Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Maria Alexander - Coming Hone

My mouth is sour with whiskey and the loaded shotgun lays heavily across my lap in my sofa chair. This is my Christmas Eve ritual.
I hate Christmas. The holidays. The time for families to gather to share love and good cheer. Bullshit. I try hard every year to forget there is a Christmas precisely because it reminds me of my family, but this fucking world won't let me. They've romanticized a nightmare.
Now a major industrialist, my father can list many crimes to his name, some commercial, some social. But the greatest are against his family and me, his oldest son. When he first started, he made me and my younger brothers and sisters work in the "family" business on our country estate. Sometimes through the night. Once when I nodded off -- I was probably ten at the time -- I'll never forget how he made me stand outside in the snow. Barefoot. I caught a severe cold and almost suffered frostbite. Only then did my mother intervene. She sternly lectured him that she didn't have time to wipe noses and rub feet. She had charities to run...

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ivan S. Turgenev - Phantoms

For a long time I could not get to sleep, and kept turning from side to
side. 'Confound this foolishness about table-turning!' I thought. 'It
simply upsets one's nerves.'... Drowsiness began to overtake me at last....
Suddenly it seemed to me as though there were the faint and plaintive sound
of a harp-string in the room.
I raised my head. The moon was low in the sky, and looked me straight in
the face. White as chalk lay its light upon the floor.... The strange sound
was distinctly repeated.
I leaned on my elbow. A faint feeling of awe plucked at my heart. A minute
passed, another.... Somewhere, far away, a cock crowed; another answered
still more remote.
I let my head sink back on the pillow. 'See what one can work oneself up
to,' I thought again,... 'there's a singing in my ears.'
After a little while I fell asleep--or I thought I fell asleep. I had an
extraordinary dream. I fancied I was lying in my room, in my bed--and was
not asleep, could not even close my eyes. And again I heard the sound....
I turned over.... The moonlight on the floor began softly to lift, to rise
up, to round off slightly above.... Before me; impalpable as mist, a white
woman was standing motionless.
'Who are you?' I asked with an effort.
A voice made answer, like the rustle of leaves: 'It is I ... I ... I ... I
have come for you.'
'For me? But who are you?'
'Come by night to the edge of the wood where there stands an old oak-tree.
I will be there.'
I tried to look closely into the face of the mysterious woman--and suddenly
I gave an involuntary shudder: there was a chilly breath upon me. And then
I was not lying down, but sitting up in my bed; and where, as I fancied,
the phantom had stood, the moonlight lay in a long streak of white upon the

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Book Choice: The Jew and Other Stories (Webster's Spanish Thesaurus Edition)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Banana Yoshimoto – Hardboiled & Hard Luck Quotes

Her life was like a pale shadow of life, given form by innumerable layers of anguish.

People tend to think they break up because they get tired of the person they’ve been with – that it’s someone’s decision, either yours or theirs. But this isn’t really true. Periods in our lives end the way seasons change. That’s all there is to it.

…And when you take a spill, you can always rise up from it with something good in your hand.

I always focus on the present, so why does the passage of time make me so sad?

…None of this mattered for my sister who was dying. This was a sacred time set aside for us survivors to think about issues we didn’t usually consider. To focus on the unbearable only marred what was sacred.

In the world we now lived in, the good times were a hundred times better.

…I lived in a world of overwhelming sensations; it was like I had just fallen out of love.

These songs had seen my sister through the last September of her life. They weren’t selected for that role, it just happened that way.

Buy the book: Hardboiled and Hard Luck

Monday, February 9, 2009

William Makepeace Thackeray - The Notch On The Ax

Every one remembers in the Fourth Book of the immortal poem of your
Blind Bard (to whose sightless orbs no doubt Glorious Shapes were
apparent, and Visions Celestial), how Adam discourses to Eve of the
Bright Visitors who hovered round their Eden--

'Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth,
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.'

"'How often,' says Father Adam, 'from the steep of echoing hill or
thicket, have we heard celestial voices to the midnight air, sole,
or responsive to each other's notes, singing!' After the Act of
Disobedience, when the erring pair from Eden took their solitary
way, and went forth to toil and trouble on common earth--though the
Glorious Ones no longer were visible, you cannot say they were
gone. It was not that the Bright Ones were absent, but that the
dim eyes of rebel man no longer could see them. In your chamber
hangs a picture of one whom you never knew, but whom you have long
held in tenderest regard, and who was painted for you by a friend
of mine, the Knight of Plympton. She communes with you. She
smiles on you. When your spirits are low, her bright eyes shine on
you and cheer you. Her innocent sweet smile is a caress to you.
She never fails to soothe you with her speechless prattle. You
love her. She is alive with you. As you extinguish your candle
and turn to sleep, though your eyes see her not, is she not there
still smiling? As you lie in the night awake, and thinking of your
duties, and the morrow's inevitable toil oppressing the busy,
weary, wakeful brain as with a remorse, the crackling fire flashes
up for a moment in the grate, and she is there, your little
Beauteous Maiden, smiling with her sweet eyes! When moon is down,
when fire is out, when curtains are drawn, when lids are closed, is
she not there, the little Beautiful One, though invisible, present
and smiling still? Friend, the Unseen Ones are round about us.
Does it not seem as if the time were drawing near when it shall be
given to men to behold them?"

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Book Choice: The Book of Snobs

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ami Sakurai – Innocent World Quotes

Every so often the world and I drifted far, far apart this way.

According to the world, the sex was terribly abnormal.

I saw having sex with complete strangers as being no different from masturbating. Never in my dreams did I fear it would change me in any way.

If I were labeled “The Erotic Corpse” and left at an art museum, I would have been a major attraction.

My heart was like the after-image of a dream, and even that trace seemed to disappear. It was scary.

Getting into bed with him was harder to picture than having sex with a Minotaur in the labyrinths of hell.

Masaki’s confession ushered in a kind of intimacy that didn’t have anything to do with sex. It was like friendship, just more lonesome and poignant.

Didn’t bringing a new life into the world atone for my being?

The amnesty was cancelled and I was going back to the prison of pointless life.

Why do people try to patch up their own wounds with the ugly decomposed flesh and blood of others? Knowing they’ll crumble and collapse.

Don’t ever rely on parents, relatives, boyfriends, buddies, anyone like that. If you take that advice to heart, you’ll never have to despair whatever happens to you in life.

Buy the book: Innocent World

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Banana Yoshimoto – Goodbye Tsugumi Quotes

People here (in Tokyo) are always getting angry about the smallest things-because it’s raining, for instance, or because some class has been cancelled, or because their dog took a leak in the wrong place.

She was malicious, she was rude, she had a foul mouth, she was selfish, she was horribly spoiled, and to top it all off she was brilliantly sneaky.

…she knew a lot. And of course one has to be fairly intelligent to start with, to think up so many different ways of being mean.

…acting as though she were having fun she managed to keep her suffering down to a minimum.

It’s a marvelous thing, the ocean. For some reason when two people sit together looking out at it, they stop caring whether they talk or stay silent.

He was The Dad Who Came Late.

Life is a performance, I thought. Perhaps the word “illusion” would have meant more or less the same thing, but to me “performance” seemed closer to the truth.

“Maria babe, I can die in the mountains just as well as I can die by the sea.”

“You know, Tsugumi, I get the feeling that you’ve started speaking more like a human being lately,” I said.
“Maybe my time is running out.” Tsugumi laughed.

This world of ours is piled high with farewells and goodbyes of so many different kinds, like the evening sky renewing itself again and again from one instant to the next-and I didn’t want to forget a single one.

The singing of flutes, the waving of the fans, the passing breath of a salty breeze-all this projected itself slowly into the night, flowing on and on like paper lanterns adrift on a river.

…love is a battle, and you can’t ever let your lover see your weaknesses, not even when you arrive at the very end.

Buy the book: Goodbye Tsugumi

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Banana Yoshimoto - Lizard Quotes

“It would be like dying.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If you lost your memory.”

“Memories are energy, and if they aren’t diffused they remain to haunt you.”

At some moment, it struck me that the village and my parents reeked of defeat, and that I did too. A village full of losers.

Something emanated from his being that seemed very familiar to me. I felt instantly repelled by him, but then, just as forcefully, irresistibly drawn to him.

He and I fit together so well, like the swirl on the yin/yang symbol – his tough resilience and my resilient toughness.

“Sounds great,” I agreed. I would go out with Akira and forget, for a brief while, the sorrow that clings to life. I would pretend for a moment that my sadness might someday disappear.

The only times that I had ever experienced such a circle of energy in a gathering of people –although it may seem irreverent to compare the two occasion- were the orgies with my favorite friends.

Somehow, I could never feel at ease. I felt so blue all the time, always distracted and thinking about someplace else, far away.

“It’s a blessing to have a spark in your soul, something wild.”

Sometimes that’s what happens with relationships that are too perfect. The only thing to do is to end them.

I would live and die, hopelessly ensconced in the cynical ways of the city.

No one can survive childhood without being wounded.

For the first time, I was able to step away from my imagined position in the center of the universe and see myself as part of something larger.

The river possesses the force to guide fate. I think that nature, buildings, and mountain ranges have some effect on our lives. Everything is intertwined and linked together…

Buy the book: Lizard

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sir Walter Scott - My Aunt Margaret's Mirror

My Aunt Margaret was one of that respected sisterhood upon whom devolve all the trouble and solicitude incidental to the possession of children, excepting only that which attends their entrance into the world. We were a large family, of very different dispositions and constitutions. Some were dull and peevish--they were sent to Aunt Margaret to be amused; some were rude, romping, and boisterous--they were sent to Aunt Margaret to be kept quiet, or rather that their noise might be removed out of hearing; those who were indisposed were sent with the prospect of being nursed; those who were stubborn, with the hope of their being subdued by the kindness of Aunt Margaret's discipline;--in short, she had all the various duties of a mother, without the credit and dignity of the maternal character. The busy scene of her various cares is now over. Of the invalids and the robust, the kind and the rough, the peevish and pleased children, who thronged her little parlour from morning to night, not one now remains alive but myself, who, afflicted by early infirmity, was one of the most delicate of her nurslings, yet, nevertheless, have outlived them all.
It is still my custom, and shall be so while I have the use of my limbs, to visit my respected relation at least three times a week. Her abode is about half a mile from the suburbs of the town in which I reside, and is accessible, not only by the highroad, from which it stands at some distance, but by means of a greensward footpath leading through some pretty meadows. I have so little left to torment me in life, that it is one of my greatest vexations to know that several of these sequestered fields have been devoted as sites for building. In that which is nearest the town, wheelbarrows have been at work for several weeks in such numbers, that, I verily believe, its whole surface, to the depth of at least eighteen inches, was mounted in these monotrochs at the same moment, and in the act of being transported from one place to another. Huge triangular piles of planks are also reared in different parts of the devoted messuage; and a little group of trees that still grace the eastern end, which rises in a gentle ascent, have just received warning to quit, expressed by a daub of white paint, and are to give place to a curious grove of chimneys.

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Book Choice: Ivanhoe (Penguin Classics)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Anton Chekhov - A Chamelion

THE police superintendent Otchumyelov is walking across the market square wearing a new overcoat and carrying a parcel under his arm. A red-haired policeman strides after him with a sieve full of confiscated gooseberries in his hands. There is silence all around. Not a soul in the square. . . . The open doors of the shops and taverns look out upon God's world disconsolately, like hungry mouths; there is not even a beggar near them.
"So you bite, you damned brute?" Otchumyelov hears suddenly. "Lads, don't let him go! Biting is prohibited nowadays! Hold him! ah . . . ah!"
There is the sound of a dog yelping. Otchumyelov looks in the direction of the sound and sees a dog, hopping on three legs and looking about her, run out of Pitchugin's timber-yard. A man in a starched cotton shirt, with his waistcoat unbuttoned, is chasing her. He runs after her, and throwing his body forward falls down and seizes the dog by her hind legs. Once more there is a yelping and a shout of "Don't let go!" Sleepy countenances are protruded from the shops, and soon a crowd, which seems to have sprung out of the earth, is gathered round the timber-yard.
"It looks like a row, your honour . . ." says the policeman.
Otchumyelov makes a half turn to the left and strides towards the crowd.

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