Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“Love me, because love doesn’t exist, and I have tried everything that does.”

Book: Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer

I can’t say I liked it as much as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but that might be just because I read this one second, and they are very similar, so it seemed less novel, stylistically? Who can be sure. The ending threw me for a loopsie, and I got a little bored in parts, honestly…but still, the frequent passages of absolute literary gorgeousness definitely made up for it.

“One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be a family.”

“We burned with love for ourselves, all of us, starters of the fire we suffered—our love was the affliction for which only our love was the cure…”

He couldn’t bear to live, but he couldn’t bear to die. He couldn’t bear the thought of her making love to someone else, but neither could he bear the absence of the thought. And as for the note, he couldn’t bear to keep it, but he couldn’t bear to destroy it either. So he tried to lose it…But like his life, he couldn’t for the life of him lose the note. It kept returning to him. It stayed with him, like a part of him, like a birthmark, like a limb, it was on him, in him, him, his hymn: I had to do it for myself.

He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, r nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over. I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others—the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room.

This made me a suffering person. I will tell you why. I knew why he was a little less than crying. I knew very well, and I wanted to go to him and tell him that I had a little less than cried too, just like him, and that no matter how much it seemed like he would never grow up to be a premium person like me, with many girls and so many famous places to go, he would. He would be exactly like me. And look at me, Little Igor, the bruises go away, and so does how you hate, and so does the feeling that everything you receive in life is something you have earned.

Her body look like that of a chronically sick girl, a girl squeezed in some biological vise, or a starving girl, a skin-and-bones girl, a girl who is not entirely free.

I wouldn’t want a boy to think I was pretty unless he was the kind of boy who thought I was pretty.

“I don’t think you’re stubborn,” Yankel told her one afternoon when she refused to eat dinner before dessert.
“Well I am!”
And she was loved for it. Loved by everyone, even those who hated her. The curious circumstances of her creation lit the men’s intrigue, but it was her clever manipulations, her coy gestures and pivots of phrase, her refusal to acknowledge or ignore their existence that made them follow her through the streets, gaze at her from their windows, dream of her—no their wives, not even themselves—at night.

Brod discovered 613 sadnesses, each perfectly unique, each a singular emotion, no more similar to any other sadness than to anger, ecstasy, guilt, or frustration. Mirror Sadness. Sadness of Domesticated Birds. Sadness of Being Sad in Front of One’s Parent. Humor Sadness. Sadness of Love Without Release.
She was like a drowning person, flailing, reaching for anything that might save her. Her life was an urgent, desperate struggle to justify her life.

She felt as if she were brimming, always producing and hoarding more love inside her. But there was no release. Table, ivory elephant harm, rainbow, onion, hairdo, mollusk, Shabbos, violence, cuticle, melodrama, ditch, honey, doily…None of it moved her. She addressed her world honestly, searching for something deserving of the volumes of love she knew she had within her, but to each she would have to say, I don’t love you.

Nothing felt like anything more than it actually was. Everything was just a thing, mired completely in its thingness.

She had to satisfy herself with the idea of love—loving the loving of things whose existence she didn’t care at all about. Love itself became the object of her love. She loved herself in love, she loved loving love, as love loves loving, and was able, in that way, to reconcile herself with a world that fell so short of what she would have hoped for. It was not the world that was the great and saving lie, but her willingness to make it beautiful and fair, to live a once-removed life, in a world once-removed from the one in which everyone else seemed to exist.

They made for themselves a sanctuary from Trachimbrod, a habitat completely unlike the rest of the world. No hateful worlds were ever spoken, and no hands raised. More than that, no angry words were ever spoken, and nothing was denied, But more than that, no unloving words were ever spoken, and everything was held up as another small piece of proof that it can be this way, it doesn’t have to be that way; if there is no love in the world, we will make a new world, and we will furnish it with soft red interiors, from the inside out, and give it a knocker that resonates like a diamond falling to a jeweler’s felt so that we should never hear it. Love me, because love doesn’t exist, and I have tried everything that does.

He never wanted Brod to know how much like a sheet of glass his mind had become, how it would steam with confusion, how thoughts skated off it, how he couldn’t’ understand so manyt of the things she told him, how he often forgot his name, and, like a small part of him dying, even hers.
4:812— The dream of living forever with Brod. I have this dream every night. Even when I can’t remember it the next morning, I know it was there, like the depression a lover’s head leaves on the pillow next to you after she’s left. I dream not of growing old with her, but of never growing old, either of us. She never leaves me, and I never leave her. It’s true, I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of the world moving forward without me, of my absence going unnoticed, or worse, being some natural force propelling life on. Is it selfish? Am I such a bad person for dreaming of a world that ends when I do? I don’t mean the world ending with respect to me, but every set of eyes closing with mine. Sometimes my dream of living forever with Brod is the dream of our dying together. I know there is no afterlife. I’m not fool. And I know there is no God. It’s not her company I need, but to know that she won’t need mine, or that she won’t not need it. I imagine scenes of her without me, and I become so jealous. She will marry and have children and touch what I could never approach—all things that should make me happy. I cannot tell her this dream, of course, but I want to so desperately. She is the only thing that matters.

Brod keeps her own life a secret from herself. Like Yankel, she repeats things until they are true, or until she can’t tell whether they are true or not. She has become an expert at confusing what is with what was with what should be with what could be. She avoids mirrors, and lifts a powerful telescope to find herself. She aims it into the sky, and can see, or so she thinks, past the blue, past the black, even past the stars, and back into a different black, and a different blue—an arc that begins with her eye and ends with a narrow house.

Love, in your writing, is the immovability of truth.

Why do we do that? Why are the painful things always electromagnets?

This is love, she thought, isn’t it? When you notice someone’s absence and hate that absence more than anything? More, even than you love his presence?

Like a blind woman learning language, she moved her fingers over the window, and like a blind woman learning language, she felt liberated. The frame of the window was the walls of the prison that set her free. She loved what it felt like to wait for the Kolker, to be entirely dependent on him for her happiness, to be as ridiculous as she had always thought it sounded, someone’s wife. She loved her new vocabulary of simply loving something more than she loved her love for that thing, and the vulnerability that went along with living in the primary world.

You’re being ridiculous, Brod. I’m only going to sleep in a different room.
But love is a room, she said. That’s what it is.

I have made efforts to make you appear as a person with less anxiety, as you have commanded me to do on so many occasions. This is difficult to achieve, because in truth you are a person with very much anxiety. Perhaps you should be a drug user.

I can be funny, because I have time to meditate about how to be funny, and I can repair my mistakes when I perform mistakes, and I can be a melancholy person in manners that are interesting, not only melancholy. With writing, we have second chances.

Everything is the way it is because everything was the way it was. Sometimes I feel ensnared in this, as if no matter what I do, what will come has already been fixed.

Everyone performs bad actions…A bad person is someone who does not lament his bad actions.

“I used to think that humor was the only way to appreciate how wonderful and terrible the world is, to celebrate how big life is. You know what I mean?” “Yes, of course.” “But now I think it’s the opposite. Humor is a way of shrinking from that wonderful and terrible world.”

He knew that I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else.

She was beautiful, it’s true, beautiful for the pitiably meticulous care with which she attended to every detail.

We are being very nomadic with the truth, yes?

The more you love someone, he came to think, the harder it is to tell them.

He broke his life into its smallest constituent parts, examined each, like a watchmaker, and then reassembled it.

The only thing more painful than being an active forgetter is to be an inert rememberer.

His love had overtaken him from the inside out, like a sickness.

And so it was when anyone tried to speak: their minds would become tangled in remembrance. Words became floods of thought with no beginning or end, and would drown the speaker before he could reach the life raft of the point he was trying to make. It was impossible to remember what one meant, what, after all of the words, was intended.

The images of his infinite pasts and infinite futures washed over him as he waited, paralyzed, in the present. He, Safran, marked the division between what was and what would be.

And this is what living next to a waterfall is like, Safran. Every widow wakes one morning, perhaps after years of pure and unwavering grieving, to realize she slept a good night’s sleep, and will be able to eat breakfast, and doesn’t heart her husband’s ghost all the time, but only some of the time. Her grief is replaced with a useful sadness. Every parent who loses a child finds a way to laugh again. The timbre begins to fade. The edge dulls. The hurt lessens. Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great grandchildren’s will be. But we learn to live in that love.

(You have ghosts?)
(Of course I have ghosts.)
(What are your ghosts like?)
(They are on the insides of the lids of my eyes.)
(This is also where my ghosts reside.)
(You have ghosts?)
(Of course I have ghosts.)
(But you are a child.)
(I am not a child.)
(But you have not known love.)
(These are my ghosts, the spaces amid love.)


Filed under: Jonathan Safran Foer,

“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.

Filed under: Jonathan Safran Foer,

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