Skip navigation

“…He started taking notes when he was listening to people, which helped him to maintain a certain distance from their despair. It also allowed him to remind them of things they had said before, to remind them of past happiness, and to help them construct a story that moved from one point to the next, rather than endlessly circling, and this allowed them, too, to view their suffering from a distance.”

– Larissa MacFarquhar, Last Call


“There are many menial tasks a monk must complete in a day (cooking, cleaning, cutting down trees, chopping wood, making brooms), and he is given very little time to do them. If he does not move fast enough, senior monks scream at him. There is very little talking—only bell ringing (to indicate a change in activity) and screaming. There is a correct way to do everything, which is vigorously enforced. When a monk wakes in the morning, he must not move until a bell is rung. When the bell rings, he must move very fast. He has about four minutes (until the next bell rings) to put up his futon, open a window, run to the toilet, gargle with salt water, wash his face, put on his robes, and run to the meditation hall. At first, it is very hard to do all those things in four minutes, but gradually he develops techniques for increasing his speed. Because he is forced to develop these techniques, and because even with the techniques it is still difficult to move fast enough, he is intensely aware of everything he is doing.

“He is always too slow, he is always afraid, and he is always being scrutinized. In the winter, he is cold, but if he looks cold he is screamed at. There is no solitude. The constant screaming and the running, along with chronic exhaustion, produce in him a state of low-level panic, which is also a state of acute focus. It is as if his thinking mind, his doubting and critical and interpreting mind, had shut down and been replaced by a simpler mechanism that serves the body. The idea is to throw away his self and, in so doing, find out who he is. A well-trained monk, it is said, lives as though he were already dead: free from attachment, from indecision, from confusion, he moves with no barrier between his will and his act.”

– Larissa MacFarquhar Last Call

“The man who is down, looking up, can catch a glimpse now and then of Heaven, but the man who can only look down is quite likely to see another and quite different place.”

– Booker T Washington

“How they do love to stress Christ’s meekness – when it suits their purpose! How about Jesus the rebel, denouncer of hypocrisy and injustice? We hear precious little of him!”

– Annie Nathan Meyer, Black Souls

“…our education’s only loaned us so we can lend it to others.”

– Annie Nathan Meyer, Black Souls

“I had said to him earlier, violence solves nothing. But it was only a piety, like a grace before meat. I wasn’t attending to its meaning as I said it, and if I thought about it, I felt a hypocrite. It’s only what the strong preach to the weak; you never hear it the other way round; the strong don’t lay down their arms.”

– Hilary Mantel, “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher”

“There is a rhythm – and you know this – to which people move in any great public space. There is a certain speed that is no one’s decision but is set going every day, soon after dawn. Break the rhythm and you’ll rue it… It occurred to me for the first time that this rhythm is a mystery indeed, controlled not by the railways or the citizens but by a higher power: that it is an aid to dissimulation, a guide to those who would otherwise not know how to act.

“For how many of all these surging thousands are solid, and how many of these assumptions are tricks of the light? How many, I ask you, are connected at all points, how many are utterly and convincingly in the state they purport to be: which is, alive? How many?

“For distinguish me, will you? Distinguish me ‘the distinguished thing.’ Render me the texture of flesh. Pick me what it is, in the timbre of the voice, that marks out the living from the dead. Show me a bone that you know to be a living bone. Flourish it, will you? Find one, and show me.”

– Hilary Mantel, “Terminus”

“Down below there was only a vast white sea of cloud and he realized that he did not know where he was.

“It’ll be the Channel, he thought. I’m sure to fall in the drink.

“He throttled back, pulled off his helmet, undid his straps, and pushed the stick hard over to the left. The Spitfire dipped its port win gand turned smoothly over on to its back. The pilot fell out.

“As he fell, he opened his eyes, because he knew that he must not pass out before the had pulled the cord. On one side he saw the sun; on the other he saw the whiteness of the clouds, and as he feell, as he somersaultedin the air, the white clouds chased the sun and the sun chased the clouds. They chased each other in a small circle; they ran faster and faster and there was the sun and the clouds and the clouds and the sun, and the clouds cmae nearer until suddenly there was no longer any sun but only a great whiteness. The whole world was white and there was nothing in it. It was so white that sometimes it looked black, and after a time it was either white or black, but mostly it was white. He watched it as it turned from white to black, then back to white again, and the white stayed for a long time, but the black lasted only a few seconds. He got into the habit of going to sleep during the white periods, of waking up justin time to see the world when it was black. The black was very quick. Sometimes it was only a flash, a flash of black lightning. The white was slow and in the slowness of it, he always dozed off.

“One day, when it was white, he put out a hand and he touched something. He took it between his fingers and curmpled it. For a time he lay there, idly letting the tips of his fingers play with the thing which they had touched. Then slowly he opened his eyes, looked down at his hand and saw that he was holding something which was white. It was the edge of a sheet.”

– Roald Dahl, “Beware of the Dog”

“…I turned around and saw the sky. It was read and all my life was in it.”

– Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

“…then I slept. When I woke, it was a different sea.”

– Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

“No more slavery! She had to laugh! These new ones have Letter of the law. Same thing. They got magistrate. They got fine. They got jail house and chain gang. They got tread machine to mash up people’s feet. New ones worse than old ones – more cunning, that’s all.”

– Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

“If I was bound for hell let it be hell. No more false heavens. No more damned magic. You hate me and I hate you. We’ll see who hates best. But first, first I will destroy your hatred. Now. My hate is colder, stronger, and you’ll have no hate to warm yourself. You will have nothing.”

– Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

“The hurricane months are not so far away, I thought, and saw that tree strike its roots deeper, making ready to fight the wind. Useless. If and when it comes they’ll all go… The bamboos take an easier way, they bend to the earth and lie there, creaking, groaning, crying for mercy. The contempuous wind passes, not caring for these abject things. (Let them live.) Howling, shrieking, laughing, the wild blast passes.

“…I think of my revenge and hurricanes. Words rush through my head (heeds too). Words. Pity is one of them… Pity like a naked newborn babe striding the blast.”

– Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

“They cry out in the wind that is their voice, they rage in the sea that is their anger.”

– Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

“‘Oh England, England,’ she called back mockingly, and the sound went on and on like a warning I did not choose to hear.”

– Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

“Embattled groups have to police membership for their own protection. But with policing comes power, and all power’s usual intoxicants.”

– Mat Johnson, Loving Day

“I am a racial optical illusion. I am as visually duplicitous as the illustration of the young beauty that’s also the illustration of the old hag… The people who see me as white always will, and will think it’s madness that anyone else would come to any other conclusion, holding to this falsehood regardless of learning my true identity. The peopel who see me as black cannot imagine how a sane intelligent person would be so bind not to understand this, despite my pale-skinned presence. The only influence I have over this perception is in the initial encounter. Here is my chance to be categorized as black, with an asterisk. The asterisk is my whole body.”

– Mat Johnson, Loving Day

“The topic of the conversation should be how us can come to include all of us. Accomplishing this degree of unity may mean giving up fierce defence of politics and strategies that exacerbate racial tensions and produce for racially defined gruops primarily psychological or cosmetic racial benefits…. So what is to be demanded in this moment in our nation’s racial history? If the answer is more power, more top jobs, more slots in the fancy schools for ‘us’ – a narrow, racially defined us that excludes many – we will continue the same power struggles and can expect to achieve many of the same results.”

– Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

“The color of police chiefs across the country has changed, but the role of the police in our society has not…

“Conventional strategies for social change proceed as though a change in who administers power fundamentally affects the structure of power itlself… The reality, however, is that the existing hierarchy disciplines newcomers, requiring them to exercise power in the same old ways and play by the same old rules in order to survive. The newcomers are easily co-opted, as they have much to lose but little to gain by challenging the rules of the game.”

– Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

“Seeing race is not teh problem. Refusing to care for the people we see is the problem. We should hope not for a colorblind society, but instead for a world in which we can see each other fully, learn from each other, and do what we can to respond to each other with love. That was King’s dream – a society that’s capable of seeing each of us, as we are, with love.”

– Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow