Marisha Pessl · 514 pages
Rating: (35.5K votes)
“Always live your life with your biography in mind.”
“But most critically, sweet, never try to change the narrative structure of someone else's story, though you will certainly be tempted to, as you watch those poor souls in school, in life, heading unwittingly down dangerous tangents, fatal digressions from which they will unlikely be able to emerge. Resist the temptation. Spend your energies on your story. Reworking it. Making it better.”
“Those around you can have their novellas, sweet, their short stories of cliché and coincidence, occasionally spiced up with tricks of the quirky, the achingly mundane, the grotesque. A few will even cook up Greek tragedy, those born into misery, destined to die in misery. But you, my bride of quietness, you will craft nothing less than epic with your life. Out of all of them, your story will be the one to last.”
“Sometimes it takes more courage not to let yourself see. Sometimes knowledge is damaging - not enlightenment but enleadenment.”
“May you walk a lighted path. May you fight for truth - your truth, not someone else's - and may you understand, above all things, that you are the most important concept, theory, and philosophy I have ever known.”
“Not returning phone calls is the severest form of torture in the civilized world.”
“It's kind of funny...the moments on which life hinges. I think growing up you always imagine your life--your success--depends on your family and how much money they have, where you go to college, what sort of job you can pin down, starting salary...But it doesn't, you know. You wouldn't believe this, but life hinges on a couple of seconds you never see coming. And what you decide in those few seconds determines everything from then on... And you have no idea what you'll do until you're there...”
“He said you couldn't pretend the terrible things in life didn't happen. You can't clean it up. You keep all the refuse and the scars. It's how you learn. And try to make improvements.”
“Juliet and Romeo be damned, you can't be in love until you've flossed your teeth next to the person at least three hundred times...”
“...I couldn't let go of the thought that it had, in fact, been he, restless and moody Heathcliff. Day after day, he floated through all the Wal-Marts in America, searching for me in a million lonely aisles.”
“Some people are as fragile as butterflies and sensitive and it’s your responsibility not to destroy them. Just because you can”
“I was aware now, as ever, that between all people there were First Times You See Them and Last Times you See Them. ”
“No wonder so many adults long to return to university, to all those deadlines--ahhh, that structure! Scaffolding to which we may cling! Even if it is arbitrary, without it, we're lost, wholly incapable of separating the Romantic from the Victorian in our sad, bewildering lives...”
“When you grow up--and from the look of things, you have awhile--but you learn things never go back to normal simply because everyone's sorry. Sorry is ridiculous.”
“Dad on Child-rearing: "There's no education superior to travel. Think of The Motorcycle Diaries, or what Montrose St. Millet wrote in Ages of Exploration: 'To be still is to be stupid. To be stupid is to die.' And so we shall live. Every Betsy sitting next to you in a classroom will only know Maple Street on which sits her boxy white house, inside of which whimper her boxy white parents. After your travels, you'll know Maple Street, sure, but also wilderness and ruins, carnivals and the moon. You'll know the man sitting on an apple crate outside a gas station in Cheerless, Texas, who lost his legs in Vietnam, the woman in the tollboth outside Dismal, Delaware, in possession of six children, a husband with black lung but no teeth. When a teacher asks the class to interpret Paradise Lost, no one will be able to grab your coattails, sweet, for you will be flying far, far out in front of them all. For them, you will be a speck somewhere above the horizon. And thus, when you're ultimately set loose upon the world..." He shrugged, his smile lazy as an old dog. "I suspect you'll have no choice but to go down in history.”
“I was aware too how strange adults were, how theirs lives were vaster than they wanted anyone to realize, that they actually stretched on and on like deserts, dry and desolate, with an unpredictable, shifting sea of dunes.”
“Dad's Theory of Arrogance--that everyone always assumes they're the Principal Character of Desire and/or Loathing in everybody else's Broadway Play.”
“It’s hard, in America, not to equate ‘happiness’ with ‘things’.”
“I remembered what Dad said once, that some people have all of life's answers worked out the day they're born and there's no use trying to teach them anything new. "They're closed for business even though, somewhat confusingly, their doors open at eleven, Monday through Friday," Dad said. And the trying to change what they think, the attempt to explain, the hope they'll come to see your side of things, it was exhausting, because it never made a dent and afterward you only ached unbearably. It was like being a Prisoner in a Maximum-Security Prison, wanting to know what a Visitor's hand felt like (see Living in Darkness, Cowell, 1967). No matter how desperately you wanted to know, pressing your dumb palm against the glass right where the visitor's hand was pressed on the opposite side, you never would know that feeling, not until they set you free.”
“To be sensitive is fine, but it makes day-to-day living- life -rather painful.”
“Dad always said a person must have a magnificent reason for writing out his or her Life Story and expecting anyone to read it.
Unless your name is something along the lines of Mozart, Matisse, Churchill, Che Guevara or Bond - James Bond - you best spent your free time finger painting or playing shuffeboard, for no one, with the exception of your flabby-armed mother with stiff hair and a mashed potato way of looking at you, will want to hear the particulars of your pitiable existence, which doubtlessly will end as it began - with a wheeze.”
“Never try to change the narrative structure of someone else's story, though you will certainly be tempted to, as you watch those poor souls in school, in life, heading unwittingly down dangerous tangents, fatal digressions from which they will unlikely be able to emerge. Resist the temptation. Spend your energies on your story. Reworking it. Making it better. Increasing the scale, the depth of content, the universal themes. And I don't care what those themes are- they're yours to uncover and stand behind-so long as, at the very least, there is courage.”
“Funnily enough, it is the subject one dreads talking about at length one ends up talking about at length, often without the slightest provocation.”
“A deus ex machina will never appear in real life so you best make other arrangements.”
“Well, it doesn't look good. Makes me look like one of those unloved latchkey children they make after-school specials about."
"Don't sell yourself short. You're more Masterpiece Theatre.”
“It was what accidental deaths did to people, made everybody's sea floor irregular and uneven, causing tidal currents to collide, surge upward, thereby resulting in small yet volatile eddies churning at everybody's surface. (In the more dangerous cases, it created a lasting whirlpool in which the strongest swimmers could drown.)”
“Smoke was a person with a sense of history. Do you know what I mean?" ...in truth, I DID know what she meant. Da Vinci, Martin Luther King, Jr., Genghis Kahn, Abraham Lincoln, Bette Davis - if you read their definitive biographies, you learned even when they were a month old, cooing in some wobbly crib in the middle of nowhere, they already had something historic about them. The way other kids had baseball, long division, Hot Wheels, and hula hoops, these kids had History and thus tended to be prone to colds, unpopular, sometimes plagued with a physical deformity (Lord Byron's clubfoot, Maugham's severe stutter, for example), which pushed them into exile in their heads. It was there they began to dream of human anatomy, civil rights, conquering Asia, a lost speech and being (within a span of four years) a jezebel, a marked woman, a little fox and an old maid.”
“Dad always warned that it was misleading when one imagined people, when one sas them in the Mind's Eye, because one never remembered them as they really were, with as many inconsistencies as there were hairs on a human head (100,000 to 200,000). Instead, the mind used a lazy shorthand, smoothed the person over into their most dominating characteristic--their pessimism or insecurity (something really being lazy, turning them into either Nice or Mean)--and one made the mistake of judging them from this basis alone and risked, on a subsequent encounter, being dangerously surprised.”
“It's a common feeling for people to feel intermittent antipathy toward individuals they're familiar with.”
“You want the girl next door? Go next door!”
“Because it's true. Erica, one horrible experience doesn't define you. If it did, I doubt you'd want to be with me either.
"I do," I said.”
“Children are our crop, our fields, our earth. They are birds let loose into darkness. They are errors renewed. Still, they are the only source from which may be drawn a life more successful, more knowing than our own. Somehow they will do one thing, take one step further, they will see the summit. We believe in it, the radiance that streams from the future, from days we will not see. Children must live, must triumph. Children must die; that is an idea we cannot accept.”
“I was strong because cancer is resolute, and I didn't want the beast to win.”
“I would, and I will. You know my theory. Plunge in. Face the fear head-on. Stay on the offense.”
“Obviously, no one suspects men with flowers of evil intentions”
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