Rock Springs by Richard Ford

★★★★★ (5/5)

A collection of brilliantly carved short stories, reminiscent of the brilliance of Raymond Carver. Astute, poetical and realistic, a thread weaves through the ten different stories, unifying them with the grand luster of trivialities of everyday life. Highly recommended!

Rock Springs

  • I don’t know what was between Edna and me, just beached by the same tides when you got down to it
  • And she seemed gloomy all of a sudden, as if she saw some aspect of the story she had never seen before
  • The trailer had that feeling that no one else was inside, which was a feeling I knew something about.
  • The truth is meant to serve you if you’ll let it, and I wanted it to serve me
  • Here I am out here in the desert where I don’t know anything, in a stolen car, in a motel room under an assumed name, with no money of my own, a kid that’s not mine, and the law after me. And I have a choice to get out of all of it by getting on a bus. What would you do? I know
  • Through luck or design they had all faced fewer troubles,, and by their own characters, they forgot them faster. And that’s what I wanted for me. Fewer troubles, fewer memories of trouble

Great Falls

  • He looked up at me and smiled the way he had inside the house, a smile that said he knew something he wouldn’t tell, a smile to make you feel bad because you weren’t Woody and never could be.
  • “Sometimes I even have a moment when I completely forget what life’s like. Just altogether.”
  • Though possibly it—the answer—is simple: it is just low-life, some coldness in us all, some helplessness that causes us to misunderstand life when it is pure and plain, makes our existence seem like a border between two nothings, and makes us no more or less than animals who meet on the road—watchful, unforgiving, without patience or desire.

Sweethearts

  • “We don’t know where any of this is going, do we?” she said, and she squeezed my hand tight. “No,” I said. And I knew that was not a bad thing at all, not for anyone, in any life.
  • Arlene looked out the side window at the river. There were still traces of fog that had not burned off in the sun. Maybe it was nine o’clock in the morning. You could hear the interstate back behind us, trucks going east at high speed
  • Somehow, and for no apparent reason, your decisions got tipped over and you lost your hold. And one day you woke up and you found yourself in the very situation you said you would never ever be in, and you did not know what was most important to you anymore. And after that, it was all over. And I did not want that to happen to me—did not, in fact, think it ever would. I knew what love was about. It was about not giving trouble or inviting it. It was about not leaving a woman for the thought of another one. It was about never being in that place you said you’d never be in. And it was not about being alone. Never that. Never that.

Children

  • “Do you ever have the dream that somebody you know is leading you into a river and just when you’re knee-deep, you step in a hole and you fall under. Then you jump in your sleep, it scares you so much?”
  • and this was how you knew what a fool was—someone who didn’t know what mattered to him in the long run

Empire

  • They had a loud laugh, or a moustache or enlarged pores, or some mannishness that went back to a farm experience with roughneck brothers and a cruel, strict father—something to run away from. Bad luck, really. Something somebody with a clearer oudook might just get over and turn into a strong point. Maybe he could find out what it was in Doris and treat her like a normal person, and that would make a difference
  • And in the silence that followed his own name, the feeling of a vast outside world opened up in him, and scared him so that he stood up beside the wall phone and stared at his own phone number
  • Children made life a misery and, once they’d finished, they did it again. That had been the first thing he and Marge had seen eye to eye on
  • But you can do a thing and have it mean nothing but what you feel that minute
  • Where’s the real life, right? I don’t think I’ve had mine, yet, have you?
  • He held her to him, her face against his as his heart beat. And he felt dizzy, and at that moment insufficient, but without a memory of life’s having changed in that particular way.

Winterkill

  • Trouble comes cheap and leaves expensive
  • I thought that though my life at that moment seemed to have taken a bad turn and paused, it still meant something to me as a life, and that before long it would start again in some promising way

Optimists

  • I saw him as a man who made mistakes, as a man who could hurt people, ruin lives, risk their happiness. A man who did not understand enough

Fireworks

  • “Bygones are bygones to me,” Starling said. “I don’t think about it” “You’re such a literal, Eddie. You get lost in the lonely crowd, I think sometimes. That’s why I want to be nice and make you happy.” She held him close to
  • Then Lois closed the door and danced out before the car into the rain with the sparklers, waving her arms round in the air, smiling widely and making swirls and patterns and star-falls for him that were brilliant and illuminated the night and the bright rain and the little dark house behind her and, for a moment, caught the world and stopped it, as though something sudden and perfect had come to earth in a furious glowing for him and for him alone—Eddie Starling—and only he could watch and listen. And only he would be there, waiting, when the light was finally gone.

 

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favorite passages from the book

  • but then again, sportsmen and soldiers of all nationalities tend to look alike
  • Except, of course, that we are part of a broader malaise afflicting not only the formerly rich but much of the formerly middle-class as well: a growing inability to purchase what we previously could.
  • But fortunately, where I saw shame, he saw opportunity
  • Yet one got the sense that she existed internally at a degree of remove from those around her
  • It is the effect of scarcity; one’s rules of propriety make one thirst for the improper
  • was a testament to the systematic pragmatism—call it professionalism—that underpins your country’s success in so many fields. At Princeton, learning was imbued with an aura of creativity; at Underwood Samson, creativity was not excised—it was still present and valued—but it ceded its primacy to efficiency. Maximum return was the maxim to which we returned, time and again
  • it is far better to donate to charities that address the causes of poverty rather than to him, a creature who is merely its symptom. What am I doing?
  • At these moments she frequently became introspective; it was as though their presence allowed her to withdraw, to recede a half-step inside herself
  • felt like a distance runner who thinks he is not doing too badly until he glances over his shoulder and sees that the fellow who is lapping him is not the leader of the pack, but one of the laggards.
  • Reject it and you slight the confessor; accept it and you admit your own guilt
  • Perhaps it is in our nature to recognize subconsciously the link between mortality and procreation—between, that is to say, the finite and the infinite—and we are in fact driven by reminders of the one to seek out the other
  • “They try to resist change. Power comes from becoming change.”
  • I did, however, tell myself that I had overreacted, that there was nothing I could do, and that all these world events were playing out on a stage of no relevance to my personal life. But I remained aware of the embers glowing within me, and that day I found it difficult to concentrate on the pursuit—at which I was normally so capable—of fundamentals
  • Here we are not squeamish when it comes to facing the consequences of our desire
  • Lahore was the last major city in a contiguous swath of Muslim lands stretching west as far as Morocco and had therefore that quality of understated bravado characteristic of frontier towns
  • there was no physical reason for her malaise beyond, perhaps, a biochemical disposition towards mental disorders of this kind. No, hers was an illness of the spirit, and I had been raised in an environment too thoroughly permeated with a tradition of shared rituals of mysticism to accept that conditions of the spirit could not be influenced by the care, affection, and desire of others
  • saw that in this constant striving to realize a financial future, no thought was given to the critical personal and political issues that affect one’s emotional present.
  • There really could be no doubt: I was a modern-day janissary, a servant of the American empire at a time when it was invading a country with a kinship to mine and was perhaps even colluding to ensure that my own country faced the threat of war. Of course I was struggling! Of course I felt torn! I had
  • I myself was a form of indentured servant whose right to remain was dependent upon the continued benevolence of my employer
  • As a society, you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums
  • Such journeys have convinced me that it is not always possible to restore one’s boundaries after they have been blurred and made permeable by a relationship: try as we might, we cannot reconstitute ourselves as the autonomous beings we previously imagined ourselves to be
  • I must meet my fate when it confronts me, and in the meantime I must conduct myself without panic.