“This is our condition . We do not solve problems. We replace them with other problems.”
“…wondering, not for the first time, if there was a kind of dark bliss built into dementia: an immunity from death and abandonment, a way of fixing a point in time so that nothing can change, nothing can be rewritten, no one can leave.”
“But now . . . he was not yet at the age, like his father, when life shifts to past tense, when what is becomes what was and all the other verbs defining your existence go slumping into the preterite, crusted with apophonic alternations (I sing calcifying into I sang), and you can do nothing but marvel or wince at the irredeemable, irreversible arc of it—not yet. On this November night he was fifty-four years old. By no means, he told himself, was he beyond the future tense. But he could feel the past tense gaining on him, like the cold seeping into his back and dusting his face. He licked it off his lips and stood up. He had work to do.”
“But then he decided it wasn’t an irony, it was merely the broken gears of time, or the way life can feed you when you’re full (youth) and starve you when you’re hungry (midlife).”
“Alexis was at that age, seventeen, when mothers come into view as tyrants or imbeciles or both.”
“This is our condition. We do not solve problems. We replace them with other problems.”
“People don't need love. What they need is success in one form or another. It can be love but it needn't be.”
“Tea should be bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a two-edged sword.”
“In this also we are men, that we think of the dead. Once it was not so, and when one of us died, he lay where he lay by the cave-mouth and we ran in and out there, not standing quite upright as we ran. Now we stand upright, and now also we think of the dead.
So, when the comrade lies there, we do not let him lie where he died. And we do not take him by the legs carelessly, and drag him into the forest for the foxes and woodrats to gnaw on. We do not cast him into the river carelessly for the stream to float him away.
No, but rather we lay him where the ground is hollowed out a little and there cover him with leaves and branches. So he shall return to the earth, whence all things came.
Or else we lay him to rest among the tree-branches, and give him to the air. Then, if the black birds come streaming from far to pluck at him, that too is right, for they are the creatures of the air.
Or else we give him to the bright and hot cleanliness of fire.
Then we go about our life as before, and soon we forget, like the beasts. But this at least we have done, and when we shall no longer do it, then we shall no longer be men.”
“Go on from here, Ada, please. (She). Billions of boys. Take one fairly decent decade. A billion of Bills, good, gifted, tender and passionate, not only spiritually but physically well-meaning Billions, have bared the jillions of their no less tender and brilliant Jills during that decade, at stations and under conditions that have to be controlled and specified by the worker, lest the entire report be choked up by the weeds of statistics and waist-high generalizations. No point would there be, if we left out, for example, the little matter of prodigious individual awareness and young genius, which makes, in some cases, of this or that particular gasp an unprecedented and unrepeatable event in the continuum of life or at least a thematic anthemia of such events in a work of art, or a denouncer’s article. The details that shine through or shade through: the local leaf through the hyaline skin, the green sun in the brown humid eye, tout ceci, vsyo eto, in tit and toto, must be taken into account, now prepare to take over (no, Ada, go on, ya zaslushalsya: I’m all enchantment and ears), if we wish to convey the fact, the fact, the fact—that among those billions of brilliant couples in one cross section of what you will allow me to call spacetime (for the convenience of reasoning), one couple is a unique super-imperial couple, sverhimperator-skaya cheta, in consequence of which (to be inquired into, to be painted, to be denounced, to be put to music, or to the question and death, if the decade has a scorpion tail after all), the particularities of their love-making influence in a special unique way two long lives and a few readers, those pensive reeds, and their pens and mental paintbrushes. Natural history indeed! Unnatural history—because that precision of senses and sense must seem unpleasantly peculiar to peasants, and because the detail is all: The song of a Tuscan Firecrest or a Sitka Kinglet in a cemetery cypress; a minty whiff of Summer Savory or Yerba Buena on a coastal slope; the dancing flitter of a Holly Blue or an Echo Azure—combined with other birds, flowers and butterflies: that has to be heard, smelled and seen through the transparency of death and ardent beauty. And the most difficult: beauty itself as perceived through the there and then. The males of the firefly (now it’s really your turn, Van).”
“We've been rehearsing a classic from antiquity, Green Eggs and Hamlet, the story of a young prince of Denmark who goes mad, drowns his girlfriend, and in his remorse, forces spoiled breakfast on all whom he meets.”
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