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“Have faith. ‘Have faith’ was like saying be tall and shapely. She wanted to be tall and shapely but of course she was not; she was short and her behind was flat and that stubborn soft bit of her lower belly bulged, even when she wore her Spanx body-shaper. When she said this, Father Patrick laughed.

” ‘ “Have faith” is not really like saying be tall and shapely. It’s more like saying be okay with teh bulge and with having to wear Spanx,’ he said.”

- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Shivering,” The Thing Around Your Neck

“…they have torn the living rabbit into pieces and within seconds they have devoured the still-pulsing flesh, the spine of the rabbit has been shredded, and devoured, and the small knobby skull shattered like clay, the spongy rabbit-brains sucked and swallowed and each hair of the rabbit’s soft dark hide, each drop of the rabbit’s meek blood, of the creature piteous and desperate to live but a few seconds previously not trace remains – not a trace in the snow-stubbled field behind the darkened houses in which human inhabitants sleep in ignorance of the terror of torn-apart flesh as of the joy of the predators’ bodies and now truly they are ravenous.”

- Joyce Carol Oates, “Spotted Hyenas: A Romance,” Black Dahlia and White Rose

“He hadn’t yet grasped this simple fact of human relations – the more readily you give, the more readily it will be taken from you as what you owe.”

- Joyce Carol Oates, “Run Kiss Daddy,” Black Dahlia and White Rose

“Sentimentality is the enjoyment of emotion for its own sake, a kind of connoisseurship of feelings without the obligation to act on them, the narcissism of the heart.”

- Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations

“Tourists have as peculiar an effect on a culture as invaders do, if not in so straightforward a manner. They are there, officially to see the exotic, the different, the ancient, but sooner or later a new economy springs up in their wake. Thus the culture they left behind appears again, or the place the come to see becomes its own impersonation.

“There are situations in which tourism can encourage the preservation of a place, but far more frequently, tourists inadvertently stimulate an industry at the cost of the local culture. Cultures, after all, evolve and change, but tourists most often wan an unchanged vision of the past. It ‘s hard to say to what extent a real past has been resurrected in these places, but the present has certainly been vanquished. Such tourist accommodation raises the question of whether a tradition still exists when it’s no longer carried on for traditional purposes. Thus an Aran Isles sweater knitted for an international market is not the same as an Aran Isles sweater knitted for the fisherman in the family. It looks the same, but it’s part of a market economy, not a subsistence economy. The vast and ever-expanding industry of tourism threatens to turn the whole world into a series of theaters whose companies perform palatable versions of their culture and history.”

- Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations

“I wasn’t sure what I would find, but travel provides not confirmations, but surprises.”

- Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations

“Bill spoke of how the Shoshone traditionally destroyed the property of those who died, so that there were almost no heirlooms, no objects passed down the generations, no accumulation of property. It was a circumstance that suited well the nomadism of the Shoshone in their arid homeland. Whatever its religious purposes, the custom kept people from piling up wealth over the generations, forestalling inheritance and the inequities that result. Nomads travel light on many levels.”

- Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations

“…my daughter looked at it once, ran to the landing, and kept on looking. ‘Who drew it,’ she whispered after a while. I told her. ‘I need to talk to her,’ she said finally.

“My daughter was making an entirely unconscious but quite basic assumption about people and the work they do. She was assuming that the glory she saw in the work reflected a glory in its maker, that the painting was the painter as the poem was the poet, that every choice one made alone – every word chosen or rejected, every brush stroke laid or not laid down – betrayed one’s character. Style is character.”

- Joan Didion, “Georgia O’Keefe,” The White Album

“Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.”

- Georgia O’Keefe

“One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

- Albert Camus

“We poets knock upon the silence for an answering music.”

- Lu Chi

“There’s a certain grain of stupidity that the writer of fiction can hardly do without, and this is the quality of having to stare.”

- Flannery O’Connor

“Tertullian in his Apologeticus tells of an ancient Roman general who assigned a servant to stand behind him whenever the crowd celebrated his exploits and remind him, ‘Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!’ (‘Look behind you! Remember that you are a man! Remember that you will die!’)”

- Russell Banks

“Strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature. Novels, one would have thought, would have been devoted to influenza; epic poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia; lyrics to toothache. But no, with a few exceptions literature does its best to maintain that its concern is with the mind; that the body is a sheet of plain glass through which the soul looks straight and clear, and, save for one or two passions such as desire and greed, is null, and negligible and non-existent.

On the contrary, the very opposite is true. All day, all night the body intervenes; blunts or sharpens, colours or discolours, turns to wax in the warmth of June, hardens to tallow in the murk of February. The creature within can only gaze through the pane—smudged or rosy; it cannot separate off from the body like the sheath of a knife or the pod of a pea for a single instant; it must go through the whole unending procession of changes, heat and cold, comfort and discomfort, hunger and satisfaction, health and illness, until there comes the inevitable catastrophe; the body smashes itself to smithereens, and the soul (it is said) escapes. But of all this daily drama of the body there is no record.”

- Virginia Woolf, On Illness

“Philosophers have long conceded that every man has two educations: that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself. Of the two kinds the latter is by far the more desirable. Indeed all that is most worthy in man he must work out and conquer for himself. It is that which constitutes our real and best nourishment. What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves.”

- Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro

“The nomadic Chemehuevi navigated wide expanses of this arid terrain with songs. The songs gave the names of places in geographical order, and the place names were descriptive, evocative, so that a person who’d never been to a place might recognize it from the song. Carobeth Laird commented, ‘Nowadays when a song is sung, it takes great leaps from one locality to another, because ther eis no one who remembers the route in its entirety.’ ‘How does that song go?’ meant ‘What is the route it travels?’

Men inherited songs from their father or grandfather, and the song gave them hunting rights to the terrain it described. The Salt Song describes the route of a flock made up of every sort of land bird in the region, and it ‘travels all night, arriving at Las Vegas about midnight, at Parker towards morning and back home to the place of origin by sunrise. If the night on which it is sung is very short, the Salt Song may be shortened so that it will not outlast the night.’ The Mojave people just to the south had a turtle song that also lasted the length of a night or several nights.”

- Rebecca Solnit, “One-Story House,” A Field Guide to Getting Lost

“It’s okay to realize that we do need help, that calling out for help is a very generous act because it allows others to help us and it allows us to be helped. Sometimes we’re calling out for help. Sometimes we’re offering help, and then this hostile world becomes a very different place. It is a world where there is help being received and help being given, and in such a world this compelling determined world according to me loses some of its urgency and desperation. It’s not so necessary in a generous world, in a world where help is available, to be so adamant about the world according to me.”

- Rebecca Solnit, “One-Story House,” A Field Guide to Getting Lost

“A runner’s every step is a leap, so that for a moment he or she is entirely off the ground. For those brief instants, shadows no longer spill out from their feet, like leaks, but hover below them like doubles, as they do with birds. For my friends who run long distances, these tiny fragments of levitation add up to something considerable; by their own power they hover above the earth for many minutes, perhaps some significant portion of an hour or perhaps far more for the hundred-mile races. We fly; we devour heaven in bites too small to be measured.”

- Rebecca Solnit, “The Blue of Distance,” A Field Guide to Getting Lost

“Gravity is about motion, weight, resistance, force, the most primary experience after all the touches on our skin, of being corporeal. And so it may be that gravity is a sweet taste of mortality and our strength to resist it, a luxuriating in the pull of the earth and the pull of muscles against it, in the momentum the two create, and in how close you can cut it.”

- Rebecca Solnit, “The Arrowheads,” A Field Guide to Getting Lost

“I was alone in the house writing. I heard a raven fly by in air so still that each slow stroke of its wings was distinctly audible. I wondered then and wonder now how I could give all this up for what cities and people have to offer, for it ought to be less terrible to be lonely than to have stepped out of this sense of symbolic order that the world of animals and celestial light offers, but writing is lonely enough, a confession to which there will be no immediate or commensurate answer, an opening statement in a conversation that falls silent or takes place long afterward without the author. Maybe writing is its own desert.”

- Rebecca Solnit, “The Arrowheads,” A Field Guide to Getting Lost


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