Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“Read these stories, then, not to confirm the brutal realities of love, but to experience its many variegated, compensatory pleasures.”

Book: My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Checkhov to Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides

This book and I went to the gym together, because i tend to get bored on the treadmill/elliptical and also because i like having something to distract myself when my cardiovascular endurance starts to wane and my lungs feel like shredded balloons. Normally this works out okay, except i got a little ambitious and tried to underline the passages i liked while simultaneously jogging in a straight line. It didn’t work, and i sort of tripped/leapt/flew off the treadmill. But i landed on my feet, so you know, i still played it cool and everything. No big. Anyway, moral of the story: this book is good, but don’t try and underline its passages while running. But most of the stories are good/engaging enough to keep my treadmilling brain engaged, which says something! If the title appeals to you, the book probably will too–it’s rather self-explanatory.

Also, if you borrow my copy, now you know why my underlines are rather un-line-like, and occasionally veer across the entire page.

————-

From the introduction (Eugenides):
“A love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims—these are lucky eventualities but they aren’t love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.
We value love not because it’s stronger than death but because it’s weaker. Say what you want about love: death will finish it. You will not go on loving in the grave, not in any physical way that will at all resemble love as we know it on earth. The perishable nature of love is what gives love its profound importance in our lives. If it were endless, if it were on tap. Love wouldn’t hit us the way it does.”

“Read these stories, then, not to confirm the brutal realities of love, but to experience its many variegated, compensatory pleasures.”


From “First Love and Other Sorrows” by Harold Brodkey

“I lifted my face—that exasperating factor, my face—and stares entranced at the night, at the waving tops of the trees, and the branches blowing back and forth, and the round moon embedded in the night sky, turning the nearby streamers of cloud into mother-of-pearl. It was all very rare and eternal-seeming. What a dreadful unhappiness I felt.

From “Lady With the Little Dog” by Anton Checkhov — FAVORITE
“Repeated experience, and bitter experience indeed, had long since taught him that every intimacy, which in the beginning lends life such pleasant diversity and presents itself as a nice and light adventure, inevitably, with decent people—especially irresolute Muscovites, who are slow starters—grows into a major task, extremely complicated, and the situation finally becomes burdensome.”


“But here was all the timorousness and angularity of inexperienced youth, a feeling of awkwardness, and an impression of bewilderment, as if someone had suddenly knocked at the door.”

“He had two lives: an apparent one, seen and known by all who needed it, filled with conventional truth and conventional deceit, which perfectly resembled the lives of his acquaintances and friends, and another that went on in secret. And by some strange coincidence, perhaps an accidental one, everything that he found important, interesting, necessary, in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, which constituted the core of his life, occurred in secret from others, while everything that made up his lie, his shell, in which he hid in order to conceal the truth—for instance, his work at the bank, his arguments at the club, his “inferior race,” his attending official celebrations with his wife—all this was in full view. And he judged others by himself, did not believe what he saw, and always supposed that every man led his own real and very interesting life under the cover of secrecy, as under the cover of night. Every personal existence was upheld by a secret, and it was perhaps partly for that reason that every cultivated man took such anxious care that his personal secret should be respected.”

“They had forgiven each other the things they were ashamed of in the past, they forgave everything in the present, and they felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.
Formerly, in sad moments, he had calmed himself with all sorts of arguments, whatever had come into hi head, but now he did not care about any arguments, he felt deep compassion, he wanted to be sincere, tender…
And it seemed that, just a little more—and the solution would be found, and then a new, beautiful life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that the end was still far, far off, and that the most complicated and difficult part was just beginning.


From “A Rose For Emily,” by Faulkner

“When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant had seen in at least ten years.”

“We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.”


From “The Dead” by Joyce

“A new generation is growing up in our midst, a generation actuated by new ideas and new principles. It is serious and enthusiastic for these new ideas and its enthusiasm, even when it is misdirected is, I believe, in the main sincere. But we are living in a skeptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thoughttormented age: and sometimes I fear that this new generation, educated or hypereducated as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humour which belonged to an older day.”

“Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”


From “Some Other, Better Otto” by Deborah Eisenberg
also liked this one a lot.
“It had taken him—how long?—years and years to establish a viable, if not pristine, degree of estrangement from his family. Which was no doubt why, he once explained to William, he had tended, over the decades, to be so irascible and easily exhausted. The sustained effort, the subliminal concentration that was required to detach the stubborn prehensile hold was enough to wear a person right out and keep him from ever getting down to anything of real substance”

“A barren landscape dotted with clutter. Perhaps the life of the last dinosaurs, as they ranged, puzzled and sorrowful, across the comet-singed planet, was similar to childhood. It hadn’t been a pleasant time, surely, and yet one did have an impulse to acknowledge one’s antecedents, now and again. Hello, that was us, it still is, good-bye.”

“Why did he need so many things in his life, Otto wondered; why did all these things have to be so special? Special, beautiful plates; special, beautiful furniture; special, beautiful everything. And all that special-ness, it occurred to him, intended only to ensure that no one—especially himself—could possibly underestimate his value. Yet it actually served to illustrate how corroded he was, how threadbare his native resources, how impoverished his discourse with everything that lived and was human.”

No, but it couldn’t be called “remembering” at all, really, could it? That simply wasn’t what people meant by “remembering.” No act of the mind or the psyche was needed for Sharon to reclaim anything, because nothing in her brain ever sifted down out of precedence. The passage of time failed to distance, blur, or diminish her experiences. The nacreous layers that formed around the events in one’s history to smoothe, distinguish, and beautify them never materialized around Sharon’s; her history skittered here and there in its original sharp grains on a depthless plane that resembled neither calendar nor clock.”

“She arrived at her hypotheses by sheer intuition and with what eventually one of her mentor described as an almost alarming speed; she was like a dancer, he said, out in the cosmos springing weightlessly from star to star. Drones, merely brilliant, crawled along behind with laborious proofs that supported her assertions.”

“Amazing how fast one’s body reacted. Fear had vacuumed the blood right through his extremities. One’s body, the primeval parts of one’s brain—how fast they were! Much faster than that recent part with the words and thoughts and so on, what was it? The cortex, was that it?”


From “The Hitchhiking Game” by Kundera
(loved it)
“Jealousy isn’t a pleasant trait, but if it isn’t overdone (and if it’s combined with modesty), apart form its inconvenience there’s even something touching about it.”

“She often longed to feel free and easy about her body, the way most of the women around her did. She had even invented a special course in self-persuasion: she would repeat to herself that at birth every human being received one out of the millions of available bodies, as one would receive an allotted room out of the millions of rooms in an enormous hotel; that consequently the body was fortuitous and impersonal, only a ready-made, borrowed thing. She would repeat this to herself in different ways, but she could never manage to feel it. This mind body-dualism was alien to her. She was too much at one with her body; that is why she always felt such anxiety about it.”

“The alien life in which she had become involved was a life without shame, without biographical specifications, without past or future, without obligations; it was a life that was extraordinarily free. The girl, as a hitchhiker, could do anything: Everything was permitted her; she could say, do, and feel whatever she liked.”

This was all the worse because he worshiped her rather than loved her; it had always seemed that the girl had reality only within the bounds of fidelity and purity, and that was beyond these bounds it simply didn’t exist; beyond these bounds she would cease to be herself, as water ceases to be water beyond the boiling point. When he now saw her crossing this horrifying boundary with nonchalant elegance, he was filled with anger.”

“Everything was in the girl, her soul was terrifyingly amorphous, it held faithfulness and unfaithfulness, treachery and innocence, flirtatiousness and chastity, This disorderly jumble seemed disgusting to him, like the variety to be found in a pile f garbage.”


From “How To Be an Other Woman” by Lorrie Moore

“Love drains from you, takes with it much of your blood sugar and water weight. You are like a house slowly losing is electricity, the fans slowing, the lights diming and flickering; the clocks stop and go and stop.”


From “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver

“And the terrible thing, the terrible thing is, but the good thing too, the saving grace, you might say, is that if something happened to one of us—excuse me for saying this—but if something happened to one of us tomorrow, I think the other one, the other person, would grieve for a while, you know, but then the surviving party would go out and love again, have someone else soon enough. All of this, all of this love we’re talking about, it would just be a memory. Maybe not even a memory. Am I wrong? Am I way off base? Because I want you to set me straight if you think I’m wrong. I want to know.”


From “Innocence” by Harold Brodkey
(also really really liked it)
I think someone who claims to understand byt who is obviously calm, someone who claims to write with emotion recollected in tranquility, is a fool and a liar. To understand is to tremble. To recollect is to reenter and be riven. An acrobat after spinning through the air in a mockery of flight stands erect on his perch and mockingly takes his bow as if what he is being applauded for was easy for him and cost him nothing, although meanwhile he is covered with sweat and his smile is edged with a relief chilling to think about; he is indulging in a show-business style; he is pretending to be superhuman. I am bored with that and with where it had brought us. I admire the authority of being on one’s knees in front of the event.


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