“It has always seemed strange to me...The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”
“Being at ease with himself put him at ease with the world.”
“It’s all fine to say, “Time will heal everything, this too shall pass away. People will forget”—and things like that when you are not involved, but when you are there is no passage of time, people do not forget and you are in the middle of something that does not change.”
“[Cannery Row's] inhabitants are, as the man once said, 'whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,' by which he meant everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, 'saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,' and he would have meant the same thing.”
“It is the hour of pearl—the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself.”
“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, "Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen" and he would have meant the same thing.”
“And everywhere people asked him why he was walking through the country.
Because he loved true things, he tried to explain. He said he was nervous and besides he wanted to see the country, smell the ground and look at grass and birds and trees, to savor the country, and there was no other way to do it save on foot. And people didn't like him for telling the truth. They scowled, or shook and tapped their heads, they laughed as though they knew it was a lie and they appreciated a liar. And some, afraid for their daughters or pigs, told him to move on, to get going, just not to stop near their place if he knew what was good for him.
And so he stopped telling the truth. He said he was doing it on a bet - that he stood to win a hundred dollars. Everyone liked him then and believed him.”
“Look at them. There are your true philosophers. I think that Mack and the boys know everything that has ever happened in the world and possibly everything that will happen. I think they survive in this particular world better than other people. In a time when people tear themselves to pieces with ambition and nervousness and covetousness, they are relaxed. All of our so-called successful men are sick men, with bad stomachs, and bad souls, but Mack and the boys are healthy and curiously clean. They can do what they want. They can satisfy their appetites without calling them something else.”
“For there are two possible reactions to social ostracism - either a man emerges determined to be better, purer, and kindlier or he goes bad, challenges the world and does even worse things. The last is by far the commonest reaction to stigma.”
“Men all do about the same thing when they wake up.”
“It was deeply a part of Lee's kindness and understanding that man's right to kill himself is inviolable, but sometimes a friend can make it unnecessary”
“A man with a beard was always a little suspect anyway. You couldn't say you wore a beard because you liked a beard. People didn't like you for telling the truth. You had to say you had a scar so you couldn't shave.”
“He can kill anything for need but he could not even hurt a feeling for pleasure.”
“If a man ordered a beer milkshake he'd better do it in a town where he wasn't known.”
“Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and turn it into wisdom. His mind had no horizon - and his sympathy had no warp. He could talk to children, telling them very profound things so that they understood. He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him. And everyone who thought of him thought next, 'I really must do something nice for Doc.”
“Doc tips his hat to dogs as he drives by and the dogs look up and smile at him.”
“Our Father who art in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth, must have a great and overwhelming love for no-goods and blots-on-the-town and bums, and Mack and the boys. Virtues and graces and laziness and zest. Our Father who art in nature.”
“When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to catch whole for they will break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book-to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.”
“What can it profit a man to gain the whole world and to come to his property with a gastric ulcer, a blown prostate and bifocals?Mack and the boys avoid the trap, walk around the poison, step over the noose while a generation of trapped,, poisoned, and trussed-up men scream at them and call them no-goods, come to bad ends, blot-on-the town-thieves, rascals, bums. Our Father who art in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth, must have a great and overwhelming love for no-goods and blots-on-the town and bums,, and Mack and the boys. Virtues and graces and laziness and zest. Our Father who art in nature.”
“The sale of souls to gain the whole world is completely voluntary and almost unanimous...but not quite.”
“He never forgot anything but he never bothered to arrange his memories. -Hazel, Cannery Row”
“...men in fear and hunger destroy their stomachs in the fight to secure certain food, where men hungering for love destroy everything lovable about them.... In the world ruled by tigers with ulcers, rutted by strictured bulls, scavenged by blind jackals.... What can it profit a man to gain the whole world and to come to his property with a gastric ulcer, a blown prostate, and bifocals?”
“Because he loved true things he tried to explain.”
“Doc still loved true things but he knew that it was not a general love and it could be a very dangerous mistress.”
“The tide goes out imperceptibly. The boulders show and seem to rise up and the ocean recedes leaving little pools, leaving wet weed and moss and sponge, iridescence and brown and blue and China red. On the bottoms lie the incredible refuse of the sea, shells broken and chipped and bits of skeleton, claws, the whole sea bottom a fantastic cemetery on which the living scamper and scramble.”
“Hazel grew up - did four years in grammar school, four years in reform school, and didn't learn a thing in either place. Reform schools are supposed to teach viciousness and criminality but Hazel didn't pay enough attention.”
“Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and change it for you to a kind of wisdom.”
“Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than the clitoris, about the planetary system of gears that the solar system of stars.”
“How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise - the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream - be set down alive? When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book - to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.”
“I had a childish attraction to men of my father's generation, as if I still harbored a faint hope of being unorphaned, even at this late date.”
“I learned from him that often contradiction is the clearest way to truth”
“but it's not always as set as that. Some things, though, feel like they're right. You and me? It's one of those things. I don't know why they see or why things are such a mess, but in the middle of it all, I do know that being around you is one of tue best things that happened to me in, well, ever.”
“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can't save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”
“Nothing haunts us like the things we don't say.”
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