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Tag Archives: Edward St Aubyn

“He was after all not an infant, but a man experiencing the chaos of infancy welling up in his conscious mind. As the compassion expanded he saw himself on equal terms with his supposed persecutors, saw his parents, who appeared to be the cause of his suffering, as unhappy children with parents who appeared to be the cause of their suffering: there was no one to blame and everyone to help, and those who appeared to deserve the most blame needed the most help.

He noticed how his tears cooled as they ran down his cheeks. Washed eyes and a tired and empty feeling. Was that what people meant by peaceful? There must be more to it than that, but he didn’t claim to be an expert. He suddenly wanted to see his children, real children, not the ghosts of their ancestors’ childhoods, real children with a reasonable chance of enjoying their lives. He picked up the phone and dialled Mary’s number. He was going to change his mind. After all, that’s what Thomas said it was for.”

– Edward St Aubyn, At Last

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“Without speech, thoughts plough on like a train without tracks, buckling, crashing ripping everything apart. Without a regiment of words, the barbarians, the burning roofs, the horses’ hooves beating down on fragile skulls. He was not himself any more; he was under the hooves. He could not be helpless; he could not be humiliated; it was too late to become somebody he didn’t know – the intimate horror of it.”

– Edward St Aubyn, At Last

“The people who tell us to ‘get over it’ and ‘get on with it’ are the least able to have teh direct experience that they berate navel-gazers for avoiding. The ‘it’ they’re ‘getting on with’ is a ghostly re-enactment of unreflecting habits. Not thinking about something is the surest way to remain under its influence.”

– Edward St Aubyn, At Last

” ‘I can’t help thinking how much your father would have enjoyed this occasion. Whatever his drawbacks as a parent, you must admit that he never lost his sense of humour.’

‘Easy not to lose what you never had.’

‘Oh I disagree. He saw the funny side of everything.’

‘He only saw the funny side of things that didn’t have one. That’s not a sense of humour, just a form of cruelty.’ ”

– Edward St Aubyn, At Last

“Patrick lazily retracted his murderous desire to get rid of Nicholas. Death was the kind of boisterous egomaniac that needed no encouragement.”

– Edward St Aubyn, At Last

“The subject of consciousness, in order to enter the realm of science, must become the object of consciousness, and that is precisely what it cannot do, for the eye cannot perceive itself, cannot vault from its socket fast enough to glimpse the lens. The langauge of experience and the language of experiment hang like oil and water in the same test tube, never mingling except from the violence of philosophy.”

– Edward St Aubyn, At Last

” ‘All the lovely things, all the lovely houses,’ said Nancy, ‘where have they all gone?’

‘Presumably the houses are where they’ve always been,’ said Nicholas, ‘but they’re being lived in by people who can afford them.’

‘But that’s just it, I should be able to afford them!’

‘Never use a conditional tense when it comes to money.’ ”

– Edward St Aubyn, At Last

“She had been left with the steepest practice of all: no speech, no movement, no sex, no drugs, no travel, no spending, hardly any food; just alone in silent contemplation of her thoughts. If contemplation was the word. Perhaps she felt that her toughts were contemplating her, like hungry predators.”

– Edward St Aubyn, At Last

“Some languages kept the ideas of desire and privation apart, but English forced them into the naked intimacy of a single syllable: want. Wanting love to ease the want of love. The war on want which made one want more.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

“Nobody ever died of a feeling, he would say to himself, not believing a word of it, as he sweated his way through the feeling that he was dying of fear. People died of feelings all the time, once they had gone through the formality of materializing them into bullets and bottles and tumours.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

” ‘Oh, darling,’ said Julia, resting her hands on Patrick’s shoulders, ‘are you your own worst enemy?’

‘I certainly hope so,’ said Patrick. ‘I dread to think that would happen if somebody else turned out to be better at it than me.’ ”

– Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

” ‘My emotional life seems to cascade into wordlessness in every direction, not only because Thomas hasn’t taken up words yet and Eleanor has already been abandoned by them, but also, internally, I feel the feebleness of everything I can control surrounded by the immensity of everything I can’t control. It’s very primitive and very strong. There’s no wood left for the fire that keeps the wild animals at bay, that sort of thing. But also something even more confusing – the wild animals are a part of me that’s winning. I can’t stop them from destroying me without destroying them, but I can’t destroy them without destroying myself. Even that makes it sound too organized. It’s really more like a cartoon of cats fighting: a spinning blackness with exlamation marks flying off it.’

‘You sound as if you have a good grasp of what’s going on,’ said Johnny.

‘That should be a strength, but since I’m trying to communicate how little grasp I have of what’s going on, it’s a hindrance.’ ”

– Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

“Despite his revulsion, he felt his lust running on, not unlike a beheaded chicken. He had now achieved the pseudo-detachment of drunkenness, the little hillock before the swamps of self-pity and memory loss. He saw that he really must get wel, he couldn’t go on this way. One day he was going to drop the whole thing, but he couldn’t do that until he was ready, and he couldn’t control when he would be ready. he could, however, get ready to be ready. He sank back in his chair and agreed at least to that: his business for the rest of the month was to get ready to be ready to be well.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

“It was five in the morning, too late for one half of life and too early for the other.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

“Suffering takes place while somebody else is eating.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Bad News

“People think they are individuals because they use the word ‘I’ so often.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Bad News

“Patrick was frustrated by his slowness and, feeling the book in his overcoat pocket, he imagined whipping it out like a pistol and gunning the dealer down with its ambitious first sentence, ‘There is only one really serious philosophical problem: it is suicide.’ ”

– Edward St Aubyn, Bad News

“He checked the pill again (lower right pocket) and then the envelope (inside left) and then the credit cards (outer left). This nervous action, which he sometimes performed every few minutes, was like a man crossing himself before an altar – the Drugs; the Cash; and the Holy Ghost of Credit.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Bad News

“Patrick’s own nanny was dead. A friend of his mother’s said she had gone to heaven, but Patrick had been there and knew perfectly well that they had put her in a wooden box and dropped her in a hole. Heaven was the other direction and so the woman was lying, unless it was like sending a parcel.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Never Mind