Sunday, June 29, 2008

Small Town Odds by Jason Headley

"Let me tell you something, son. You are not the first person in the world who hasn't had things go his way."

Eric was already uncomfortable. "I know that."

"You do?" He said, sounding somewhat surprised. "Well think about this. Think about how long you've been alive. You're going to have to live that many years again just to get where I am right now. Then, you'll probably live at least that many again before you finally check out. You have to live your whole life two more times."


"So you so you might want to start living like your whole lives ahead of you. Not behind."

Small Town Odds by Jason Headley

"Tomorrow's game," coach Gleason began, "is a rivalry." He paused here. His public speeches were lousy with such phrases. Most of the time they could be passed off as being for dramatic effect. But occasionally a Gleason pause would be so long, and so poorly placed, it seemed as though the sum of the English language had collected itself quickly and fled his consciousness for good."

The River Wife by Jonis Agee

"You can't push on a person so hard that they have to give up every single secret, she was discovering. Some things were better locked away in the heart where they could remain a hard, bitter kernel that they had become in such darkness. Glancing toward the barn where L.O. was still standing in the sunlight, his face upturned, as if he meant to blind himself, she wondered if he would become that splinter in her heart, the luck of love that turned bad. Not if she could help it, she vowed. She'd keep them close and teach them how much another person could mean in his life. He'd never want to leave her! But even as she said it, she felt the shadow behind her, against the screen door, something watching and waiting."

The River Wife by Jonis Agee

"She also began to write the story of her life beginning with the earthquake, because it seems after Chabot's passing that we die so suddenly, without a final reckoning, slipping quickly from memory, that without children who continue us, we cease, become as common as dirt trampled beneath the feet of travelers. She could not stand the idea, so she wrote to give evidence of their lives for that brief moment."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Human Traces by Sebastian Faulkes

"Yes, but I live my days in my own head. I no longer live through the eyes and thoughts of another. When I was a child I was certain that I was unique. Then as a young man I became convinced that I was, if not unique, then of a complexity and fascination previously unknown." Valade levered a loose cobble up with the toe of his boot. "But over the years I came to understand about half of the paradoxes that made up my complexity. The remainder, it transpired, were either insoluble by me, or, more likely, had no solution. They were simply dead ends of no significance. So you see, Doctor," he said, replacing the cobble and firming it back in place with his foot, "that at the age of fifty-five I have essentially ceased to be of interest to myself."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks

"There is a famous man called Galton who takes photographs of mad people and then lays the images one on top of the other. He is trying to show that all murderers have the same shaped head, or that if you have a long jaw you are likely to be melancholic."

"And that is not what you do?"

"No. I do just the opposite. I use them to make patients look like less of a type and more of an individual. When I see them in their wards, I see a sort of undifferentiated mass. But when I take a picture, I see each man and woman. And each one is in fact a human with a story. In some ways the insanity is the least important thing about them. In a photograph they are still complete, so one is not tempted to see them so much as something broken."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Linda See

"We were at the mercy of powerful elements and could do to and could do nothing but follow our fates. This can be explained by yin and yang: There are women and men, dark and light, sorrow and happiness. These things create balance. You take a moment of supreme happiness like Snow Flower and I felt at the beginning of the Catching Cool Breezes Festival, then sweep it away in the cruelest way with Beautiful Moon's death. You take two happy people like Aunt and Uncle, then turn them in an instant into two end-of-the-liners with nothing to live for, who, when father died, would have to rely on older brothers kindness to care for them and not throw them out. You take a family like mine that is not so well off, then add the pressure of too many weddings in one household.... All these things disrupted the balance of the universe, so that God set things right by striking down a kindhearted girl. There is no life without death. This is the true meaning of Yang and yank.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

"She turned the rose hips in her hands. "I do not rely upon seeing these roses budding here again in the spring time," she said. Her voice was neither sad nor frightened, simply matter-of-fact. But the expression on my face must have been dreadful for she came to me then and folded me in her arms. "We cannot know the future nor can we change it," she whispered gently. "It is best to be realistic about such things. But we have the time we have been given. So let us treasure it while we can."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

"That night, they lay in bed as husband and wife, as the children snored below them on the sleeping cots. Laila remembered the ease with which they would crowd the air between them with words, she and Tariq, when they were younger, the haywire, brisk flow of their speech, always interrupting each other, tugging each other's collar to emphasize a point, the quickness to laugh, the eagerness to delight. So much had happened since those childhood days, so much that needed to be said. But that first night, it was blessing enough to be beside him. It was blessing enough to know that he was here, to feel the warmth of him next to her, to lie with him, their heads touching, his right hand laced in her left."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

"I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. you become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread."

Three Junes by Julia Glass

"Time plays like an accordion in the way that it can stretch out and compress itself in a thousand melodic ways. Months on end may pass blindingly in a quick series of chords, open-shut, together-apart; and then a single melancholy week may seem like a year's pining, one long unfolding note. That first day back I recall in fuguelike detail, with perfect pitch, but as for the next few months, the autumn and early winter before my mother's death, I remember only snatches of a superficial tune."

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

"Suddenly a North Oxford boy whose name she had forgotten, a gaunt, twenty-two-year-old boy with glasses, came out of the darkness and trapped her. Without preamble, he began to outline for her the consequences of a single hydrogen bomb falling on Oxford. Almost a decade ago, when they were both thirteen, he had invited her to his home in Park Town, only three streets away, to admire a new invention, a television set, the first she had ever seen. On a small, grey, cloudy screen framed by carved mahogany doors, a man in a dinner jacket sat at a desk in what looked like a blizzard. Florence thought it was a ridiculous contraption without a future, but forever after, this boy-John? David? Michael?- seemed to believe she owed him her friendship, and here he was again, still calling in the debt."

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

"I heard a debate once on the theme "Character Is Destiny." It was an undergraduate affair and ended in disarry because the protagonists had failed to define their terms beforehand. They came unstuck on destiny. Clearly if a random hit by a meteorite is your destiny, your personality doesn't have much bearing on your fate.

Still, it's an interesting idea. Take Luke, for example. You could argue that his determination, his refusal to consider the possibility of failure, made things happen. Matt was far more rational, but Luke's irrationality paid off in the end, almost as if destiny were bending to his will."