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30+ quotes from Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

Quotes from Netherland

Joseph O'Neill ·  269 pages

Rating: (16.2K votes)


“I felt shame - I see this clearly, now - at the instinctive recognition in myself of an awful enfeebling fatalism, a sense that the great outcomes were but randomly connected to our endeavors, that life was beyond mending, that love was loss, that nothing worth saying was sayable, that dullness was general, that disintegration was irresistible.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“Perhaps the relevant truth is that we all find ourselves in temporal currents and that unless you're paying attention you'll discover, often too late, that an undertow of weeks or of years has pulled you deep into trouble.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“We are in the realm not of logic but of wistfulness, and I must maintain that wistfulness is a respectable, serious condition. How, otherwise, to account for much of one's life?”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“Despair busies one, and my weekend was spoken for. I was going to lie down on the floor of my apartment in the draft of the air conditioner and spend two days and nights traveling a circuit of regret, self-pity, and jealousy.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“Sometimes to walk in shaded parts of Manhattan is to be inserted into a Magritte: the street is night while the sky is day.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“New York interposed itself, once and for all, between me and all other places of origin.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“Who has the courage to set right those misperceptions that bring us love?”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“As I repeatedly went forth with him and began to understand the ignorance and contradictions and language difficulties with which he contended, and the doubtful sources of his information and the seemingly bottomless history and darkness out of which the dishes of New York emerge, the deeper grew my suspicion that his work finally consisted of minting or perpetuating and in any event circulating misconceptions about his subject and in this way adding to the endless perplexity of the world.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“No, it was simply that I was uninterested in making, as I saw it, a Xerox of some old emotional state. I was in my mid-thirties, with a marriage more or less behind me. I was no longer vulnerable to curiosity's enormous momentum. I had nothing new to murmur to another on the subject of myself and not the smallest eagerness about being briefed on Danielle's supposedly unique trajectory—a curve described under the action, one could safely guess, of the usual material and maternal and soulful longings, a few thwarting tics of character, and luck good and bad. A life seemed like an old story.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“My instinct was to keep him at a distance, at that distance, certainly, that we introduce between ourselves and those we suspect of neediness.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“The word "Yankee" itself, I was informed, came from that simplest of Dutch names - Jan.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“I was just a boy on a boat in the universe.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“I'm tempted to point out that our dealings, however unusual and close, were the dealings of businessmen. My ease with this state of affairs no doubt reveals a shortcoming on my part, but it's the same quality that enables me to thrive at work, where so many of the brisk, tough, successful men I meet are secretly sick to their stomachs and their quarterlies, are being eaten alive by bosses and clients and all-seeing wives and judgmental offspring, and are, in sum, desperate to be taken at face value and very happy to reciprocate the courtesy. This chronic and, I think, peculiarly male strain of humiliation explains the slight affection that bonds so many of us, but such affection depends on a certain reserve. Chuck observed the code, and so did I; neither pressed the other on delicate subjects.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“people in new york are authorized by convention to snoop around and mentally measure and pass comment on any real estate they're invited to step into.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“She merely wiped the floor with paper towels and said nothing, brushing her free hand against my shoulder blade—my shoulder blade!—as she carried the soaked paper to the trash can, never holding me fast, refraining not out of lack of humanity but out of fear of being drawn into a request for further tenderness, a request that could only bring her face-to-face with some central revulsion, a revulsion of her husband or herself or both, a revulsion that had come from nowhere, or from her, or perhaps from something I’d done or failed to do, who knew, she didn’t want to know, it was too great a disappointment, far better to get on with the chores, with the baby, with the work, far better to leave me to my own devices, as they say, to leave me to resign myself to certain motifs, to leave me to disappear guiltily into a hole of my own digging. When the time came to stop her from leaving, I did not know what to think or wish for, her husband who was now an abandoner, a hole-dweller, a leaver who had left her to fend for herself, as she said, who’d failed to provide her with the support and intimacy she needed, she complained, who was lacking some fundamental wherewithal, who no longer wanted her, who beneath his scrupulous marital motions was angry, whose sentiments had decayed into a mere sense of responsibility, a husband who, when she shouted, “I don’t need to be provided for! I’m a lawyer! I make two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year! I need to be loved!” had silently picked up the baby and smelled the baby’s sweet hair, and had taken the baby for a crawl in the hotel corridor, and afterward washed the baby’s filthy hands and soft filthy knees, and thought about what his wife had said, and saw the truth in her words and an opening, and decided to make another attempt at kindness, and at nine o’clock, with the baby finally drowsy in his cot, came with a full heart back to his wife to find her asleep, as usual, and beyond waking.

In short, I fought off the impulse to tell Rachel to go fuck herself.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“But surely everyone can also testify to another, less reckonable kind of homesickness, one having to do with unsettlements that cannot be located in spaces of geography or history; and accordingly it's my belief that the communal, contractual phenomenon of New York cricket is underwritten, there where the print is finest, by the same agglomeration of unspeakable individual longings that underwrites cricket played anywhere--longings concerned with horizons and potentials sighted or hallucinated and in any event lost long ago, tantalisms that touch on the undoing of losses too private and reprehensible to be acknowledged to oneself, let alone to others. I cannot be the first to wonder if what we see, when we see men in white take to a cricket field, is men imagining an environment of justice.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“...bright-shirted racers of the Tour de France zoomed by like fantastically bicycling macaws.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“Perhaps the relevant truth- and it's one whose existence was apparent to my wife, and I'm sure to much of the world, long before it became apparent to me-is that we all find ourselves in temporal currents and unless you're paying attention you'll discover, often too late, that an undertow of weeks or of years has pulled you deep into trouble.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“Each of her soothing utterances battered me more grievously than the last—as if I were traveling in a perverse ambulance whose function was to collect a healthy man and steadily damage him in readiness for the hospital at which a final and terrible injury would be inflicted.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“There was another silence. I felt, above all, tired. Tiredness: if there was a constant symptom of the disease in our lives at this time, it was tiredness. At work we were unflagging; at home the smallest gesture of liveliness was beyond us. Mornings we awoke into a malign weariness that seemed only to have refreshed itself overnight.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“It was the kind of barbarously sticky American afternoon that made me yearn for the shadows cast by scooting summer clouds in northern Europe....”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“We were trying, as I irrelevantly analyzed it, to avoid what might be termed a historic mistake. We were trying to understand, that is, whether we were in a preapocalyptic situation, like the European Jews in the thirties or the last citizens of Pompeii, or whether our situation was merely near-apocalyptic, like that of the Cold War inhabitants of New York, London, Washington”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“he now paid the allowance that permitted his son to live in frugal idleness.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“For those under the age of 45 it seemed that world events had finally contrived a meaningful test of their capacity for conscientious political thought. Many of my acquaintances, I realized, had passed the last decade or two in a state of intellectual and psychic yearning for such a moment — or, if they hadn’t, were able to quickly assemble an expert arguer’s arsenal of thrusts and statistics and ripostes and gambits and examples and salient facts and rhetorical maneuvers.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“The yellow commuter train ran through canal-crossed fields as dull as graph paper. Always one saw evidence of the tiny brick houses that the incontinent municipalities, Voorschoten and Leidschendam and Rijswijk and Zoetermeer, pooped over the rural spaces surrounding The Hague.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“I see, I tell him, looking from him to Rachel and again to him.

Then I turn to look for what it is we're supposed to be seeing.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“There was, apparently, a nuclear reactor at a place called Indian Point, just thirty miles away in Westchester County. If something bad happened there, we were constantly being informed, the 'radioactive debris', whatever this might be, was liable to rain down on us. (Indian Point: the earliest, most incurable apprehensions stirred in its very name.) Then there was the question of dirty bombs. Apparently any fool could build a dirty bomb and explode it in Manhattan. How likely was this? Nobody knew. Very little about anything seemed intelligible or certain, and New York itself - that ideal source of the metropolitan diversion that serves as a response to the largest futilities - took on a fearsome, monstrous nature whose reality might have befuddled Plato himself. We were trying, as I irreverently analysed it, to avoid what might be termed a historic mistake. We were trying to understand, that is, whether we were in a pre-apocalyptic situation, like the European Jews in the thirties or the last citizens of Pompeii, or whether our situation was merely near-apocalyptic, like that of the Cold War inhabitants of New York, London, Washington and, for that matter, Moscow. In my anxiety I phoned Rachel's father, Charles Bolton, and asked him how he'd dealt with the threat of nuclear annihilation. I wanted to believe that this episode of history, like those old cataclysms that deposit a geologically telling layer of dust on the floors of seas, had sooted its survivors with special information.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“Life itself had become disembodied. My family, the spine of my days, had crumbled. I was lost in invertebrate time.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“The rocking of the boat by the waves was soothing but unknown. The men on the shore were asleep. Not the twelve-year-old, though. He shifted and lay on his back and decided to look up at the sky. What he saw took him by surprise. He was basically a city kid. He had never really seen the night sky for what it is. As he stared up at millions of stars, he was filled with a dread he had never known before.
I was just a boy, I said to my wife in a hotel room in Cornwall. I was just a boy on a boat in the universe.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


“A self-evident and prefabricated symbolism attaches itself to this slow climb to the zenith, and we are not so foolishly ironic, or confident, as to miss the opportunity to glimpse significantly into the eyes of the other and share the thought that occurs to all at this summit, which is, of course, that they have made it thus far, to a point where they can see horizons previously unseen, and the old earth reveals itself newly. Everything is further heightened, as we must obscurely have planned, by signs of sundown.”
― Joseph O'Neill, quote from Netherland


About the author

Joseph O'Neill
Born place: in Cork, Ireland
Born date February 23, 1964
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