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“In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.  They were sung.”

“All the way to the end. He had a smile that could make a girl squeeze her toes.”

 

“How do you take your coffee?

Dark as night, sweet as sin.”

 

“If there was any justice in the world, he would have moaned and sweated in his sleep, tortured by nightmares, the furies of his conscience lashing him with scorpions. Thus it pains me to admit that Grahame Coats slept like a well-fed milk-scented baby, and he dreamed of nothing at all.”

“Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their own song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with out voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their songs instead.”

“And that is, more or less, everything you need to know about Daisy. The rest is details.”

“He was uniformly irritable and short-tempered. On a good day he made it as far as tetchy.”

“There was reality, and there was reality, and some things were more real than others.”

“He said it aloud; it’s easier to lie to yourself when you say things out loud.”

“Fat Charlie tried to remember what people did in prison to pass the time, but all he could come up with was keeping secret diaries and hiding things in their bottoms. He had nothing to write on, and felt that a definite measure of how well one was getting on in life was not having to hide things in one’s bottom.”

“It’s easier to say true things in the dark.”

“Don’t say ‘sorry’ like that neither, like a dog that get tell off for messin’ on the kitchen floor. Hold your head up. Look the world in the eye.”

“It is a small world. You do not have to live in it particularly long to learn that for yourself. There is a theory that, in the whole world, there are only five hundred real people (the cast, as it all were; all the rest of the people in the world, the theory suggests, are extras) and what is more, they all know each other. And it’s true, or true as far as it goes. In reality the world is made of thousands upon thousands of groups of about five hundred people, all of whom will spend their lives bumping into each other, trying to avoid each other, and discovering each other in the same unlikely teashop in Vancouver. There is an unavoidability to this process. It’s not even coincidence. It’s just the way the world works, with no regard for individuals or for propriety.”

“People respond to the stories. They tell them themselves. The stories spread, and as people tell them, the stories change the tellers. Because now the folk who never had any thought in their head but how to run from lions and keep far enough away from rivers that the crocodiles don’t get an easy meal, now they’re starting to dream about a whole new place to live. The world may be the same, but the wallpaper’s changed.  Yes? People still have the same story, the one where they get born and they do stuff and they die, but now the story means something different to what it meant before.”

“Stories are webs, interconnected strand to strand, and you follow each story to the center, because the center is the end. Each person is a strand of story.”

“The thing they don’t tell you about coffins in the literature, because frankly it’s not much of a selling point to the people who are buying them, is just how comfortable they are.”

“Charlie has a son. His name is Marcus: he is four and a half and possesses that deep gravity and seriousness that only small children and mountain gorillas have ever been able to master.”

“I remembered that, and remembering that, I remembered everything.”

“I was sad that nobody had come to my party, but happy that I had a Batman figure, and there was a birthday present waiting to be read, a boxed set of the Narnia books, which I took upstairs.  I lay on the bed and lost myself in the stories.  I like that. Books were safer than other people anyway.”

“I do not remember ever asking any of the other children in my class at school why they had not come to my party. I did not need to ask them. They were not my friends, after all.  They were just the people I went to school with.  I made friends slowly, when I made them.”

“I was not happy as a child, although from time to time I was content. I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide word.”

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled.”

 

 

“..but that’s one of those questions I’ve learned not to ask, because I’ll just get that condescending look all parents reserve for non-parents, to remind you that you’re not yet a complete person”

“Alice helps Linda, because Alice is an in-law and technically not one of the bereaved. Barry doesn’t help, because Barry is technically an asshole.”

 

“He called Barry an ass.

‘I’m sorry,’ Phillip says, ‘It’s been a while. It’s entirely possible, though highly unlikely, that Barry is no longer an ass.”

 

“There’s nothing sweeter than a two-year-old speaking, with his high-pitched sincerity and his immigrant English.”

 

“Later on, Jen would swear that was the moment she knew she was going to marry me. That’s the problem with college kids. I blame Hollywood for skewing their perspective. Life is just a big romantic comedy to them, and if you meet cute, happily-ever-after is a foregone conclusion.”

“When does it all happen? In increments, so you can’t watch out for it, you can’t fix it. One day you just wake up and discover that you got old while you were sleeping.”

“I may not be old, but I’m too old to have this much nothing.”

“It would be a terrible mistake to go through life thinking that people are the sum total of what you see.”

 

“I have loved her for so long. Our past trails behind us like a comet’s tail, the future stretched out before us like the universe. Things happen. People get lost and love breaks. I want to forgive her, and I think I can, but it’s not like issuing a certificate. I’ll have to keep forgiving her until it takes, and knowing me and knowing her, that’s not always going to come easy.”

“Our parents can continue to screw us up even after they die, and in this way, they’re never really gone.”

“Wendy taught me to curse, matched my clothing, brushed my hair before school, and let me sleep in bed with her when bad dreams woke me up. She fell in love often, and with great fanfare, throwing herself into each romance with the focus of an Olympic athlete. Now she’s a mother and a wife, who tries to stop her boys from learning curse words, and calls romantic love useless.  Sometimes it’s heartbreaking to see your siblings as the people they’ve become. Maybe that’s why we all stay away from each other as a matter of course.”

“Preston and Cordelia when they later arrived were both blonds, cut from the Turnbow cloth, but the first one that came in its red pelt of fur was a mean wild thing like her. Roping a pair of dumbstruck teenagers into a shotgun wedding an then taking off with a laugh, leaving them stranded. Leaving them trying five years for another baby, just to fill a hole nobody meant to dig in the first place.”

“A life measured in half dollars and clipped coupons and culled hopes flattened between uninsulated walls.”

“And the idea of being named for an artist. A person could be reborn on the strength of that.”

“Her every possession was either unbreakable, or broken.”

“There had to be armies of factory workers making this slapdash stuff, underpaid people cranking out things for underpaid people to buy and use up, living their lives mostly to cancel each other out. A worldwide entrapment of bottom feeders.”

“If people played their channels right, they could be spared from disagreement for the length of their natural lives. Finally she got it. The need for so many channels.”

“It was hard to feel the remotest sympathy for any of the different fools she had been.  As opposed to the fool she was probably being now. People hang on for dear life to that one, she thought: the fool they are right now.”

“There is no life raft; you’re just freaking swimming all the time.”

“Things look impossible when you’ve not done them.”

gatsby

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.

It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five time in life. It face – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

“Anyhow, he gives large parties,” said Jordan, changing the subject with an urban distaste for the concrete. “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires, and I knew that first I had to get myself definitely out of that tangle back home.

Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.

So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.

He took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously – eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.

He must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.

But I wanted to leave things in order and not just trust that obliging and indifferent sea to sweep my refuse away.

“I’m thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.”

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed things up and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

 

“It is said that the Devil has all the best tunes.  This is broadly true.  But Heaven has the best choreographers.”

“Plan A had worked. Plan B had failed.  Everything depended on Plan C, and there was one drawback to this: he had only ever planned as far as B.”

“A man does what he can; a woman does what he cannot.”

“And I am not one of those women who trips twice over the same stone.”

“Courage is a virtue appreciated in a male but considered a defect in our gender. Bold women are a threat to a world that is out of balance, in favor of men. That is why they work so hard to mistreat and destroy us. But remember that bold women are like cockroaches: step on one and others come running from the corners.”

 

I watched the Swedish trilogy after seeing all of the Pajiba love for Noomi Rapace.  I wanted to read the novel once I heard that an American remake was in the works.

It was a fascinating read though not quite fun due to the darker themes. (The original title of the book was Men Who Hate Women.)

Journalist and publisher Mikeal Blomkvist is convicted in a libel case and is facing a jail sentence.  Blomkvist also wants to distance himself from the magazine in the hopes of saving it.  He takes a  job offer by a wealthy man to investigate the mysterious 1960’s disappearance of his then 16-year-old great-niece.  Blomkvist  needs a research assistant, and he hires our title character, 24-year-old Lisbeth Salander, after he reads the detailed report she made about him during his case. They make an odd team, but together they begin to put together the sordid pieces of an old family’s history.

I’ve read complaints about the book’s pacing, but I never found it too slow.  The book would switch from the mystery  to Blomkvist’s legal issues to Lisbeth’s life.  I found Lisbeth’s story the most interesting, and I’ve also read that the next book follows her more closely.  I’ve already put in a request through my library’s e-reader program.

 

*Once again, I won’t be making my 52 book goal this year.  I did pass last year’s 32 mark. Hurray!

Stephen King is skilled at storytelling and suspense building.  In my experience he blows all the good will he creates with his endings.  And yet I keep coming back for more because I find that the good outweighs the bad.

The only prior knowledge I had about It was that Tim Curry plays a scary clown in the movie. So that is the image that I carried with me throughout the novel.  And it is scary.  I love the idea of an entire town that is poisoned with this evil being that everyone ignores.  I love that the children are the ones to fight it because they have the most power in their purity of imagination and belief.

I enjoyed the way last part of the novel alternates between the children’s first showdown against It and their final one as adults.

***

I’ve read See’s Making a Literary Life once before. Like Bird by Bird, it is a lovely inspirational book for writers.  The advice is obvious – write. Every day. Sorry to disappoint, but that’s the big secret.

Carolyn See lays out a plan for the novice to follow. It’s quite simple, but it takes discipline and self-motivation. These are two qualities every writer must develop in order to achieve any semblance of literary success.

The core of her ingenius plan :

“1. A thousand words a day – or two hours of revision – five days a week for the rest of your life.
2. A charming note (that does not ask for a favor) to a writer, editor, or agent you admire – five days a week for the rest of your life.”

There are seven other steps, but these are the most crucial.  MLL is full of other fun stories and tips.  I especially like her advice to picture what your life as a writer would look like and then make those details happen.  Even seemingly silly things like “I’d wear colorful pashimas and drink tea every morning before writing” can motivate you along your writing journey.

***

I have a little niece who at 18 months is showing a lot of interest in books.  I was delighted to find her attracted to this picture book I brought her during my last visit.  She has a habit of pulling books off the bookcase and plopping down to carefully turn each page before moving to the next.  My brother is already teaching her letters.  So now I’m determined to keep her arms full with  lovely books.  This is leading me to a genre that I haven’t touched in years: children’s books.  I remember watching a movie version of The Velveteen Rabbit, but I had never read the book.

My favorite passage:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Beautiful.

I know this is an awfully short book to count among my Cannonball Reads, but I’ve read over six 1000+ page novels this year and am hardly any closer to my goal of 52 books than I was last year.  I feel justified.

And a little stabby.

My Happiness Project

1. Set a bedtime.
2. Make my bed every morning.
3. Always be reading something.
4. Move more.
5. Toss and organize.
6. Give proofs of love.
7. Leave the past.
8. Fight right.
9. Don't expect praise or appreciation.
10. Kiss more, hug more, touch more.
11. Aim higher.
12. Find some fun.
13. Ask for help.
14. Smile.
15. Realize it's possible.
16. Don't compare;be inspired.
17. Focus on what I have.
18. Beware of drift.
19. Take a chance.
20. Listen.
21. Be mindful.
22. Cultivate gratitude.
23. Spend out.
24. Do good, feel good.
25. Show up.
26. Have the courage to be imperfect.
27. Find joy in the ordinary.
28. Work smart.
29. Enjoy now.
30. Talk to strangers.
31. Go outside.
32. Start where I am.
33. Show up on time.
34. See art everyday.
35. Love with abandon.
36. Be colorful.
37. Dress the part.
38. Revel in accomplishments.
39. Learn something new.
40. Fear less.
41. Take pictures.
42. Speak with integrity.
43. Don't be critical about small things.
44. Manage my pain.
45. Surround myself with creative people.
46. Practice, practice, practice.
47. Don't force it.
48. Deal with something once.
49. Trust my instincts.
50. Avoid gossip.
51. Choose to see the best in people.
52. Take time to be silly.
53. Throw my own party.
54. Be a mentor.
55. Lean into my fears.
56. Find the others.
57. Do the unexpected.
58. Don't break the chain.
59. Do things others aren't.
60. Slow down.
61. Be cool with not being cool.
62. Be kinder than necessary and more generous than reasonable.
63. Pretend I'm good at it.
64. Keep in touch.
65. Row my own canoe.
66. Do what only you can do.
67. If it doesn't work out, find something that does.
68. Dream bigger.
69. Notice what's right.
70. Stop talking. Start doing.
71. When in doubt, choose laughter.
72. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
73. Respect everyone.
74. Be early.
75. Delete the unnecessary.

Three Simple Rules

1. If you do not GO after what you want, you will never have it.
2. If you do not ASK, the answer will always be no.
3. If you do not MOVE forward, you will always be in the same place.

All I Need

1. Someone to love.
2. Something to do.
3. Something to hope for.

What I’m Reading

Blood Meridian
by Cormac McCarthy
Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston

U.S. States I’ve Visited

Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Georgia
Florida
Louisiana
Maryland
New Mexico
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Texas
Utah
Virgina

Countries I’ve Visited

Mexico
Colombia
Thailand
Vietnam
Bermuda (British territory)

I write about…