American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson

★★★★★ (5/5)
• And then all of a sudden we were standing in front of Mr. and Mrs. Cheney and being introduced. I felt a little awkward; I’m always a bit shy around evil people, so Megan took the lead

• When the American GIs turned up in Glasgow, en route to Europe, they must have seemed like gods for their white teeth and lack of rickets alone.

• So they did the best they could for their family, though it left little time for emotional connection. It was as if too many outward displays of affection were a luxury better suited to the rich, or the English

• It didn’t really hurt as much as you would think, but the shock of the attack and the anxious urgency of the viciousness startled me and left me shaking from the adrenaline rush

• The noise of New Yorkers going about their business is a hell of a shock to the uninitiated

• There seem to come times when certain towns find a rhythm and a style that defines them and fascinates outsiders. San Francisco and Liverpool in the sixties, L.A. in the seventies, Manchester and Seattle in the nineties. For a short while in the eighties, Glasgow enjoyed that kind of a groove

• The only other place I’ve been to that seems comparable to me is Moscow, where the cold, the vodka, the misery, the literature and ballet, the depression and violence, the music, art, and humor all combine in a very familiar recipe

• I looked at my companions, nothing seemed to be changing in their world but something very wrong was happening in mine.

• I sometimes wonder if fear isn’t just God’s way of saying, ‘Pay attention, this could be fun.

• For all its macho posturing, Scotland is not a patriarchy but a matriarchy. The women run things. Certainly that’s how it was in my family

• Not only because we value democracy and the rights of the individual but because we are always our own most effective voice of dissent

• Nothing at first, then a relentless build of emotion that rises unremittingly like a winter tide and threatens to engulf you


The Future of Islam by Wilfred Scawen Blunt

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

He has predicted for them great political misfortunes in the immediate future, because he believes that these are a necessary step in the process of their spiritual development

On every side the politics he hears discussed are those of the great world, and the religion professed is that of a wider Islam than he has been accustomed to in Turkey or in Indiaimages (3)

Sir Thomas Browne, “Truly the (Mussulman) world is greater than that part of it geographers have described.”

and it is the school of the virtuous poor rather than of the licentious rich

Indeed, it may safely be affirmed that the course of events in India will determine more than anything else the destiny of Mohammedanism in the immediate future of this and the next generation

The Sherif depends upon the Sultan because he needs a protector, and needs his Wakaf. The Sultan depends upon the Sherif, because recognition by Hejaz as the protector is a chief title to his Caliphate

“If the Arab race falls Islam shall fall.”

Islam, if she relies only on the sword, must in the end perish by it, for her forces, vast as they are, are without physical cohesion, being scattered widely over the surface of three continents and divided by insuperable accidents of seas and deserts; and the enemy she would have to face is intelligent as well as strong, and would not let her rest

in all great movements of the human intellect the force of progression or decay should be looked for mainly from within, not from without

Their prophet has foretold that Islam shall not outlive two thousand years before the Móhdy shall come, and the thirteen hundredth is just commencing

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

★★★★★ (5/5)

• He did not know that the Old One was his father, for such a relationship was utterly beyond his understanding, but as he looked at the emaciated body he felt dim disquiet that was the ancestor of sadness.

• It was a vague and diffuse sense of envy – of dissatisfaction with his life. He had no idea of its cause, still less of its cure; but discontent had  come into his soul, and he had taken one small step toward humanityimages (2)

• Now times had changed, and the inherited wisdom of the past had become folly

• Unlike the animals, who knew only the present, Man had acquired a past; and he was beginning to grope toward a future.

• Someone had once said that you could be terrified in space, but you could not be worried there. It was perfectly true

• The more wonderful the means of communication, the more trivial, tawdry, or depressing its contents seemed to be

• The approaching lunar mountains were utterly unlike those of Earth; they lacked the dazzling caps of snow, the green, close-fitting garments of vegetation, the moving crowns of cloud

• Though there was sadness in this thought, there was also a great hope. When Earth was tamed and tranquil, and perhaps a little tired, there would still be scope for those who loved freedom, for the tough pioneers, the restless adventurers

• It was the mark of a barbarian to destroy something one could not understand

• He had only part of its track, but when the computer projected it on the Planet Situation Board, it was as clear and unmistakable as a vapor trail across a cloudless sky, or a single line of footprints over a field of virgin snow

• They stared at that passing pebble in the sky with the emotions of sailors on a long sea voyage, skirting a coast on which they cannot land

• the planet was constantly capturing short-lived moons from the asteroid belt, and losing them again after a few million years. Only the inner satellites were its permanent property; the Sun could never wrest them from its grasp.

• Jupiter now filled the entire sky; it was so huge that neither mind nor eye could grasp it any longer, and both had abandoned the attempt

• And because, in all the galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped. And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.

• We can design a system that’s proof against accident and stupidity; but we can’t design one that’s proof against deliberate malice

• If it could happen to a man, then it could happen to Hal; and with that knowledge the bitterness and the sense of betrayal he felt toward the computer began to fade

• Dying? No – that was a wholly false impression, born of human experience and the emotions aroused by the hues of sunset, or the glow of fading embers. This was a star that had left behind the fiery extravagances of its youth, had raced through the violets and blues and greens of the spectrum in a few fleeting billions of years, and now had settled down to a peaceful maturity of unimaginable length. All that had gone before was not a thousandth of what was yet to come; the story of this star had barely begun.

• He was retrogressing down the corridors of time, being drained of knowledge and experience as he swept back toward his childhood

• For in the eons since their last meeting, much had been learned by the weaver; and the material on which he practiced his art was now of an infinitely finer texture

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

★★★★★ (5/5)

Favourite Excerpts

• the surrounded by islands sprinkled across the sea like delicate shards of shattered eggshells

• I recognized even as a 9-year-old that I had a lot of choices and my decisions mattered. What I did each day would determine the kind of person I’d become.

• Throughout all this I never felt that I’d be a failure in life if I didn’t get to space. Since the odds of becoming an astronaut were nonexistent, I knew it would be pretty silly to hang my sense of self-worth on it.images (1)

• One morning a strange thought occurs to me shortly after waking: the socks I am about to put on are the ones I’ll wear to leave Earth. That prospect feels real yet surreal, the way a particularly vivid dream does

• You have to accept that you’ll need to master a lot of skills that seem arcane, or that you might never even get to use, or both. And you can’t view any of it as a waste of time

• It’s never either-or, never enjoyment versus advancement, so long as you conceive of advancement in terms of learning rather than climbing to the next rung of the professional ladder. You are getting ahead if you learn, even if you wind up staying on the same rung

• In my experience, fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen. When you feel helpless, you’re far more afraid than you would be if you knew the facts

• Our training pushes us to develop a new set of instincts: instead of reacting to danger with a fight-or-flight adrenaline rush, we’re trained to respond unemotionally by immediately prioritizing threats and methodically seeking to defuse them

• In my next line of work, it wasn’t even optional. An astronaut who doesn’t sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut

• he also disapproved of whining because he understood that it is contagious and destructive

• Whining is the antithesis of expeditionary behavior, which is all about rallying the troops around a common goal

• If it doesn’t matter for the next 30 seconds, then it doesn’t exist

• In a crisis, the “why” is irrelevant. I needed to accept where I found myself and prioritize what mattered right that minute

• The best thing we could do for ourselves was to let that reality dominate our mental landscape until seriousness of purpose met buoyant certainty: yes, we’re ready to do this thing.

• Of course, that kind of single-mindedness takes a village—other people have to pick up the slack when you’re unavailable, literally or figuratively. If you fail to recognize that fact and behave accordingly, you can count on creating exactly the kinds of distractions and conflicts you should be trying to avoid when you’re facing a major challenge

• People around you will let you know in no uncertain terms that your single-minded dedication bears a striking resemblance to pigheaded selfishness.

• The challenge was knowing if and when to assert it

• Which is in fact what it is: an outpost that humans have built, far from Earth. The International Space Station. It’s every science fiction book come true, every little kid’s dream realized: a large, capable, fully human creation orbiting up in the universe.

• It’s like being a newborn, this sudden sensitivity overload of noise, color, smells and gravity after months of quietly floating, encased in relative calm and isolation.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

★★★★★ (5/5)

• She lived in the graveyard like a tree
• When she first moved in, she endured months of casual cruelty like a tree would – without flinching. She didn’t turn to see which small boy had thrown a stone at her, didn’t crane her neck to read the insults scratched into her bark
• No matter how elaborate its charade, she recognized loneliness when she saw itimages
• And she had learned from experience that Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty
• Then came Partition. God’s carotid burst open on the new border between India and Pakistan and a million people died of hatred
• He spoke of the past with dignity but never nostalgia
• It infused everything with a subtle sense of stagnancy, a sense that everything that happened had happened before. That it had already been written, sung, commented upon and entered into history’s inventory. That nothing new was possible
• The Mouse absorbed love like sand absorbs the sea
• They were Anjum’s somewhat maladroit attempt to make up for lost time, to transfuse herself into Zainab’s memory and consciousness, to reveal herself without artifice, so that they could belong to each other completely
• Even the dust looked different – clean and foreign
• By December Old Delhi was flooded with Afghan families fleeing warplanes that sang in their skies like unseasonal mosquitoes, and bombs that fell like steel rain
• The moment passed in a heartbeat. But it did not matter. What mattered was that it existed. To be present in history, even as nothing more than a chuckle, was a universe away from being absent from it, from being written out of it altogether. A chuckle, after all, could become a foothold in the sheer wall of the future
• As the days passed, her quietness gave way to something else, something restless and edgy. It coursed through her veins like an insidious uprising, a mad insurrection against a lifetime of spurious happiness she felt she had been sentenced to
• For months Anjum lived in the graveyard, a ravaged, feral spectre, out-haunting every resident djinn and spirit, ambushing bereaved families who came to bury their dead with a grief so wild, so untethered, that it clean outstripped theirs
• A perfect white tooth now shone like a tusk between the dark red stumps that passed for teeth
• His ineffectualness was strengthening the forces of darkness that had begun to mass on the horizon and slouch through the streets once again
• He knew it was neither plan nor coincidence that had brought him to the Place of Falling People. It was the tide
• Old secrets were folded into the furrows of her loose, parchment skin. Each wrinkle was a street, each street a carnival
• Someone said she was a beggar. Someone else said she was a rapevictim (which was a word in every language).
• Sometimes a single person’s clarity can unnerve a muddled crowd. On this occasion, Anjum’s did
• He, a revolutionary trapped in an accountant’s mind. She, a woman trapped in a man’s body. He, raging at a world in which the balance sheets did not tally. She, raging at her glands, her organs, her skin, the texture of her hair, the width of her shoulders, the timbre of her voice. He, fighting for a way to impose fiscal integrity on a decaying system. She, wanting to pluck the very stars from the sky and grind them into a potion that would give her proper breasts and hips and a long, thick plait of hair that would swing from side to side as she walked, and yes, the thing she longed for most of all, that most well stocked of Delhi’s vast stock of invectives, that insult of all insults, a Maa ki Choot, a mother’s cunt. He, who had spent his days tracking tax dodges, pay-offs and sweetheart deals. She, who had lived for years like a tree in an old graveyard, where, on lazy mornings and late at night, the spirits of the old poets whom she loved, Ghalib, Mir and Zauq, came to recite their verse, drink, argue and gamble. He, who filled[…]
• It seems to contain the geometry of motion, the shape of all that has happened and everything that is still to come
• It’s another kind of globalization, I suppose, this universal terrorspeak
• Because all my life, ever since I first met her all those years ago when we were still in college, I have constructed myself around her. Not around her perhaps, but around the memory of my love for her
• I wish I knew what it was about her that disarmed me so completely and made me behave like someone I am not – solicitous, a little overeager
• The complete absence of a desire to please, or to put someone at their ease, could, in a less vulnerable person, have been construed as arrogance. In her it came across as a kind of reckless aloneness
• True, my adult life lay ahead, but the foundations on which that life would be built seemed so immutable, so unassailable. Tilo, on the other hand, was like a paper boat on a boisterous sea. She was absolutely alone
• But when Tilo walked back into my life, those legal ties, those lofty, moral principles, atrophied and even seemed a little absurd
• The trouble with being in Dachigam was that it had the effect of unsettling one’s resolve. It underlined the futility of it all. It made one feel that Kashmir really belonged to those creatures. That none of us who were fighting over it – Kashmiris, Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese (they have a piece of it too – Aksai Chin, which used to be part of the old Kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir), or for that matter Pahadis, Gujjars, Dogras, Pashtuns, Shins, Ladakhis, Baltis, Gilgitis, Purikis, Wakhis, Yashkuns, Tibetans, Mongols, Tatars, Mon, Khowars – none of us, neither saint nor soldier, had the right to claim the truly heavenly beauty of that place for ourselves
• This was Kashmir; the Separatists spoke in slogans and our men spoke in press releases; their
• The chant that I heard on the phone that morning was condensed, distilled passion – and it was as blind and as futile as passion usually is
• When the Indian Army liberated Bangladesh, the good old Kashmiris called it – still call it – the ‘Fall of Dhaka’. They aren’t very good at other people’s pain. But then, who is? The Baloch, who are being buggered by Pakistan, don’t care about Kashmiris. The Bangladeshis whom we liberated are hunting down Hindus. The good old communists call Stalin’s Gulag a ‘necessary part of revolution’. The Americans are currently lecturing the Vietnamese about human rights. What we have on our hands is a species problem. None of us is exempt. And then there’s that other business that’s become pretty big these days. People – communities, castes, races and even countries – carry their tragic histories and their misfortunes around like trophies, or like stock, to be bought and sold on the open market. Unfortunately, speaking for myself, on that count I have no stock to trade, I’m a tragedy-less man
• As for their death, need I tell you about it? It will be, for all of them, the death of him who, when he learned of his from the jury, merely mumbled in a Rhenish accent, ‘I’m already way beyond that.’ Jean Genet
• But we never kill Kashmiri boys. NEVER. Never unless they are hard-core.’ The barefaced lie hung in the air unchallenged. That was its purpose – to test the air.
• The heat stood up and paced around the room. Traffic growled in the distance. City thunder. No rain.
• She remembered reading somewhere that even after people died, their hair and nails kept growing. Like starlight, travelling through the universe long after the stars themselves had died. Like cities. Fizzy, effervescent, simulating the illusion of life while the planet they had plundered died around them
• But Tilo had crept up on him, and become a kind of compulsion, an addiction almost. Addiction has its own mnemonics – skin, smell, the length of the loved one’s fingers. In Tilo’s case it was the slant of her eyes, the shape of her mouth, the almost-invisible scar that slightly altered the symmetry of her lips and made her look defiant even when she did not mean to, the way her nostrils flared, announcing her displeasure even before her eyes did
• Naga married Tilo because he was never really able to reach her. And because he couldn’t reach her he couldn’t let her go
• A small, desperate, frightened figure, a traffic island on the crossroads to nowhere
• Though he didn’t reciprocate her feelings with the same intensity with which they were offered, he accepted them with a tired grace
• He could not have known that he was trying to comfort a building that had been struck by lightning
• He said his brother’s lungs glittered, because they were speckled with silica
• She wondered what an un-released soul, a soul-shaped stone on a funeral pyre, might look like
• When the Jhelum rose and breached its banks, the city disappeared. Whole housing colonies went underwater. Army camps, torture centres, hospitals, courthouses, police stations – all went down. Houseboats floated over what had once been marketplaces. Thousands of people huddled precariously on sharply sloping rooftops and in makeshift shelters set up on higher ground, waiting for rescues that never happened. A drowned city was a spectacle. A drowned civil war was a phenomenon
• I am weary of worldly gatherings, O Lord What pleasure in them, when the light in my heart is gone? From the clamour of crowds I flee, my heart seeks The kind of silence that would mesmerize speech itself
• In battle, Musa told Tilo, enemies can’t break your spirit, only friends can.
• From Srinagar to Bandipora the road winds through mustard fields. Wular Lake is glassy, inscrutable. Slim boats preen on it like fashion models
• The birds stopped their twittering for a while and listened, beady-eyed, to humansong. Street dogs slouched past checkposts unchecked, their heartbeats rock steady. Kites and griffons circled the thermals, drifting lazily back and forth across the Line of Control, just to mock the tiny clot of humans gathered down below
• She saw that his outline – the shape he made in the world – had grown indistinct, smudged, somehow
• She had always loved that about him, the way he belonged so completely to a people whom he loved and laughed at, complained about and swore at, but never separated himself from. Maybe she loved it because she herself didn’t – couldn’t – think of anybody as ‘her people’
• They had always fitted together like pieces of an unsolved (and perhaps unsolvable) puzzle – the smoke of her into the solidness of him, the solitariness of her into the gathering of him, the strangeness of her into the straightforwardness of him, the insouciance of her into the restraint of him. The quietness of her into the quietness of him.
• Someday you’ll understand why, for me, history began today
• Because they trusted each other so peculiarly that they knew, even if they were hurt by it, that whoever it was that the other person loved had to be worth loving
• Tilo could see the outline of a large, dilapidated house. Its roof had fallen in and the moon shone through its skeleton of rafters that loomed against the night – a luminous heart in an angular ribcage
• As she stood beside her mother’s grave, a line that Maryam Ipe had repeated more than once during her hallucinations in the ICU came back to her. I feel I am surrounded by eunuchs. Am I? At the time it had seemed like nothing more than a part of her regular barrage of ICU insults. But now it gave Tilo a shiver. How did she know? Once
• The world is inured to the sight of piled-up corpses. But not to the sight of hundreds of living people who have been blinded. Pardon my crudeness, but you can imagine the visual appeal of that. But even that doesn’t seem to be working. Boys who’ve lost one eye are back on the street, prepared to risk the other. What do you do with that kind of fury?
• We talked a lot – when I look back on that meeting, I’m a little unnerved by the skill with which he drew me out. It was a combination of quiet solicitousness and the sort of curiosity that is flattering rather than inquisitive.