p. xi "The true Vienna lover lives on borrowed memories. With a bittersweet pang of nostalgia he remembers things he never knew. The Vienna that is, is...morep. xi "The true Vienna lover lives on borrowed memories. With a bittersweet pang of nostalgia he remembers things he never knew. The Vienna that is, is as nice a town as ever there was. But the Vienna that never was is the grandest city ever." Orson Welles, Vienna (1968)
p.xx "...the graceful slope of Arabic, leaning to the left, imposed on the rigidity of Latin, standing straight."
" 'Your first discovery when you travel,' wrote Elizabeth Harwick, 'is that you do not exist.' In other words, it is not just the others who have been left behind; it is all of you that is known. Gone is the power or punishment of your family name, the hard-earned reputations of forebears, no longer familiar to anyone, not in this new place. Gone are those who understand how you became yourself. Gone are the reasons lurking in the past that might excuse your mistakes. Gone is everything beyond your name on the day of your arrival, and even that may ultimately be surrendered."
p.23 "...he tosses sleeplessly most nights, enraging and then reenraging himself as he sorts through his pile of grudges, imagined slights, and never-ending quarrels. They are what he has to prove his life is going on. He lives in a ghost town that survives mainly in memory, but to him it is the world."
p.26 "To be born in these parts is not only to know loss and rumination, but also to savor the endless pleasures of discord. It is to feel, and often feign, useful rage. Anger diverts attention; as a ruse it can blur the facts of a losing argument or disguise one's true motives. Theater, at the negotiating table or during a midmorning's market dustup, is part of the action. Family battles here are freighted."(less)
from Sara Lash easy to keep reading, but not satisfying mostly interesting for the detail about glass-blowing history & culture in Venice over the c...morefrom Sara Lash easy to keep reading, but not satisfying mostly interesting for the detail about glass-blowing history & culture in Venice over the centuries (less)
p.59 It was then that Bobby stepped out of the back room, wiping his hands on an apron. Bobby was nineteen, as fair and beautifully proportioned as an...morep.59 It was then that Bobby stepped out of the back room, wiping his hands on an apron. Bobby was nineteen, as fair and beautifully proportioned as an archangel, but with an IQ so low it prevented him from unfurling his wings. He had trouble with simple sums and he couldn't read the newspaper or punch the cash register.(less)
p.224 "Brenda was right, of course; people of color were very much in style now, and as Ethel said, at the slow rate whites (particularly Presbyterians...morep.224 "Brenda was right, of course; people of color were very much in style now, and as Ethel said, at the slow rate whites (particularly Presbyterians) were reproducing, she wouldn't be surprised if in fifty years, they would be the new minority. If that were to happen, Maggie wondered if there would be a White History Month on A&E to celebrate all the old customs and featuring native dishes like tomato aspic, chocolate mousse, and dinner rolls. She hoped they would get their own month, or at least a week."(less)
Belgian author visits Syrian friend of same age in Damascus. Contrast in lives. Syrian politics in 1996 (still Hafez al-Assad) who, having backed the...moreBelgian author visits Syrian friend of same age in Damascus. Contrast in lives. Syrian politics in 1996 (still Hafez al-Assad) who, having backed the US in Iraq war is angling for Western support.(less)
p.146-148 "Upon the desk, I have declared a silent war. It is, after all, a specific piece of furniture with particular properties. While many whole ca...morep.146-148 "Upon the desk, I have declared a silent war. It is, after all, a specific piece of furniture with particular properties. While many whole categories of furniture may be man's serviceable instruments, his slaves, in the case of the desk a contrary relationship obtains: man is its instrument, its slave. Many thinkers worry over the progressive bureaucratization of the world and the social threat of its terror. Yet they forget that these very bureaucrats are themselves terrorized, and that they are terrorized by their desks. Once plunked down behind one, a man will never learn to tear himself free. The loss of his desk will strike him as a natural disaster, a catastrophe, a fall into the abyss. Notice how many people commit suicide at their desks, how many are carried straight from their desks to psychiatric hospitals, how many suffer their heart attacks behind desks. Whoever sits down behind a desk begins to think differently; his vision of the work and his hierarchy of values change. From then on he will divide humanity into those who have desks and those who do not, and into significant owners of the desks and insignificant ones. He will now see his life as a frenzied progress from a small desk to a larger one, from a low desk to a higher one, from a narrow desk to a wider desk. Once ensconced behind a desk he masters a distinct language and knows things--even if yesterday, deskless, he knew nothing. I have lost many friends for reasons of desks. Once they were truly close friends. I cannot say what demon it is that slumbers in a man and makes him talk differently once he's set behind a desk. Our symmetrical, brotherly relations fall apart; there arises a troublesome and asymmetrical division into higher and lower, a pecking order that makes us both feel uncomfortable, and there is now way to reverse the process. I can tell that the desk already has him in its clutches, in a full nelson. After a few experiments I give up and quit calling. Both of us, I think, accept the outcome with relief. From then on I have known that whenever one of my friends starts achieving ever more showy desks, he is lost to me. I avoid him to spare myself the lurch that marks every transition from symmetry to asymmetry in human relationships. Sometimes a man will get up from behind his desk to walk down and talk with you at the other end of his office, in a couple of armchairs or at a round table. Such a person knows what desks are and knows that a chat between people divided by one is like a discussion between a sergeant perched in the turret of a tank and a raw frightened recruit standing at attention and looking right into the barrel of the big gun.
"So even if the desk my editor had placed me behind had an inlaid mother-of-pearl top, I had to get out. The desk after all, has one more dangerous property: it can serve as an instrument of self-justification. I sense this in moments of crisis, when I can't get anything down on paper. Then a thought pushes into my mind: Hide behind the desk. I'm not writing because I've got something important to think about. What's writing? Writing doesn't mean anything. We are absolved; the desk makes up for everything: it compensates."
pp.150-152 "Every one of these apartments was carefully filled to the ceiling with an inventory of this junk, kneaded together, jammed into a vortex of knick-knacks and fiddle-faddle of which the ladies would say the most insignificant bauble was touching, beautiful and priceless." "In reality, however, the residences of these old ladies were simply a pathological and kitschy manifestation of Latin America--that is, the universal prevalence of the baroque: baroque no only as a style of aesthetics and thought, but also as a general commitment to excess and eclecticism. There is a lot of everything here and everyhting is exaggerated; everything wants to impose itself, shock, knock the beholder sideways. It is as if we had poor vision, weak hearing and an imperfect sense of smell; as if we would simply be incapable of noticing anything that presented itself in a moderate or modest form... An excess of wealth and an excess of poverty. Gestures full of pathos and a flowery language with a multitude of adjectives.... This is not a world you can walk through with a calm head and an indifferent heart. You force your way through with difficulty, powerless and feeling as lost as when you look at a Diego Rivera fresco or read the prose of Lezama Lima. Fact is mixed with fantasy here, truth with myth, realism with rhetoric."(less)
p.219 "Every country has its myths, and one that successful Indians liked to indulge was a romance of instability and adaptation--the idea that their c...morep.219 "Every country has its myths, and one that successful Indians liked to indulge was a romance of instability and adaptation--the idea that their country's rapid rise derived in part from the chaotic unpredictability of daily life. In America and Europe, it was said, people know what is going to happen when they turn on the water tap or flick the light switch. In India, a land of few safe assumptions, chronic uncertainty was said to have helped produce a nation of quick-witted, creative problem-solvers. "Among the poor, there was no doubt that instability fostered ingenuity, but over time the lack of a link between effort and result could become debilitating. "We try so many things," as one Annawadi girl put it, "but the world doesn't move in our favor.""
p.253 "The effect of corruption I find most underacknowledged is a contraction not of economic possibility but of our moral universe. In my reporting, I am continually struck by the ethical imaginations of young people, even those in circumstances so desperate that selfishness would be an asset. Children have little power to act on those imaginations, and by the time they grow up, they may have become the adults who keep walking as a bleeding waste-picker slowly dies on the roadside, who turn away when a burned woman writhes, whose first reaction when a vibrant teenager drinks rat poison is a shrug. How does that happen? How--to use Abdul's formulation--do children intent on being ice become water? ... What appeared to be indifference to other people's suffering had little to do with reincarnation, and less to do with being born brutish. I believe it had a good deal to do with conditions that had sabotaged their innate capacity for moral action. In places where government priorities and market imperatives create a world so capricious that to help a neighbor is to risk your ability to feed your family, and sometimes even your own liberty, the idea of the mutually supportive poor community is demolished. ... If the house is crooked and crumbling, and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?"(less)
p.102 "...the most beautiful city on earth, just as it is the most serene. Not only is the weather and everything around us serene, but we ourselves be...morep.102 "...the most beautiful city on earth, just as it is the most serene. Not only is the weather and everything around us serene, but we ourselves become serene. Serenity is the feeling of being one with the world, of having nothing to wish for, of lacking for nothing. Of being, as almost never happens elsewhere, entirely in the present."
p.168 "He (his son) liked rituals. I liked rehearsing. Rituals are when we wish to repeat what has already happened, rehearsals when we repeat what we fear might yet occur. Maybe the two are one and the same, our way to parley and haggle with time."
p.174 "Rue Delta" concerns their last night in Alexandria: the first seder of Passover, the family gathered, and then the two published versions of his non-"last walk" on the Corniche. One with his brother, one without. And how his brother was merged into the memoir. (less)
p.46 "The act of recognizing the world's multiculturalism is of course progress, because it creates a climate conducive to the advance of cultures that...morep.46 "The act of recognizing the world's multiculturalism is of course progress, because it creates a climate conducive to the advance of cultures that yesterday were still wronged and humiliated, but this progress conceals two threats: firstly, the enormous energy and ambition of newly liberated cultures can be exploited by nationalists and racists to encourage war against Others; secondly, the rallying cry to develop one's own culture can be exploited to kindle ethnocentrism, xenophobia and enmity towards Others. Within the theory of independently developing cultures, in recognising their right to an inviolable identity -- as the principle of multiculturalism is often interpreted -- there may be a latent desire for separation, a denial of the need for and benefit of exchange, there may be arrogance and loathing for Others."
pp.58-59 "We (Europeans) treat the Other above all as a stranger (yet the Other does not have to mean a stranger), as the representative of a separate species, but the most crucial point is that we treat him as a threat." "Does modern literature help to break down these prejudices, our ignorance or our plain indifference? Once again, I don't think it does much. I looked through the French literary awards for the past year, and did not find a single book with something to say about the widely understood modern world. There were love triangles..."
p.82 "And so the three possibilities I have mentioned have always stood before man whenever he has encountered an Other: he could choose war, he could fence himself in behind a wall, or he could start up a dialogue.... It is hard to justify wars; I think everyone loses them, because it is a defeat for the human being. It exposes his inability to come to terms, to empathise with the Other, to be kind and reasonable..." (less)
p6 in Author's Note: Since writing Love Medicine, I have understood that I am writing one long book in which the main chapters are also books titled Tr...morep6 in Author's Note: Since writing Love Medicine, I have understood that I am writing one long book in which the main chapters are also books titled Tracks Four Souls The Bingo Palace The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and The Painted Drum.
p.19 ...while Grandpa's mind had left us, gone wary and wild... His thoughts swam between us, hidden under rocks, disappearing in weeds, and I was fishing for them, dangling my own words like baits and lures.... Elusive, pregnant with history, his thoughts finned off and vanished. The same color as water.
p.121 These offers were for candy, sweet candy between the bedcovers. There was girls like new taffy, hardened sourballs of married ladies, rich marshmallow widows, and even a man, rock salt and barley sugar in a jungle of weeds.(less)
p.68 ...the eventual sustained state of forgiveness that's required in a marriage when each spouse proves to be not quite what the other...morealmost tedious
p.68 ...the eventual sustained state of forgiveness that's required in a marriage when each spouse proves to be not quite what the other expected. Agnes didn't have the desire to regain the emotional flexibility essential in a marriage. p.77 ...she mistakenly believed that her children would remember serenity and competence as clearly, and for as long a time, as they would remember injustice or grief.
from "A Conversation with the author..." p.3 Because as soon as I buy it, as soon as I read it, it's out of the author's hands altogether, and my interpretation becomes that book's existence.(less)