It was entirely a coincidence that I read this entire book on the same day of the year on which the book itself ends -- Norway's Independence Day. ItIt was entirely a coincidence that I read this entire book on the same day of the year on which the book itself ends -- Norway's Independence Day. It was great....more
"You think the world only begins to exist when you start writing. You, a man who doesn't want to write -- for I assume that someone who hasn't written"You think the world only begins to exist when you start writing. You, a man who doesn't want to write -- for I assume that someone who hasn't written for so long doesn't really want to write -- you believe in this much more than I do. For if the world only begins to exist when you write, you really mean that you only begin to exist when you write. And that means ... that you keep having to decide over and over again whether you want to exist or not. It is not the reality of your characters that you doubt, but your own. If you can invent someone, someone may have invented you."...more
“‘You know, eating’s much more important than most people think. There comes a time in your life when you’ve just got to have something super-deliciou“‘You know, eating’s much more important than most people think. There comes a time in your life when you’ve just got to have something super-delicious. And when you’re standing at that crossroads your whole life can change, depending on which one you go into — the good restaurant or the awful one. It’s like — do you fall on this side of the fence, or the other side.” (From “Crabs”)...more
“The death of a concierge leaves a slight indentation on everyday life, belongs to a biological certainty that has nothing tragic about it and, for th“The death of a concierge leaves a slight indentation on everyday life, belongs to a biological certainty that has nothing tragic about it and, for the apartment owners who encountered him every day in the stairs or at the door to our loge, Lucien was a non-entity who was merely returning to a nothingness from which he had never fully emerged, a creature who, because he had lived only half a life, with neither luxury or artifice, must at the moment of his death have felt no more than half a shudder of revolt.”...more
I picked this up because Maggie Nelson mentions it in Bluets and this was sitting right on the coffee table within reach when I finished the other booI picked this up because Maggie Nelson mentions it in Bluets and this was sitting right on the coffee table within reach when I finished the other book. I started off enjoying it but then it began to falter and by the end of it I was well sick of the story and the writing both. Jean Rhys deals with similar themes (socially unacceptable sex, colonies in the tropics, madness, etc.) much better in Wide Sargasso Sea and Voyage in the Dark, and Maidenhead is a contemporary Canadian take on the topic. Set up against those two this book doesn’t stand a chance.
"Her apartment was the huge top floor of a block overlooking the Seine. People went to dinner there in the winter. Or to lunch in the summer. The meals were ordered from the best caterers in Paris. Always passable, almost. But only just enough, skimpy. She was never seen anywhere else but at home, never out. Sometimes there was an expert on Mallarme there. And often one, two, or three literary people, they'd come once and never be seen again. I never found out where she got them from, where she met them, or why she invited them. I never heard anyone else refer to any one of them, and I never read or heard of their work. The meals didn't last very long. We talked a lot about the war .... Marie-Claude Carpenter used to listen a lot, ask a lot of questions, but didn't say much, often used to express surprise at how little she knew of what went on, then she'd laugh. Straightway after the meal she'd apologize for having to leave so soon, but she had things to do, she said. She never said what. When there were enough of us we'd stay on for an hour or two after she left. She used to say, Stay as long as you like. No one spoke about her when she wasn't there. I don't think anyone could have, because no one knew her. You always went home with the feeling of having experienced a sort of empty nightmare, of having spend a few hours as the guest of strangers with other guests who were strangers too, of having lived through a space of time without any consequences and without any cause, human or other. It was like having crossed a third frontier, having been on a train, having waited in doctors' waiting rooms, hotels, airports."...more
Charming and funny, but there is a subtle darkness and sadness underneath the surface. I read it exclusively on the beach (on Lake Huron and then LakeCharming and funny, but there is a subtle darkness and sadness underneath the surface. I read it exclusively on the beach (on Lake Huron and then Lake Erie) and the sunburn was worth it. Reminded me of Emily Carr's Klee Wyck, but with more appreciation for the child's perspective and imagination. I loved that Sophia is always shouting and screaming, so stubborn and selfish and single-minded, like a real kid.
"They went closer to the house and could feel how the island had changed. It was no longer wild. It had become lower, almost flat, and looked ordinary and embarrassed. The vegetation had not been disturbed; on the contrary, the owner had had broad catwalks built over the heather and the blueberry bushes. He had been very careful of the vegetation. The gray juniper bushes had not been cut down. But the island seemed flat all the same, because it should not have had a house. From up close, this way, the house was fairly low. On the elevations, it had probably been pretty. It would have been pretty anywhere, except here."
Sophia dictates a study about worms to her grandmother (brought to mind when a couple of days later I read about the young Alison Bechdel dictating her diary to her mother in Are You My Mother?). After a worm stretches itself out and breaks apart:
"Both halves fell down on the ground, and the person with the hook went away. They couldn't grow back together, because they were terribly upset, and then, of course, they didn't stop to think, either. And they knew that by and by the'd grow out again, both of them. I think they looked at each other, and thought they looked awful, and then crawled away from each other as fast as they could. Then they started to think. They realized that from now on life would be quite different, but they didn't know how, that is, in what way. ....
"Presumably, everything that happened to them after that only seemed like half as much, but this was also sort of a relief, and then, too, nothing they did was their fault any more, somehow. They just blamed each other. Or else they'd say that after a thing like that, you just weren't yourself any more. there is one thing that makes it more complicated, and that is that there is such a big difference between the front end and the back end. A worm never goes backwards, and so for that reason, it has its head only at one end. But if God made angleworms so they can come apart and then grow out again, why, there must be some sort of secret nerve that leads out in the back end so that later on it can think. Otherwise it couldn't get along by itself. But the back end has a very tiny brain. It can probably remember its other half, which went first and made all the decisions. And so now ... the back end says, 'Which way should I grow out? Should I go on following and never have to make any important decisions, or should I be the one who always knows best, until I come apart again? That would be exciting.' But maybe he's so used to being the tail that he just lets things go on the way they are."...more
He was certain that once, in his dream, he had discovered the gender of the presence. This discovery filled him with excitement as he
From "The City":
He was certain that once, in his dream, he had discovered the gender of the presence. This discovery filled him with excitement as he slept, but upon awakening the certainty disappeared. It didn’t fade, it vanished, overshadowed by diurnal reality. ... ‘The presence,’ he said, ‘could be a man. Nothing leads me to believe that it is a woman.’
‘Any sexual definition, my darling, strikes me as scandalous. We are the sex we were assigned; at best we accept it. Let’s hope that in our dreams, if nowhere else, that definition ceases to prevail.’
“It is as if I had spent one life with myself and one with him. You collect so many lives in the long run that they seem to sit on your shoulders and“It is as if I had spent one life with myself and one with him. You collect so many lives in the long run that they seem to sit on your shoulders and press down and stifle you until you start talking in order to get rid of them. But they stay nevertheless and slowly put their mark on you.”...more
“If one wanted to depict the whole thing graphically, every episode, with its climax, would require a three-dimensional model, perhaps four-dimensiona“If one wanted to depict the whole thing graphically, every episode, with its climax, would require a three-dimensional model, perhaps four-dimensional, or, rather, no model: every experience is unrepeatable. What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.”
“At times it seems to me that the distance between my writing and her reading is unbridgeable, that whatever I read bears a stamp of artifice and incongruity; if what I am writing were to appear on the polished surface of the page she is reading, it would rasp like a fingernail on a pane, and she would fling the book away with horror.”
“Between the book to be written and things that already exist there can be only a kind of complementary relationship: the book should be the written counterpart of the unwritten world; its subject should be what does not exist except when written, but whose absence is obscurely felt by that which exists, in its own incompleteness.”...more
“My hands are full of grace, I don’t know if I forgot to say that, like the [N?]ovember waves on the pond, because I know the names of the months, too“My hands are full of grace, I don’t know if I forgot to say that, like the [N?]ovember waves on the pond, because I know the names of the months, too, all my friends are words. I’m always surprised to note that once the first gust has passed I can be so indifferent to what might happen to men here below, it’s my nature.”...more
“Was everything possible and could anything be done, since it would one day irrevocably be cast aside? Even in heaven eternal bliss would be possible“Was everything possible and could anything be done, since it would one day irrevocably be cast aside? Even in heaven eternal bliss would be possible only by the grace of a criminal loss of memory. Should the blessed not be punished with hell for this? Everything had been wrecked for all eternity — not only here, but by thousands of earlier and later occasions, which no one remembered. Heaven was impossible; only hell might perhaps exist.”
“When I see your pitiful appearance, I have to think back to the dreadful time when I was still a bachelor. What a nightmare! In my mind’s eye I see a desolate landscape with a single bare tree in the biting wind, into the teeth of which a lonely, stooping pilgrim dressed in rags, with a long staff, is laboring on his way to his mournful end. And now look at me … I have just attained the highest state of human self-fulfillment: marriage!”...more
A (tiny) collection of translated Dutch short stories. Only one story really grabbed me; some were okay, others were ehhh. The quote following is theA (tiny) collection of translated Dutch short stories. Only one story really grabbed me; some were okay, others were ehhh. The quote following is the first paragraph of my favourite.
“As she switches off the alarm, can I hear it ringing in reverse? Once absorbed by the dreamer into his dream, even the briefest, most insignificant bedroom event appears complete with a history of its own, and so quickly that cause and effect seem to have changed places. Or was I just hearing the alarm ring the whole time? Sometimes the question only dawns on you a few minutes later.” — Nicolaas Matsier, “Indefinite Delay”...more
“You can’t keep it up forever, though. You’re going to burn out sooner or later. Everybody does. It’s the way people are made. In terms of evolutionar“You can’t keep it up forever, though. You’re going to burn out sooner or later. Everybody does. It’s the way people are made. In terms of evolutionary history, it was only yesterday that men learned to walk around on two legs and get in trouble thinking complicated thoughts. So don’t worry, you’ll burn out.”...more
“You know how they say that if you’re sitting around a bonfire on a hot summer night, telling one ghost story after another, something mysterious is b“You know how they say that if you’re sitting around a bonfire on a hot summer night, telling one ghost story after another, something mysterious is bound to happen once you’ve reached the one-hundredth. Well, last summer, that happened to me.”...more