Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selections of favorite passages from the book

  • It worked tirelessly. Sometimes it floated at eye level, almost stationary in the wind, and then, with the tiniest movement of a wing, or even of the upturned feathers at one wingtip, it veered. Saeed thought of Nadia and watched the hawkimages
  • War would soon erode the facade of their building as though it had accelerated time itself, a day’s toll outpacing that of a decade
  • In times of violence, there is always that first acquaintance or intimate of ours, who, when they are touched, makes what had seemed like a bad dream suddenly, evisceratingly real
  • She watched bombs falling, women exercising, men copulating, clouds gathering, waves tugging at the sand like the rasping licks of so many mortal, temporary, vanishing tongues, tongues of a planet that would one day too be no more
  • so that Saeed’s mother’s mental map of the place where she had spent her entire life now resembled an old quilt, with patches of government land and patches of militant land. The frayed seams between the patches were the most deadly spaces, and to be avoided at all costs
  • “It feels natural to have you here.” “For me too,” Nadia replied, resting her head on his shoulder. “The end of the world can be cozy at times.”
  • it being impossible to reach a proper graveyard, and so impromptu burial grounds grew up, one extinguished body attracting others
  • and so by making the promise he demanded she make she was in a sense killing him, but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.
  • To have a room to themselves—four walls, a window, a door with a lock—seemed incredible good fortune
  • and sometimes as they debated their options in their bedroom they would stop and look at each other, as if remembering, each of them, who the other was
  • and they faced it not with bravery, exactly, and not with panic either, not mostly, but instead with a resignation shot through with moments of tension, with tension ebbing and flowing, and when the tension receded there was calm, the calm that is called the calm before the storm, but is in reality the foundation of a human life, waiting there for us between the steps of our march to our mortality, when we are compelled to pause and not act but be
  • Even more than the fighter planes and the tanks these robots, few though they were, and the drones overhead, were frightening, because they suggested an unstoppable efficiency, an inhuman power, and evoked the kind of dread
  • even if he understood, at some level, that to love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you
  • At the trading posts they would sell beautiful silver jewelry and soft leather garments and colorful textiles, and the elders among them seemed not infrequently to be possessed of a limitless patience that was matched by a limitless sorrow
  • A third layer of nativeness was composed of those who others thought directly descended, even in the tiniest fraction of their genes, from the human beings who had been brought from Africa to this continent centuries ago as slaves. While this layer of nativeness was not vast in proportion to the rest, it had vast importance, for society had been shaped in reaction to it, and unspeakable violence had occurred in relation to it, and yet it endured, fertile, a stratum of soil that perhaps made possible all future transplanted soils, and to which Saeed in particular was attracted, since at a place of worship where he had gone one Friday the communal prayer was led by a man who came from this tradition and spoke of this tradition, and Saeed had found, in the weeks he and Nadia had been in Marin, this man’s words to be full of soul-soothing wisdom.
  • Saeed and Nadia were loyal, and whatever name they gave their bond they each in their own way believed it required them to protect the other, and so neither talked much of drifting apart, not wanting to inflict a fear of abandonment, while also themselves quietly feeling that fear, the fear of the severing of their tie, the end of the world they had built together, a world of shared experiences in which no one else would share, and a shared intimate language that was unique to them, and a sense that what they might break was special and likely irreplaceable. But while fear was part of what kept them together for those first few months in Marin, more powerful than fear was the desire that each see the other find firmer footing before they let go, and thus in the end their relationship did in some senses come to resemble that of siblings, in that friendship was its strongest element
  • and so their memories took on potential, which is of course how our greatest nostalgias are born
  • It has been said that depression is a failure to imagine a plausible desirable future for oneself, and, not just in Marin, but in the whole region, in the Bay Area, and in many other places too, places both near and far, the apocalypse appeared to have arrived and yet it was not apocalyptic, which is to say that while the changes were jarring they were not the end, and life west on, and people found things to do and ways to be
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Autumn by Ali Smith

★★★★☆ (4/5)

• Puns, the poor man’s currency; poor old John Keats, well, poor all right, though you couldn’t exactly call him old. Autumn poet, winter Italy, days away from dying he found himself punning like there was no tomorrow. Poor chap. There really was no tomorrowimages (1)

• So try not to move the head. What’s this in his mouth, grit? it’s sand, it’s under his tongue, he can feel it, he can hear it grinding when his teeth move against each other, singing its sand-song: I’m ground so small, but in the end I’m all, I’m softer if I’m underneath you when you fall, in sun I glitter, wind heaps me over litter, put a message in a bottle, throw the bottle in the sea, the bottle’s made of me, I’m the hardest grain to harvest to harvest

• Daniel Gluck, seven years old, in good clothes he’s always being told how lucky he is to have in a world where so many have so little, looks down at the conkers he should never have sullied his good cap with and sees the brown shine on them go dull. Bitter memories, even when you’re dead. How very disheartening. Never mind. Hearten up

• Regrets when you’re dead? A past when you’re dead? Is there never any escaping the junkshop of the self?

• The pauses are a precise language, more a language than actual language is, Elisabeth thinks

• That’s not what I mean, she says. I’m tired of the news. I’m tired of the way it makes things spectacular that aren’t, and deals so simplistically with what’s truly appalling. I’m tired of the vitriol. I’m tired of the anger. I’m tired of the meanness. I’m tired of the selfishness. I’m tired of how we’re doing nothing to stop it. I’m tired of how we’re encouraging it. I’m tired of the violence there is and I’m tired of the violence that’s on its way, that’s coming, that hasn’t happened yet. I’m tired of liars. I’m tired of sanctified liars. I’m tired of how those liars have let this happen. I’m tired of having to wonder whether they did it out of stupidity or did it on purpose. I’m tired of lying governments. I’m tired of people not caring whether they’re being lied to any more. I’m tired of being made to feel this fearful. I’m tired of animosity. I’m tired of pusillanimosity. I don’t think that’s actually a word, Elisabeth says. I’m tired of not knowing the right words, her mother says.

• The days are still warm, the air in the shadows sharper. The nights are sooner, chillier, the light a little less each time

• But no light comes on in any of the windows. It takes about half an hour of standing in the rain for him to admit there’s nobody in, that he’s been standing in a yard shouting bad rhymes at a house where nobody’s home

• It was something else, about how melancholy and nostalgia weren’t relevant in the slightest. Things just happened. Then they were over. Time just passed. Partly it felt unpleasant, to think like that, rude even. Partly it felt good. It was kind of a relief.

• Today he looks like a Roman senator, his sleeping head noble, his eyes shut and blank as a statue, his eyebrows mere moments of frost

• It is a privilege, to watch someone sleep, Elisabeth tells herself. It is a privilege to be able to witness someone both here and not here. To be included in someone’s absence, it is an honour, and it asks quiet. It asks respect

• She is brilliant. She is a whole new level of the word true. She is dangerous and shining.

• Here’s an old story so new that it’s still in the middle of happening, writing itself right now with no knowledge of where or how it’ll end

• It’s the word integrity, her mother said. It does it every time. I hear it and I see in my head the faces of the liars

• Recalled to life, Elisabeth says. Hunger, want and nothing. The whole city’s in a storm at sea and that’s just the beginning. Savagery’s coming. Heads are going to roll.

• None of that was life. Life? was what you worked to catch, the intense happiness of an object slightly set apart from you

• he was from another time. Well, they almost all were. Even the people meant to be from now were really from then

• She’d never want to be too fixed in her ways

​In Evil Hour by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

★★★★☆ (4/5)

FATHER ÁNGEL sat up with a solemn effort. He rubbed his eyelids with the bones of his hands, pushed aside the embroidered mosquito netting, and remained sitting on the bare mattress, pensive for an instant, the time indispensable for him to realize that he was alive and to remember the date and its corresponding day on the calendar of saints images

His baritone voice didn’t register. The desolate square, the almond trees sleeping in the rain, the village motionless in the inconsolable October dawn, produced in him a feeling of abandonment

“Any young man can do the rude labor,” he said, standing up. “On the other hand, one needs the tenacity of many years and age-old experience to rebuild morals.”

“The state of abandonment we’re in is persecution too,” the barber said. “But they don’t beat us up,” Mr. Carmichael said. “Abandoning us to God’s mercy is another way of beating us up.” Mr. Carmichael became exasperated. “That’s newspaper talk,” he said.

THE WINTER, whose inclemency had been foreseen since the last days of September, implanted its rigor that weekend

Misfortune is eating at us, and you people still with your political hatreds

The buzz of the harvest flies intensified the solitude of the port, but the cow had been removed and dragged off by the current, and the rotten smell had left an enormous gap in the atmosphere

“Who authorized you to put that up?” the mayor asked, pointing to the notice. “Experience,” said the barber.

At one time he’d seen the sign nailed to the wall: Talking Politics Prohibited

Watching him getting ready to leave, Judge Arcadio thought that life is nothing but a continuous succession of opportunities for survival.

“I just heard on the radio that blind chameleons don’t change color,” the dentist said.

Shame has a short memory

There was in the square a silence too great for the voice of the crier

Obeying a force more ancient and deep-rooted than an impulse, she ordered taken from the storeroom and brought to the bedroom the leather trunk with copper rivets

Several times over the past few years, he had passed by the house with the children, but never with the woman. She’d seen him grow thin, old, and pale, and turn into a stranger whose intimacy of past times seemed inconceivable

You ought to know that in every mess, even if a lot of people are involved, there’s always one who’s to blame

Father Ángel, who after forty years in the priesthood had not learned to dominate the nervousness that precedes solemn acts

Hours later, lying awake in the heat of his mosquito netting, he wondered, nonetheless, whether in reality time had passed during the nineteen years he’d been in the parish. Across from his very house he heard the noise of the boots and weapons that in different times had preceded rifle shots. Except this time the boots went away, passed by again an hour later, and went away once more without any shots being fired

“An early-rising man,” the widow said, “a good spouse but a bad husband.”

“Justice,” the barber received him, “limps along, but it gets there all the same.”

“The greatest virtue in a man,” he said, “is knowing how to keep a secret. ”

​Mental Diplopia by Julianna Baggott

http://www.tor.com/2017/04/11/mental-diplopia/

★★★★☆ (4/5)

• This was when she realized that the song was very loud—consistently so. It grew no louder and no fainter. So she wasn’t moving closer or farther away from its source.

• Unlike predictions of suicides during a super virus of this magnitude, suicides were far lower than projected. The deaths were that beautiful; people opted to die on the virus’s terms and timetable

• It was rare to see people’s skin—so rare that Oliver and I watched each other shower.

The body took on an incalculable divinity because, like the soul, it went unseen.

• But I wasn’t afraid. “What’s your eternal return?” I asked.

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.