The OF Blog: A few choice quotes from books I'm currently reading

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A few choice quotes from books I'm currently reading

By forty-two, you have pieced & sewn many things
together in segregated Alabama.  You have heard
"Nigger Gal" more times than you can stitch your
manners down.  You have smelled fear cut through
the air like sulfur iron from the paper mills.  The pants,
shirts, and socks that you have darned perfectly, routinely,
walk perfectly, routinely, by you. (Afternoon.  How do.)
Those moving along so snug in your well-made, well-sewn
clothes, spit routinely, narrowly missing your perfectly
pressed sleeve.

– from "Red Velvet," found in Nikky Finney's 2011 National Book Award nominee for poetry, Head Off & Split

Then, right there at the door, just as they were ready to step across the border into freedom, that crazy Eskimo – Amiq – he raised up one fist, held it tight against his chest, and grinned.  Right at Sonny.  Maybe he thought Father didn't see him, but he was wrong.  Father sees everything.

Before they could even move, Father flew to the corner and grabbed the two-by-four.  Sonny felt the force of it cracking against Amiq's bones as if against his own.  But Amiq just stood there, his back bent to Father's blows, staring at the door to freedom, smiling.

– from Debby Dahl Edwardson's My Name is not Easy, 2011 National Book Award nominee for YA

In that memorable year when the famous Berlin wall came down, a corpse was discovered in the Tiergarten not far from the graying marble statue of Queen Louise.  This happened a few days before Christmas.

The corpse was that of a well-groomed man of about fifty, and everything he wore or had on him appeared to be of better quality.  At first glance a gentleman of some consequence, a banker or a senior manager.  Snow was falling slowly, but it was not very cold, so the flakes melted on the paths of the park; only the blades of grass retained a white edge.  The investigators did everything by the book and, because of the weather conditions, worked quickly.  They closed off the area and proceeding clockwise in a narrowing spiral course searched it thoroughly so they could record and secure all existing clues.  Behind an improvised screen of black plastic sheets, they carefully undressed the corpse but found no signs indicating suicide.

– from Péter Nádas' Parallel Stories

I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged.

Now, if you please.

I don't mean to be difficult, but I can't bear to tell my story.  I can't relive those memories – the touch of the Dand Hand, the smell of eel, the gulp and swallow of the swamp.

How can you possibly think me innocent?  Don't let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies.  A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart.

I know you believe you're giving me a chance – or, rather, it's the Chime Child giving me the chance.  She's desperate, of course, not to hang an innocent girl again, but please believe me:  Nothing in my story will absolve me of guilt.  It will only prove what I've already told you, which is that I'm wicked.

– from Franny Billingsley's Chime, 2011 National Book Award nominee for YA

There are several ways of responding to the person who comes into your house, notices your impressive library and can only think to ask, "Have you read them all?"  One of my friends used to say, "And more, my dear sir, and more."

Personally, I've two replies.  The first:  "No.  These are just the books I'm planning to read next week.  The one's I've already read are at the university."  The second:  "I haven't read any of these books.  Why would I keep them, otherwise?"  There are of course more contentious responses, if you're willing to further antagonize and even anger your guest.  The truth is that we all own dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands (in the case of an extensive library) of books that we haven't read.  And yet when we eventually pick them up, we find that they are already familiar.  How is that?  How do we already know the books that we haven't read?  Firstly, there's the esoteric explanation – there are these waves that somehow travel from the book to you – to which I don't subscribe.  Secondly, perhaps it's not true that you've never opened the book; over the years you're bound to have moved it from place to place, and may in the process have flicked through it and forgotten that you've done so.  Thirdly, over the years you've read lots of books that have mentioned this one and so made it seem familiar.  There are thus several ways to know something of books that we haven't read.  Which is a good thing – otherwise how would one ever find time to read the same book four times?

– from Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière's This is Not the End of the Book

Hopefully, some or all of these quotes will lead you to pick up a copy and read.  Hard reading decisions for the next few days.

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