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Beautiful Ruins Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
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“Sometimes what we want to do and what we must do are not the same. Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“A writer needs four things to achieve greatness, Pasquale: desire, disappointment, and the sea.”
“That’s only three.”
Alvis finished his wine. “You have to do disappointment twice.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“His life was two lives now: the life he would have and the life he would forever wonder about.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“I think so, too. I know I felt that way. For years. It was as if I was a character in a movie and the real action was about to start at any minute. But I think some people wait forever, and only at the end of their lives do they realize that their life has happened while they were waiting for it to start.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“And even if they don't find what they're looking for, isn't it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character-what we believe-none of it is real; it's all part of the story we tell. But here's the thing: it's our goddamned story!
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“What kind of wife would I be if I left your father simply because he was dead?”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“Then she smiled, and in that instant, if such a thing were possible, Pasquale fell in love, and he would remain in love for the rest of his life--not so much with the woman, whom he didn't even know, but with the moment.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“But I think some people wait forever, and only at the end of their lives do they realize that their life has happened while they were waiting for it to start.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“He thought it might be the most intimate thing possible, to fall asleep next to someone in the afternoon.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“Life, he thought, is a blatant act of imagination.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“No one gets to tell you what your life means!”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“But aren't all great quests folly? El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth and the search for intelligent life in the cosmos-- we know what's out there. It's what isn't that truly compels us. Technology may have shrunk the epic journey to a couple of short car rides and regional jet lags-- four states and twelve hundred miles traversed in an afternoon-- but true quests aren't measured in time or distance anyway, so much as in hope. There are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant-- sail for Asia and stumble on America-- and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“...the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“Some memories remain close; you can shut your eyes and find yourself back in them. But there are second-person memories, too, distant you memories, and these are trickier: you watch yourself in disbelief.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“And because he felt like he might burst open and because he lacked the dexterity in English to say all that he was thinking--how in his estimation, the more you lived the more regret and longing you suffered, that life was a glorious catastrophe--Pasquale Tursi said, only, "Yes.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
tags: life
“What business does memory have with time?”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“He wished he could reassure his mother: a man wants many things in life, but when one of them is also the right thing, he would be a fool not to choose it.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“Stories are bulls. Writers come of age full of vigor, and they feel the need to drive the old stories from the herd. One bull rules the herd awhile but then he loses his vigor and the young bulls take over.

Stories are nations, empires. They can last as long as ancient Rome or as short as the Third Reich. Story-nations rise and decline. Governments change, trends rise, and they go on conquering their neighbors.

Stories are people. I'm a story, you're a story . . . your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we're lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we're less alone.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“He found himself in habiting the vast, empty plateau where most people live, between boredom and contentment.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“At peace? Who but the insane would ever be at peace? What person who has enjoyed life could possibly think one is enough? Who could live even a day and not feel the sweet ache of regret?”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“All we have is the story we tell.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“Words and emotions are simple currencies. If we inflate them, they lose their value, just like money. They begin to mean nothing. Use 'beautiful' to describe a sandwich and the word means nothing. Since the war, there is no more room for inflated language. Words and feelings are small now - clear and precise. Humble like dreams.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“Weren’t movies his generation’s faith anyway- its true religion? Wasn’t the theatre our temple, the one place we enter separately but emerge from two hours later together, with the same experience, same guided emotions, same moral? A million schools taught ten million curricula, a million churches featured ten thousand sects with a billion sermons- but the same movie showed in every mall in the country. And we all saw it. That summer, the one you’ll never forget, every movie house beamed the same set of thematic and narrative images…flickering pictures stitched in our minds that replaced our own memories, archetypal stories that become our shared history, that taught us what to expect from life, that defined our values. What was that but a religion?”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“This is a love story,” Michael Dean says, ”but really what isn’t? Doesn’t the detective love the mystery or the chase, or the nosey female reporter who is even now being held against her wishes at an empty warehouse on the waterfront? Surely, the serial murder loves his victims, and the spy loves his gadgets, or his country or the exotic counterspy. The ice-trucker is torn between his love for ice and truck and the competing chefs go crazy for scallops, and the pawnshop guys adore their junk. Just as the housewives live for catching glimpses of their own botoxed brows in gilded hall mirrors and the rocked out dude on ‘roids totally wants to shred the ass of the tramp-tatted girl on hookbook. Because this is reality, they are all in love, madly, truly, with the body-mic clipped to their back-buckle and the producer casually suggesting, “Just one more angle.”, “One more jello shot.”.

And the robot loves his master. Alien loves his saucer. Superman loves Lois. Lex and Lana. Luke loves Leia, til he finds out she’s his sister. And the exorcist loves the demon, even as he leaps out the window with it, in full soulful embrace. As Leo loves Kate, and they both love the sinking ship. And the shark, god the shark, loves to eat. Which is what the Mafioso loves too, eating and money and Pauly and Omertà. The way the cowboy loves his horse, loves the corseted girl behind the piano bar and sometimes loves the other cowboy. As the vampire loves night and neck. And the zombie, don’t even start with the zombie, sentimental fool, has anyone ever been more love-sick than a zombie, that pale dull metaphor for love, all animal craving and lurching, outstretched arms. His very existence a sonnet about how much he wants those brains. This, too is a love story.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“There are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant — sail for Asia and stumble on America — and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“There would seem to be nothing more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment. And yet it eludes us completely. All the sadness of life lies in that fact. —Milan Kundera”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“He considered it a shame when people couldn't grasp the infinite-a failure not just of imagination but of simple vision.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
“Be confident and the world responds to your confidence, rewards your faith.”
Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins

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