“He wanted to fuck her loudly on a hard bed with rain beating on the windows.”
“I used to think it was possible for an artist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory.”
“Stories have no point if they don't absorb our terror.”
“In societies reduced to blur and glut, terror is the only meaningful act. There's too much everything, more things and messages and meanings that we can use in ten thousand lifetimes. Inertia-hysteria. Is history possible? Is anyone serious? Who do we take serious? Only the lethal believer, the person who kills and dies for faith. Everything else is absorbed. The artist is absorbed, the madman in the street is absorbed an processed and incorporated. Give him a dollar, put him in a TV commercial. Only the terrorists stand outside. The culture hasn't figured out how to assimilate him. It's confusing when they kill the innocent. But this is precisely the language of being noticed, the only language the West understands. The way they determine how we see them. The way they dominate the rush of endless streaming images.”
“In the subways, in many of the streets, in corners of the park at night, contact could be dangerous. Contact was not a word or a touch but the air that flashed between strangers.”
“The only private language I know is self-exaggeration. I think I've grown a second self in this room. It's the self-important fool that keeps the writer going. I exaggerate the pain of writing, the pain of solitude, the failure, the rage, the confusion, the helplessness, the fear, the humiliation. The narrower the boundaries of my life, the more I exaggerate myself. If the pain is real, why do I inflate it? Maybe this is the only pleasure I'm allowed.”
“The city is a device for measuring time.”
“Every sentence has a truth waiting at the end of it and the writer learns how to know it when he finally gets there. On one level this truth is the swing of the sentence, the beat and poise, but down deeper it's the integrity of the writer as he matches with the language. I've always seen myself in sentences. I begin to recognize myself, word by word, as I work through a sentence. The language of my books has shaped me as a man. There's a moral force in a sentence when it comes out right. It speaks the writer's will to live.”
“There's the life and there's the consumer event. Everything around us tends to channel our lives toward some final reality in print or on film. Two lovers quarrel in the back of a taxi and a question becomes implicit in the event. Who will write the book and who will play the lovers in the movie? Everything seeks its own heightened version.”
“Sitting for a picture is morbid business. A portrait doesn’t begin to mean anything until the subject is dead. This is the whole point. We’re doing this to create a kind of sentimental past for people in decades to come. It’s their past, their history we’re inventing here. And it’s not how I look now that matters. It’s how I’ll look in twenty-five years as clothing and faces change, as photographs change. The deeper I pass into death, the more powerful my picture becomes. Isn’t this why picture-taking is so ceremonial? It’s like a wake. And I’m the actor made up for the laying-out.”
“In committing a work to memory we make it safe from decay. It stands untouched. Children memorize parts of stories their parents tell them. They want the same story again and again. Don't change a word or they get terribly upset. This is the unchanged narrative every culture needs in order to survive.”
“Women have faith in the mechanics of adjustment. A woman knows how to want something. She'll take chances to secure the future.”
“He walked among the bookstore shelves, hearing Muzak in the air. There were rows of handsome covers, prosperous and assured. He felt a fine excitement, hefting a new book, fitting hand over sleek spine, seeing lines of type jitter past his thumb as he let the pages fall. He was a young man, shrewd in his fervors, who knew there were books he wanted to read and others he absolutely had to own, the ones that gesture in special ways, that have a rareness or daring, a charge of heat that stains the air around them.”
“When it rains out, it also rains in.”
“Remember literature, Charlie? It involved getting drunk and getting laid.”
“The thousands stand and chant. Around them in the world, people ride escalators going up and sneak secret glances at the faces coming down. People dangle teabags over hot water in white cups. Cars run silently on the autobahns, streaks of painted light. People sit at desks and stare at office walls. They smell their shirts and drop them in the hamper. People bind themselves into numbered seats and fly across time zones and high cirrus and deep night, knowing there is something they've forgotten to do.”
“He imagines they are uniformly smiling, showing the face they squeeze out with the toothpaste every morning.”
“Crowds, Scott said. People trudging along wide streets, pushing carts or riding bikes, crowd after crowd in the long lens of the camera so they seem even closer together than they really are, totally jampacked, and I think of how they merge with the future, how the future makes room for the non-achiever, the trudger, the nonagressor, the nonindividual. Totally calm in the long lens, crowd on top of crowd, pedaling, trudging, faceless, sort of surviving nicely.”
“Only writing could soak up his loneliness and pain. Written words could tell him who he was.”
“Find someone to push him ever sunward.
There's always something you're not supposed to see but it is a condition of growing up that you will see it.”
“What makes this city different is that nobody expects to be in one place for ten minutes. Everybody moves all the time. Seven nameless men own everything and move us around on a board. People are swept out into the streets because the owners need the space. Then they are swept off the streets because someone owns the air they breathe. Men buy and sell air in the sky and there are bodies heaped together in boxes on the sidewalk. Then they sweep away the boxes."
"You like to overstate."
"I overstate things to stay alive. This is the point of New York. I completely love and trust this city but I know the moment I stop being angry I'm finished forever.”
“No body knows how to feel and they're checking around for hints.”
“We all know how the thing we secretly fear is not a secret at all but the open and eternal thing that predicts its own recurrence.”
“She knows her flesh parents are in the stands somewhere. Knows what they're saying, sees the gestures and expressions. Dad trying to use old college logic to make sense of it all. Mom wearing the haunted stare that means she was put on earth strictly to suffer. They're all around us, parents in the thousands, afraid of our intensity. This is what frightens them. We really believe. They bring us up to believe but when we show them true belief they call out psychiatrists and police. We know who God is. This makes us crazy in the world.”
“He looked at a picture on the wall and saw everything that existed outside the room he was sitting in and the one he was trying to write about. It was a picture of fishing nets stowed in canvas baskets and it had sex, memories, cravings, names of old friends, principal rivers of the world. Writing was bad for the soul when you got right down to it. It protected your worst tendencies. Narrowed everything to failure and its devastations. Gave your cunning an edge of treachery and your jellyfish heart a reason to fall deeper into silence.”
“They know him at molecular level. He lives in them like chains of matter that determine who they are.”
“Something about the occasion makes me think I'm at my own wake. Sitting for a picture is morbid business. A portrait doesn't begin to mean anything until the subject is dead. This is the whole point. We're doing this to create a kind of sentimental past for people in the decades to come. It's their past, their history we're inventing here. And it's not how I look now that matters. It's how I'll look in twenty-five years as clothing and faces change, as photographs change. The deeper I pass into death, the more powerful my picture becomes. Isn't this why picture-taking is so ceremonial? It's like a wake. And I'm the actor made up for the laying-out.”
“There's the life and there's the consumer event. Everything around us tends to channel our lives toward some final reality in print or on film. Two lovers quarrel in the back of a taxi and a question becomes implicit in the event. Who will write the book and who will play the lovers in the movie? Everything seeks its own heightened version. Or put it this way. Nothing happens until it's consumed. Or put it this way. Nature has given way to aura. A man cuts himself shaving and someone is signed up to write the biography of the cut. All the material in every life is channeled into the glow. Here I am in your lens. Already I see myself differently. Twice over or once removed.”
“What's the importance of a photograph if you know the writer's work? But people still want the image, don't they? The writer's face is the surface of the work. It's a clue to the mystery inside.”
“At my age, in this still hierarchical time, people often ask me if I’m “passing the torch.” I explain that I’m keeping my torch, thank you very much—and I’m using it to light the torches of others.”
“posting will be at the unemployment office.” “I don’t think”
“But all these are golden daydreams.”
“It's strange, the lack of emotion, the absence of drama in reality. When things happen in real life, extraordinary things, there's no music, there's no dah-dah-daaahhs. There's no close-ups. No dramatic camera angles. Nothing happens. Nothing stops, the rest of the world goes on.”
“I just felt like . . . me. And whatever “me” meant, that was perfectly fine and absolutely enough. Everyone should feel that kind of peace and self-acceptance far more often than I think most of us do.”
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