It was reassuring when I was living alone to have all those familiar presences in the room with me; it was also a little scary. Maybe I was turning inIt was reassuring when I was living alone to have all those familiar presences in the room with me; it was also a little scary. Maybe I was turning into an eccentric whose apartment had become a macrocosmic metaphor for her own fevered mind. I know a fair number of people - some friends or acquaintance, some relatives - who would have wrinkled their noses at those cramped apartments smelling of paper. These people - let's call them the Bounderbys - see books only as commodities. (A refresher: Mr. Bounderby is the "eyes on the bottom line" business whom Dickens lampoons in Hard Times. One advantage of a grad-school degree in English is that you can insult people more elegantly.) "I like bigger books because you get more for your money," a Bounderby one half jokingly confided in me. "I read 'em and I toss 'em," another Bounderby announced when I was visiting her book-free home. Books just don't register with this crowd. They think I lack common sense; I think they lack a part of their souls.
Anne and Emily certainly captured the call of the wild and lonely in their novels, but Charlotte was the sister who ventured the deepest in exploring the terrors of utter isolation. I'm not talking about just the physical experience of being all by your lonesome; no, Charlotte Bronte shoves her readers into the dark prison of the self and throws away the key.
…I do think Austen and her sisters envisioned something much more ambitious in their novels than a bit of literary beefcake served up with a side of clever repartee. These romances continue to captivate readers because they throw together adult men and women with complicated pasts who have to painstakingly work out the terms of their relationships before they achieve wedded harmony. That's the realistic, strikingly contemporary angle to these romances; the fairy-tale aspect enters in when these mostly plain-to-pleasant-looking poor girls win the alpha males by dazzling them with their smarts....more
The stewardess serves a meal and passes out magazines. The plan lans in Japan and takes on fuel. Then you fly straight on to Seattle. What kind of warThe stewardess serves a meal and passes out magazines. The plan lans in Japan and takes on fuel. Then you fly straight on to Seattle. What kind of war is it that begins and ends this way, with a pretty girl, cushioned seats and magazines? You add things up. You lost a friend to the war, and you gained a friend. You compromised one principle and fulfilled another. You learned, as old men tell it in front of the courthouse, that was is not all bad; it may not make a man of you, but it teaches you that man hood is not something to scoff; some stories of valor are true; dead bodies are heavy, and it's better not to touch them; fear is paralysis, but it is better to be afraid than to move out to die, all limbs functioning and heart thumping and charging and having your chest torn open for all the work; you have to pick the times not to be afraid, but when you are afraid, you must hide it to save respect and reputation. You learned that the old men had lives of their own and that they valued them enough top try not to lose them; anyone can die in a war if he tries. 208
Even forgetting the captain, looking at myself and the days I writhed insensible under bullets and the other days when I did okay, somehow shooting back or talking coherently into the radio or simply watching without embarrassment how the fighting went, some of the futility and stupidity disappeared. The idea is manliness, crudely idealized. You liken dead friends to the pure vision of the eternal soldier. You liken living friends to the mass of dusty troops who have swarmed the world forever. And you try to find a hero. 146 ...more
"The taxi has its checkered lore, the subway its legend, and the Town Car a certain Michael Douglas in Wall Street icon quality; but if there is a mem"The taxi has its checkered lore, the subway its legend, and the Town Car a certain Michael Douglas in Wall Street icon quality; but if there is a memorable bus scene in literature, or an unforgettable moment in a movie that takes place on a New York City bus, I have not found it. it isn't that buses are intrinsically inimical to symbolism: The London bus has a poetry as rich as the Tube's - there is Mary Poppins, there is Mrs. Dalloway. In Paris, Pascal rides the bus, Zazie dreams of riding the Metro, and that is, evenly, that. In L.A., Keanu Reeves rides the bus, round and round in desperate Dennis Hopper-driven circles. But as a symbolic repository, the New Yo4rk City bus does not exist. The only significant symbolic figure that the new York bus has had is Ralph Kramden, and what he symbolizes about the bus is being stuck in one is more form of comic frustration and disappointment; the bus is exactly the kind of institution that would have Ralph Kramden as its significant symbolic figure."...more