---," but his words were interrupted by an ear splitting ping of a ball against aluminum bat.
Okay, so, the pitch count is 3-0, runner on first (so, not scoring position). Typically in college ball, the coach will call for the batter not to swing at the next pitch. The count is forcing the pitcher to throw three strikes in a row. Early in a game, the coach is going to want to tire that pitcher out a bit, don't swing. In this case, the game was tied in the ninth, the batter was the team's slugger (though he was known to choke), and we don't know the number of outs, but presumably not enough to hold back the call to swing for the fences.
Why do I know this much about baseball?
“Runners on first and second,” Rick said.
“I bet he wants you to bunt.”
“What’s the bunt sign?”
“Two tugs on the left earlobe,” Henry told him. “But first he has to give the indicator, which is squeeze the belt. But if he goes to his cap with either hand or says your first name, that’s the wipe-off, and then you have to wait and see whether — ”
“Forget it,” Owen said. “I’ll just bunt.”
Henry had never felt so happy. Freshperson year had been one thing, an adventure, an exhilaration, all in all a success, but it had also been exhausting, a constant struggle and adjustment and tumult. Now he was locked in. Every day that summer had the same framework, the alarm at the same time, meals and workouts and shifts and SuperBoost at the same times, over and over, and it was that sameness, that repetition, that gave life meaning. He savored the tiny variations, the incremental improvements — tuna fish on his salad instead of turkey; two extra reps on the bench press. Every move he made had purpose. While they worked out, Schwartz would recite lines from his favorite philosophers, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus — they were Schwartz’s personal Aparicios — and Henry felt that he understood. Every day is a war. Yes, yes it was. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. Done: there was only one of those. He was becoming a baseball player.
If he wanted? Of course he wanted. It was the wanting, the incredible strength of the wanting, that had prevented him so far.
Desire seems to be a strong force in all the recent literature I've read.
Locker rooms, in Schwartz’s experience, were always underground, like bunkers and bomb shelters. This was less a structural necessity than a symbolic one. The locker room protected you when you were most vulnerable: just before a game, and just after. (And halfway through, if the game was football.) Before the game, you took off the uniform you wore to face the world and you put on the one you wore to face your opponent. In between, you were naked in every way. After the game ended, you couldn’t carry your game-time emotions out into the world — you’d be put in an asylum if you did — so you went underground and purged them. You yelled and threw things and pounded on your locker, in anguish or joy. You hugged your teammate, or bitched him out, or punched him in the face. Whatever happened, the locker room remained a haven.
On the way to the door a wave of courage swept over him, and he pressed his hand to Owen’s smooth forehead, above his bandages and bruises. Owen’s eyes stayed closed. His flesh felt surprisingly warm, and Affenlight’s first impulse was to call the nurse. Then he realized that it wasn’t the heat of a fever, just the average animal warmth of youth.
Every guy on that bus, from Schwartz down to little Loondorf, had grown up dreaming of becoming a professional athlete. Even when you realized you’d never make it, you didn’t relinquish the dream, not deep down.
Schwartz, for his part, had vowed long ago not to become one of those pathetic ex-jocks who considered high school and college the best days of their lives. Life was long, unless you died, and he didn’t intend to spend the next sixty years talking about the last twenty-two.
He already knew he could coach. All you had to do was look at each of your players and ask yourself: What story does this guy wish someone would tell him about himself? And then you told the guy that story. You told it with a hint of doom. You included his flaws. You emphasized the obstacles that could prevent him from succeeding. That was what made the story epic: the player, the hero, had to suffer mightily en route to his final triumph. Schwartz knew that people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense. Everybody suffered. The key was to choose the form of your suffering. Most people couldn’t do this alone; they needed a coach. A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you. A bad coach made everyone suffer in the same way, and so was more like a torturer.
As she squeezed liquid soap into the stream of hot water, an objection crossed her mind: What would Mike think? It was a nice gesture, to do somebody else’s dishes, but it could also be construed as an admonishment: “If nobody else will clean up this shithole, I’ll do it myself!” In fact, some version of that interpretation could hardly be avoided. She turned off the water.
I have had this exact arguement / discussion with myself. I was sitting for friends and when their kids went to bed, I cleaned the house. I'm still unsure how they took the clean up. I needed movement. I wanted to help. I still torture myself about that, if they thought I was judging them. I wasn't. I wanted to help.
When Affenlight caught the flu or fell into one of his grim moods, she would frown and ignore him. He’d dismissed this as a lack of sympathy, and even perhaps a form of stupidity, but maybe it was wisdom instead. Had he learned — would he ever learn — to discard the thoughts he could not use? It remained an open question, how much sympathy love could stand.
“Every day. For a thousand people, you cannot do things right. You must simply do them. Do you understand?”
The quote is from the college's chef.
“It’s only Americans who insist on asking everyone what they do.”
"So where to you work?"
The pitch was a forkball right where Schwartzy wanted it, low and outside.
Forkball? A term I don't know!
At the last second the ball skidded off a lump tucked in the grass. He shifted his glove and fielded it cleanly — no such thing as a bad hop if you were prepared.
He could feel some part of himself willing it to rain. He’d never quite discarded the childhood belief that he could alter the course of distant or natural events with his mind.
“I’m just wondering what it’s like, to be so good at something and know it. For a while in high school I thought I wanted to be an artist, but I gave it up, because I could never convince myself that I was good enough.”
“So what’s it like to be the best?”
Henry shrugged. “There’s always somebody better.”
“That’s not what Mike says. He says you’re the top — what is it, shortstop? — in the entire country.”
Henry thought about it for a moment. “It doesn’t feel like much,” he said. “You really only notice when you screw up.”
Starblind sighed that sigh of his — a long, exasperated, put-upon sigh, as if other humans had been designed especially to annoy him.
In his life he’d passed through long periods of gratefulness and good cheer, but he’d scarcely even imagined this level of thorough contentment with things as they were. His chronic restlessness had fled. He wanted nothing new. He wanted only to hang on to what he had. It was almost excruciating.
It was amazing the way people hemmed each other in, forced each other to act in such narrowly determined ways, as if the world would end if Henry didn’t straighten himself out right now, as if a little struggle with self-doubt might not make him a better person in the long run, as if there were any reason why he shouldn’t take a break from baseball and teach himself to knit, to play the cello, to speak Gaelic — but no, God no, he had to work hard and stay focused and grind it out and keep his chin up and relax and think positive and keep plugging away, subscribe to every stupid cliché Mike or anyone else could throw at him, working and worrying until he started having panic attacks, for Christ’s sake, which wasn’t tragic either but was far from a promising sign.
“What are you doing?”
“How many can you do?” He shrugged.
“You can always do one more.”
“Sort of like Zeno’s paradox,” she said. “I mean, with the pull-ups. If you can always do one more, how can you ever stop doing pull-ups?”
Henry shrugged. “You can’t.”
Unless she was just paranoid, living in her head again, but you always lived in your head and you had to go with what you felt.
For Schwartz this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball, or football, or any other sport. You loved it because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.
Once Henry stepped out on the field, he was totally alone. There was that aloneness on the screen: that implacable, solitary blankness on Henry’s sweat-streaked face as he backhanded a ball and fired it into the glove of his pudgy first baseman. Not that Henry withdrew from his teammates; in fact, he was more animated on the diamond than anywhere else. But no matter how much he chattered or cheered or bounced around, there was always something frighteningly aloof in his eyes, like a soloist so at one with the music he can’t be reached. You can’t follow me here, those mild blue eyes seemed to say. You’ll never know what this is like.
You’ll never know what this is like. Baseball, in its quiet way, was an extravagantly harrowing game. Football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse — these were melee sports. You could make yourself useful by hustling and scrapping more than the other guy. You could redeem yourself through sheer desire.
Batter versus pitcher, fielder versus ball. You couldn’t storm around, snorting and slapping people, the way Schwartz did while playing football. You stood and waited and tried to still your mind. When your moment came, you had to be ready, because if you fucked up, everyone would know whose fault it was. What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?
How could you learn anything, accomplish anything, build any kind of momentum toward becoming a good person, unless you felt at least a little bit comfortable first?
She depended on men too much, Mike this Daddy that, needing one to rescue her from the next; even Chef Spirodocus was a man, of a sort. Maybe she needed more women in her life, that was why her mind latched on to Judy Eglantine, but she’d always gotten along better with men and that was unlikely to change much here, where most of the women were younger than she and would no doubt shun her and be scared of her and call her a slut no matter what she did. Was that too pessimistic? In any case, she’d have to rely on herself.
He wasn’t in a box he could think his way out of. Nor was he in a box he could relax his way out of, no matter how many times Coach Cox or Schwartzy or Owen or Rick or Starblind or Izzy or Sophie told him to relax, stop thinking, be himself, be the ball, don’t try too hard. You could only try so hard not to try too hard before you were right back around to trying too hard. And trying hard, as everyone told him, was wrong, all wrong.
The shortstop has worked so hard for so long that he no longer thinks — that was just the way to phrase it. You couldn’t choose to think or not think. You could only choose to work or not work.
He felt a touch of sadness now that it had happened, now that he knew what it was like. Not because it wasn’t enjoyable, or wouldn’t be repeated, but because one more of life’s mysteries had been revealed.
“Schiller,” he said. "‘Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man. And he is only completely a man when he plays.’"
She certainly wasn’t going to watch baseball, which among team sports struck her as singularly boring. It was so slow, so finicky. This one a ball, that one a strike, but they all looked the same.
Literature could turn you into an asshole; he’d learned that teaching grad-school seminars. It could teach you to treat real people the way you did characters, as instruments of your own intellectual pleasure, cadavers on which to practice your critical faculties.
“Doubt has always existed,” Aparicio said. “Even for athletes.”
Starblind was Starblind the way a dog was a dog and a shark was a shark. You didn’t expect moral distinctions from a shark.
All he’d ever wanted was for nothing to ever change. Or for things to change only in the right ways, improving little by little, day by day, forever. It sounded crazy when you said it like that,
The dream of every day the same. Every day was like the day before but a little better. You ran the stadium a little faster. You bench-pressed a little more. Your swing grew a little simpler. Everything grew simpler, little by little. You ate the same food, woke up at the same time, wore the same clothes. Hitches, bad habits, useless thoughts — whatever you didn’t need slowly fell away. Whatever was simple and useful remained. You improved little by little till the day it all became perfect and stayed that way. Forever. He knew it sounded crazy when you put it like that. To want to be perfect. To want everything to be perfect. But now it felt like that was all he’d ever craved since he’d been born.
Henry knew better than to want freedom. The only life worth living was the unfree life, the life Schwartz had taught him, the life in which you were chained to your one true wish, the wish to be simple and perfect.
You made sacrifices and the sacrifices made sense.
You stoked the furnace, fed the machine. No matter how hard you worked, you could never feel harried or hurried, because you were doing what you wanted and so one moment simply produced the next.
Sometime in elementary school his class had read Anne Frank’s diary, and Henry, terribly alarmed, asked why Anne hadn’t simply pretended not to be Jewish. The way Peter escaped from the Romans by pretending not to be Christian. Peter got in trouble for that in the Bible, but if you put it in the context of poor Anne, who was not only real but also a kid, didn’t it make sense? What difference did it make what religion you were if you were dead?
He didn’t see how a religion, which was a freely chosen thing, could mark people so irreparably.
But people didn’t forgive you for doing what felt right — that was the last thing they forgave you for.
Why was the younger person always the prize, the older person always the striver? Ever since adolescence Pella had been gathering experience in the role of the younger person, the clung - to one, the beloved. That was the idiot hopefulness of humans, always to love what was unformed. Really it made no sense. What were the old hoping the young would become? Something other than old? It hadn’t happened yet. But the old kept trying.
Everyone always reaching back through the past, past their own mistakes.
There was something much sadder in it than that. Something like constant regret, the sense that your whole life was an error, a mistake, that you were desperate to redo.
It was pain that Henry had craved and demanded, purposeful pain, or so it had seemed, but what broke over him now was all that pain in its purest state, pain that meant nothing, could not be redeemed, because it all led only here, and here was nowhere.
Before he met Schwartz his dreams were just dreams. Things that would peter out harmlessly over time.
Schwartz would never live in a world so open. His would always be occluded by the fact that his understanding and his ambition outstripped his talent.
And beyond all that he’d never be as good as he wanted to be. He’d never found anything inside himself that was really good and pure, that wasn’t double-edged, that couldn’t just as easily become its opposite. He had tried and failed to find that thing, and he would continue to try and fail, or else he would leave off trying and keep on failing. He had no art to call his own. He knew how to motivate people, manipulate people, move them around; this was his only skill.
And this is so how the way of people. We want one thing, when we are REALLY REALLY good at something else. Because we are good at that something else, we don't realize how hard someone who isn't good at said thing struggles.
A pill was the opposite of what he wanted. A pill was an answer that somebody else had worked hard to come up with. He didn’t want that. A pill was small and potent. He wanted something huge and empty.
Talking was like throwing a baseball. You couldn’t plan it out beforehand. You just had to let go and see what happened. You had to throw out words without knowing whether anyone would catch them — you had to throw out words you knew no one would catch. You had to send your words out where they weren’t yours anymore. It felt better to talk with a ball in your hand, it felt better to let the ball do the talking. But the world, the nonbaseball world, the world of love and sex and jobs and friends, was made of words.
The students’ mistakes lay ahead of them, were prospective and therefore glorious. His own lay in the past. They might have been glorious too, his own mistakes.
Most likely the string of errors was perfectly looped, without any ends at all. There were no whys in a person’s life, and very few hows. In the end, in search of useful wisdom, you could only come back to the most hackneyed concepts, like kindness, forbearance, infinite patience. Solomon and Lincoln: This too shall pass. Damn right it will. Or Chekhov: Nothing passes. Equally true.
Deep down, he thought, we all believe we’re God. We secretly believe that the outcome of the game depends on us, even when we’re only watching — on the way we breathe in, the way we breathe out, the T-shirt we wear, whether we close our eyes as the pitch leaves the pitcher’s hand and heads toward Schwartz.
Other cards offered aphoristic rules in Affenlight’s precise hand: With a small group, assonate, as in writing; with a large group, alliterate.
She’s been reading too much, he thought — had drifted across that line that separated what you might find in a book from what you might do.
He wondered how Emerson had done it — whether Emerson really had done it, after all. It was one thing to hear President Affenlight tell the story, one thing to imagine Emerson kneeling in the dirt in his suit, tears in his beard, lifting the simple wooden lid off a simple wooden casket. Your mind stayed trained on the emotional, the intellectual, the symbolic. Emerson became a character in a play, and his act became a myth, a source of meaning. You didn’t think about what Ellen Emerson’s decaying body looked like, or how it smelled: you couldn’t think about that if you tried.
A person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love. And you did that with more dedication than most, that work of building a soul — not for your own benefit but for the benefit of those who knew you.
He snow-coned the near half of the ball, somehow held on as his stomach smacked the ground.
I laughed at this! I know what snow-coning a baseball is!
This is Book 5 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
In terms of Christian allegory and stories with morals, this book pretty much hits one upside the head with the Sledgehammer of God. There's no light hand in this story, to be sure.
Continuing the Narnia tale, Lucy and Edmund go back to Narnia, along with their cousin Eustace, who's the 1950's model for Dudley Dursley. He's a little shit, know-it-all, arrogant, lazy kid. We could call him a Well Actually and be accurate. He goes off by himself, turns himself into a dragon, learns his lesson through loneliness and loss of connection with all his human friends - why they didn't immediately kill the dragon flying over the camp? - and needs to be restored only through the grace of Aslan washing away his sins in special water.
And then he drops from the story.
There are a number of other smaller lessons learned, don't eavesdrop on others, turn towards God for strength, getting everything you want is a Bad Thing™, regaining your throne is as easy as walking into the top government house and declaring you are the king works every time even when you're a slave, and, for all the flat-earthers, Narnia is flat with the oceans having an edge.
One of my frustrations with the book is Lord Rhoop, who was found on Dark Island, where your dreams (literal dreams, including nightmares, not daydreams) come true. He escaped, yay he was rescued, and HE LEFT OR LOST ALL HIS MEN ON THAT ISLAND. They celebrate this guy's rescue, but he was a horrible leader, all of his men were dead or left for dead. This is a horrible result. None of the men who went out with the seven lords of Narnia were ever found. So, in Narnia, the only people who matter are named royalty?
I'm five books into the series. I'll be finishing the series. I really hope for fewer eye rolls.
But when she looked back at the opening words of the spell, there in the middle of the writing, where she felt quite sure there had been no picture before, she found the great face of a lion, of The Lion, Aslan himself, staring into hers. It was painted such a bright gold that it seemed to be coming toward her out of the page; and indeed she never was quite sure afterward that it hadn’t really moved a little. At any rate she knew the expression on his face quite well. He was growling and you could see most of his teeth. She became horribly afraid and turned over the page at once.
And here's an example the sledgehammer shows up. Oh, look, Lucy is doing something she isn't supposed to do, and HEY LOOK, God^H^H^HAslan is watching here, insisting she do the right thing.
Now Lucy had wanted very badly to try the other spell, the one that made you beautiful beyond the lot of mortals. So she felt that to make up for not having said it, she really would say this one. And all in a hurry, for fear her mind would change, she said the words (nothing will induce me to tell you what they were).
Yep, human nauture.
“Well,” said Lucy to herself, “I did think better of her than that. And I did all sorts of things for her last term, and I stuck to her when not many other girls would. And she knows it too. And to Anne Featherstone, of all people! I wonder are all my friends the same? There are lots of other pictures. No. I won’t look at any more. I won’t, I won’t"—and with a great effort she turned over the page, but not before a large, angry tear had splashed on it.
“It did,” said Aslan. “Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?”
“Child,” he said, “I think you have been eavesdropping.”
“You listened to what your two schoolfellows were saying about you.”
“Oh that? I never thought that was eavesdropping, Aslan. Wasn’t it magic?”
“Spying on people by magic is the same as spying on them in any other way. And you have misjudged your friend. She is weak, but she loves you. She was afraid of the older girl and said what she does not mean.”
Adults explaining human nature. Peer pressure is hard to resist.
Several of the sailors said things under their breath that sounded like, “Honor be blowed,”
This is where dreams — dreams, do you understand — come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.”
Would be horrific.
“Because,” said the Mouse, “this is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear.”
Ramandu. “In this island there is sleep without stint or measure, and sleep in which no faintest footfall of a dream was ever heard. Let him sit beside these other three and drink oblivion till your return.”
For the tortured mind, this is heaven.
"A good many who had been anxious enough to get out of the voyage felt quite differently about being left out of it. And of course whenever anyone sailor announced that he had made up his mind to ask for permission to sail, the ones who hadn’t said this felt that they were getting fewer and more uncomfortable. So that before the half-hour was nearly over several people were positively “sucking up” to Drinian and Rhince (at least that was what they called it at my school) to get a good report. And soon there were only three left who didn’t want to go, and those three were trying very hard to persuade others to stay with them. And very shortly after that there was only one left. And in the end he began to be afraid of being left behind all on his own and changed his mind.
“Or perhaps there isn’t any bottom. Perhaps it goes down for ever and ever. But whatever it is, won’t it be worth anything just to have looked for one moment beyond the edge of the world.”
I didn't review this book immediately after reading it. A large reason for this delay is the impact of the book. I recommend this book.
The premise of the book is that on the day someone is going to die, they receive a call from Death Cast, some time after midnight, letting them know they are going to die today. No one escapes death if they are called, you'll be dead by the next midnight. In this world, some people make the death happen. Others try really hard to escape it, only to slip on the floor and die from a concussion anyway. Everyone adapts in some way.
The book is delightfully constructed with the view from a dozen lives that (spoiler, probably) you realize are all intertwined in some way. I really like the vignettes of the smaller characters that dash into the story and step out, but are still very much a part of the tale.
The two main characters meet through an app called Last Friend, a social network for people who have received their calls and people who would like to support people in literally their last day. Of course, some people abuse the network, but most people are there to help. Each of the main characters helps the other find what he needs. That it happens on their last day is heartbreaking. Kinda knew that from the title, though.
I loved that this book isn't about two white boys. Very few of the characters are white male. I enjoyed changing my mental picture of the characters as their descriptions were made. I loved the challenge of rethinking all of my assumptions while reading the book.
I'd like to know if "you're going to die today" means dead-dead or does dead-but-brought-back work? Can you be clinically dead and revived, or is the call dead-dead and you're dead?
Anyway, this book made me cry. I was expecting that. It is an incredible book about death, dying, and living each moment as best you can.
Let me buy you a copy.
Having the chance to say goodbye before you die is an incredible opportunity, but isn’t that time better spent actually living?
I’m showering now because I feel guilty for hoping the world, or some part of it beyond Lidia and my dad, will be sad to see me go. Because I refused to live invincibly on all the days I didn’t get an alert, I wasted all those yesterdays and am completely out of tomorrows.
But no, I elected for another free period where I could shut down and nap.
Life is long when it isn't wasted.
Not perfect, but I’m sure every two people out there — in my school, in this city, on the other side of the world—struggle with dumb and important things, and the closest pairs just find a way to get over them.
I’m back in front of my laptop, faced with a greater challenge: the inscription for my headstone in no more than eight words. How do I sum up my life in eight words?
No one will look at this photo and think it was out of character, because none of these people know me, and their only expectations of me are to be the person I’m presenting myself as in my profile.
Dying sucks, I bet, but getting locked up in prison while life keeps going on without you has gotta be worse.
I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for living after I lost my family, but now I can’t beat this weird Decker guilt for dying, knowing I’m leaving this crew behind.
My pops once said goodbyes are “the most possible impossible” ’cause you never wanna say them, but you’d be stupid not to when given the shot.
Have to admit it, I feel a little vindicated in how I’ve lived my life because people can be the worst. It’s hard to have a respectful conversation, let alone make a Last Friend.
Or how this hero known as the People’s Hope receives a message from these Death - Cast - like prophets telling him he’s going to die six days before the final battle where he was the key to victory against the King of All Evil.
It’s mad twisted, but surviving showed me it’s better to be alive wishing I was dead than dying wishing I could live forever.
But no matter what choices we make—solo or together—our finish line remains the same.
No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end.
Malcolm has never even been in a fight before, even though many paint him to be a violent young man because he’s six feet tall, black, and close to two hundred pounds. Just because he’s built like a wrestler doesn’t mean he’s a criminal.
He’s come straight to my door for my company today, to lead me outside my sanctuary so we can live until we don’t.
"I don’t become fearless just because I know my options are do something and die versus do nothing and still die.”
“It’s going to take a while because evolution is never fast, but the robots are already here."
It’s just that the fear of disappointing others or making a fool of myself always wins.
I’m actually surprised Rufus is chaining his bike to a gate and following me into the hospital.
He once told me that stories can make someone immortal as long as someone else is willing to listen.
I was raised to be honest, but the truth can be complicated. It doesn’t matter if the truth won’t make a mess, sometimes the words don’t come out until you’re alone. Even that’s not guaranteed. Sometimes the truth is a secret you’re keeping from yourself because living a lie is easier.
The same could be said for my other favorite song, “One Song,” from Rent. I’m extra wired, wanting to play it, especially as a Decker, since it’s about wasted opportunities, empty lives, and time dying. My favorite lyric is “One song before I go . . .”
Dad taught me it’s okay to give in to your emotions, but you should fight your way out of the bad ones, too.
“Don’t you have little freak - outs wondering if life was better before Death-Cast?” This question is suffocating.
“Was it better?” Rufus asks. “Maybe. Yes. No. The answer doesn’t matter or change anything. Just let it go, Mateo.”
I’ve spent years living safely to secure a longer life, and look where that’s gotten me. I’m at the finish line, but I never ran the race.
“Getting up means leaving,” I say.
“Yeah,” Rufus says.
“Leaving means dying,” I say.
“Nah. Leaving means living before you die. Let’s bounce.”
Crossing the street is pretty instinctive at this point. If there are no cars, you go. If there are cars coming toward you, you don’t go—or you go really quickly.
... but Aimee discovered working on herself made her feel more powerful than stealing from others.
“We never act,” Mateo says. “Only react once we realize the clock is ticking.”
I’m already finding that this one day to get everything right isn’t enough. This one life wasn’t enough. I tap headstones, wondering if anyone here has been reincarnated already. Maybe I was one of them. I failed Past Me if so.
Part Three: The Beginning
“That love is a superpower we all have, but it’s not always a superpower I’d be able to control. Especially as I get older. Sometimes it’ll go crazy and I shouldn’t be scared if my power hits someone I’m not expecting it to.”
She never understood how the way she loves could drag such hatred out of others, and she refused to stick around to find the love everyone hated her.
If you’re close enough to a Decker when they die, you won’t be able to put words to anything for the longest time. But few regret spending every possible minute with them while they were still alive.
No matter when it happens, we all have our endings. No one goes on, but what we leave behind keeps us alive for someone else.
And in this moment, how stupid it was to care hits me like a punch to the face. I wasted time and missed fun because I cared about the wrong things.
“What am I going to do without you?” This loaded question is the reason I didn’t want anyone to know I was dying. There are questions I can’t answer. I cannot tell you how you will survive without me. I cannot tell you how to mourn me. I cannot convince you to not feel guilty if you forget the anniversary of my death, or if you realize days or weeks or months have gone by without thinking about me. I just want you to live.
Okay, I think this is the first Grisham I have ever read. I have to say, I enjoyed it. If you read the various reviews, all the men and Grisham fans are loudly saying "THIS ISN'T GRISHAM, THIS IS A GHOST WRITER! Hated it," and all the women (yes, hyperbole) are saying, "This was a great read!" Be unsurprised, as the protagonist is a woman. And a book-reader at that.
Moazam recommended this book to me a bit ago. He commented he thought I would enjoy it, as it is about books and reading and bookstores and wheeeeee! Well, he was right about this one. I was careful to wait until he finished it before starting it, though. He had a couple recommendations that missed the mark. This one was on. More on that I would have expected it to be, given that I had recently read an F. Scott Fitzgerald book, my first, and the original manuscripts were fictionally stolen at the beginning of the book (so, I'm not spoiling the story by saying that, it's on the back cover, too). A delightful coincidence.
This was a fun read. If you're a Grisham fan, this will be a change of pace, based on the other reviews. I find this to be a good beach read, but definitely not high literature.
The heist was over, it was a success, but in any crime clues are left behind. Mistakes are always made, and if you can think of half of them, then you’re a genius.
He claimed to average four books per week and no one doubted this. If a prospective clerk did not read at least two per week, there was no job offer.
I really cracked up at this. I managed this feat in 2015, but haven't quite managed a repeat performance since. This year I'll be just under 2 a week, I think, at 1.8 a week.
She didn’t buy books either. Why buy books when you could get them for free at the library?
Something I recently started doing myself! Thanks, Libby!
But she was a writer, not a teacher, and it was time to move on. To where, she wasn’t certain, but after three years in the classroom she longed for the freedom of facing each day with nothing to do but write her novels and stories.
Having time does not mean work will actually happen.
When he’d sold cars he talked about nothing but cars, and now that he scouted for the Orioles he talked of nothing but baseball. Mercer wasn’t sure which subject held less interest, but she gamely hung on and tried to make lunch enjoyable.
We talk about what is important in our lives at the moment.
“Tessa always said you were too competitive. Checkers, chess, Monopoly. You always had to win.”
“I guess. Seems kind of silly now.”
“Have you been to the store?” Myra asked.
“I stopped by on the way here. It’s lovely.”
“It’s civilization, an oasis."
I feel this way about every bookstore. And every chocolate store. And paper store. And tea shop.
“Anybody else?” Mercer asked. So far every other writer had been trashed and Mercer was enjoying the carnage, which was not at all unusual when writers gathered over drinks and talked about each other.
Same for pretty much any vocation.
“Got a bunch of the self-published crowd. They crank ’em out, post ’em online, call themselves writers."
We all want to believe our work is better, more important, "correct," and those who didn't suffer or found an easier way are somehow less.
They moved a lot, and always to larger homes in nicer neighborhoods. They were chasing something, a vague dream, and Mercer often wondered where they would be when they found it. The more money they made the more they spent, and Mercer, living in poverty, marveled at their consumption.
The typical "American Dream."
On the one hand she almost admired their ability to love each other enough to allow the other to stray at will, but on the other hand her southern modesty wanted to judge them for their sleaze.
“A fling? Your wife has been sleeping with her French boyfriend for at least a decade. You call that a fling?”
“No, that’s more than a fling, but Noelle doesn’t love him. That’s all about companionship.”
Own it, girl. The old saying from college: “If you’re gonna be stupid you gotta be tough.”
“Thanks. So will you finish that?”
“I doubt it. I’ll give any book a hundred pages, and if by then the writer can’t hold my attention I’ll put it away. There are too many good books I want to read to waste time with a bad one.”
I wish I could stop reading bad books. Instead, I read faster to stop the pain.
“Same here, but my limit is fifty pages. I’ve never understood people who grind through a book they don’t really like, determined to finish it for some unknown reason. Tessa was like that. She would toss a book after the first chapter, then pick it up and grumble and growl for four hundred pages until the bitter end. Never understood that.”
Even though Mark was being filmed and recorded, all four FBI agents and all five grim-faced young men from the U.S. Attorney’s office scribbled furiously as if their notes were important.
This is Book 4 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
I will likely be done with all of these by the end of the month, at the rate I'm going and ease of reading. I will be okay with being done hunting for Christian allegorical elements in the books I'm reading by Christmas.
This book puzzled me a lot in a couple places. I'm okay with time passing, and the kids being pulled back to Narnia - it's magic, and if you accept magic, you need to suspend disbelief and let the newly defined laws of nature reveal themselves. That's fine.
What I'm struggling with is that that talking animals, the Talking Animals, eat their own kind. They serve bacon and eggs and bear to the kids. In another book, the kids ate roast. Okay, so, maybe the animals who can't talk are a different species, distinctly farm animals? Nope, turns out that Talking Animals can devolve into non-talking animals. This means, there is a spectrum of Talking in Narnia with the animals. If we take Talking as a measurement of intelligence, then the Talking Animals eat their stupid, their dumb, their deaf, their mute, their mentally incapacitated, their learning-disabled. While this could be okay in some societies to cull the herd, I'm not sure this is what C. S. had in mind when he had his Talking Animals.
This book was published in 1951. The Two Towers was published in 1954. Why is this significant? Because C.S. Lewis had the protagonists saved by a giant forest of trees in this book. That's three years before the Ents were released on the world. Another struggle.
I also struggled with several of the allegorical elements in this book. When Aslan comes to town, a few people are delighted by him and everyone else runs. Oddly, only the repressed, the downtrodden, the abused are delighted to see him. So, Christianity is only for the underdog?
Again, the battles were absurd, and the wrap-everything-up send-the-bad-guys-to-a-remote-island-in-another-world resolution difficult to accept - what uninhabited, population-sustaining island still existed in the early 1900s? (None.) Reading as an adult, however, makes the absurdity amusing instead of intelligence-insulting.
I'll keep reading, I'm over half way done. I want to see how this story ends.
“We shall need a camp-fire if we’ve got to spend the night here,” said Peter. “I’ve got matches. Let’s go and see if we can collect some dry wood.”
THE WORST OF SLEEPING OUT OF DOORS is that you wake up so dreadfully early. And when you wake you have to get up because the ground is so hard that you are uncomfortable.
“Those who run first do not always run last,”
“We are certainly in great need,” answered Caspian. “But it is hard to be sure we are at our greatest. Supposing there came an even worse need and we had already used it?”
“By that argument,” said Nikabrik, “your Majesty will never use it until it is too late.”
“Yes,” said Peter, “I suppose what makes it feel so queer is that in the stories it’s always someone in our world who does the calling. One doesn’t really think about where the Jinn’s coming from.”
“It’s like old times,” said Lucy. “Do you remember our voyage to Terebinthia—and Galma—and Seven Isles—and the Lone Islands?”
Hmmmmm.... where have I heard THAT name before?
“Do you remember when we had the musicians up in the rigging playing flutes so that it sounded like music out of the sky?”
Okay, think about this for a moment. She didn't say, "we had the sailors up in the rigging" she said musicians. So, here you have normal men and women who are good at playing musical instruments being hoisted up into the rigging to play for the kings and queens. It's cold up there, likely windy, and also quite likely miserable hanging from the rigging, and you have to do it or earn the displeasure of the kings and queens.
They went ashore at last, far too tired to attempt lighting a fire; and even a supper of apples (though most of them felt that they never wanted to see an apple again) seemed better than trying to catch or shoot anything.
“I hope you’re right,” said Susan. “I can’t remember all that at all.”
“That’s the worst of girls,” said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. “They never carry a map in their heads.”
“That’s because our heads have something inside them,” said Lucy.
They even thought they had struck an old path; but if you know anything about woods, you will know that one is always finding imaginary paths. They disappear after about five minutes and then you think you have found another (and hope it is not another but more of the same one) and it also disappears, and after you have been well lured out of your right direction you realize that none of them were paths at all.
“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”
“Lucy,” he said, “we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”
“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so—”
From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.
“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”
The Lion looked straight into her eyes.
“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I—I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that … oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?” Aslan said nothing. “You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”
“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.” “Oh dear,” said Lucy.
Pretty sure Lewis is telling us to have strength in your faith, and do what needs to be done even when it's hard.
“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.
“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”
“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.
And here's the gist of all faith: you believe, what other's believe doesn't matter. Except, objectively, you still need to believe in some things: gravity, for example.
“It is hard for you, little one,” said Aslan. “But things never happen the same way twice. It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”
“I am sorry for Nikabrik,” said Caspian, “though he hated me from the first moment he saw me. He had gone sour inside from long suffering and hating. If we had won quickly he might have become a good Dwarf in the days of peace. I don’t know which of us killed him. I’m glad of that.”
“Welcome, Prince,” said Aslan. “Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?”
“I—I don’t think I do, Sir,” said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.”
Okay, the self-awareness of Caspian is fantastic. The blame on age is insulting. Age does not give wisdom, there are incompetent old people. coughCheetoh.
“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
How Stoic of Aslan. In the end, we're all the same - dead.
While in Seattle a while ago, I wandered into the Elliot Bay bookstore and, unsurprisingly, left with a stack of books. In that stack was The Great Gatsby, which I hadn't yet read. So tell me why, when I decided to read a Fitzgerald book, I would start with this book, The Beautiful and Damned? I mean, I can't even blame BookRiot for this one.
I picked it up, however, and started reading. The book is about Anthony Patch, a social parasite, and his marriage to his wife, Gloria. Okay, no, it isn't a abook about Patch, who is the grandson of a wealthy tycoon from the late 1800s, and a moocher of said tycoon's wealth. Patch doesn't actually work, he lives off an allowance from his grandfather, and hopes for the man's death throughout the book.
Except the book isn't about Anthony. Rather, it is a social commentary on the worthlessness of the non-working financially elite who don't actually do anything for society except spout non-sense about intellectuals, non-intellectuals, the meaning of life, the lack of meaning in life, and a billion things they actually know nothing about. Unironically, said people continue to exist today.
That the main characters are pretty awful, shallow people, I can't say I was ever on their side. When Anthony's grandfather interrupted a particular rowdy party during Prohibition, I cheered for Anthony's disinheritance. Fitzgerald's characters in this book are unlovable, disgusting, mooching parasites of the world. Which, well, the describing of such was likely the point of the book.
I'm glad I read it. I look forward to reading the Great Gatsby.
It had irritated him to wait for Anthony. He was under the delusion not only that in his youth he had handled his practical affairs with the utmost scrupulousness, even to keeping every engagement on the dot, but also that this was the direct and primary cause of his success.
During the year that had passed since then, he had made several lists of authorities, he had even experimented with chapter titles and the division of his work into periods, but not one line of actual writing existed at present, or seemed likely ever to exist.
Oh, look, the people who read about things, plan about things, and never actually DO the things? They existed long before today.
MAURY: No, sir! I believe that every one in America but a selected thousand should be compelled to accept a very rigid system of morals — Roman Catholicism, for instance. I don’t complain of conventional morality. I complain rather of the mediocre heretics who seize upon the findings of sophistication and adopt the pose of a moral freedom to which they are by no means entitled by their intelligences.
Because in this commentary, the characters believe money equals intelligence. We know better. They knew better, but is human nature to want to feel superior.
Fifteen years of yes’s had beaten Mrs. Gilbert. Fifteen further years of that incessant unaffirmative affirmative, accompanied by the perpetual flicking of ash-mushrooms from thirty-two thousand cigars, had broken her.
To this husband of hers she made the last concession of married life, which is more complete, more irrevocable, than the first — she listened to him. She told herself that the years had brought her tolerance — actually they had slain what measure she had ever possessed of moral courage.
This is all over the place in the book. It's the belief we are reincarnated.
He found in himself a growing horror and loneliness. The idea of eating alone frightened him; in preference he dined often with men he detested.
Anthony Patch with no record of achievement, without courage, without strength to be satisfied with truth when it was given him. Oh, he was a pretentious fool, making careers out of cocktails and meanwhile regretting, weakly and secretly, the collapse of an insufficient and wretched idealism.
... and wove along with faintly upturning, half-humorous intonations for sentence ends — as though defying interruption — and intervals of shadowy laughter.
Perhaps the sentence-ending uplift isn't new, either?
She talked always about herself as a very charming child might talk, and her comments on her tastes and distastes were unaffected and spontaneous.
Her beautiful eyes and lips were very grave as she made her choice, and Anthony thought again how naïve was her every gesture; she took all the things of life for hers to choose from and apportion, as though she were continually picking out presents for herself from an inexhaustible counter.
There was one of his lonelinesses coming, one of those times when he walked the streets or sat, aimless and depressed, biting a pencil at his desk. It was a self-absorption with no comfort, a demand for expression with no outlet, a sense of time rushing by, ceaselessly and wastefully — assuaged only by that conviction that there was nothing to waste, because all efforts and attainments were equally valueless.
The growth of intimacy is like that. First one gives off his best picture, the bright and finished product mended with bluff and falsehood and humor. Then more details are required and one paints a second portrait, and a third — before long the best lines cancel out — and the secret is exposed at last; the planes of the pictures have intermingled and given us away, and though we paint and paint we can no longer sell a picture. We must be satisfied with hoping that such fatuous accounts of ourselves as we make to our wives and children and business associates are accepted as true.
Hello, let me introduce you to my representative. (Hi, BenK!)
And there used to be dignified occupations for a gentleman who had leisure, things a little more constructive than filling up the landscape with smoke or juggling some one else’s money.
“Aren’t you interested in anything except yourself?”
This sums up much of the book.
“A woman should be able to kiss a man beautifully and romantically without any desire to be either his wife or his mistress.”
Instead of seizing the girl and holding her by sheer strength until she became passive to his desire, instead of beating down her will by the force of his own, he had walked, defeated and powerless, from her door, with the corners of his mouth drooping and what force there might have been in his grief and rage hidden behind the manner of a whipped schoolboy.
Okay, so, instead of beating or raping a woman for her saying no, he respects her decision. Society is seriously messed up when accepting another person's autonomy is considered being beaten.
Happiness, remarked Maury Noble one day, is only the first hour after the alleviation of some especially intense misery.
The girl was proudly incapable of jealousy and, because he was extremely jealous, this virtue piqued him. He told her recondite incidents of his own life on purpose to arouse some spark of it, but to no avail. She possessed him now — nor did she desire the dead years.
... in crowded rooms they would form words with their lips for each other’s eyes — not knowing that they were but following in the footsteps of dusty generations but comprehending dimly that if truth is the end of life happiness is a mode of it, to be cherished in its brief and tremulous moment.
One of those personalities who, in spite of all their words, are inarticulate, he seemed to have inherited only the vast tradition of human failure — that, and the sense of death.
“I reached maturity under the impression that I was gathering the experience to order my life for happiness. Indeed, I accomplished the not unusual feat of solving each question in my mind long before it presented itself to me in life — and of being beaten and bewildered just the same. “But after a few tastes of this latter dish I had had enough. Here! I said, Experience is not worth the getting. It’s not a thing that happens pleasantly to a passive you — it’s a wall that an active you runs up against. So I wrapped myself in what I thought was my invulnerable scepticism and decided that my education was complete. But it was too late. Protect myself as I might by making no new ties with tragic and predestined humanity, I was lost with the rest. I had traded the fight against love for the fight against loneliness, the fight against life for the fight against death.”
“There’s only one lesson to be learned from life, anyway,” interrupted Gloria, not in contradiction but in a sort of melancholy agreement.
“What’s that?” demanded Maury sharply.
“That there’s no lesson to be learned from life.”
“What a feeble thing intelligence is, with its short steps, its waverings, its pacings back and forth, its disastrous retreats! Intelligence is a mere instrument of circumstances. There are people who say that intelligence must have built the universe — why, intelligence never built a steam engine! Circumstances built a steam engine. Intelligence is little more than a short foot-rule by which we measure the infinite achievements of Circumstances."
MAURY: What is a gentleman, anyway?
ANTHONY: A man who never has pins under his coat lapel.
MAURY: Nonsense! A man’s social rank is determined by the amount of bread he eats in a sandwich.
DICK: He’s a man who prefers the first edition of a book to the last edition of a newspaper.
RACHAEL: A man who never gives an impersonation of a dope-fiend.
MAURY: An American who can fool an English butler into thinking he’s one.
MURIEL: A man who comes from a good family and went to Yale or Harvard or Princeton, and has money and dances well, and all that.
MAURY: At last — the perfect definition! Cardinal Newman’s is now a back number.
Gloria would be twenty-six in May. There was nothing, she had said, that she wanted, except to be young and beautiful for a long time, to be gay and happy, and to have money and love. She wanted what most women want, but she wanted it much more fiercely and passionately.
Oh, she wanted it MORE. Because wanting something MORE means you should get it. (Sarcasm, in case that was lost in the written word.)
After the sureties of youth there sets in a period of intense and intolerable complexity. With the soda-jerker this period is so short as to be almost negligible. Men higher in the scale hold out longer in the attempt to preserve the ultimate niceties of relationship, to retain “impractical” ideas of integrity. But by the late twenties the business has grown too intricate, and what has hitherto been imminent and confusing has become gradually remote and dim. Routine comes down like twilight on a harsh landscape, softening it until it is tolerable. The complexity is too subtle, too varied; the values are changing utterly with each lesion of vitality; it has begun to appear that we can learn nothing from the past with which to face the future — so we cease to be impulsive, convincible men, interested in what is ethically true by fine margins, we substitute rules of conduct for ideas of integrity, we value safety above romance, we become, quite unconsciously, pragmatic. It is left to the few to be persistently concerned with the nuances of relationships — and even this few only in certain hours especially set aside for the task.
There was, first of all, the sense of waste, always dormant in his heart, now awakened by the circumstances of his position. In his moments of insecurity he was haunted by the suggestion that life might be, after all, significant.
“I can just see you,” she stormed, “letting him back you down!”
“What could I say?”
“You could have told him what he was. I wouldn’t have stood it. No other man in the world would have stood it! You just let people order you around and cheat you and bully you and take advantage of you as if you were a silly little boy. It’s absurd!”
Again, allowing other people to be autonomous apparently means you need to beat them up.
"A person like you oughtn’t to accept anything unless it’s decently demonstrable.”
“I don’t care about truth. I want some happiness.”
“Well, if you’ve got a decent mind the second has got to be qualified by the first. Any simple soul can delude himself with mental garbage.”
West Pointers began to be noticed for the first time in years, and the general impression was that everything was glorious, but not half so glorious as it was going to be pretty soon, and that everybody was a fine fellow, and every race a great race — always excepting the Germans — and in every strata of society outcasts and scapegoats had but to appear in uniform to be forgiven, cheered, and wept over by relatives, ex-friends, and utter strangers.
Anthony’s affair with Dorothy Raycroft was an inevitable result of his increasing carelessness about himself. He did not go to her desiring to possess the desirable, nor did he fall before a personality more vital, more compelling than his own, as he had done with Gloria four years before. He merely slid into the matter through his inability to make definite judgments. He could say “No!” neither to man nor woman; borrower and temptress alike found him tender-minded and pliable. Indeed he seldom made decisions at all, and when he did they were but half-hysterical resolves formed in the panic of some aghast and irreparable awakening.
As a rule things happened to Dot. She was not weak, because there was nothing in her to tell her she was being weak. She was not strong, because she never knew that some of the things she did were brave. She neither defied nor conformed nor compromised.
He was going to be able to shout the technical phrase, “Follow me!” to seven other frightened men.
I laughed at this one. Anthony was promoted to Corporal, which gave him little power, except this.
At the inspections one did not dress up to look well, one dressed up to keep from looking badly.
As Mr. Carleton piled assertion upon assertion Anthony began to feel a sort of disgusted confidence in him. The man appeared to know what he was talking about. Obviously prosperous, he had risen to the position of instructing others. It did not occur to Anthony that the type of man who attains commercial success seldom knows how or why, and, as in his grandfather’s case, when he ascribes reasons, the reasons are generally inaccurate and absurd.
“But brilliant people don’t settle down in business — or do they? Or what do they do? Or what becomes of everybody you used to know and have so much in common with?”
“You drift apart,” suggested Muriel with the appropriate dreamy look.
“They change,” said Gloria.
“All the qualities that they don’t use in their daily lives get cobwebbed up.”
“The last thing he said to me,” recollected Anthony, “was that he was going to work so as to forget that there was nothing worth working for.”
She turned a page and learned that a candidate for Congress was being accused of atheism by an opponent.
She wondered if they were tears of self-pity, and tried resolutely not to cry, but this existence without hope, without happiness, oppressed her, and she kept shaking her head from side to side, her mouth drawn down tremulously in the corners, as though she were denying an assertion made by some one, somewhere.
But he hated to be sober. It made him conscious of the people around him, of that air of struggle, of greedy ambition, of hope more sordid than despair, of incessant passage up or down, which in every metropolis is most in evidence through the unstable middle class. Unable to live with the rich he thought that his next choice would have been to live with the very poor. Anything was better than this cup of perspiration and tears.
… The fruit of youth or of the grape, the transitory magic of the brief passage from darkness to darkness — the old illusion that truth and beauty were in some way entwined.
There was nothing, it seemed, that grew stale so soon as pleasure.
“It does to me. There’s nothing I’d violate certain principles for.”
“But how do you know when you’re violating them? You have to guess at things just like most people do. You have to apportion the values when you look back. You finish up the portrait then — paint in the details and shadows.”
“Same old futile cynic,” he said. “It’s just a mode of being sorry for yourself. You don’t do anything — so nothing matters.”
“You say — at least you used to — that happiness is the only thing worth while in life. Do you think you’re any happier for being a pessimist?”
This is Book 3 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Okay, here's the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia series I don't have any recollection having read before. I have to say, when I was reading it, I kept wondering when the R.R. Martin moment was going to happen. When is the bad guy going to win.
This book gave me the epiphany (yes, I'm slow sometimes) that we read books as a way to believe that the good guys can win in the end, when life teaches us the bad guys nearly always win. Nearly always. The powerful are seldom toppled before they do horrific damage.
Anyway, the book. The Horse. He's a talking horse. He befriends a boy. They escape the horse's master, who was a powerful, violent, hateful warrior. They are guided by circumstance, which turns out not to be so arbitrary, into fulfilling a prophesy. Go, good guys, go!
Again, I tried to read it not for the story, but for the Christian allegory that it is supposed to be. There are elements of God helps those who help themselves, elements of Stoicism's do what you need to do without complaining, and elements of pure whimsy in the book.
I'm on a roll, so will continue reading the series. The books are contininuing to be quick, two hour or so reads, which makes them a good end-of-year series to finish.
“Why, it’s only a girl!” he exclaimed.
I really think the "only a girl" and "just like a girl" and the subtle and not so subtle remarks of Lewis that women and those of the female gender are somehow less of a person because of their gender is REALLY going to turn me off these archaic books.
"‘O my mistress, do not by any means destroy yourself, for if you live you may yet have good fortune but all the dead are dead alike.’"
A not-so-bad reason to keep living: it is irreversable.
People who know a lot of the same things can hardly help talking about them, and if you’re there you can hardly help feeling that you’re out of it.
Having been brought up by a hard, closefisted man like Arsheesh, he had a fixed habit of never telling grown-ups anything if he could help it: he thought they would always spoil or stop whatever you were trying to do.
Yah. Substitute "people in power" or "people who don't have your best interest at heart" or "people who haven't earned the right to know of your vulnerabilities" for "grown-ups" and you'll be accurate, too.
Shasta lay down beside it with his back against the cat and his face toward the Tombs, because if one is nervous there’s nothing like having your face toward the danger and having something warm and solid at your back.
“But I want her,” cried the Prince. “I must have her. I shall die if I do not get her—false, proud, black-hearted daughter of a dog that she is! I cannot sleep and my food has no savor and my eyes are darkened because of her beauty. I must have the barbarian queen.”
Okay, this is a common theme in a lot of the books I'm reading: being overwhelmed with desired that it blocks out all rational thought. This is a for-kids version, sure, but there are others. That longing can be overwhelming. There's a similar theme in The Beautiful and Damned, which is a considerable contrast to this book.
One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them...
He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.
You’re not quite the great Horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.
Seneca's quote comes to mind: “I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent— no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
Shasta was dreadfully frightened. But it suddenly came into his head, “If you funk this, you’ll funk every battle all your life. Now or never.”
“Never taunt a man save when he is stronger than you: then, as you please.”
“For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”
This is Book 2 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Okay, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is the book that, if you know only one book in the Narnia series, this is the one you know. It is an allegory for the story of Christ, though, really, can be enjoyed as a children's tale, if you'd like.
If you have insomnia, this is TOTALLY the book to read between 2am and 5am. Zoom zoom.
I enjoyed the quick read, all of two hours or so. I had read this book before. I don't recall if I found the fight and war scenes as absurd the first time through, though. Peter, with no fighting experience, managed to kill the top wolf in Narnia with a sword the first time he holds the sword? Really? What level of divine intervention is this?
Again, I would have liked to have read this in a book club with a couple 10 year olds, to learn their perspective. I have this wish to read a lot of books in a book club with a bunch of 10 year olds, maybe younger. Their perspectives are so different, and, well, to be honest, so long ago for me that I believe they'd be fascinating again.
On to the next book, also known as the first of the books of the series that I know I haven't read!
Lucy grew very red in the face and tried to say something, though she hardly knew what she was trying to say, and burst into tears.
I TOTALLY understand this reaction to feeling powerless. When you are small and less strong than those around you, frustration expresses itself this way.
“Just like a girl,” said Edmund to himself, “sulking somewhere, and won’t accept an apology.”
Just like a boy, being an asshole.
Edmund did not like this arrangement at all but he dared not disobey;
See above, about power and helplessness.
He is our brother after all, even if he is rather a little beast.
Ah yes. Siblings. Some are wonderful, some are better out of your life. You don't choose your blood relatives, you do choose your family.
"For you also are not to be in the battle."
“Why, sir?” said Lucy. “I think — I don’t know — but I think I could be brave enough.”
"But battles are ugly when women fight."
To be clearer, all battles are ugly. Some are just harder than others.
And oh, how miserable he was! It didn’t look now as if the Witch intended to make him a King. All the things he had said to make himself believe that she was good and kind and that her side was really the right side sounded to him silly now.
God, I hope that all the Cheetoh supporters are feeling EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. You voted for him out of spite and look, things are getting worse for you. Good job.
People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.
And Aslan said nothing either to excuse Peter or to blame him but merely stood looking at him with his great unchanging eyes. And it seemed to all of them that there was nothing to be said.
Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do.
“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.
“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”
The comfort of human touch.
I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been — if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you — you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.
“Others also are at the point of death. Must more people die for Edmund?”
This is Book 1 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Continuing my fixing-my-lack-of-classics-reading-as-a-teen non-prolbem, I started the Chronicles of Narnia. Except, I thought The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book, checked it out of the library, then was stunned when I read it was book two of the series.
Turns out, The Magician's Nephew was published after the Lion-Witch-Wardrobe book, but is, indeed, a prequel. Digory, the title character in The Magician's Nephew, is the batty uncle in the Lion-Witch-Wardrobe saga. Which explains why he seems to ... no, wait, wrong review.
I'm unsure if I have read this book before. I didn't think I had, but multiple parts of it were familiar, leading me to believe I had. I spent much of the book pondering the allegorical elements, teasing out the parallels between the story and the Bible. I found, however, that what enjoyed the most was pausing to reflect on the characters' motivations, including both character flaws and human traits. The aversion to loss is universal, especially of a loved one. People are motivated to do awful things, but can also be incentivized towards doing the right thing, both of which are present in the book.
The book is quick two hour read. I suspect most of these books in the series will be. In line with my policy of reading a series if I enjoy the first one, and don't stop until two bad ones in a row, no, wait, I'm reading the whole series, so on to the next one!
I enjoyed the book. I would have liked to have a 10 year old kid with me in a book club reading this book to hear her perspective.
And both felt that once the thing had been suggested, it would be feeble not to do it.
Cracking up with this. How many times has something disastrous happened because a person couldn't back down? Oh, I shouldn't NOT do this, since you suggested it.
"But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys—and servants—and women—and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny."
And this is the "I'm better than you" attitude that is incredibly prevalent in human nature.
“All it means,” he said to himself, “is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.”
And this is the typical response from everyone else to that attitude.
"You don’t understand. I am the great scholar, the magician, the adept, who is doing the experiment. Of course I need subjects to do it on. Bless my soul, you’ll be telling me next that I ought to have asked the guinea-pigs’ permission before I used them! No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice. But the idea of my going myself is ridiculous. It’s like asking a general to fight as a common soldier. Supposing I got killed, what would become of my life’s work?"
This is pretty much how I believe every leader who is unwilling to either go into war or send his own child into war is. "I will send YOUR child, but not mine." "I will ask YOU to make the sacrifice I refuse to make."
"I hope, Digory, you are not given to showing the white feather."
I had to look this one up:
"A white feather has been a traditional symbol of cowardice, used and recognised especially within the British Army and in countries of the British Empire since the 18th century, especially by patriotic groups, including some early feminists, in order to shame men who were not soldiers. It also carries opposite meanings, however: in some cases of pacifism, and in the United States, of extraordinary bravery and excellence in combat marksmanship.
"This was the old banqueting hall where my great-grandfather bade seven hundred nobles to a feast and killed them all before they had drunk their fill. They had had rebellious thoughts."
Huh. George R.R. Martin wasn't the first person to think of butchering at a feast.
“It was my sister’s fault,” said the Queen. "She drove me to it."
Hate this. Blaming others for your own actions. Right.
"It had long been known to the great kings of our race that there was a word which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it."
Well, you know how it feels if you begin hoping for something that you want desperately badly; you almost fight against the hope because it is too good to be true; you’ve been disappointed so often before.
I know this well.
For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.
Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.
Laughing! Yes. Welcome to the willful ignorance of the United States.
It was even better than yesterday, partly because everyone was feeling so fresh, and partly because the newly risen sun was at their backs and, of course, everything looks nicer when the light is behind you.
Unless you're taking a picture, then no one looks good.
“I don’t know that I care much about living on and on after everyone I know is dead. I’d rather live an ordinary time and die and go to Heaven.”
“Sleep,” he said. “Sleep and be separated for some few hours from all the torments you have devised for yourself.”
Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.”
And Digory could say nothing, for tears choked him and he gave up all hopes of saving his Mother’s life; but at the same time he knew that the Lion knew what would have happened, and that there might be things more terrible even than losing someone you love by death.
You’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.
After about six weeks of this lovely life there came a long letter from Father in India, which had wonderful news in it. Old Great-Uncle Kirke had died and this meant, apparently, that Father was now very rich. He was going to retire and come home from India forever and ever.
Wonderful news? Someone f'ing died and it's wonderful news?
One person's tragedy is another person's blessing. The hardest thing about death is that life goes on.
I have had this book on my shelf for ages. Like, possibly decades, two of them. Given my desire to fill the holes in my childhood and teenage reading choices, I grabbed this one from the stack and started reading.
I have to say, while I did pick a hardback book, I picked a crappy printing of this book. I won't be keeping this particular copy.
As for the book, it was cute. It likely would have had more impact had I read it as a kid. I struggle to see how a spoiled kid, TWO of them no less, can become pleasant children if left to their own devices, given an outside to play with. Pondering that, maybe the problem is me, and kids would become pleasant with exercise and the like.
This book also included the obsessive love that seems to be pervading, in one format or another, many of the books I've read recently.
I'm glad I've read the book. I wasn't moved about it. It's classic literature, will likely stay that way. While many people ask if they'd prefer to be or befriend Mary or Colin, I have to say I'm more likely to hang with Dickon, the animal whisperer. I liked him best.
“what Dickon would think of thee?”
“He wouldn’t like me,” said Mary in her stiff, cold little way. “No one does.”
Martha looked reflective again. “How does tha’ like thysel’?” she inquired, really quite as if she were curious to know.
Mary hesitated a moment and thought it over. “Not at all—really,” she answered. “But I never thought of that before.”
“Mother said that to me once,” she said. “She was at her washtub an’ I was in a bad temper an’ talkin’ ill of folk, an’ she turns round on me an’ says: ‘Tha’ young vixen, tha’! There tha’ stands sayin’ tha’ doesn’t like this one an’ tha’ doesn’t like that one. How does tha’ like thysel’?’ It made me laugh an’ it brought me to my senses in a minute.”
And she ran into the middle of the room and, taking a handle in each hand, began to skip, and skip, and skip, while Mary turned in her chair to stare at her, and the queer faces in the old portraits seemed to stare at her, too, and wonder what on earth this common little cottager had the impudence to be doing under their very noses. But Martha did not even see them. The interest and curiosity in Mistress Mary’s face delighted her, and she went on skipping and counted as she skipped until she had reached a hundred. “I could skip longer than that,” she said when she stopped. “I’ve skipped as much as five hundred when I was twelve, but I wasn’t as fat then as I am now, an’ I was in practice.”
Because, yes, a kid who has never skipped before can suddenly skip like the wind.
“It looks nice,” she said. “Your mother is a kind woman. Do you think I could ever skip like that?”
“You just try it,” urged Martha, handing her the skipping-rope. “You can’t skip a hundred at first, but if you practice you’ll mount up."
“Do you want to live?” inquired Mary.
“No,” he answered, in a cross, tired fashion. “But I don’t want to die.
“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like? You don’t see it in rooms if you are ill.”
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth,” said Mary.
“She is my mother,” said Colin complainingly. “I don’t see why she died. Sometimes I hate her for doing it.”
“How queer!” said Mary.
“If she had lived I believe I should not have been ill always,” he grumbled. “I dare say I should have lived, too. And my father would not have hated to look at me. I dare say I should have had a strong back. Draw the curtain again.”
"Why is the curtain drawn over her?” He moved uncomfortably. “I made them do it,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t like to see her looking at me. She smiles too much when I am ill and miserable. Besides, she is mine and I don’t want everyone to see her.”
“Is Colin a hunchback?” Mary asked. “He didn’t look like one.”
“He isn’t yet,” said Martha. “But he began all wrong. Mother said that there was enough trouble and raging in th’ house to set any child wrong. They was afraid his back was weak an’ they’ve always been takin’ care of it—keepin’ him lyin’ down an’ not lettin’ him walk. Once they made him wear a brace but he fretted so he was downright ill. Then a big doctor came to see him an’ made them take it off. He talked to th’ other doctor quite rough—in a polite way. He said there’d been too much medicine and too much lettin’ him have his own way.”
We become what others expect us to become when we are children.
If we expect greatness, we'll more likely see it than if we expect nothing.
“Go on the moor! How could I? I am going to die.”
“How do you know?” said Mary unsympathetically. She didn’t like the way he had of talking about dying. She did not feel very sympathetic. She felt rather as if he almost boasted about it.
“Oh, I’ve heard it ever since I remember,” he answered crossly. “They are always whispering about it and thinking I don’t notice. They wish I would, too.”
Mistress Mary felt quite contrary. She pinched her lips together. “If they wished I would,” she said, “I wouldn’t. Who wishes you would?”
“Do you think he wants to die?” whispered Mary.
“No, but he wishes he’d never been born. Mother she says that’s th’ worst thing on earth for a child. Them as is not wanted scarce ever thrives."
Mary’s lips pinched themselves together. She was no more used to considering other people than Colin was and she saw no reason why an ill-tempered boy should interfere with the thing she liked best. She knew nothing about the pitifulness of people who had been ill and nervous and who did not know that they could control their tempers and need not make other people ill and nervous, too. When she had had a headache in India she had done her best to see that everybody else also had a headache or something quite as bad. And she felt she was quite right; but of course now she felt that Colin was quite wrong.
"Mother says as th’ two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way—or always to have it. She doesn’t know which is th’ worst."
... had stared when he first saw Mary; but this was a stare of wonder and delight. The truth was that in spite of all he had heard he had not in the least understood what this boy would be like and that his fox and his crow and his squirrels and his lamb were so near to him and his friendliness that they seemed almost to be part of himself. Colin had never talked to a boy in his life and he was so overwhelmed by his own pleasure and curiosity that he did not even think of speaking.
But Dickon did not feel the least shy or awkward. He had not felt embarrassed because the crow had not known his language and had only stared and had not spoken to him the first time they met. Creatures were always like that until they found out about you.
“He’d be at home in Buckingham Palace or at the bottom of a coal mine,” he said. “And yet it’s not impudence, either. He’s just fine, is that lad.”
One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever.
He liked the mysteriousness of it and did his best, but in the midst of excited enjoyment it is rather difficult never to laugh above a whisper.
“Lots o’ fools,” said Ben. “Th’ world’s full o’ jackasses brayin’ an’ they never bray nowt but lies. What did tha’ shut thysel’ up for?”
“Well,” he said, “you see something did come of it. She used the wrong Magic until she made him beat her. If she’d used the right Magic and had said something nice perhaps he wouldn’t have got as drunk as a lord and perhaps—perhaps he might have bought her a new bonnet.”
“Th’ best thing about lecturin’,” said Ben, “is that a chap can get up an’ say aught he pleases an’ no other chap can answer him back. I wouldn’t be agen’ lecturin’ a bit mysel’ sometimes.”
In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered. In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before. In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.
One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.
When he traveled about, darkness so brooded over him that the sight of him was a wrong done to other people because it was as if he poisoned the air about him with gloom.
I picked up this book from a Book Riot list of the two books I keep going back to when things get rough. Well, things have been rough, so I picked it up.
What I wasn't expecting was a book of essays, which tells me, hey, I'm growing, I'm expanding. I am delighted by the essays, mostly because Scaachi is great at writing, writing meaningfully, and writing humourously (oh, the number of times I laughed out loud were too many to count!). While I can't relate to a number of parts of her story (the being Indian in Canada part, or the being the victim of subtle racism part, in particular), the part of being a woman online and being a woman in tech, and having the world rage at you, and loving your parents even as you rage at them, well, those parts I could relate to.
Turns out, Scaachi caused an uproar on twitter when she asked for books from non-white, non-male authors. Wait, what? I suspect she was the topic of the day on twitter, because there is one every f'ing day, but I was off twitter when she uproared, and well, missed it. I'm sorta sorry I did, as I would have nodded, then +1'd, and tweeted at her "I understand." Likely wouldn't have done much, but sometimes you need the "I'm with you" and the +1 to balance out the negative in your world.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend it.
No one finds anything in France except bread and pretension, and frankly, both of those are in my lap right now.
Nothing bad can happen to you if you’re with your mom. Your mom can stop a bullet from lodging in your heart. She can prop you up when you can’t. Your mom is your blood and bone before your body even knows how to make any.
Nothing, it seems, scares you into perpetual fear quite like becoming one of the oldest in your bloodline.
When you leave the protective wing of your family for the first time, it takes a while before you learn that the only person now tasked with taking care of you is you.
Being afraid of the world, of unknown beasts, only makes you feel alone. Sometimes you just need to get on the plane and hope nothing bad happens.
But it wasn’t real fear because I was with my mom. Nothing bad happens when you’re with your mom.
It was embarrassing to be mistaken for a boy. Not a girl with masculine tendencies, not a girl rejecting traditional gender roles, but a boy.
As someone who is very, very frequently mistaken for a boy, I'm used to it by now.
And so her life would be (and is) different than mine, because her race is a footnote instead of the title.
“Why not?” I worried here, because I want her to like it there, or at least to be indifferent about it the way you get to be indifferent about a home when you don’t realize you’ll miss it one day.
Do not talk to me about how you love the “colours” of an Indian wedding—the main colours come from blood and shit, not necessarily respectively.
Teenage girls of all creeds and colours so often think their bodies are too big, or too small, or too misshapen to be acceptable—we are conditioned to hate ourselves and the ways we’re built. So it’s surprising when you try to wedge your pancake breasts into a decade-old chiffon top, your arms unable to bend back down, your soft biceps straining the tensile strength of a factory stitching, only to learn that your teenage body was, in fact, fine, it was just fine. (For all you know, despite your current physical hang-ups, it might still be.)
I tried to not get too wrapped up in the process—what is, physically or morally, wrong with being of a certain size? Where do I get off feeling sorry for myself based on an arbitrary metric that I already know to be bullshit?—but when a shopkeeper looks at your frame and shakes his head solemnly, it’s hard not to take it personally.
Home, somehow, is always the last place you left, and never the place you’re in.
Arguing over traditions that have been in place forever is so consuming that neither of us even began to try.
Most people use Twitter to drain their brains of the things you can’t say in public, the minor irritations of existence, passive aggression so sharp that if you acted it out at your office you would immediately be fired.
People ask me how I handle this. “Doesn’t it wear you down?” one friend asked after I showed her my Twitter mentions, filling with men calling me a cunt or a whore or threatening to detach my limbs and toss me into a dumpster. It doesn’t—or, rather, it didn’t—for the same reason that you’re not supposed to be afraid of non-poisonous spiders. They’re more afraid of you, and they’re only displaying a panic response when their legs freak out and they start running around your walls in circles. Why waste my finite fear and rage on what is, ultimately, something my cat can trap and eat out of her little pink paws?
After a year or so of mocking them, I started asking, directly, what happened to them. Sometimes I’d just apologize preemptively for what was so obviously a personal destruction they were trying to soothe.
Or they just hate women. They hate brown women who do not fit a stereotype they’re comfortable with, but frankly, they hate those women too. Sometimes there isn’t logic. Sometimes they just think I’m a cunt.
It is taxing to consider the circumstances that can take an unmarked human canvas and make it rage-filled and petty and lost. It’s not fun to have sympathy for the people who are trying to hurt you. But their actions can sometimes make sense: what’s easier than trying to get better is trying to break something else down. It gives credence to your power, a power you might not always feel.
These men who harass women online were all owed something very simple at one time—respect, love, affection, the basic decency of living upwards and not curling inwards, a humane education—and someone, along the line, failed them.
It changes you, when you see someone similar to you, doing the thing you might want to do yourself.
We are deeply afraid of making marginalized voices stronger, because we think it makes privileged ones that much weaker.
And when that message comes from a non-white non-male person themselves, someone young enough to not yet have any inherent gravitas and—this part is important—just enough privilege to be powerful, that’s when they target you.
Years ago, when another writer accused me of fabricating sources in my work, I went to Jordan, devastated and furious. “The thing to remember about him,” he said, “is that he’s nobody. Nobody at all. Fuck that guy in the ear.”
Jordan is, in all the best ways, the opposite of me: he is incredibly calm, methodical, patient, and he can wait a full five minutes between a thought forming in his head and hurtling its way out of his mouth.
I laughed at this one. I laughed at a lot of Scaachi's writing.
“There is no cowardice in removing yourself from a wildly unhealthy and unwinnable situation,” he said when I told him about my Twitter account burning down before my eyes.
No, I was right the first time: there is no bottom. You just sink and sink and sink until the force of your fall pulls the skin clean off your bones.
Above all, I like bothering people. I like being present in spaces where I am not welcome because you do not deserve to feel comfortable just because you’re racist or sexist or small-minded.
I can understand this.
Most didn’t have much to say at all, because when you die, a shocking few will be sad.
No one cares more about your successes and your foibles than you.
I was dumb enough to want a hug from a machine.
I understand this. Wow, I understand so much of these essays.
What they say to me online is the purest distillation of the rage they feel — statements that would get them fired or arrested in real life but get them a moderate fan base or begrudging attention online.
(I wouldn’t, like, go to yoga, but I’d talk about it. If I’ve learned anything from white women, it’s that the best kind of yoga is the kind you talk about fucking constantly.)
Alcohol is the great equalizer. Alcohol makes you brave. Alcohol makes you beautiful. Alcohol makes you fall in love.
When I was a teenager, the world told me that a girl is responsible for her own body if she’s raped or assaulted when she’s drunk: that’s her fault, it’s on her to not get so drunk she stops being fun and starts being a liability.
Women can’t be fun all the time, can’t drink without consequence. Frankly, few people can, but who feels the consequences of their otherwise harmless actions quite like women?
After you shoot out into the world and build a community, and people leave, you feel the loneliest you’ve ever been in your life.
I had been angry for myself for such a long time that I forgot to be sad for him.
The first time I was roofied,
Okay, this had me sitting back and going, "Uh." The FIRST time?
And yet, being surveilled with the intention of assault or rape is practically mundane, it happens so often. It’s such an ingrained part of the female experience that it doesn’t register as unusual. The danger of it, then, is in its routine, in how normalized it is for a woman to feel monitored, so much so that she might not know she’s in trouble until that invisible line is crossed from “typical patriarchy” to “you should run.”
There was shame in having to admit that you had a little moustache when all the white girls at school didn’t even get wispy hairs on the backs of their thighs.
There’s something so carnal about pulling little parts of your body off or out of yourself.
It’s rarely you who decides there’s something wrong with you; instead, you get your cues from someone who is the right combination of bored, cruel, and insecure about themselves to begin with.
It’s easier to rebel against hair norms if you’re a woman generally unburdened by them in the first place.
But of course, the secret to Indian hair is merely to be Indian.
Do I just get it waxed like a strawberry blond might, and hope that it doesn’t look like I walked into a controlled fire, labia first?
Laughing. So. Hard.
It’s a quintessential encapsulation of running after an unattainable goal: we turned this basic fact about our bodies into something ugly.
But the only way to do better, to have better, is to lose pieces of what was.
It’s been so long, it’s so far now, the only thing you can do is remember it as perfect.
“Falling in love” sounds so passive, but it did feel unintentional, like tripping into a pit that happened to be filled with downy gold.
I don’t like changing my personal status quo even when my status quo isn’t comfortable.
It wasn’t fair, but it was predictable.
Few things get less complicated as you age, but your family, that at least should become easier. You should eventually make peace with everyone, with their decisions and their quirks.
We talked about my work or his crushing ennui or about how the biggest tree in the backyard rotted and he had to get it taken out or how Raisin started to yell “HOW RUDE” anytime someone did something she didn’t care for.
Papa’s sun is the brightest, so when he decides to set, it makes for some very long, cold winters.
Once, while in the car together, he half stated, half muttered, apropos of nothing, “You live, you create things, you become a footnote in history. That’s what happens when you get old. It’s a trage—IT’S A TRAGEDY.”
I get angry at toaster ovens (TERRIBLE FOR POP TARTS), and irate when people don’t follow my advice.
Or at least I need to believe in his ability to let things go when they are ultimately out of his control, because otherwise we’re both just alone, spinning separately when we’re supposed to be in this together.
I continue my reading of the children classics by checking this one out of the library, as I didn't believe this is a book I'm going to want to keep, and reading it. Which is what happened.
I read the book. I enjoyed the book for the most part, though my reading of the book was completely and totally colored by my childhood watching of the Little House On The Prarie series. Laura was totally Gilbert as I read. I found this realization a bit disappointing, as I prefer to have my own impressions of the characters when reading.
Again, as with Anne of Green Gables, I am surprised that I am surprised the book is as dense in classic Stoicism as it is. Was fascinating to read all of it.
The blinding hatred of Native Americans in the book threw me off more than a little. Even as the Ingalls build their homestead on Indian land, both historically and by treaty, they complain about the Indians invading their home. Gee, look, you're f'ing stealing theirs completely. I was annoyed by that part.
I enjoyed the book for the most part. I'm a bit intrigued by the idea of the lost skills demonstrated by Pa in the book, but I'm not reading any more in the series, I didn't enjoy them that much. This book itself is book three in the series, so I already skipped a bunch.
Checking another classic off my fill-in-the-gaps reading goal.
Pa said he wouldn’t have done such a thing to Jack, not for a million dollars. If he’d known how that creek would rise when they were in midstream, he would never have let Jack try to swim it. “But that can’t be helped now,” he said.
Pa kept pouring more hot water into the tub in which Ma’s foot was soaking. Her foot was red from the heat and the puffed ankle began to turn purple. Ma took her foot out of the water and bound strips of rag tightly around and around the ankle.
“I can manage,” she said.
She could not get her shoe on. But she tied more rags around her foot, and she hobbled on it. She got supper as usual, only a little more slowly. But Pa said she could not help to build the house until her ankle was well.
I read with interest the previous recommendations for a sprained / crushed ankle. Used to be, heat was the solution. Now, it is very much RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. They had the compression right, but not the ice part.
When Carrie felt the beads on her neck, she grabbed at them. She was so little that she did not know any better than to break the string. So Ma untied it, and she put the beads away until Carrie should be old enough to wear them. And often after that Laura thought of those pretty beads and she was still naughty enough to want her beads for herself.
Okay, the little one can't play with them, so let's put them away so that no one can play with them. What a crock.
Worse, to make a little girl feel bad for wanting something.
Laura was not really crying. She was too big to cry. Only one tear ran out of each eye and her throat choked up, but that was not crying. She hid her face against Ma and hung on to her tight. She was so glad the fire had not hurt Ma.
Even the 10 year olds are Stoics!
“We could get along all right, if I didn’t,” said Pa. “There’s no need of running to town all the time, for every little thing. I have smoked better tobacco than that stuff Scott raised back in Indiana, but it will do. I’ll raise some next summer and pay him back. I wish I hadn’t borrowed those nails from Edwards.”
“You did borrow them, Charles,” Ma replied. “And as for the tobacco, you don’t like borrowing any more than I do. We need more quinine. I’ve been sparing with the cornmeal, but it’s almost gone and so is the sugar. You could find a bee - tree, but there’s no cornmeal tree to be found, so far as I know, and we’ll raise no corn till next year. A little salt pork would taste good, too, after all this wild game. And, Charles, I’d like to write to the folks in Wisconsin. If you mail a letter now, they can write this winter, and then we can hear from them next spring.”
No sense wishing for things or that your actions were different, they are what they are, deal with it. Every interaction in this book oozes the classic stop-complaining-and-do-what-needs-be-doing attitude. I wish people were more like this today.
So, Anne of Green Gables takes place on Prince Edward Island. I did not realize this when I started reading it, in my continuing journey to fill in the gaps in my childhood reading. I spent too much time reading Voltaire and not enough time reading Nancy Drew, apparently.
Anyway, if you ask a Canadian, "Hey, did you know Anne of Green Gables happens in Canada?" you will not only watch a Canadian laugh until his sides ache, you'll also be asked in return, "Hey, did you know George Washington was the first president of the United States?" True story. I asked Jonathan.
My first impression of the book?
Holy crap, does Anne talk a lot. I understand how Matthew would become endeared to her, as he didn't speak much and was fascinated by Anne. I could also understand anyone would would ask Anne to just shut the f--- up. I don't know that I would have been able to stand how much she talks in real life.
Of course, maybe I could have. There's something attractive about a dynamic, outgoing, care-free, focused woman.
The second impression I had about the book is just how much Classic Stoicism pervades this book. Every other paragraph contains a comment or action that is completely and totally "no sense in complaining, do what needs to be done." Why, oh why, don't we have that attitude now? Why oh why has this ability to do the work been lost in our times?
I enjoyed the book. I won't be continuing the series, as there are a large number of other books I'd rather read next, but I am glad I have read this one. This book is worth reading.
Mrs. Rachel felt that she had received a severe mental jolt. She thought in exclamation points.
There’s never anybody to be had but those stupid, half-grown little French boys; and as soon as you do get one broke into your ways and taught something he’s up and off to the lobster canneries or the States. At first Matthew suggested getting a Home boy. But I said ‘no’ flat to that. ‘They may be all right — I’m not saying they’re not — but no London street Arabs for me,’ I said. ‘Give me a native born at least. There’ll be a risk, no matter who we get. But I’ll feel easier in my mind and sleep sounder at nights if we get a born Canadian.’
"Home Boy" What an odd phrasing. When I went to look it up, however, the original said, "getting a Barnado Boy."
Curiouser and curiouser.
If you had asked my advice in the matter — which you didn’t do, Marilla — I’d have said for mercy’s sake not to think of such a thing, that’s what.”
And as for the risk, there’s risks in pretty near everything a body does in this world. There’s risks in people’s having children of their own if it comes to that — they don’t always turn out well.
"I asked her to go into the ladies’ waiting room, but she informed me gravely that she preferred to stay outside. ‘There was more scope for imagination,’ she said. She’s a case, I should say.”
"But I just went to work and imagined that I had on the most beautiful pale blue silk dress — because when you are imagining you might as well imagine something worth while — and a big hat all flowers and nodding plumes, and a gold watch, and kid gloves and boots."
"She said I must have asked her a thousand already. I suppose I had, too, but how you going to find out about things if you don’t ask questions?"
"Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive — it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it?"
"Dreams don’t often come true, do they? Wouldn’t it be nice if they did?"
“I suppose — we could hardly be expected to keep her.”
“I should say not. What good would she be to us?”
“We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.
"I’m not in the depths of despair this morning. I never can be in the morning. Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings? But I feel very sad.
But the worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.”
"All sorts of mornings are interesting, don’t you think? You don’t know what’s going to happen through the day, and there’s so much scope for imagination."
"It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?”
"There is no use in loving things if you have to be torn from them, is there? And it’s so hard to keep from loving things, isn’t it?"
“I’ve made up my mind to enjoy this drive. It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must make it up firmly."
"I’ve never brought up a child, especially a girl, and I dare say I’ll make a terrible mess of it. But I’ll do my best."
"And I’m afraid I’ll never be able to think out another one as good. Somehow, things never are so good when they’re thought out a second time. Have you ever noticed that?”
Mrs. Rachel was not often sick and had a well-defined contempt for people who were; but grippe, she asserted, was like no other illness on earth and could only be interpreted as one of the special visitations of Providence.
"Everyone else is a baby, but I am strong." Everyone's a hypocrite.
Where was the wholesome punishment upon which she, Marilla, had plumed herself? Anne had turned it into a species of positive pleasure. Good Mrs. Lynde, not being overburdened with perception, did not see this. She only perceived that Anne had made a very thorough apology and all resentment vanished from her kindly, if somewhat officious, heart.
“But I’d rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself,” persisted Anne mournfully.
“Oh, yes; and I answered a lot of questions. Miss Rogerson asked ever so many. I don’t think it was fair for her to do all the asking. There were lots I wanted to ask her, but I didn’t like to because I didn’t think she was a kindred spirit.
"Now, don’t be looking I told-you-so, Matthew. That’s bad enough in a woman, but it isn’t to be endured in a man. I’m perfectly willing to own up that I’m glad I consented to keep the child and that I’m getting fond of her, but don’t you rub it in, Matthew Cuthbert.”
“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.”
"She was leaning out to pick water lilies and if Mr. Andrews hadn’t caught her by her sash just in the nick of time she’d fallen in and prob’ly been drowned. I wish it had been me. It would have been such a romantic experience to have been nearly drowned. It would be such a thrilling tale to tell."
No, that would be a horrible tale to tell, that of the drowned. Though bad experiences do make good stories.
“WHAT a splendid day!” said Anne, drawing a long breath. “Isn’t it good just to be alive on a day like this? I pity the people who aren’t born yet for missing it. They may have good days, of course, but they can never have this one. And it’s splendider still to have such a lovely way to go to school by, isn’t it?”
"He told his mother — his mother, mind you — that you were the smartest girl in school. That’s better than being good looking.”
“No, it isn’t,” said Anne, feminine to the core."
“I’d rather be pretty than clever."
Mr. Phillips stalked down the aisle and laid his hand heavily on Anne’s shoulder. “Anne Shirley, what does this mean?” he said angrily. Anne returned no answer. It was asking too much of flesh and blood to expect her to tell before the whole school that she had been called “carrots.” Gilbert it was who spoke up stoutly. “It was my fault Mr. Phillips. I teased her.” Mr. Phillips paid no heed to Gilbert.
Of course, it is the girl's fault. Always the girl's fault. No one ever believes the girl, EVEN WHEN THE BOY SAYS HE DID IT.
Anne stood there the rest of the afternoon with that legend above her. She did not cry or hang her head. Anger was still too hot in her heart for that and it sustained her amid all her agony of humiliation.
“You mustn’t mind Gilbert making fun of your hair,” she said soothingly. “Why, he makes fun of all the girls. He laughs at mine because it’s so black."
WAIT. NO. Just because he's an ass to everyone doesn't mean the behaviour shoudl be condoned. He should stop making fun of everyone's hair.
Mr. Phillips’s brief reforming energy was over; he didn’t want the bother of punishing a dozen pupils; but it was necessary to do something to save his word, so he looked about for a scapegoat and found it in Anne, who had dropped into her seat, gasping for breath, with a forgotten lily wreath hanging askew over one ear and giving her a particularly rakish and disheveled appearance. “Anne Shirley, since you seem to be so fond of the boys’ company we shall indulge your taste for it this afternoon,” he said sarcastically. “Take those flowers out of your hair and sit with Gilbert Blythe.”
The other boys snickered. Diana, turning pale with pity, plucked the wreath from Anne’s hair and squeezed her hand. Anne stared at the master as if turned to stone.
“Did you hear what I said, Anne?” queried Mr. Phillips sternly.
“Yes, sir,” said Anne slowly “but I didn’t suppose you really meant it.”
“I assure you I did” — still with the sarcastic inflection which all the children, and Anne especially, hated. It flicked on the raw. “Obey me at once.”
For a moment Anne looked as if she meant to disobey. Then, realizing that there was no help for it, she rose haughtily, stepped across the aisle, sat down beside Gilbert Blythe,
So, the boys all do the same thing as the girl, BUT THE GIRL IS PUNISHED.
In case you're wondering, this happened to me a lot growing up as a kid. I did the same things my older brother did, but I was punished for the actions, and his behaviour was explained as "oh, boys will be boys!"
Fucking hate the double standard crap.
"She had a fearful headache all day yesterday. Mrs. Barry is so indignant. She will never believe but what I did it on purpose.”
“I should think she would better punish Diana for being so greedy as to drink three glassfuls of anything,” said Marilla shortly.
Mrs. Barry was a woman of strong prejudices and dislikes, and her anger was of the cold, sullen sort which is always hardest to overcome.
The rivalry between them was soon apparent; it was entirely good natured on Gilbert’s side; but it is much to be feared that the same thing cannot be said of Anne, who had certainly an unpraiseworthy tenacity for holding grudges. She was as intense in her hatreds as in her loves. She would not stoop to admit that she meant to rival Gilbert in schoolwork, because that would have been to acknowledge his existence which Anne persistently ignored; but the rivalry was there and honors fluctuated between them.
I feel I understand this Anne character.
Mr. Phillips might not be a very good teacher; but a pupil so inflexibly determined on learning as Anne was could hardly escape making progress under any kind of teacher.
Mrs. Lynde says Canada is going to the dogs the way things are being run at Ottawa and that it’s an awful warning to the electors. She says if women were allowed to vote we would soon see a blessed change.
I giggled at this.
It’s all very well to say resist temptation, but it’s ever so much easier to resist it if you can’t get the key.
You must just imagine my relief, doctor, because I can’t express it in words. You know there are some things that cannot be expressed in words.”
“Yes, I know,” nodded the doctor. He looked at Anne as if he were thinking some things about her that couldn’t be expressed in words.
“Oh, Matthew, isn’t it a wonderful morning? The world looks like something God had just imagined for His own pleasure, doesn’t it? Those trees look as if I could blow them away with a breath — pouf! I’m so glad I live in a world where there are white frosts, aren’t you?"
"But I hate to stay home, for Gil — some of the others will get head of the class, and it’s so hard to get up again — although of course the harder it is the more satisfaction you have when you do get up, haven’t you?”
“I think you ought to let Anne go,” repeated Matthew firmly. Argument was not his strong point, but holding fast to his opinion certainly was. Marilla gave a gasp of helplessness and took refuge in silence.
Spring had come once more to Green Gables — the beautiful capricious, reluctant Canadian spring, lingering along through April and May in a succession of sweet, fresh, chilly days, with pink sunsets and miracles of resurrection and growth.
“Oh, Marilla, how can you be so cruel?” sobbed Anne. “What would you feel like if a white thing did snatch me up and carry me off?”
“I’ll risk it,” said Marilla unfeelingly. “You know I always mean what I say. I’ll cure you of imagining ghosts into places. March, now.”
"I do feel dreadfully sad, Marilla. But one can’t feel quite in the depths of despair with two months’ vacation before them, can they, Marilla?
"I’m very glad they’ve called Mr. Allan. I liked him because his sermon was interesting and he prayed as if he meant it and not just as if he did it because he was in the habit of it."
"Mrs. Allan said we ought always to try to influence other people for good. She talked so nice about everything. I never knew before that religion was such a cheerful thing. I always thought it was kind of melancholy, but Mrs. Allan’s isn’t, and I’d like to be a Christian if I could be one like her. I wouldn’t want to be one like Mr. Superintendent Bell.”
“It’s very naughty of you to speak so about Mr. Bell,” said Marilla severely. “Mr. Bell is a real good man.”
“Oh, of course he’s good,” agreed Anne, “but he doesn’t seem to get any comfort out of it.
“Yes; but cakes have such a terrible habit of turning out bad just when you especially want them to be good,” sighed Anne,
“Can I fix the table with ferns and wild roses?”
“I think that’s all nonsense,” sniffed Marilla. “In my opinion it’s the eatables that matter and not flummery decorations.”
“Mrs. Barry had her table decorated,” said Anne, who was not entirely guiltless of the wisdom of the serpent, “and the minister paid her an elegant compliment. He said it was a feast for the eye as well as the palate.”
“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”
“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”
“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”
“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”
God I hope so. I keep making them, too.
For Anne to take things calmly would have been to change her nature. All “spirit and fire and dew,” as she was, the pleasures and pains of life came to her with trebled intensity. Marilla felt this and was vaguely troubled over it, realizing that the ups and downs of existence would probably bear hardly on this impulsive soul and not sufficiently understanding that the equally great capacity for delight might more than compensate. Therefore Marilla conceived it to be her duty to drill Anne into a tranquil uniformity of disposition as impossible and alien to her as to a dancing sunbeam in one of the brook shallows.
Daring was the fashionable amusement among the Avonlea small fry just then. It had begun among the boys, but soon spread to the girls, and all the silly things that were done in Avonlea that summer because the doers thereof were “dared” to do them would fill a book by themselves.
In his arms he carried Anne, whose head lay limply against his shoulder. At that moment Marilla had a revelation. In the sudden stab of fear that pierced her very heart she realized what Anne had come to mean to her. She would have admitted that she liked Anne — nay, that she was very fond of Anne. But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne was dearer to her than anything else on earth.
Those two were the best of friends and Matthew thanked his stars many a time and oft that he had nothing to do with bringing her up. That was Marilla’s exclusive duty; if it had been his he would have been worried over frequent conflicts between inclination and said duty. As it was, he was free to, “spoil Anne” — Marilla’s phrasing — as much as he liked. But it was not such a bad arrangement after all; a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.
Folks that has brought up children know that there’s no hard and fast method in the world that’ll suit every child. But them as never have think it’s all as plain and easy as Rule of Three — just set your three terms down so fashion, and the sum’ll work out correct. But flesh and blood don’t come under the head of arithmetic and that’s where Marilla Cuthbert makes her mistake. I suppose she’s trying to cultivate a spirit of humility in Anne by dressing her as she does; but it’s more likely to cultivate envy and discontent.
"It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”
“She’s a bright child, Matthew. And she looked real nice too. I’ve been kind of opposed to this concert scheme, but I suppose there’s no real harm in it after all. Anyhow, I was proud of Anne tonight, although I’m not going to tell her so.” “Well now, I was proud of her and I did tell her so ‘fore she went upstairs,” said Matthew.
“I won’t mind writing that composition when its time comes,” sighed Diana. “I can manage to write about the woods, but the one we’re to hand in Monday is terrible. The idea of Miss Stacy telling us to write a story out of our own heads!”
“Why, it’s as easy as wink,” said Anne.
“It’s easy for you because you have an imagination,” retorted Diana, “but what would you do if you had been born without one? I suppose you have your composition all done?” Anne nodded, trying hard not to look virtuously complacent and failing miserably.
"All the girls do pretty well. Ruby Gillis is rather sentimental. She puts too much lovemaking into her stories and you know too much is worse than too little. Jane never puts any because she says it makes her feel so silly when she had to read it out loud. Jane’s stories are extremely sensible. Then Diana puts too many murders into hers. She says most of the time she doesn’t know what to do with the people so she kills them off to get rid of them. I mostly always have to tell them what to write about, but that isn’t hard for I’ve millions of ideas.”
“I think this story-writing business is the foolishest yet,” scoffed Marilla. “You’ll get a pack of nonsense into your heads and waste time that should be put on your lessons. Reading stories is bad enough but writing them is worse.”
“But we’re so careful to put a moral into them all, Marilla,” explained Anne. “I insist upon that. All the good people are rewarded and all the bad ones are suitably punished.
“Yes, it’s green,” moaned Anne. “I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. But now I know it’s ten times worse to have green hair. Oh, Marilla, you little know how utterly wretched I am.”
“I little know how you got into this fix, but I mean to find out,” said Marilla. “Come right down to the kitchen — it’s too cold up here — and tell me just what you’ve done. I’ve been expecting something queer for some time. You haven’t got into any scrape for over two months, and I was sure another one was due. Now, then, what did you do to your hair?”
Marilla had done her work thoroughly and it had been necessary to shingle the hair as closely as possible. The result was not becoming, to state the case as mildly as may be. Anne promptly turned her glass to the wall. “I’ll never, never look at myself again until my hair grows,” she exclaimed passionately. Then she suddenly righted the glass. “Yes, I will, too. I’d do penance for being wicked that way. I’ll look at myself every time I come to my room and see how ugly I am.
Yeah. I understand the sentiment, even if I can't feel the sentiment. Shave the head so that not having hair doesn't bother you, that's my belief.
I prayed, Mrs. Allan, most earnestly, but I didn’t shut my eyes to pray, for I knew the only way God could save me was to let the flat float close enough to one of the bridge piles for me to climb up on it.
It was proper to pray, but I had to do my part by watching out and right well I knew.
God helps those who help themselves. The praying doesn't do crap without the action to follow it up.
It’s always wrong to do anything you can’t tell the minister’s wife. It’s as good as an extra conscience to have a minister’s wife for your friend.
"That’s the worst of growing up, and I’m beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them.”
I didn’t mind promising not to read any more like it, but it was agonizing to give back that book without knowing how it turned out.
It’s really wonderful, Marilla, what you can do when you’re truly anxious to please a certain person.”
But we can’t have things perfect in this imperfect world, as Mrs. Lynde says. Mrs. Lynde isn’t exactly a comforting person sometimes, but there’s no doubt she says a great many very true things.
Ruby says she will only teach for two years after she gets through, and then she intends to be married. Jane says she will devote her whole life to teaching, and never, never marry, because you are paid a salary for teaching, but a husband won’t pay you anything, and growls if you ask for a share in the egg and butter money. I expect Jane speaks from mournful experience, for Mrs. Lynde says that her father is a perfect old crank, and meaner than second skimmings.
"But mostly when I’m with Mrs. Lynde I feel desperately wicked and as if I wanted to go and do the very thing she tells me I oughtn’t to do. I feel irresistibly tempted to do it. Now, what do you think is the reason I feel like that? Do you think it’s because I’m really bad and unregenerate?”
“If you are I guess I am too, Anne, for Rachel often has that very effect on me. I sometimes think she’d have more of an influence for good, as you say yourself, if she didn’t keep nagging people to do right. There should have been a special commandment against nagging."
“It’s nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one’s heart, like treasures. I don’t like to have them laughed at or wondered over."
“No, I wasn’t crying over your piece,” said Marilla, who would have scorned to be betrayed into such weakness by any poetry stuff.
Boys were to her, when she thought about them at all, merely possible good comrades. If she and Gilbert had been friends she would not have cared how many other friends he had nor with whom he walked. She had a genius for friendship; girl friends she had in plenty; but she had a vague consciousness that masculine friendship might also be a good thing to round out one’s conceptions of companionship and furnish broader standpoints of judgment and comparison.
"I’ve done my best and I begin to understand what is meant by the ‘joy of the strife.’ Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing."
For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.
“There — there — don’t cry so, dearie. It can’t bring him back. It — it — isn’t right to cry so. I knew that today, but I couldn’t help it then. He’d always been such a good, kind brother to me — but God knows best.”
“Oh, just let me cry, Marilla,” sobbed Anne. “The tears don’t hurt me like that ache did. Stay here for a little while with me and keep your arm round me — so. I couldn’t have Diana stay, she’s good and kind and sweet — but it’s not her sorrow — she’s outside of it and she couldn’t come close enough to my heart to help me. It’s our sorrow — yours and mine. Oh, Marilla, what will we do without him?”
“We’ve got each other, Anne. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here — if you’d never come. Oh, Anne, I know I’ve been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe — but you mustn’t think I didn’t love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It’s never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it’s easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you’ve been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.”
Anne, new to grief, thought it almost sad that it could be so — that they could go on in the old way without Matthew. She felt something like shame and remorse when she discovered that the sunrises behind the firs and the pale pink buds opening in the garden gave her the old inrush of gladness when she saw them - that life still called to her with many insistent voices.
Hardest thing about death is that life goes on.
“Josie is a Pye,” said Marilla sharply, “so she can’t help being disagreeable. I suppose people of that kind serve some useful purpose in society, but I must say I don’t know what it is any more than I know the use of thistles. Is Josie going to teach?”
For reasons I haven't quite figured out, I decided not long ago to fill in the gaps in my young adult life's reading choices, and read a number of "classic" children's (young adult these days) books. Since I had a travel day today, and finished up the other book I was reading, and not wanting to read any of my already started books, I picked up Bridge to Terabithia.
And finished it today, too. Go me.
This isn't an unknown book for people of a certain age. The author's son was able to make it into a movie, which increased its exposure. The book is banned from many schools because, for some reason that is completely incomprehensible to me, some parents believe hiding death from a kid is a Good Thing™. Of note, it is NOT a Good Thing™. It is actively a Bad Thing™. Death is a part of life, and accepting that sooner than later makes the life part of this cycle a better experience, more sweeter, more cherished, more worthy.
Reading this book, I knew one of the two main kids died. I wasn't sure which one, nor was I sure of the circumstances. That the story is based (broad strokes) on the author's son's childhood experience makes this story more sad. When should a parent ever outlive her child? Okay, if the child is evil, fine, yes. Exceptional case.
As I knew the climax of the plot, I wasn't overwhelmed when it happened. That, and I was heading to an event with a lot of people I don't know, meant my desire not to cry unabashedly was stronger. I didn't cry, but I did feel that loss, and that numbness after the loss.
A book worth reading at some point in a person's life. Unsure when would be a good time, to be honest.
The parents being as good as they can be, but not perfect, was consistent with with the previous book, which made it a two book trend, amusing me somewhat. What? people aren't perfect? And we hear them yelling at their kids? Huh. Real Life™
Quotes from the book:
His straw-colored hair flapped hard against his forehead, and his arms and legs flew out every which way. He had never learned to run properly, but he was long-legged for a ten year-old, and no one had more grit than he.
Because grit was important, even back in the 1970s.
Miss Edmunds would play her guitar and let the kids take turns on the autoharp, the triangles, cymbals, tambourines, and bongo drum. Lord, could they ever make a racket!
Okay, I'm laughing now, because I remember the autoharp, triangles, and making a racket in music class.
All the teachers hated Fridays. And a lot of the kids pretended to. But Jess knew what fakes they were. Sniffing "hippie" and "peacenik" even though the Vietnam War was over and it was supposed to be OK again to like peace, the kids would make fun of Miss Edmunds' lack of lipstick or the cut of her jeans.
Okay to like peace. What a f'd up world we live in that peace wouldn't be okay to like.
She punched him in the shoulder. "Let's go out and find some giants or walking dead to fight. I'm sick of Janice Avery."
OMG I had no idea that "Walking Dead" was a phrase that's forty some years old!
He helped May Belle wrap her wretched little gifts and even sang "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with her and Joyce Ann. Then Joyce Ann cried because they had no fireplace and Santa wouldn't be able to find the way, and suddenly he felt sorry for her going to Millsburg Plaza and seeing all those things and hoping that some guy in a red suit would give her all her dreams.
The longing of a little kid, that longing that never goes away.
"That whole Jesus thing is really interesting, isn't it?"
"What d'you mean?"
"All those people wanting to kill him when he hadn't done anything to hurt them." She hesitated. "It's really kind of a beautiful story-like Abraham Lincoln or Socrates -- or Aslan."
And yet another testiment to the horror in human nature.
He wondered what it would be like to have a mother whose stories were inside her head instead of marching across the television screen all day long.
A commentary on television from the 1970s, imagine what it would be like to have a life that wasn't about consuming but about producing. It is quite wonderful, tbh.
You think it's so great to die and make everyone cry and carry on. Well, it ain't.
Leslie had died, and Jess was angry at her.
He, Jess, was the only one who really cared for Leslie. But Leslie had failed him. She went and died just when he needed her the most. She went and left him. She went swinging on that rope just to show him that she was no coward. So there, Jess Aarons. She was probably somewhere fight now laughing at him. Making fun of him like he was Mrs. Myers. She had tricked him. She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded there like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone.
And this is where I did allow myself to cry a bit.
"Everybody gets seared sometimes, May Belle. You don't have to be ashamed." He saw a flash of Leslie's eyes as she was going in to the girls' room to see Janice Avery. "Everybody gets scared."
She looked at him in disbelief. "But you weren't scared."
"Lord, May Belle, I was shaking like Jello."
"You're just saying that."
Sometimes like the Barbie doll you need to give people something that's for them, not just something that makes you feel good giving it.