From Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues
“Now she is silent. She stares off into the middle distance in an odd, abstracted manner that has developed in her over the past year or so. She’s lone inside that faraway look on her face, but this alone is different from the alone I’m very familiar with, the one that distorts her features into a mask of bitterness, the one in which she’s counting up her grievances and disappointments. This alone is soft not bitter, full of interest, not a trace of self-pity in it. Now when her eyes narrow it is to take in more clearly what she knows, concentrate on what she has lived. She shakes herself as though from a penetrating dream.
“People have a right to their lives.” (Page 61)
“And I’m willing, I’m willing. When I see the furious self-pity vanish from her face I allow my own to evaporate. If in the middle of provocative exchange she says, “Well, that’s the mother you got, it would have been better with another one, too damned bad this is the one you got,” and I nod, “You can say that again,” we both start laughing at the same time. Neither one of us, it seems, wishes to remain belligerent one sentence longer than the other. We are, I think, equally amazed that we have lived long enough to be responsive for whole minutes at a time simply to being in the world together rather than concentrating on what each of us is or is not getting from each other. ” (Page 199)
Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments, (NY: Touchstone Press, 1987)
Anais Nin, Cities of the Interior (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1974).
Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton (NY: Random House, 2016).
Charles S. Anderson, Old Advertising Cuts from A-Z (Niles, MI: French Paper Company, 1989).
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (San Diego: Canterbury Classics, 2014).
And one more book on Bonsai, my next hobby.
A good answer is worth reinventing from scratch, again and again.
“Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.”
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (New York: Modern Library, 2000), 305.
From “For my brothers and sisters in the failure business”
still… a perfect description/metaphor:
This child’s presence called up both in Vronsky and Anna a feeling akin to the feeling of a sailor who sees by the compass that the direction in which is he swiftly moving is far from the right one, but that to arrest his motion is not in his power, that every instant is carrying him further and further away, and that to admit to himself his deviation from the right direction is the same as admitting his certain ruin.
p.213 in the Modern Library Edition
From Anna Karenina, Levin talking:
“This is how I used to shudder and blush, thinking myself utterly lost, when I got a one in physics and did not get promoted; and how I thought myself utterly ruined after I had mismanaged that affair of my sister’s that was entrusted to me. And yet, now that years have passed, I recall it and wonder that it could distress me so much. It will be the same thing, too, with this trouble. Time will go by and I shall not mind about this either. ”
“In youth we are not so much embarrassed by the reality of our situation as fearful others might discover and judge it.”
“Otherwise how do we survive that forty miles of bad terrain during adolescence that we crossed without any truthful awareness of ourselves?”
“We are foolish as teenagers. We say wrong things, do not know how to be modest, or less shy. We judge easily. But the only hope given us, although only in retrospect, is that we change. We learn. We evolve. What I am now was formed by whatever happened to me then, not by what I have achieved, but by how I got here. But who did I hurt to get here? Who guided me to something better? Or accepted the few small things I was competent at? Who taught me to laugh as I lied? …But above all, most of all, how much damage did I do?
Sorry — terrible new habit of taking pictures of pages without including the page number.
Ondaatje, Michael. Warlight. New York: Vintage Books, 2019.