Station Eleven
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Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.
Emily Mandel
When I wrote this passage, I wanted was for readers to be, like, “Wait, WHAT?” and then hopefully find themselves unable to put the book down. I have no formal training as a writer, which is another way of saying that I learned everything I know about writing by reading other peoples’ books. For me, one of the most important books in this regard has been Dan Chaon’s 2011 novel Await Your Reply. It opens with a young man being driven to the hospital, his severed hand in a cooler full of ice. (I know!) Something I took away from that is how effective it can be to insert a horrible detail that raises enormous questions into an early chapter of a book: a severed hand, say, or the casual declaration that everyone in the room will be dead in three weeks.
Jenna M
Jenna M
This line did exactly that for me. I loved the suspense and not knowing. This is the most memorable like from the book.
Erin
Erin
You definitely succeeded with me! I could not put it down after that initial hook.
Kelley Minehan
Kelley Minehan
So now I need to go read "Await Your Reply".
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This was during the final month of the era when it was possible to press a series of buttons on a telephone and speak with someone on the far side of the earth.
Emily Mandel
It’s kind of incredible that we can do this, isn’t it? It’s something we should probably be more grateful for than we are, because it’s a shockingly fragile system. I was in New York City for a blackout in 2003. The freakiest part wasn’t that the lights were out, although that was obviously unnerving; it was that our cellphones immediately stopped working. We’re just not used to being disconnected anymore.
Joan Chadwick
Joan Chadwick
I'm always blown away by how we can text or phone using wifi to somewhere across the world and it seems like we are together in the same place. Of course all this changes if the power goes out!
Judi Mack
Judi Mack
We also take for granted a phenomenon identified by researchers as a sense of the presence of others that occurs through texting. When it comes to feelings of closeness with family and friends, it's…
Stacey
Stacey
When I read CB Brown's Wieland I was struck by this. The suspensful moment when Clara walks to her brother's house at dusk, to get to the bottom of what's going on, and sees the single candle in the…
18%
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All three caravans of the Traveling Symphony are labeled as such, THE TRAVELING SYMPHONY lettered in white on both sides, but the lead caravan carries an additional line of text: Because survival is insufficient.
Emily Mandel
“Survival is insufficient” is a line that I heard twenty years ago in an episode of Star Trek, and it stayed with me forever. It just struck me as an elegant expression of something that I believe to be true. You don’t have to look to a fictional future to find that phenomenon—as a species, we do things like put on plays in war zones and play musical instruments in refugee camps. You could look at such activities as a waste of time and resources in desperate times, or you could look at it as the thing we do that reminds us that we’re human.
Carmen and 852 other people liked this
Rachel
Rachel
This line has been so important to me that I've considered having it tattooed. And I don't have any tattoos.
Trisha Cronin
Trisha Cronin
I do have this tattooed, because of this book. I did also go back and watch the Star Trek episode.
Whitney
Whitney
<3<3<3<3<3
26%
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They are always waiting, the people of the Undersea. They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.
Emily Mandel
Here’s a story about interpretation: my final events of the Station Eleven tour were at a festival held on the outskirts of a small city in the southern United States. I’d been on tour for most of the previous fourteen months and I was seven months pregnant, which is another way of saying that I was tired. One of my events at that festival was an onstage conversation with a professor. In a conversation about the role of Shakespeare in Station Eleven, he said, “And of course, there are those allusions to The Tempest: all that stuff about shipping and the ocean, and that character named Miranda.” I don’t mean to overstate it, but it kind of felt like a moment of truth: it would have been extremely easy, especially in a haze of exhaustion, to say “Why yes, I’m so glad you noticed those absolutely intentional allusions to The Tempest!” but the truth was that I just really like the name Miranda and I’m interested in the shipping industry and The Tempest was the last thing on my mind when I was writing those scenes. I admitted that. The professor struggled to hide his irritation. So it goes with the Undersea: I’m often asked about the deep hidden metaphorical meaning of the Undersea, and but the truth is, there isn’t any. I just thought it was an interesting story element for a fictional comic book. That being said, I’ve certainly known people who, it seemed to me, were waiting for their lives to begin, and there’s something kind of tragic in that.
Betty and 425 other people liked this
J.
J.
That line about the Undersea resonated so strongly with me that I had to simply put the book down at this point and simply contemplate all the waiting Undersea people I instantly made up in my mind:…
Ursa
Ursa
I love that story! I believe that if you can find meaning in something in a book, it doesn't matter if the author intended it.
Martha
Martha
And isn’t it the essential beauty of writing and reading that the reader connects through their own filter of the world and their knowledge base and emotional being? That is why reading and writing…
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“No one ever thinks they’re awful, even people who really actually are. It’s some sort of survival mechanism.”
Emily Mandel
It’s true, right? I’ve met a lot of awful people, because I’ve been on Twitter since 2008, and I am 100% convinced that none of them think they’re awful.
Cynthia and 529 other people liked this
Marianne
Marianne
Very true. "We are all the heroes in our own stories"
Sylvie
Sylvie
I would even add that the people who actually do think they are awful because they have no self worth or confidence are actually better people than most but they can’t see it
Joe Hoover
Joe Hoover
Awful people vs. Awful actions. Even nice people do awful things that they think are good. AKA: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
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Hell is the absence of the people you long for.
Emily Mandel
Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous line is “Hell is other people,” and of course he’s absolutely right, but I think this is the obvious flipside of his formulation. I spoke with a reader recently who gave me a vivid example of this particular kind of hell, at an event I did at a women’s prison camp in Illinois. On the surface, the place didn’t seem that bad to me, especially since I’d just done an event at the adjacent men’s medium security facility. Whereas medium security prisons have razorwire, guard towers, and an atmosphere of leaden sadness, in prison camps there are no walls—the idea is that you’re unlikely to run away if being caught means an immediate transfer to a higher-security facility—and this particular one had a lot of pleasant green lawns with trees. Women were reading in the library and walking on the lawn. But in the Q&A, a young woman started talking about that line, “hell is the absence of the people you long for,” and I realized that the true punishment here was separation from loved ones. “I have kids,” she said, “a lot of us have kids, and being away from them, it’s hell.”
Richard
Richard
Combine this with your previous highlight. If hell is *other* people, and we are the "other" to some, then by definition we are hell to some. But from our own perspective, it's always other people,…
Marlene Pechura
Marlene Pechura
I truly believe that without having been imprisoned yet at this stage in my life that I have experienced both kinds of hell for brief moments: other people as well as the absence of ...
B. Walborn
B. Walborn
This is possibly my favorite line in the novel and yet there are so many to choose from. You state these lines so matter of factly that some read like a revelatory punch to the gut. There is a beauty…
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“I’m talking about these people who’ve ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed. Do you know what I mean? They’ve done what’s expected of them. They want to do something different but it’s impossible now, there’s a mortgage, kids, whatever, they’re trapped.
Emily Mandel
I see this all the time and I don’t know what to say about it except that it can happen to anyone.
Val Heed
Val Heed
so true. This is where we need our loved ones by our side
Ladz
Ladz
Unfortunately very true. I'm smiling sadly because I recently watched the 2011 film Take Me Home Tonight, and this is so on point. I guess once in a while, you'll need "the ball" to save you from the…
Carole
Carole
You make one decision. For me it was to build my family through foster care adoption. And from that moment all my dreams were toast because I had no idea I would be still parenting them full time in…
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First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.
Emily Mandel
I think dissatisfaction is probably embedded in human nature, which is why it’s so rare and wonderful to encounter someone who has “enough,” i.e., someone who truly doesn’t seem to long for more than they already have.
Blue and 303 other people liked this
Karen
Karen
No, it's not, @June Bower, but being content is also an achievement.
Charles
Charles
Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Lauren Tompkins
Lauren Tompkins
Interesting explanation and I wonder if this dissatisfaction is largely influenced by the society in which one lives, on a larger scale but also down to the community level. For me, this passage…
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She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.
Emily Mandel
It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it? You can go for months without seeing or talking to someone you care about, but when they leave the world, the world seems different.
Jodi
Jodi
My mom and my brother both died in 2019--the first anniversary of my mom's death is coming up soon. Oh, I feel this down to my bones.
Janet
Janet
Loosing friends... only 50s and suddenly to weird health conditions makes me so reflective. I’m in my 60s and despite all by believes and experiences still wonder why.
Wendy
Wendy
Beautifully expressed.
91%
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“We should go, Charlie,” she’d said. “We’re a mile from the road.” But Charlie gave no sign of having heard her. “Come on,” Kirsten had said, “we can take it with us,” gesturing to the tea set, which had been set up with improbable precision on a miniature table. Charlie still said nothing. She was staring at the tea set as if in a trance. August called their names from downstairs, and all at once Kirsten had the impression that someone was watching them from a corner of the room, but except for Kirsten and Charlie, the room was empty. Most of the furniture in the nursery was gone, nothing ...more
Emily Mandel
When I do events for Station Eleven, this is the passage that I get the most questions about. I understand why it comes up so often. It’s kind of out of step with the rest of the book, isn’t it? You’re reading a post-apocalyptic novel, and then all of a sudden there’s this weird little ghost story in the final stretch. I have several answers for why this passage is here, but the most relevant one, I think, is that I just really wanted to write a ghost story. I’ve always loved ghost stories and seek them out whenever possible, which sometimes backfires on me. (Pro tip: you don’t really want to read the creepypasta Reddit when you’re alone in a hotel room at night.) In my new novel, The Glass Hotel, there are so many ghosts that one of my questions for my agent, when I sent her an early draft a year or two ago, was “Are there too many ghosts?” She said no, so I kept them all in.
Jenn
Jenn
Have you ever read through No Sleep on Reddit? Those are great stories too. Also not to be read alone at night!
Silvia
Silvia
It adds to the eerieness of the whole experience. The world practically died. Survival means raiding the houses of dead people. There's a lot to be eerie about the whole situation, and I think that…
Stacey
Stacey
There is an amazing movie called Haunted (1995, Aidan Quinn, Kate Beckinsale, Sir John Gielgud) you will not regret having made the effort to get your hands on. A seriously creepy story, brilliantly…
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He found he was a man who repented almost everything, regrets crowding in around him like moths to a light. This was actually the main difference between twenty-one and fifty-one, he decided, the sheer volume of regret.
Emily Mandel
I don’t know about you, but I wake up every day with the goal of not accumulating any additional regrets. Emily St. John Mandel's next book THE GLASS HOTEL releases February 15, 2020. See more details on Goodreads and click the Follow Author button above to get updates: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36192160-the-glass-hotel.
Ben and 334 other people liked this
cameron
cameron
Sometimes I’m sad
Tonse so much explained by a writer. I was so interested in the book and will certainly get your next one but maybe not read so much talk.
Rachel
Rachel
Thank you for these little notes and extra details. I loved Station Eleven and I'm eager to read the new book as well.
Judi Mack
Judi Mack
Loved the final note and comment! Over time, there is certainly a bigger base of life experience to look back on and a greater. realization of how actions (and inactions) have actually shaped one's…