Sing to It by Amy Hempel

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • They knew me as one who made their beds less neatly over the course of a difficult evening, who thought of the artist whose young daughter came to visit his studio, pointed to the painting she liked, and asked, “Why didn’t you make them all good?”
  • They knew me as one who asked them stupid questions—“How did you get so cute?”—and answered the questions stupidly, saying on behalf of the giddy dog, “I was born cute and kept getting cuter.”
  • They knew me as one who loved in them what I recoiled from in people: the patent need, the clinging, the appetite. They knew me as one who saw their souls in their faces, who had never seen eyes more expressive than theirs in colors of clover honey, root beer, riverbed,
  • They knew me as one who got jacked up on rage and didn’t know what to do with it, until a dog dug a ball from a corner of his kennel and brought it to my side, as though to ask, “Have you thought of this?”
  • Then she made the classic mistake of taking the exotic out of its element. She took her husband home and turned him into what she could easily have found without leaving Illinois. Macario did not hold it against her, but Lauryn came to blame him for the same things that drew her to him first.
  • I knew I was supposed to be angry with him, not with her. She was not the first. She was the first he would not give up. But I could not summon the feelings pointed in the right direction.
  • Trees take root, and I thought I could too—if I had enough trees to learn from.
  • You adore them for having a hundred percent of something that you have only sixty-five of, but see that most people have even less of, which is why most people don’t interest you much. If the one hundred percent you’re transfixed by will sacrifice a fraction of his endowment and you can add a little bit to yours, you’ll both be at a formidable ninety percent—approximately equally exalted, since you’ll be further than average folks can ever dream of being. You’ll be set then.
  • What if you are someone who does not know when something is over? What if you are the last one standing when others have left the concert, the theater, the crime-addled city, the busted love affair? What if you look for a sign and a sign doesn’t come. Or a sign comes but you miss it.
  • Sometimes I forget why I did not end it. I think that if I could not find a place I felt at home, I was carrying someone who was at home, at least for those months.
  • You must keep your gaze turned outward. Pay attention to others. Don’t fall back on what is waiting to take you down. Or choose to fall back on it, with arms flung out at your sides.
  • I bought a pair of earrings made of green aventurine. I’d hoped a “d” had been left out by accident, but no. Though it’s “adventurine” when anyone asks me.
  • Thank God we can’t yet photograph a conscience, or a crisis of confidence, or a lapse in moral rigor, or the next thing over from regret.
  • I am the one to tell a secret to; I won’t remember it no matter how incendiary.

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