Quotes from Aquarium

David Vann ·  266 pages

Rating: (3.2K votes)


“Anything is possible with a parent. Parents are gods. They make us and they destroy us. They warp the world and remake it in their own shape, and that's the world we know forever after. It's the only world. We can't see what it might have looked like otherwise.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“Each thing that happens to us, each and every thing, it leaves some dent, and that dent will always be there. Each of us is a walking wreck.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“The dead reaching for us, needing us, but this isn't true. There's only us reaching for them, trying to find ourselves.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“Even now, I still believe metamorphosis is the greatest beauty.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“Having something to look forward to changes everything. I've always needed a future. I can't live without one.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium



“The worst part of childhood is not knowing that bad things pass, that time passes. A terrible moment in childhood hovers with s kind of eternity, unbearable.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“We live through evolution ourselves, each of us, progressing through different apprehensions of the world, at each age forgetting the last age, every previous mind erased. We no longer see the same world at all.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“A change in those moments, some switch turned off forever, the end of trust or safety or love, and how do we ever find the switch again?”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“The worst part of childhood is not knowing that bad things pass, that time passes. A terrible moment in childhood hovers with a kind of eternity, unbearable.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“Maybe this is as near as we can come to forgiveness. Not the past wiped away, nothing undone, but some willingness in the present, some recognition and embrace and slowing down.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium



“Each one a little bit different but following some blueprint somewhere. As if each of us might have a blueprint. As if somewhere there's the shape of my life, and I had the chance to choose a few variations, but not far from the pattern.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“That’s true. It doesn’t make any sense. Welcome to the adult world, coming soon. I work so I can work more. I try not to want anything so maybe I’ll get something. I starve so I can be less and more. I try to be free so I can be alone. And there’s no point to any of it. They left out that part.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“Origins...They don’t explain us, you know. They never do. Each of us is our own piece of work.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“This is what I’ve always loved about a city, all the worlds hidden away inside, largest of aquariums.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“up for it, and I’m sorry. That’s not enough. You’re going to search until you find something, and you’re going to tell me. Right now. Sheri. Please. You do it now or we’re gone. You give me some way to have some sympathy for you as I stand in this nice house, all lovingly redone, and think about the broken house you left us in, with its leaky roof and no heat and no insulation and nothing. Tell your sob story about the fucking war, whatever it was that my mom thought you were so broken about. My grandfather closed his eyes. No story ever explains. But I’ll give you what you want. I think I know the moment you want, because I made a kind of decision. There was some change. But I can’t start the story at the beginning. I’ve never been able to do that. I have to start at the end and then go back, and it doesn’t finish, because you can go back forever. Do it, my mother said. I don’t think Caitlin should hear. She can hear. Okay. You’re her mother. That’s right. So I won’t give the awful details, but I was lying in a pile of bodies. My friends. The closest friends I’ve ever had. Not piled there on purpose, but just the way it ended up because I had been working on the axle, lying on the ground. And the thing is, the war was over. It had been over for days, and we were laughing and a bit drunk, telling jokes. There was something unbearable about the fact that we’d all be going our separate ways now. The truth is that we didn’t want to leave. We wanted the war over, but we didn’t want what we had together to be over. I think we all had some sense that this was the closest we’d ever be to anyone, and that our families might feel like strangers now. So that’s it? You couldn’t be a father and husband because you weren’t done being a buddy? No. No. It’s the way it happened, in a moment that was supposed to be safe. After every moment of every day in fear for years, we were finally safe, and that’s when the slugs came and I watched my friends torn apart and landing on me, dying. That’s the point. We were supposed to be safe. And with your mother, too, I was supposed to be safe. A wife, a family. The story doesn’t make any sense unless you know every moment before it, every time we thought we were going to die, all the times we weren’t safe. You can’t just be told about that. You have to feel it, how long one night can be, and then all of them put together, hundreds of nights and then more, and there’s a kind of deal that’s made, a deal with god. You do certain terrible things, you endure things, because there’s a bargain made. And then when god says the deal’s off later, after you’ve already paid, and you see your friends ripped through, yanked like puppets on a day that was safe, and you find out your wife is going to die young, and you get to watch her dying, something that again is going to be for years, hundreds of nights more, all deals are off.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium



“I've thought of it ever since, the idea that we don't stray far, that what feels like discovery is only the revealing of what was hidden but there, waiting. I remember because I think this might be a path to forgiveness, to realize that no matter how violent, how frightening my mother was, it was not random but at least partly inescapable, that who she was had been set in motion long before and she had to suffer that person as much as I did.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“As if somewhere there’s the shape of my life, and I had the chance to choose a few variations, but not far from the pattern.I remember he said that, because I’ve thought of it ever since, the idea that we don’t stray far, that what feels like discovery is only the revealing of what was hidden but there, waiting.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“Sleep, she said. Sleep while you can. Forget where you are and forget the mountain of days. Each one enormous, lost in some forest that never ends, but then the edge will fold back and you'll walk on what was the sky and is now only another forest floor, another layer, and you can feel the weight of hundreds of these layers above you.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“Anything is possible with a parent. Parents are gods. They make and destroy us. They warp the world and remake it their own shape, and that's the world we know forever after.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“As if each of us might somehow have a blueprint. As if somewhere there's the shape of my life, and I had the chance to choose a few variations, but not far from the pattern.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium



“the best choice we have on the menu tonight.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“If it had lips, we'd feel closer to it. All we need are eyes and lips, apparently, and we think we can say hello. I don't think I realized that before, how much we need the world to look like us.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“When I went to sleep each night, I imagined myself at the bottom, thousands of feet down, the weight of all that water but I was gliding just above ground, something like a manta ray, flying soundless and weightless over endless plains that fell away into deep canyons of darker black and then rose up in spires and new plateaus, and I could be anywhere in this world, off Mexico or Guam or under the Arctic or all the way to Africa, all in the one element, all home, shadows on all sides of me gliding also, great wings without sound or sight but felt and known.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“The entire legacy of humanity will be only one thing, a line of red goop in the paleo-oceanographic record, a time of no calcium carbonate shells that will stretch on for several million years. The sadness of our stupidity is overwhelming.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“What do we owe for what has come before us, the previous generation?... The problem is that we can never enter this shadow world in order to make payment.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium



“A city holds all that we want and a million times what we don't want.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“One night becomes sixty nights. This is the price of hiding. Just hold your breath for one minute and find out what a minute becomes.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“What if everything was unfinished? What if everything was made incomplete?”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“What’s the point of sea horses? I asked.
The old man stood before them, mouth hung open, as if before his god.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium


“One life can never know another's.”
― David Vann, quote from Aquarium



About the author

David Vann
Born place: in Adak, Alaska, The United States
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