Michael Chabon · 639 pages
Rating: (163.8K votes)
“In the immemorial style of young men under pressure, they decided to lie down for a while and waste time.”
“The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of the things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost, that they might never have existed in the first place.”
“Forget about what you are escaping from. Reserve your anxiety for what you are escaping to.”
“They lay there for a few seconds, in the dark, in the future, listening to the fabulous clockwork of their hearts and lungs, and loving each other”
“We have the idea that our hearts, once broken, scar over with an indestructible tissue that prevents their ever breaking again in quite the same place...”
“The magician seemed to promise that something torn to bits might be mended without a seam, that what had vanished might reappear, that a scattered handful of doves or dust might be reunited by a word, that a paper rose consumed by fire could be made to bloom from a pile of ash. But everyone knew that it was only an illusion. The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost, that they might never have existed in the first place.”
“As he watched Joe stand, blazing, on the fire escape, Sammy felt an ache in his chest that turned out to be, as so often occurs when memory and desire conjoin with a transient effect of weather, the pang of creation. The desire he felt, watching Joe, was unquestionably physical, but in the sense that Sammy wanted to inhabit the body of his cousin, not possess it. It was, in part, a longing--common enough among the inventors of heroes--to be someone else; to be more than the result of two hundred regimens and scenarios and self-improvement campaigns that always ran afoul of his perennial inability to locate an actual self to be improved. Joe Kavalier had an air of competence, of faith in his own abilities, that Sammy, by means of constant effort over the whole of his life, had finally learned only to fake. ”
“Poor little librarians of the world, those girls, secretly lovely, their looks marred forever by the cruelty of a pair of big dark eyeglasses!”
“No; he could be ruined again and again by hope, but he would never be capable of belief.”
“Every universe, our own included, begins in conversation. Every golem in the history of the world, from Rabbi Hanina's delectable goat to the river-clay Frankenstein of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, was summoned into existence through language, through murmuring, recital, and kabbalistic chitchat -- was, literally, talked into life.”
“Every golden age is as much a matter of disregard as of felicity.”
“A surprising fact about the magician Bernard Kornblum, Joe remembered, was that he believed in magic. Not in the so-called magic of candles, pentagrams, and bat wings. Not in the kitchen enchantments of Slavic grandmothers with their herbiaries and parings from the little toe of a blind virgin tied up in a goatskin bag. Not in astrology, theosophy, chiromancy, dowsing rods, séances, weeping statues, werewolves, wonders, or miracles. What bewitched Bernard Kornblum, on the contrary, was the impersonal magic of life, when he read in a magazine about a fish that could disguise itself as any one of seven different varieties of sea bottom, or when he learned from a newsreel that scientists had discovered a dying star that emitted radiation on a wavelength whose value in megacycles approximated π. In the realm of human affairs, this type of enchantment was often, though not always, a sadder business—sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel. Here its stock-in-trade was ironies, coincidences, and the only true portents: those that revealed themselves, unmistakable and impossible to ignore, in retrospect.”
“Only love could pick a nested pair of steel Bramah locks.”
“His dreams had always been Houdiniesque: they were the dreams of a pupa struggling in its blind cocoon, mad for a taste of light and air.”
“Having lost his mother, father, brother, an grandfather, the friends and foes of his youth, his beloved teacher Bernard Kornblum, his city, his history—his home—the usual charge leveled against comic books, that they offered merely an escape from reality, seemed to Joe actually to be a powerful argument on their behalf…
The escape from reality was, he felt—especially right after the war—a worthy challenge… The pain of his loss—though he would never have spoken of it in those terms—was always with him in those days, a cold smooth ball lodged in his chest, just behind his sternum. For that half hour spent in the dappled shade of the Douglas firs, reading Betty and Veronica, the icy ball had melted away without him even noticing. That was the magic—not the apparent magic of a silk-hatted card-palmer, or the bold, brute trickery of the escape artist, but the genuine magic of art. It was a mark of how fucked-up and broken was the world—the reality—that had swallowed his home and his family that such a feat of escape, by no means easy to pull off, should remain so universally despised.”
“He had no idea of how long his life would one day seem to have gone on; how daily present the absence of love would come to feel.
“Just watch me,” he said.”
“Take care-there is no force more powerful than that of an unbridled imagination.”
“There was something unmistakably exultant about the mess that Rosa had made. Her bedroom-studio was at once the canvas, journal, museum, and midden of her life. She did not “decorate” it; she infused it.”
“It was, in part, a longing – common enough among the inventors of heroes – to be someone else; to be more than the result of two hundred regimens and scenarios and self-improvement campaigns that always ran afoul of his perennial inability to locate an actual self to be improved”
“Back in the summer of 1941, they had stood to lose so much, it seemed, through the shame and ruination of exposure. Sammy could not have known that one day he would come to regard all the things that their loving each other had seemed to put at so much risk – his career in comic books, his relations with his family, his place in the world – as the walls of a prison, an airless, lightless keep from which there was no hope of escape….He recalled his and Tracy’s parting at Penn Station on the morning of Pearl Harbor, in the first-class compartment of the Broadway Limited, their show of ordinary mute male farewell, the handshake, the pat on the shoulder, carefully tailoring and modulating their behavior through there was no one at all watching, so finely attuned to the danger of what they might lose that they could not permit themselves to notice what they had”
“And then the man reminded Max, with a serious but suave and practiced air, that freedom was a debt that could be repaid only by purchasing the freedom of others.”
“What would she be saying if she did? That she did want to marry him? For ten years, at least, since she was twelve or thirteen, Rosa had been declaring roundly to anyone who asked that she had no intention of getting married, ever, and that if she ever did, it would be when she was old and tired of life. When this declaration in its various forms had ceased to shock people sufficiently, she had taken to adding that the man she finally married would be no older than twenty-five. But lately she had been starting to experience strong, inarticulate feelings of longing, of a desire to be with Joe all the time, to inhabit his life and allow him to inhabit hers, to engage with him in some kind of joint enterprise, in a collaboration that would be their lives. She didn't suppose they needed to get married to do that, and she knew that she certainly ought to not want to. But did she?”
“Nothing that had ever happened to him, not the shooting of Oyster, or the piteous muttering expiration of John Wesley Shannenhouse, or the death of his father, or internment of his mother and grandfather, not even the drowning of his beloved brother, had ever broken his heart quite as terribly as the realization, when he was halfway to the rimed zinc hatch of the German station, that he was hauling a corpse behind him”
“When he walked outside again, the sky was shining like a nickel and the air was filled with the smell of sugared nuts.”
“With patience and calm, persistence and stoicism, good handwriting and careful labeling, they would meet persecution, indignity, and hardship head-on.”
“And yet in her eyes there was something unreadable, something that did not want to be read, the determined blankness that in predator animals conceals hostile calculation and in prey forms part of an overwhelming effort to seem to have disappeared.”
“The two dozen commonplace childhood photographs - snowsuit, pony, tennis racket, looming fender of a Dodge - were an inexhaustible source of wonder for him, at her having existed before he met her, and of sadness for his possessing nothing of the ten million minutes of that black-and-white scallop-edged existence save these few proofs.”
“See you in the funny papers," he said. Jaunty, he reminded himself; always jaunty. In my panache is their hope for salvation.”
“Her correspondence had been like the pumping of a heart into a severed artery, wild and incessant at first, then slowing down with a kind of muscular reluctance to a stream that became a trickle and finally ceased; the heart had stopped.”
“The devolution of American culture takes another great step forward”
“...In our days many men have lived in this cruel manner, crushed against the bottom, but each for a relatively short period; so that we can perhaps ask ourselves if it is necessary or good to retain any memory of this exceptional human state.
To this question we feel that we have to reply in the affirmative. We are in fact convinced that no human experience is without meaning or unworthy of analysis, and that fundamental values, even if they are not positive, can be deduced from this particular world which we are describing…”
“One Choice, Breaks free of his past
One Choice, Embraces his future
One Choice, Exposes the dangers
One Choice, Changes him- forever
One Choice will free him”
“Sometimes being a good friend means saying nothing."
"I'm supposed to watch her make a mistake?"
"Sometimes, yes. And then you stand by to pick up the pieces.”
“Marry me, Kiara,” he blurts out in front of everyone.
“Why?” she asks, challenging him.
“Because I love you,” he says, walking up to her and bending down on one knee while he takes her hand in his, “and I want to go to sleep with you every night and wake up seein’ your face every mornin’, I want you to be the mother of my children, I want to fix cars with you and eat your crappy tofu tacos that you think are Mexican. I want to climb mountains with you and be challenged by you, I want to argue with you just so we can have crazy hot makeup sex. Marry me, because without you I’d be six feet under … and because I love your family like they’re my own … and because you’re my best friend and I want to grow old with you.” He starts tearing up, and it’s shocking because I’ve never seen him cry. “Marry me, Kiara Westford, because when I got shot the only thing I was thinkin’ about was comin’ back here and makin’ you my wife. Say yes, chica.”
“I always do that, get into something and see how far I can go.”
BookQuoters is a community of passionate readers who enjoy sharing the most meaningful, memorable and interesting quotes from great books. As the world communicates more and more via texts, memes and sound bytes, short but profound quotes from books have become more relevant and important. For some of us a quote becomes a mantra, a goal or a philosophy by which we live. For all of us, quotes are a great way to remember a book and to carry with us the author’s best ideas.
We thoughtfully gather quotes from our favorite books, both classic and current, and choose the ones that are most thought-provoking. Each quote represents a book that is interesting, well written and has potential to enhance the reader’s life. We also accept submissions from our visitors and will select the quotes we feel are most appealing to the BookQuoters community.
Founded in 2018, BookQuoters has quickly become a large and vibrant community of people who share an affinity for books. Books are seen by some as a throwback to a previous world; conversely, gleaning the main ideas of a book via a quote or a quick summary is typical of the Information Age but is a habit disdained by some diehard readers. We feel that we have the best of both worlds at BookQuoters; we read books cover-to-cover but offer you some of the highlights. We hope you’ll join us.