Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“We shared the smile of recognizing ourselves in each other.”

Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Nicole Krauss’ husband!)
I read this before I read The History of Love, and they are eerily similar (considering that they hadn’t met before these were published, if my research is correct). I think I actually loved HoL a teensy bit more, but that’s just because I loved it to the point of obsession rather than just to the point of ardent fondness. Nonetheless, they are definitely comparable in terms of style and even content, and definitely both incredibly beautiful.
———

A few weeks after the worst day, I started writing lots of letters. I don’t know why, but it was one of the only things that made my boots lighter.

I’d experienced joy, but not nearly enough, could there be enough?
The end of suffering does not justify the suffering, and so there is no end to suffering, what a mess I am, I thought, what a fool, how foolish and narrow, how worthless, how pinched and pathetic, how helpless.

I started inventing things, and then I couldn’t stop, like beavers, which I know about. People think they cut down trees so they an build dams, but in reality it’s because their teeth never stop growing, and if they didn’t constantly file them down by cutting through all of those trees, their teeth would start to grow into their own faces, which would kill them. That’s how my brain was.


Even if it was relatively insignificant, it was something, and I needed to do something, like sharks, who die if they don’t swim, which I know about.

I would give everything never to think about her again, I can only hold on to the things I want to lose.

Being with him made my brain quiet. I didn’t have to invent a thing.
I couldn’t explain my need to myself, and that’s why it was such a beautiful need, there’s nothing wrong with not understanding yourself.

We shared the smile of recognizing ourselves in each other.

I thought maybe if she could express herself rather than suffer herself, if she had a way to relieve the burden, she lived for nothing more than living, with nothing to get inspired by, to care for, to call her own, she helped out at the store, then came home and sat in her big chair and stared at her magazines, not at them but through them, she let the dust accumulate on her shoulders.

I was so happy for her, I remembered the feeling she was feeling, the exhilaration of building the world anew, I heard from behind the door the sounds of creation, the letters pressing into the paper, the pages being pulled from the machine, everything being, for once, better than it was and as good as it could be, everything full of meaning, and then one morning this spring, after years of working in solitude. She said, “I’d like to show you something.”

I knew I was about to destroy what she’d been able to rebuild, but I had only one life.

She said, “Believe it or not, I used to be idealistic.” I asked her what “idealistic” meant. “It means you live by what you think is right.” “You don’t do that anymore?” “There are questions I don’t ask anymore.”

How could such a lonely person have been living so close to me my whole life? If I had known, I would have gone up to keep him company. Or I would have made some jewelry for him. Or told him hilarious jokes. Or given him a private tambourine concert.
It made me start to wonder if there were other people so lonely so close. I thought about “Eleanor Rigby.” It’s true, where do they all come from? And where do they all belong?
What if the water that came out of the shower was treated with a chemical that responded to a combination of things, like your heartbeat, and your body temperature, and your brain waves, so that your skin changed color according to your mood? If you were extremely excited your skin would turn green, and if you were angry you’d turn red, obviously, and if you felt like shiitake you’d turn brown, and if you were blue you’d turn blue.
Everyone could know what everyone else felt, and we could be more careful with each other, because you’d never want to tell a person whose skin was purple that you’re angry at her for being late, just like you would want to pat a pink person on the back and tell him, Congratulations!”

That’s my problem. I miss what I already have, and I surround myself with things that are missing.

I would have done anything for him. Maybe that was my sickness.

I felt suddenly shy. I was not used to shy. I was used to shame. Shyness is when you turn your head away from something you want. Shame is when you turn your head away from something you do not want.

I spent my life learning to feel less.
Every day I felt less.
Is that growing old? Or is it something worse?
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.


Let me see you cry, I told him.
I do not want to hurt you, he said by shaking his head left to right.
It hurts me when you do not want to hurt me, I told him. Let me see you cry.

“What do you think is going on?” “I feel too much. That’s what’s going on.” “Do you think one can feel too much? Or just feel in the wrong ways?” “My insides don’t match up with my outsides.” “Do anyone’s insides and outsides match up?” “I don’t know. I’m only me.” “Maybe that’s what a person’s personality is: the difference between the inside and the outside.” “But it’s worse for me.” “I wonder if everyone thinks it’s worse for him.” “Probably. But it really is worse for me.”

I turned on the radio and found a station playing “Hey Jude.” It was true, I didn’t want to make it bad. I wanted to take the sad song and make it better. It’s just that I didn’t know how.

“Are you an optimist or a pessimist? “I can’t remember. Which?” “Do you know what those worse mean?” “Not really.” “An optimist is positive and helpful. A pessimist is negative and cynical.” “I’m an optimist.” “Well, that’s good, because there’s no irrefutable evidence. There’s nothing that could convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced. But there is an abundance of clues that would give the wanting believer something to hold on to.”

It’s better to lose than never to have had.
I lost something I never had.
You had everything.


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Filed under: Jonathan Safran Foer,

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