"Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging."
--Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
"When you keep hurting someone, you do one of three things. Either you fill them up with hate, and they destroy everything around them. Or you fill them up with sadness, and they destroy themselves. Or you fill them up with justice, and they try to destroy everything that's bad and cruel in this world."
--Nick Lake, In Darkness
"Nationalism does nothing but teach you to hate people you never met, and to take pride in accomplishments you had no part in."
"You will remember when a bird crashed through the window and fell to the floor. You will remember, those of you who were there, how it jerked its wings before dying, and left a spot of blood on the floor after it was removed. But who among you was first to notice the negative bird it left in the window? Who first saw the shadow that the bird left behind, the shadow that was better proof of the bird's existence than the bird ever was? Who was with me when I mourned the death of my son, when I excused myself to bury that bird with my own hands?"
--Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated
"The thing under my bed waiting for me isn't real. I know that, and I also know that if I'm careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle."
--Stephen King, Night Shift
"[...]the actual work isn't the thing you make, but the process that makes it[...]"
--John Darnielle, in a blog post here
"A woman-of-color who writes poetry or paints or dances or makes movies knows there is no escape from race or gender when she is writing or painting. She can't take off her color and sex and leave them at the door or her study or studio. Nor can she leave behind her history. Art is about identity, among other things, and her creativity is political."
--Gloria Anzaldúa, Making Face/Making Soul: Haciendo Caras--Creative and Cultural Perspectives by Women of Color
And there was
no sacred place
from which we were absent.
--from Sappho 94, translated from the Greek by Ellen Greene
"A Brief History of My Life: Part VII"
I can't go to the east village anymore
because it is like going on a tour
of my worst dates. I get older, my heart
leaps at the sight of children
who don't belong to me, I pronounce
everything like an Italian opera title.
I used to listen to songs and have someone
in mind for the you parts, now I just want
to be where the light is intense, I want
the kind of heat that kills you
if you drive into it unprepared. This
isn't a metaphor for anything else.
When I speak of the light, I mean the light.
I go to church and sing along and feel
just as moved as if my faith were blind.
When I speak of the blind, I mean
the light. Truly the only things Lindsey Lohan and I
have in common are our preoccupations
with fame and weight loss, and yet I recognize
a kinship there, as if those two things mattered
more than anything. When I speak of
the darkness, I mean this living.
In a restaurant called Caracas,
I once spent fifteen minutes arguing
about an Ayn Rand book because
every time he said Anthem I thought
he meant We the Living and I said
what dystopia, what about the woman,
and he said what about the Home
of the Infants and I said what
Home of the Infants? What about
loving a man so much you'll sleep
with another man in order to finance
the first man's tuberculosis treatment?
Welcome to Russia, I said, and we
were looking at each other and then
not. I tried to picture Caracas, tried
to leave him for elsewhere, a fever.
"In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is, beautiful and what is acceptable--which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untransversable, and utterly vast spaces between us."
--Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
"When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation."
--Jorge Luis Borges
"Most theories of white supremacy seek to plumb the depths of its excessiveness, beyond the ordinary; they miss the fact that racism is a mundane affair. The fundamental excess of the paradigm of policing which infuses this culture is wholly banal. Those theories overlook that fact in favor of extant extravagance, spectacle, or the 'deep psychology' of rogue elements and become complicit in perpetuating white supremacy. The reality is an invidious ethos of excess that, instead, constitutes the surface of everything in this society.
"White supremacy is nothing more than what we perceive of it; there is nothing beyond it to give it legitimacy, nothing beneath it nor outside it to give it justification. The structure of its banality is the surface on which it operates. Whatever mythic content it pretends to claim is a priori empty. Its secret is that it has no depth. There is no dark corner that, once brought to the light of reason, will unravel its system. In each instance of repetition, 'what is repeated is the emptiness of repetition', an articulation that 'does not speak and yet has always been said.' In other words, its truth lies in the rituals that sustain its circuitous, contentless logic; it is, in fact, nothing but its very practices."
--Jared Sexton, The Avant-Garde of White Supremacy
"Detail of the Woods"
I looked at all the trees and didn't know what to do.
A box made out of leaves.
What else was in the woods? A heart, closing. Nevertheless.
Everyone needs a place. It shouldn't be inside of someone else.
I kept my mind on the moon. Cold moon, long nights moon.
From the landscape: a sense of scale.
From the dead: a sense of scale.
I turned my back on the story. A sense of superiority.
Everything casts a shadow.
Your body told me in a dream it's never been afraid of anything.
"Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone?"
--Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
"It becomes clear--for some--that the more closely one resembles the invader, the more comfortable one's life may become."
--James Baldwin, Evidence of Things Not Seen
"When you amuse, it even seems, for the briefest possible moment, that you are who you appear to be, so clever and confident and at ease. [...] Then while your court jester of a self is mumming out front, the rest of you can slip out the stage door where you can't be found."
--Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game
"An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way."
"For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?"
"I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked [James] Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don't know why I should be asked to explain your life to you. We have splendid writers to do that, but I am not one of them. It is that business of being universal, a word hopelessly stripped of meaning for me. Faulkner wrote what I suppose could be called regional literature and had it published all over the world. That's what I wish to do. If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water. Behind this question is the suggestion that to write for black people is somehow to diminish the writing. From my perspective there are only black people. When I say 'people,' that's what I mean."
"If your ancestors cut down all the trees, it's not your fault, but you still don't live in a forest."
"There is hope,
but not for us."
--Franz Kafka, to his friend Max Brod
"Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place."
--Zora Neale Hurston
"The Dream Keeper"
Bring me all of your dreams,
Bring me all your
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.
"Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness."
"I suppose the other thing too many forget is that we were all stories once, each and every one of us. And we remain stories. But too often we allow those stories to grow banal, or cruel or unconnected to each other.We allow the stories to continue, but they no longer have a heart. They no longer sustain us."
--Charles de Lint, The Onion Girl
"Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape."
"Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?"
--Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star
"If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next--if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions--you'd be doomed. You'd be as ruined as God. You'd be a stone."
--Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
"There was a small stand of trees nearby, and from it you could hear the mechanical cry of a bird that sounded as if it were winding a spring. We called it the wind-up bird. Kumiko gave it the name. We didn't know what it was really called or what it looked like, but that didn't bother the wind-up bird. Every day it would come to the stand of trees in our neighborhood and wind the spring of our quiet little world."
"To light a candle is to cast a shadow."
--Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
"I am clouded and bruised with the print of minds and faces and things so subtle that they have smell, colour, texture, substance but no name."
--Virginia Woolf, The Waves
"It's saying no
. That's your first hint that something's alive. It says no. That's how you know a baby is starting to turn into a person. They run around saying no all day, throwing their aliveness at everything to see what it'll stick to. You can't say no if you don't have desires and opinions and wants of your own. You wouldn't even want to. No is the heart of thinking."
--Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Soared over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
I am tired of having hands
I want wings--
But what will you do without your hands
to be human?
I am tired of human
I want to live on the sun--
Pointing to herself:
There is not enough
warmth in this place.
Blue sky, blue ice
the blue rotunda
the flat street--
and then, after a silence:
my heart back
I want to feel everything again--
the sun meant: it meantscorched--
It is not finally
interesting to remember.
is not interesting.
No one who knew me then
is still alive.
was a beautiful woman--
they all said so.
I have to imagine
I have to act
as though there is actually
a map to that place:when you were a child--
because it wasn't true; Idistorted
I want she said
a theory that explains
in the mother's eye
splinter of foil
the blue ice
locked in the iris--
I want it
to be my fault
so I can fix it--
*Blue sky, blue ice,
street like a frozen river
about my life
you have to fix it
in the right order
not touching the father
until you solve the mother
a black space
where the word ends
like a crossword saying
you should take a breath now
the black space meaningwhen you were a child--
was there for your own protection
to teach you
not to feel--
I thought it would be like
a target, you would see
Cold light filling the room.
I know where we are
that's the window
when I was a child
That's my first home, she said
that square box--
go ahead and laugh.
Like the inside of my head:
you can see out
but you can't go out--
the sun was there, in that bare place
the winter sun
not close enough to reach
the children's hearts
the light sayingyou can see out
but you can't go out
Here, it says,
here is where everything belongs
"Aesthetics"we must know a force
greater than our weaknesses
like most boys, ignorant
or fearful of beauty, we
pinned back the wings
of butterflies and plucked
off their legs, and watched
and watched them tumble
from leaves like pinecones
wheeling from rooftops;
and we laughed.
we crumbled alka-seltzer
for the pigeons, "those
flying rats," my mother’s
ex-husband once called.
their bodies floundering like
toys flung from a window.
white foam from their mouths
stark against the asphalt
framing their artless convulsions
and we laughed
with open-mouths until
tears dripped from our
chins and our throats
were raw with the rightness
--Amaud Jamaul Johnson
"By revealing that difference is arbitrary and potentially free-floating, mutable rather than essential, the monster threatens to destroy not just individual members of a society, but the very cultural apparatus through which individuality is constituted and allowed."
--Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)"
"And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself."
"She never talked about what they were; she only said, Man, I'm glad I got to know you.
"And he said, I'm glad I'm me knowing you."
--Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
I'm still the one who knelt before you
in monk’s robes, wanting to be of use.
You filled him as he called you into being--
a voice from a quiet cell
with the world blowing past.
And you are ever again the wave
sweeping through all things.
That's all there is. Only an ocean
where now and again islands appear.
That's all there is: no harps, no angels.
And the one before whom all things bow
is the one without a voice.
Are you, then, the All? and I the separated one
who tumbles and rages?
Am I not the whole? Am I not all things
when I weep, and you the single one, who hears it?
Listen--don't you hear something?
Aren't there voices other than mine?
Is that a storm? I am one also,
whipping the trees to call to you.
Are you distracted from hearing me
by some whining little tune?
That's mine as well--hear mine as well;
it's lonely and unheard.
I'm the one who's been asking you--
it hurts to ask--Who are you?
I am orphaned
each time the sun goes down.
I can feel cast out from everything
and even churches look like prisons.
That's when I want you--
you knower of my emptiness,
you unspeaking partner to my sorrow--
that's when I need you, God, like food.
Maybe you don't know what the nights are like
for people who can't sleep.
They all feel guilty--
the old man, the young woman, the child,
They're driven through darkness as though condemned,
their pale hands writhing; they're twisted
like a pack of frenzied hounds.
What's past lies still ahead,
and the future is finished.
They see not the faintest glimmer of morning
and listen in vain for the cock's crow.
The night is a huge house
where doors torn open by terrified hands
lead into endless corridors, and there’s no way out.
God, every night is like that.
Always there are some awake,
who turn, turn, and do not find you.
Don't you hear them blindly treading the dark?
Don't you hear them crying out
as they go farther and father down?
Surely you hear them weep; for they are weeping.
I seek you, because they are passing
right by my door. Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid--
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the earth into trees,
when I bow my head,
faint as fragrance
from the soil.
--Rainer Maria Rilke, translator unknown
"Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions--trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it."
--Virginia Woolf, "Modern Fiction"
"You think I'll be the dark sky so you can be the star? I'll swallow you whole."
"For a decade or more, booze made everything more beautiful, except for those things that really mattered, those it made invisible."
"Good books make you ask questions. Bad readers want everything answered."
"Cities are smells: Acre is the smell of iodine and spices. Haifa is the smell of pine and wrinkled sheets. Moscow is the smell of vodka on ice. Cairo is the smell of mango and ginger. Beirut is the smell of the sun, sea, smoke, and lemons. Paris is the smell of fresh bread, cheese, and derivations of enchantment. Damascus is the smell of jasmine and dried fruit. Tunis is the smell of night musk and salt. Rabat is the smell of henna, incense and honey. A city that cannot be known by its smell is unreliable. Exiles have a shared smell: the smell of longing for something else; a smell that remembers another smell. A painting, nostalgic that guides you, like a worn tourist map, to the smell of the original place. A smell is a memory and a setting sun. Sunset, here, is beauty rebuking the stranger.
"But to love the sunset is not, as they say, one of the attributes of exile."
--Mahmoud Darwish, In the Presence of Absence
"Vampires, burial, death: inter the corpse where the road forks, so that when it springs from the grave, it will not know which path to follow. Drive a stake through its heart: it will be stuck to the ground at the fork, it will haunt that place that leads to many other places, that point of indecision. Behead the corpse, so that, acephalic, it will not know itself as subject, only as pure body.
"The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment--of a time, a feeling, and a place. The monster's body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy (ataractic or incendiary), giving them life and an uncanny independence. The monstrous body is pure culture. A construct and a projection, the monster exists only to be read: the monstrum is etymologically "that which reveals", "that which warns," a glyph that seeks a hierophant. Like a letter on the page, the monsters signifies something other than itself: it is always a displacement, always inhabits the gap between the time of upheaval that created it and the moment into which it is received, to be born again. These epistemological spaces between the monster's bones are Derrida's familiar chasm of différance: a genetic uncertainty principle, the essence of the monster's vitality, the reason it always rises from the dissection table as its secrets are about to be revealed and vanishes into the night."
--Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, "Thesis I: The Monster's Body Is a Cultural Body"
"Once it happened, as I lay awake at night, that I suddenly spoke in verses, in verses so beautiful and strange that I did not venture to think of writing them down, and then in the morning they vanished; and yet they lay hidden within me like the hard kernel within an old brittle husk."
--Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf
"There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.
"In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is directly proportion to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting."
--Milan Kundera, Slowness
"Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation."
"Some people--and I am one of them--hate happy endings. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam. The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically."
--Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin