“I turned the pages so fast. And I suppose I was, in my mindless way, looking for a something, version of myself, a heroine I could slip inside as one might a pair of favourite shoes.”
“Love doesn't grow at a steady rate, but advances in surges, bolts, wild leaps, and this was one of those.”
“I was the basest of readers. All I wanted was my own world, and myself in it, given back to me in artful shapes and accessible form.”
“There was, in my view, an unwritten contract with the reader that the writer must honour. No single element of an imagined world or any of its characters should be allowed to dissolve on an authorial whim. The invented had to be as solid and as self-consistent as the actual. This was a contract founded on mutual trust.”
“My needs were simple I didn't bother much with themes or felicitous phrases and skipped fine descriptions of weather, landscapes and interiors. I wanted characters I could believe in, and I wanted to be made curious about what was to happen to them. Generally, I preferred people to be falling in and out of love, but I didn't mind so much if they tried their hand at something else. It was vulgar to want it, but I liked someone to say 'Marry me' by the end.”
“Oblivion seemed the only reasonable option.”
“Novels without female characters were a lifeless desert.”
“Writers are said to have superstitions and little rituals. Readers have them too.”
“And feeling clever, I've always thought, is just a sigh away from being cheerful.”
“Four or five years - nothing at all. But no one over thirty could understand this peculiarly weighted and condensed time, from late teens to early twenties, a stretch of life that needed a name, from school leaver to salaried professional, with a university and affairs and death and choices in between. I had forgotten how recent my childhood was, how long and inescapable it once seemed. How grown up and how unchanged I was.”
“My needs were simple. I didn't bother much with themes or felicitous phrases and skipped fine descriptions of weather, landscapes and interiors. I wanted characters I could believe in and I wanted to be made curious about what was to happen to them.”
“What was it with men, that they found elementary logic so difficult?”
“Non badavo granché a tematiche o felicità di stile, e saltavo le descrizioni minute di tempo atmosferico, paesaggi e interni. Volevo personaggi in cui potessi credere, e volevo provare curiosità per ciò che avrebbero vissuto. […] Romanzi a sensazione, alta letteratura e tutto ciò che stava nel mezzo: a ognuno riservavo lo stesso rude trattamento.”
“Daylight seemed then to be the physical manifestation of common sense.”
“The constrained lives of his characters made me wonder how my own existence might appear in his hands.”
“I was irritated by the way he conflated his own shifting needs with an impersonal destiny. I want it, therefore...it's in the stars!”
“I said I didn’t like tricks, I liked life as I knew it recreated on the page. He said it wasn’t possible to recreate life on the page without tricks.”
“Everyone knew as much as they needed to know to be happy.”
“Here were the luxury and priviledge of the well-fed man scoffing at all hopes and progress for the rest. [He] owed nothing to a world that nurtured him kindly, liberally educated him for free, sent him to no wars, brought him to manhood without scary rituals or famine or fear of vengeful gods, embraced him with a handsome pension in his twenties and placed no limits on his freedom of expression. This was an easy nihilism that never doubted that all we had made was rotten, never thought to pose alternatives, never derived hope from friendship, love, free markets, industry, technology, trade, and all the arts and sciences.”
“Writers owed their readers a duty of care, of mercy.”
“By degrees, he joins that sorry legion of passive men who abandon their children in order to placate their second wives.”
“What I took to be the norm -- taut, smooth, supple -- was the transient special case of youth. To me, the old were a separate species, like sparrows or foxes.”
“You pull a book from the shelf and there was an invention... Almost like cooking, I thought sleepily. Instead of heat transforming the ingredients, there's pure invention, the spark, the hidden element. What resulted was more than the sum of parts... At one level it was obvious enough how these separarte parts were tipped in and deployed. The mystery was in how they were blended into somthing cohesive and plausible, how the ingredients were cooked into something so delicious. As my thought scattered and I drifted toward the borders of oblivion, I thought I almost understood how it was done.”
“That evening he plays with the children, cleans the hamster's cage with them, gets them into their pyjamas, and reads to them three times over, once together, then to Jake on his own, then to Naomi. It is at times like these that his life makes sense. How soothing it is, the scent of clean bedlinen and minty toothpaste breath, and his children's eagerness to hear the adventures of imaginary beings, and how touching, to watch the children's eyes grow heavy as they struggle to hang on to the priceless last minutes of their day, and finally fail.”
“I read anything I saw lying around. Pulp fiction, great literature and everything in between - I gave them all the same rough treatment.”
“He found and praised Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat. I said I found it too schematic and preferred The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. He nodded, but not in agreement, it seemed, more like a therapist who now understood my problem.”
“While my friends struggled and calculated, I reached a solution by a set of floating steps that were partly visual, partly just a feeling for what was right. It was hard to explain how I knew what I knew.”
“He would change my life and behave with selfless cruelty as he prepared to set out on a journey with no hope of return.”
“I craved a form of naive realism. I paid special attention, I craned my readerly neck whenever a London street I knew was mentioned, or a style of frock, a real public person, even a make of car. Then, I thought, I had a measure, I could guage the quality of the writing by its accuracy, by the extent to which it aligned with my own impressions, or improved upon them. I was fortunate that most English writing of the time was in the form of undemanding social documentary. I wasn't impressed by those writers (they were spread between South and North America) who infiltrated their own pages as part of the cast, determined to remind poor reader that all the characters and even they themselves were pure inventions and the there was a difference between fiction and life. Or, to the contrary, to insist that life was a fiction anyway. Only writers, I thought, were ever in danger of confusing the two.”
“Humans were peculiar. They were by turns squeamish and appallingly violent.”
“It pursues a divide-and-conquer strategy: single versus married women, working women versus homemakers, middle-versus working-class. It manipulates a system of rewards and punishments, elevating women who follow its rules, isolating those who don’t. The backlash remarkets old myths about women as new facts and ignores all appeals to reason. Cornered, it denies its own existence, points an accusatory finger at feminism, and burrows deeper underground. Backlash”
“(While interviewing The University Student:)
'Oh, poor Xinran. You haven't even got the various categories of women straight. How can you possibly hope to understand men? Let me tell you. When men have been drinking, they come out with a set of definitions for women. Lovers are "swordfish", tasty but with sharp bones. "Personal secretaries" are "carp", the longer you "stew" them, the more flavour they have. Other men's wives are "Japanese puffer fish", trying a mouthful could be the end of you, but risking death is a source of pride.'
'And what about their own wives?'
'Salt cod, because it keeps for a long time. When there is no other food, salt cod is cheap and convenient.”
“Through it all, he began to develop a relationship with Avalon. Slowly they became friends; trust blossomed between them and then the plans to save the kingdom developed naturally. If Kiran couldn’t have me, he would end his life in sacrifice so that I could have freedom. I turned my head into my shoulder with the feeling flooding my body that everything Kiran did, he did it for me. His love for me, his undying resolve to live his life dedicated to me nearly swept me away with his intensity.”
“I'm sorry to say that too often, I haven't a clue why people do things like this. Why they drown their babies or strangle their wives or shoot their coworkers. I see the results of their actions, but I can't tell you what sets them off. I just know that it happens. And people are capable of doing terrible things.”
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