Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“And that, too, is part of the history of love.”

Book: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (Jonathan Safran Foer’s wife!)

Amazing. I adore this book. I have read this book over, and over, and over. And every time I read it, I love it a little more, even though I didn’t think that was possible. I will lend this book to anyone who asks, because everyone should read it. It is absolutely beautiful.


The more typographically emphasized the passage, the more i gushed over it.

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The words of our childhood became strangers to us–we couldn’t use them in the same way and so we chose not to use them at all. Life demanded a new language.

Sometimes I open my book and read from it at random.
There are passages I know by heart.
By heart, this is not an expression I use lightly.
My heart is weak and unreliable. I try to burden it as little as possible. If something is going to have an impact, I direct it elsewhere. My gut, for example, or my lungs. When I pass a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself, or I’m at the bus stop and some kids come up behind me and say, Who smells shit?—small daily humiliations that are par for the course—these I take, generally speaking, in my liver. Other damages I take in other places. The pancreas I reserve for being struck by all that’s been lost. It’s true that there’s so much, and the organ is so small. But. You would be surprised how much it can take. Sometimes I imagine my own autopsy. Disappointment in myself: right kidney. Disappointment of others in me: left kidney. Personal failures: kishkes. I don’t mean to make it sound like I’ve made a science out of it. It’s not that well thought out. I take it where it comes. It’s just that I notice certain patterns. When the clocks are turned forward and the dark falls before I’m ready, this, for reasons I can’t explain, I feel in my wrists. And when I wake up and my fingers are stiff, almost certainly I was dreaming of my childhood. The field where we used to play, the field in which everything was discovered and everything was possible. (We ran so hard we thought we would spit blood: to me that is the sound of childhood, heavy breathing and shoes scraping the hard earth.) Stiffness of the fingers is the dream of childhood as it’s been returned to me at the end of my life. I have to run them under the hot water, steam clouding the mirror, outside the rustle of pigeons. Yesterday I saw a man kicking a dog and I felt it behind my eyes. I don’t’ know what to call this, a place before tears. The pain of forgetting: spine. The pain of remembering: spine. All the times I have suddenly remembered that my parents are dead, even now it still surprises me, to exist in the world while those who made me have ceased to exist: my knees, it takes half a tube of Ben-Gay and a big production just to bend them. To everything a season, to every time I’ve woken only to make the mistake of believing for a moment that someone is sleeping beside me: a hemorrhoid. Loneliness: there is no organ that can take it all.

In the years that followed, the boy became a man who became invisible. In this way, he escaped death.

There was a certain satisfaction in bitterness. I courted it. It was standing outside, and I invited it in. I scowled at the world. And the world scowled back. We were locked in a stare of mutual disgust.

I was never a man of great ambition.
I cried too easily
I don’t have a head for science.
Words often failed me.
While others prayed I only moved my lips.
Please.

And when I said I was going up to my room [my mother] would call after me, “What can I do for you I love you so much,” and I always wanted to say, but never said: Love me less.

She’s kept her love for him as alive as the summer they first met. In order to do this, she’s turned life away. Sometimes she subsists for days on water and air. Being the only known complex life-form to do this, she would have a species named after her. Once Uncle Julian told me how the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti said that sometimes just to paint a head you have to give up the whole figure. To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something to have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.

The idea of evolution is so beautiful and sad.

ONE THING I AM NEVER GOING TO DO WHEN I GROW UP
Is fall in love, drop out of college, learn to subsist on water and air, have a species named after me, and ruin my life. When I was little my other used to get a certain look in her eyes and say, “One day you’re going to fall in love.” I wanted to say, but never said: “Not in a million years.”


Her kiss was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering. He felt his body shaking. He was scared he was about to lose control of his muscles. For anyone else, it was one thing, but for him it wasn’t so easy, because this man believed—and had believed for as long as he could remember—that part of him was made of glass. He imagined a wrong move in which he fell and shattered in front of her. He pulled away, even though he didn’t want to. He smiled at Alma’s feet, hoping she’d understand. They talked for hours.

I’d made a list in my notebook of all the things I missed about him. The way he wrinkles his nose when he’s thinking was one. How he holds things was another. But now i needed to talk to him for real and no list would substitute. I stood by the phone while my stomach turned itself inside out. During the time i waited, a whole species of butterfly may have become extinct, or a large, complex mammal with feelings like mine.

He ran his fingers down her spine over her thin blouse, and for a moment he forgot the danger he was in, grateful for the world which purposefully puts divisions in place so we can overcome them, feeling the joy of getting closer, even if deep down we can never forget the sadness of our insurmountable differences. Before he knew it, he was shaking violently. He seized his muscles to try to stop. Alma felt his hesitation. She leaned back and looked at him with something like hurt, and then he almost but didn’t say the two sentences he’d been meaning to say for years: Part of me is made of glass, and also, I love you.

The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people’s hands, nothing we say now that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. The gestures were complex and subtle, involving a delicacy of motion that has since been lost completely.
During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious…Naturally, there were misunderstandings…These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn’t go around with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they’d understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I’ve always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me.

If at large gatherings or parties, or around people with whom you feel distant, your hands sometimes hang awkwardly at the ends of your arms—if you find yourself at a loss for what to do with them, overcome with sadness that comes when you recognize the foreignness of your own body—it’s because your hands remember a time when the division between mind and body, brain and heart, what’s inside and what’s outside, was so much less. It’s not that we’ve forgotten the language of gestures entirely. The habit of moving our hands while we speak is left over from it. Clapping, pointing, giving the thumbs-up: all artifacts of ancient gestures. Holding hands, for example, is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together. And at night, when it’s too dark to see, we find it necessary to gesture on each other’s bodies to make ourselves understood.

19. LONELY PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT

…there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone.

I thought it would be strange to live in the world without her in it. And yet. I’d gotten used to living with her memory a long time ago…The truth was I’d given up a long time ago. The moment had passed, the door between the lives we could have led and the lives we led had shut in our faces. Or better to say, in my face.

Just as there was a first instant when someone rubbed two sticks together to make a spark, there was a first time joy was felt, and a first time for sadness. For a while, new feelings were being invented all the time. Desire was born early, as was regret. When stubbornness was felt for the first time, it started a chain reaction, creating the feeling of resentment on the one hand, and alienation and loneliness on the other. It might have been a certain counterclockwise movement of the hips that marked the birth of ecstasy; a bolt of lightning that caused the first feeling of awe. Or maybe it was the body of a girl named Alma. Contrary to logic, the feeling of surprise wasn’t born immediately. It only came after people had enough time to get used to things as they were. And when enough time had passed, and someone felt the first feeling of surprise, someone, somewhere else, felt the first pang of nostalgia.

Even now, all possible feelings do not exist. There are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written, or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom, or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact.


So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves. On rainy days you can hear their chorus rushing past: IwasabeautifulgirlPleasedon’tgoItoobelievemybodyismadeofglass-I’veneverlovedanyoneIthinkofmyselfasfunnyForgive me…

FOR BETTER OR WORSE. Angels don’t get married. To begin with they are too busy, and secondly they don’t fall in love with each other. (If you don’t know what it feels like to have someone you love put a hand below your bottom rib for the first time, what chance is there for love?)

The way they live together is not unlike a fresh litter of pups: blind and grateful and denuded. This is not to say that they don’t feel love, because they do; sometimes they feel it so strongly that they think they’re having a panic attack. In these moments, their hearts race uncontrollably and they worry that they are going to throw up. But the love they feel is not for their own kind, but for the Living, who they can neither understand, nor smell, nor touch It is a general Love for the Living (though being general doesn’t make it any less potent). Only from time to time does an angel find in herself a defect that causes her to fall in love, not in general, but in the specific.

Sometimes I thought about nothing and sometimes I thought about my life. At least I made a living. What kind of living? A living. I lived. It wasn’t easy. And yet. I found out how little is unbearable.

For a long time, it remained hollow. Years, maybe. And when at last it was filled again, you knew that the new love you felt for a woman would have been impossible without Alma. If it weren’t for her, there would never have been an empty space, or the need to fill it.

At the end, all that’s left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that’s why I hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of my things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived.


Now that mine is almost over, I can say that the thing that struck me most about life is the capacity for change. One day you’re a person and the next day they tell you you’re a dog. At first it’s hard to bear, but after a while you learn not to look at it as a loss. There’s even a moment when it becomes exhilarating to realize just how little needs to stay the same for you to continue the effort they call, for lack of a better word, being human.


And it’s like some tiny nothing that sets off a natural disaster halfway across the world, only this was the opposite of disaster, how by accident she saved me with that thoughtless act of grace, and she never knew, and how that, too, is part of the history of love.


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