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“He knows it for a quotidian fact, the mind is what the brain, mere matter performs. If that’s worthy of awe, it also deserves curiosity; the actual, not the magical, should be the challenge. The supernatural was the recourse of an insufficient imagination, a dereliction of duty, a childish evasion of the difficulties and wonders of the real.”

– Ian McEwan, Saturday


“Strong its walls were built; with metal rods and extruded concrete where they reinforced. But let us pray together that its recollected and adamantine walls explode, releasing us to the soft desert air. Nay, not explode, but atomize, and vanish noiselessly, nay, not that either, but may its walls and beams and mortar turn to petals, petals of peony and magnolia, carnation and chrysanthemum, and as at one of the infamous feasts of Baul – adoring Heliogabolus collapse in upon us, melting walls of perfume and color and allurement, so that each female among you is graced with a sudden orgasm and each man of you receives at least a hint, a mitigating hint, that the world is not entirely iron and stone and effort and fear. Let us pray for that. Let us confidently expect that. There must be, in this sea of pinched and scrubbed Sunday faces, a single mustard seed of faith.

“There is not. The walls stand. We are damned. I curse you, then, as our Lord cursed the fig tree; may you depart from this place forever sterile; may your generation wither at the roots; and a better be fed by its rot.


– John Updike, A Month of Sundays

“On the road to the cemetery, stupefied or wide awake, it’s simple: what is coming. No, it stays unseen, out of sight, and you come to it. Illness is a message from the grave. Greetings: You and your body are one – it goes, you follow.”

– Philip Roth, The Anatomy Lesson

“The first Undershaft wrote up in his shop, IF GOD GAVE THE HAND, LET MAN NOT WITHHOLD THE SWORD. The second wrote up, ALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO FIGHT: NONE HAVE THE RIGHT TO JUDGE. The third wrote up, TO MAN THE WEAPON: TO HEAVEN THE VICTORY. The fourth had no literary turn; so he did not write up anything; but he sold cannons to Napoleon under the nose of George the Third. The fifth wrote up, PEACE SHALL NOT PREVAIL SAVE WITH A SWORD IN HER HAND. The sixth, my master, was the best of all. He wrote up, NOTHING IS EVER DONE IN THIS WORLD UNTIL MEN ARE PREPARED TO KILL ONE ANOTHER IF IT IS NOT DONE. After that, there was nothing left for the seventh to say. So he wrote up, simply, UNASHAMED.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara

“How rapid is our journey on this earth! At first we do not know how to live; soon we can no longer live; and in the interval which separates these two useless extremes, three-quarters of the time remaining to us is consumed by sleep, work, pain, constraint, and efforts of all kinds. Life is short, not so much because it lasts a short time as because we have almost none of that short time for savoring it. The moment of death may well be distant from that of birth, but life is always too short when this space is poorly filled.”

– Rousseau, Emile

“It’s a matter of choice to be a human being with sacred rights instead of a thing or a rat and most people don’t even know it’s something you have to actually choose for yourself that only has meaning when all the props and stage-settings that let you just go around smugly assuming you’re not a thing are ripped away and broken because all of a sudden now the world understands you as a thing, everybody else thinks you’re a rat or a thing and now it’s up to you, you’re the only one that can decide if you’re more.”

– David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

“If you are living in New York or Florida, you can sit on the beach or work in a skyscraper. You have a different view of what the world is like than we do. Perhaps it is a better world. Yet if we need to go to work, and we cannot afford a Mercedes-Benz, should we refuse to ride on a motorcycle? Or should we get there by the best route we have? You do what you can in this life, and in Kampala we cannot do everything. Principles matter as much to us as they do to Americans. But we have been dying for a long time, and you cannot respond to death with principles.”

– Edward Mbidde, of the Uganda Cancer Institute on AIDS vaccines

“Everybody who had finished Grade 8 in the country schools had to go into town to write those examinations. I loved that – the rustling sheets of foolscap, the important silence, the big stone high-school building. I wondered at it. And at myself, drawing maps with ease and solving problems, knowing quantities of answers. I thought I was so clever. But I wasn’t clever enough to understand the simplest thing. I didn’t even understand that examinations made no difference in my case. I wouldn’t be going to high school. That was before school buses; you had to board in town. My parents didn’t have the money. And they didn’t think of my life going in that direction, the high-school direction. They thought that I would stay at home and help my mother, maybe hire out to help women in the neighborhood who were sick or having a baby. Until such time as I got married. that was what they were waiting to tell me when I got the results of the examination.

You think my mother might have a different idea, since she had been a schoolteacher herself. But she said God didn’t care. God isn’t interested in what kind of job or what kind of education anybody has, she told me. He doesn’t care two hoots about that, and it’s what He cares about that matters.

This was the first time I understood how God could become a real opponent, not just some kind of nuisance or large decoration.”

– Alice Munro, “The Progress of Love”

“I have been through hundreds of towns and cities in every climate and against every kind of scenery, and of course they are all different, and the people have points of difference, but in some ways they are alike. American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash, surrounded by piles of wrecked automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index.”

– John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley

“People forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless. We could say that most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge, and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners.”

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

“I am guilty, Lord, but I am also a lover – and I am one of your best people, as you know, and yea tho I have walked in many strange shadows and acted crazy from time to time and even drooled on many High Priests, I have not been an embarrassment to you.”

– Hunter Thompson, Screwjack

“The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. The ground floor is full of gambling tables, like all the other casinos but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange County-Fair/Polish-Carnival madness is going on up in this space. Right above the gambling tables the Forty Flying Garazito Brothers are doing the high-wire trapeze act, along with four muzzled Wolverines and the Six Nymphet Sisters from San Diego.

“So you’re down on the main floor playing blackjack, and the stakes getting high when suddenly you chance to look up, and there, right smack above your head is a half-naked fourteen-year-old girl being chased through the air by a snarling wolverine, which is suddenly locked in a death battle with two silver-painted Polacks who come swinging down from opposite balconies and meet in mid-air on the wolverine’s neck. Both Polacks seize the animal as they fall straight down toward the crap tables – but they bounce off the net, they separate and spring back toward the roof in three different directions, and just as they’re about to all again they are grabbed out of the air by three Korean kittens and trapezed off to one of the balconies.

“Meanwhile, on all the upstairs balconies, the customers are being hustled by every conceivable kind of bizarre shock. Shoot the pasties off the nipples of a bull-dyke and win a cotton candy goat. Stand in front of this fantastic machine, my friend, and for just 99 cents your likeness will appear, two hundred feet tall, on a screen above downtown Las Vegas. Nintey-nine cents more for a voice message.

“Jesus Christ. I could see myself lying in bed in the Mint Hotel, half-asleep and staring idly at the window, when suddenly a vicious Nazi drunkard appears two hundred feet tall in the midnight sky, screaming gibberish at the world: ‘Woodstock Uber Alles!‘ ”

– Hunter Thompson, Death of a Poet

“This is a violent city
and I don’t mean rapes and bloodshed.
I mean the existence of every ounce of it.
This entire vast urbanity was bludgeoned from the earth,
torn and wrought,
piece by piece. A thousand bricks.
A thousand tiles.
The concrete and the steel girders
all bitten out of the soil and the rock.
Then, of course, it’s brought here,
to the desert, to death itself.
Not to mention the water, oh yes, the water
pilfered from hundreds of miles away,
where birds and tree roots awoke one bleak day
reaching for moisture once easily known,
and now finding only empty dust,
because that moisture’s all been pulled here, to be with us
shimmering in the sweat of porn stars
cleaning the endless stream of dirty cars
washing the hands of plastic surgeons.”

– Toby Barlow, Sharp Teeth

“The heart is quite comfortable with secrets.
After all, its home is a dark wet place
tucked in among all the other organs
who aren’t talking either.”

– Toby Barlow, Sharp Teeth