“Because I haven't yet learned the simplest and most important thing of all: the world is difficult, and we are all breakable. So just be kind.”
“Self-harm - the world will come at you with knives anyway. You do not need to beat them to it.”
“And, like all the best quests, in the end, I did it all for a girl: me.”
“I am getting incredibly high on a single, astounding fact: that it’s always sunny above the clouds. Always. That every day on earth—every day I have ever had—was secretly sunny, after all.”
“some people aren’t just people, but a place—a whole world. Sometimes you find someone you could live in for the rest of your life.”
“For when cynicism becomes the default language, playfulness and invention become impossible. Cynicism scours through a culture like bleach, wiping out millions of small, seedling ideas. Cynicism means your automatic answer becomes “No.” Cynicism means you presume everything will end in disappointment. And this is, ultimately, why anyone becomes cynical. Because they are scared of disappointment. Because they are scared someone will take advantage of them. Because they are fearful their innocence will be used against them—that when they run around gleefully trying to cram the whole world in their mouth, someone will try to poison them.”
“Because what you are, as a teenager, is a small, silver, empty rocket. And you use loud music as fuel, and then the information in books as maps and coordinates, to tell you where you’re going.”
“Because my biggest secret of all—the one I would rather die than tell, the one I wouldn’t even put in my diary—is that I really, truly, in my heart, want to be beautiful. I want to be beautiful so much—because it will keep me safe, and keep me lucky, and it’s too exhausting not to be.”
“In the end, I go where I always go when I need information on something baffling, poisonous, or terrifying: the library.”
“Cynicism is, ultimately, fear. Cynicism makes contact with your skin, and a thick black carapace begins to grow—like insect armor. This armor will protect your heart, from disappointment—but it leaves you almost unable to walk. You cannot dance in this armor. Cynicism keeps you pinned to the spot, in the same posture, forever.”
“what do you do when you build yourself—only to realize you built yourself with the wrong things? You rip it up and start again. That is the work of your teenage years—to build up and tear down and build up again, over and over, endlessly, like speeded-up film of cities during boom times and wars. To be fearless, and endless, in your reinventions—to keep twisting on nineteen, going bust, and dealing in again, and again. Invent, invent, invent.”
“Whenever you need to win a situation - talk about jazz, Johanna. It confuses people.”
“When the middle classes get passionate about politics, they're arguing about their treats—their tax breaks and their investments. When the poor get passionate about politics, they're fighting for their lives.
Politics will always mean more to the poor. Always. That's why we strike and march, and despair when our young say they won't vote. That's why the poor are seen as more vital, more animalistic. No classical music for us—no walking around National Trust properties or buying reclaimed flooring. We don't have nostalgia. We don't do yesterday. We can't bear it. We don't want to be reminded of our past, because it was awful: dying in means, and slums, without literacy, or the vote. Without dignity. It was all so desperate then. That's why the present and the future is for the poor—that's the place in time for us: surviving now, hoping for better later. We live now—for our instant, hot, fast treats, to pep us up: sugar, a cigarette, a new fast song on the radio.
You must never, never forget when you talk to someone poor, that it takes ten times the effort to get anywhere from a bad post code. It's a miracle when someone from a bad post code gets anywhere, son. A miracle they do anything at all.”
“They made you how they need you. They built you with all they know, and love—and so they can’t see what you’re not: all the gaps you feel leave you vulnerable. All the new possibilities only imagined by your generation, and nonexistent to theirs. They have done their best, with the technology they had to hand at the time—but now it’s up to you, small, brave future, to do your best with what you have.”
“It's really best not to tell people when you feel bad. Growing up is about keeping secrets, and pretending everything is fine.”
“Because I am still learning to walk and talk, and it is a million times easier to be cynical and wield a sword, than it is to be open-hearted and stand there, holding a balloon and a birthday cake, with the infinite potential to look foolish.”
“I wish I was Bill Murray. I hope everything I’ve read about evolution is wrong, and I eventually evolve into him. It’s one of only three plans I have.”
“And you will be quite on your own when you do all this. There is no academy where you can learn to be yourself; there is no line manager slowly urging you toward the correct answer. You are midwife to yourself, and will give birth to yourself, over and over, in dark rooms, alone.”
“Explaining why you love something is one of the most important jobs on earth.”
“I can write, because writing—unlike choreography, architecture, or conquering kingdoms—is a thing you can do when you’re lonely and poor, and have no infrastructure, i.e., a ballet troupe or some cannons.”
“I’m learning a whole new thing: that sometimes, love isn’t observable or noisy or tangible. That sometimes, love is anonymous. Sometimes, love is silent. Sometimes, love just stands there when you’re calling it a cunt, biting its tongue and waiting.”
“A self-made man" - not of woman born but alchemized, through sheer force of will, by the man himself. This is what I want to be. I want to be a self-made woman. I want to conjure myself out of every sparkling, fast moving thing I can see. I want to be the creator of myself. I'm going to begat myself”
“So what do you do when you build yourself up - only to realise you built yourself with the wrong things?”
“This is the terrible thing about learning everything from books—sometimes you don’t know how to say the words. You know the ideas, but you cannot discuss them with people with any confidence. And so you stay silent. It is the curse of the autodidact. Or “autodidiact,” as I said, on the same shameful day. Oh, that was a conversation that went so wrong.”
“Here’s the amazing thing about sex: you get a whole person to yourself, for the first time since you were a baby. Someone who is looking at you—just you—and thinking about you, and wanting you, and you haven’t even had to lie at the bottom of the stairs and pretend you’re dead to get them to do it.”
“hearing women singing about themselves - rather than men singing about women - makes everything seem wonderfully clear, and possible”
“People with no upper-body strength, who read poetry. These are my people.”
“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”
“You go out into your world, and try and find the things that will be useful to you. Your weapons. Your tools. Your charms. You find a record, or a poem, or a picture of a girl that you pin to the wall and go, "Her. I'll try and be her. I'll try and be her - but here." You observe the way others walk, and talk, and you steal little bits of them - you collage yourself out of whatever you can get your hands on. You are like the robot Johnny 5 in Short Circuit, crying, "More input! More input for Johnny 5! as you rifle through books and watch films and sit in front of the television, trying to guess which of these things that you are watching - Alexis Carrington Colby walking down a marble staircase; Anne of Green Gables holding her shoddy suitcase; Cathy wailing on the moors; Courtney Love wailing in her petticoat; Dorothy Parker gunning people down; Grace Jones singing "Slave to the Rhythm" - you will need when you get out there. What will be useful. What will be, eventually, you?
And you will be quite on your own when you do all this. There is no academy where you can learn to be yourself; there is no line manager slowly urging you toward the correct answer. You are midwife to yourself, and will give birth to yourself, over and over, in dark rooms, alone.
And some versions of you will end in dismal failure - many prototypes won't even get out the front door, as you suddenly realize that no, you can't style-out an all-in-one gold bodysuit and a massive attitude problem in Wolverhampton. Others will achieve temporary success - hitting new land-speed records, and amazing all around you, and then suddenly, unexpectedly exploding, like the Bluebird on Coniston Water.
But one day you'll find a version of you that will get you kissed, or befriended, or inspired, and you will make your notes accordingly, staying up all night to hone and improvise upon a tiny snatch of melody that worked.
Until - slowly, slowly - you make a viable version of you, one you can hum every day. You'll find the tiny, right piece of grit you can pearl around, until nature kicks in, and your shell will just quietly fill with magic, even while you're busy doing other things. What your nature began, nature will take over, and start completing, until you stop having to think about who you'll be entirely - as you're too busy doing, now. And ten years will pass without you even noticing.
And later, over a glass of wine - because you drink wine now, because you are grown - you will marvel over what you did. Marvel that, at the time, you kept so many secrets. Tried to keep the secret of yourself. Tried to metamorphose in the dark. The loud, drunken, fucking, eyeliner-smeared, laughing, cutting, panicking, unbearably present secret of yourself. When really you were about as secret as the moon. And as luminous, under all those clothes.”
“I will never tell anyone when I feel bad again. I will never confide a weakness. It does not work. It makes things worse.”
“How true is the saying that the very highest in rank are always the most simple and kindly. It is from you half-and-half sort of people that you get pomposity and vulgarity”
“Whenever I wake up in a strange house I always feel as if the wrong soul got stuffed into the wrong body.”
“Happiness is a bull's-eye, awaiting arrows of pain.”
“Just as people laugh at a name like Rump, they fear a name like Red. Red is not a name. It's a color, an evil color. What kind of destiny does that bring?”
“I belong to you. I've belonged to you since the beginning, since before I even knew that I did," he rambles. "I'll never hurt you again. I'd rather die than to hurt you”
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