[Buenos Aires] was a frontier capital, when Argentina was an estuary and the pampa a palatinate. Everything in the environment was daunting, every view limitless - so vast as to be practically indistinguishable from the blur of blindness and numbness, along the sea-wide river, across the ocean-wide sea, into the apparently endless plain. A ride away lived the people the citizens called savages. Here, to be convincing, civilization had to be exaggerated.
It was one of those great iron afternoons in London: the yellow sun being teased apart by a thousand chimneys breathing, fawning upward without shame. This smoke is more than the day's breath, more than dark strength — it is an imperial presence that lives and moves. People were crossing the streets and squares, going everywhere. Busses were grinding off, hundreds of them, down the long concrete viaducts smeared with years' pitiless use and no pleasure, into haze-gray, grease-black, red lead and pale aluminum, between scrap heaps that towered high as blocks of flats, down side-shoving curves into roads clogged with Army convoys, other tall busses and canvas lorries, bicycles and cars, everyone here with different destinations and beginnings, all flowing, hitching now and then, over it all the enormous gas ruin of the sun among the smokestacks, the barrage balloons, power lines and chimneys brown as aging indoor wood, brown growing deeper, approaching black through an instant — perhaps the true turn of the sunset — that is wine to you, wine and comfort.
—Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
No colours except green and black the walls are green the sky is black (there is no roof) the stars are green the widow is green but her hair is black as black. The Widow sits on a high high chair the chair is green the seat is black the Widow’s hair has a centre parting it is green on the left and on the right black. High as the sky the chair is green the seat is black the Widow’s arm is long as death its skin is green the fingernails are long and sharp and black. Between the walls the children green the walls are green the Widow’s arm comes snaking down the snake is green the children scream the fingernails are black they scratch the Widow’s arm is hunting see the children run and scream the Widow’s hand curls round them green and black...
He raised his head and said, "Do you want to talk to me?" "Yes, that's what I've come for," replied the other. "You know me, don't you?" "Yes, of course," said Hazel, hoping he would be able to remember his name in a moment. Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger's ears were shining with a faint silver light. "Yes, my lord," he said. "Yes, I know you."
She is his deepest innocence in spaces of bough and hay before wishes were given a separate name to warn that they might not come true. . . . You go from dream to dream inside me.
—Also from Gravity's Rainbow
"It was so humid some nights you could not close your door. You had to shoulder your door closed. Bridges expanded and sidewalks cracked and there was garbage in the streets and you had to sort of talk to your door before it would close for you.
She loved the nights that were electrical, a static in the air and lightning in soft pulses, in great shapeless beats, you can almost read the rhythmic pattern, slow and protoplasmal, and maybe Cinzano awning fixed to a table on a higher terrace -- you can't identify that gunshot sound until you spot the striped awning, edges snapping in the breeze.
Klara was happy in a guarded way, keeping it folded close. She had a sense of being favored, fairly well-regarded for recent work, feeling good again after a spell of back pain and insomnia, clear-minded after a brief depression, saving money after a spending spree, getting out and seeing friends and standing at parapets, quietly happy, looking better than she had in years -- they all said so.
She stood at parapets and wondered who had worked the stones, shaped these details of the suavest nuance, chevrons and rosettes, urns on balustrades, the classical swags of fruit, the scroll brackets supporting a balcony, and she thought they must have been immigrants, Italian stone carvers probably, unremembered, artists anonymous of the early century, buried in the sky."
-Don Delillo, Underworld
Frodo stood still, hearing far off great seas upon beaches that had long ago been washed away, and sea-birds crying whose race had perished from the earth.
A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs.
Pain or damage don't end the world. Or despair or fucking beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man... and give some back.
Quite a bit of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who's really much more quotable than I'd generally imagined. I do approve of that.
The fullness is in the Child’s moving away from me, in his stepping so lightly, so joyfully, naked, into his own distance at last as he fades in and out of the dazzle of light off the water and stoops to gather—what? Pebbles? Is that what his eye is attracted by now, the grayest, most delicately veined of them? Or has he already forgotten all purpose, moving simply for the joy of it, wading deeper into the light and letting them fall from his hands, the living and edible snails that are no longer necessary to my life and may be left now to return to their own, the useless pebbles that where they strike the ground suddenly flare up as butterflies, whose bright wings rainbow the stream.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further... And one fine morning -
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
-The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
One billow comes up from the kid's cigarette and Terry the Tramp says, "Hey, man, how about a cigarette?"
He says it with a tone you have to hear to fully comprehend. It is the patented Hell's Angel tone of soft grinning menace, kind of like the tone the second-story man uses on the watchdog, "Come here, fel-la... (SO I CAN SQUASH YOUR HEAD WITH THIS BRICK)." He says it soft, but it stops the whole room like High Noon.
"Hey, man, how about a cigarette?"
Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us. A small fire sufficeth for life, great flames seemed too little after death, while men vainly affected precious pyres, and to burn like Sardanapalus; but the wisdom of funeral laws found the folly of prodigal blazes and reduced undoing fires unto the rule of sober obsequies, wherein few could be so mean as not to provide wood, pitch, a mourner, and an urn.
''And then you walk fearlessly like the monk on the road who knows precisely how vulnerable he is, who takes no comfort among death-forgetting men, and who carries his vision of vastness and might around in his tunic like a live coal which neither burns nor warms him, but with which he will not part. The giant water bug ate the world. And like Billy Bray I go my way, and my left foot says 'Glory,' and my right foot says 'Amen': in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise.''
Most everybody's asleep in Grover's Corners. There are a few lights on: Shorty Hawkins, down at the depot, has just watched the Albany train go by. And at the livery stable somebody's setting up late and talking. -- Yes, it's clearing up. There are the stars -- doing their old, old crisscross in the sky. Scholars haven't settled the matter yet, but they seem to think there are no living beings up there. Just chalk -- or fire. Only this one is straining away, straining away all the time to make something of itself. The strain's so bad that every sixteen hours everybody lies down and gets a rest. Hm-- Eleven o'clock in Grover's Corners. -- You get a good rest, too. Good night.
Here my last love died. There was nothing remarkable in the manner of its death. One day, not long before this last day in camp, as I lay awake before reveille, in the Nissen hut, gazing into the complete blackness, amid the deep breathing and muttering of the four other occupants, turning over in my mind what I had to do that day -- had I put in the names of two corporals for the weapon-training course? Should I again have the largest number of men overstaying their leave in the batch due back that day? Could I trust Hooper to take the candidates class out map-reading? -- as I lay in that dark hour, I was aghast to realize that something within me, long sickening, had quietly died, and felt as a husband might feel, who, in the fourth year of his marriage, suddenly knew that he had no longer any desire, or tenderness, or esteem, for a once-beloved wife; no pleasure in her company, no wish to please, no curiosity about anything she might ever do or say or think; no hope of setting things right, no self-reproach for the disaster. I knew it all, the whole drab compass of marital disillusion; we had been through it together, the army and I, from the first importunate courtship until now, when nothing remained to us except the chill bonds of law and duty and custom. I had played every scene in the domestic tragedy, had found the early tiffs become more frequent, the tears less affecting, the reconciliations less sweet, till they engendered a mood of aloofness and cool criticism, and the growing conviction that it was not myself but the loved one who was at fault. I caught the false notes in her voice and learned to listen for them apprehensively; I recognized the blank, resentful stare of incomprehension in her eyes, and the selfish, hard set of the corners of her mouth. I learned her, as one must learn a woman one has kept house with, day in, day out, for three and a half years; I learned her slatternly ways, the routine and mechanism of her charm, her jealousy and self-seeking, and her nervous trick with the fingers when she was lying. She was stripped of all enchantment now and I knew her for an uncongenial stranger to whom I had bound myself indissolubly in a moment of folly.
In the weeks that we were together Hooper became a symbol to me of Young England, so that whenever I read some public utterance proclaiming what Youth demanded in the Future and what the world owed to Youth, I would test these general statements by substituting "Hooper" and seeing if they still seemed as plausible. Thus in the dark hour before reveille I sometimes pondered: "Hooper Rallies," "Hooper Hostels," "International Hooper Co-operation" and "the Religion of Hooper." He was the acid test of all these alloys.
"Follow me, reader! Who ever told you there is no such thing int he world as real, true, everlasting love? May the liar have his despicable tongue cut out!
It's time to send it all to the devil and go to Kislovodsk."
You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you. If you don’t care for obscenity, you don’t care for the truth; if you don’t care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.
"You are not the boss of my words, Grace," I said. "This is a freed country. And if I want to say valentime, I can. And I will not even go to jail."
HARPER: So when we think we've escaped the unbearable ordinariness and, well, untruthfulness of our lives, it's really only the same old ordinariness and falseness rearranged into the appearance of novelty and truth. Nothing unknown is knowable. Don't you think it's depressing?
PRIOR: The limitations of the imagination?
PRIOR: It's something you learn after your second theme party: It's All Been Done Before.
HARPER: The world. Finite. Terribly, terribly. . . . Well . . . This is the most depressing hallucination I've ever had.
The circumstances of his death were as follows. A fairly mild attack of uraemia had led to his being ordered to rest. But, an art critic having written somewhere that in Vermeer's View of Delft (lent by the Gallery at The Hague for an exhibition of Dutch painting), a picture which he adored and imagined that he knew by heart, a little patch of yellow wall (which he could not remember) was so well painted that it was, if one looked at it by itself, like some priceless specimen of Chinese art, of a beauty that was sufficient in itself, Bergotte ate a few potatoes, left the house, and went to the exhibition. At the first few steps he had to climb, he was overcome by an attack of dizziness. He walked past several pictures and was struck by the aridity and pointlessness of such an artificial kind of art, which was greatly inferior to the sunshine of a windswept Venetian palazzo, or of an ordinary house by the sea. At last he came to the Vermeer which he remembered as more striking, more different from anything else he knew, but in which, thanks to the critic's article, he noticed for the first time some small figures in blue, that the sand was pink, and, finally, the precious substance of the tiny patch of yellow wall. His dizziness increased; he fixed his gaze, like a child upon a yellow butterfly that it wants to catch, on the precious patch of wall. "That's how I ought to have written," he said. "My last books are too dry, I ought to have gone over them with a few layers of colour, made my language precious in itself, like this little patch of yellow wall." Meanwhile he was not unconscious of the gravity of his condition. In a celestial pair of scales there appeared to him, weighing down one of the pans, his own life, while the other contained the little patch of wall so beautifully painted in yellow. He felt that he had rashly sacrificed the former for the latter. "All the same," he said to himself, "I shouldn't like to be the headline news of this exhibition for the evening papers."
He repeated to himself: "Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall." Meanwhile he sank down on to a circular settee whereupon he suddenly ceased to think that his life was in jeopardy and, reverting to his natural optimism, told himself: "It's nothing, merely a touch of indigestion from those potatoes, which were undercooked." A fresh attack struck him down; he rolled from the settee to the floor, as visitors and attendants came hurrying to his assistance. He was dead. Dead for ever? Who can say? Certainly, experiments in spiritualism offer us no more proof than the dogmas of religion that the soul survives death. All that we can say is that everything is arranged in this life as though we entered it carrying a burden of obligations contracted in a former life; there is no reason inherent in the conditions of life on this earth that can make us consider ourselves obliged to do good, to be kind and thoughtful, even to be polite, nor for an atheist artist to consider himself obliged to begin over again a score of times a piece of work the admiration aroused by which will matter little to his worm-eaten body, like the patch of yellow wall painted with so much skill and refinement by the artist destined to be for ever unknown and barely identified under the name Vermeer. All these obligations, which have no sanction in our present life, seem to belong to a different world, a world based on kindness, scrupulousness, self-sacrifice, a world entirely different from this one and which we leave in order to be born on this earth, before perhaps returning there to live once again beneath the sway of those unknown laws which we obeyed because we bore their precepts in our hearts, not knowing whose hand had traced them there - those laws to which every profound work of the intellect brings us nearer and which are invisible only - if then! - to fools. So that the idea that Bergotte was not dead for ever is by no means improbable.
They buried him, but all through that night of mourning, in the lighted shop-windows, his books, arranged three by three, kept vigil like angels with outspread wings and seemed, for him who was no more, the symbol of his resurrection.
This reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young Gentleman of good family. 'Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.' And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favourite cat, and said, 'But Hodge shan't be shot; no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.'
My searchlight expired, but still I ran. I heard voices, and yowls, and echoes, but above all there gently rose that impious, insidious scurrying; gently rising, rising, as a stiff bloated corpse gently rises above an oily river that flows under the endless onyx bridges to a black, putrid sea.
"Ain't you going to even send a nigger? " he cried. "At least you sent a nigger before!"
He had always kept this old symbol of taking a knife and striking his father to the heart. Only now, as he grew older, and sat staring at his father in an impotent rage, it was not him, that old man reading, whom he wanted to kill, but it was the thing that descended on him –- without his knowing it perhaps: that fierce sudden black-winged harpy, with its talons and its beak all cold and hard, that struck and struck at you (he could feel the beak on his bare legs, where it had struck when he was a child) and then made off, and there he was again, an old man, very sad, reading his book. That he would kill, that he would strike to the heart. Whatever he did -- and he might do anything, he felt, looking at the Lighthouse and the distant shore) whether he was in a business, in a bank, a barrister, a man at the head of some enterprise, that he would fight, that he would track down and stamp out -- tyrrany, despotism, he called it -- making people do what they did not want to do, cutting off their right to speak.
I knocked over Hareton, who was hanging a litter of puppies from a chair-back in the doorway...
She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands. The fancy of a perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old one; and modern thought has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life.
Dick is big.
Sally is little.
Big, big Dick.
Little Baby Sally.
For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences- either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us- and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
-Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
The heaviest weight. - What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!' Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine.' If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, 'Do you want this again and innumerable times again?' would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for nothing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
As a first lieutenant and platoon leader, Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, and a .45-caliber pistol that weighed 2.9 pounds fully loaded. He carried a strobe light and the responsibility of the lives of his men.
These things are bad for you: sex, high-rise buildings, chocolate, lack of exercise, dictatorship, racism! No, au contraire. Celibacy damages the brain, high-rise buildings bring us closer to God, tests show that a bar of chocolate a day significantly improves children's academic performance, exercise kills, tyranny is just a part of our culture so I'll thank you to keep your cultural-imperialist ideas off my fucking fiefdom, and as for racism, let's not get all preachy about this, it's better out in the open than under some grubby carpet. That extremist is a moderate! That universal right is culturally specific! This circumcised woman is culturally happy! That Aboriginal whistlecockery is culturally barbaric! Pictures don't lie! This image has been faked! Free the press! Ban nosy journalists! The novel is dead! Honor is dead! God is dead! Aargh, they're all alive, and they're coming after us! That star is rising! No, she's falling! We dined at nine! We dined at eight! You were on time! No, you were late! East is West! Up is down! Yes is No! In is Out! Lies are Truth! Hate is Love! Two and two make five! And everything is for the best, in this best of all possible worlds.
Music will save us, and love.
-The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie
In our camps, you were expected not only to be a slave laborer, but to sing and smile while you worked as well. They didn't just want to oppress us: they wanted us to thank them for it.
—Vladimir Bukovsky, "Work in the Camps," Gulag
It was entirely possible that one song could destroy your life. Yes, musical doom could fall on a lone human form and crush it like a bug. The song, that song, was sent from somewhere else to find you, to pick the scab of your whole existence. The song was your personal shitty fate, manifest as a throb of pop floating out of radios everywhere.
At the very least the song was the soundtrack to your destruction, the theme. Your days reduced to a montage cut to its cowbell beat, inexorable doubled bass line and raunch vocal, a sort of chanted sneer, surrounded by groans of pleasure. The stutter and blurt of what--a tuba? French horn? Rhythm guitar and trumpet, pitched to mockery. The singer might as well have held a gun to your head. How it could have been allowed to happen, how it could have been allowed on the radio? That song ought to be illegal. It wasn't racist-you'll never sort that one out, don't even start-so much as anti-you.
Yes they were dancing, and singing, and movin' to the groovin', and just when it hit me, somebody turned around and shouted--
Every time your sneakers met the street, the end of that summer, somebody was hurling it at your head, that song.
Forget what happens when you start haunting the green-tiled halls of Intermediate School 293.
September 7, 1976, the week Dylan Ebdus began seventh grade in the main building on Court Street and Butler, Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" was the top song on the rhythm and blues charts. Fourteen days later it topped Billboard's pop charts. Your misery's anthem, number-one song in the nation.
Sing it through gritted teeth: WHITE BOY!
Lay down the boogie and play that funky music 'til you die.
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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