Commit to Reading

Published on 02/05/10 at 07:07:42 pm using 2718 words.

Travels in the Scriptorium
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Lady Chatterley’s
Radio Free Albemuth
Farenheit 451
Moral Disorder
Indignation
The Black Swan
When you are engulfed in flames
1984
Unaccustomed Earth

There were times Ruma felt closer to her mother in death than she had in life, an intimacy born simply of thinking of her so often, of missing her. But she knew that this was an illusion, a mirage, and that the distance between them was now infinite, unyielding.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

He recalled his children running through the rooms, the pitch of their young voices. It was a part of their lives only he and his wife carried with them. His children would only remember the large house he’d bought in the suburbs with willow trees in the backyard, with rooms for each of them and a basement filled with their toys.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

She had never been able to confront her father freely, the way she used to fight with her mother. Somehow, she feared that any difference of opinion would chip away at the already frail bond that existed between them.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

Her father glanced at his watch, then poured a bit of his tea into his saucer in order to cool it more quickly. He raised the saucer to his lips, sipping from the rim.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

Odd things made him love her. (…) That the last two letters in her name were the first in his, a silly thing he never mentioned to her but caused him to believe that they were bound together.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

…he was honest with her, his thoughts still loose from the spiked lemonade.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

He thought back to when his daughters were infants, when swings and play-saucers crowded the rooms and the sticky tray of the high chair had to be scrubbed in the shower at the end of each night. His girls had already turned mysterious, both out of diapers, withdrawing to their room to read or play games, talking in secret languages, bursting into peals of laughter at the table for no apparent reason. He’d been more eager than Megan to start a family. It was exotic, the world of parenting, fulfilling him in a way his job did not.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

He was free of the school, it no longer touched his life in any way. But instead of feeling grateful, he wanted to relive those confused days, that life of discovery, to be bound to those round tables and lectures and exams. There were things he had always meant to understand better: Russian history, the succession of Roman emperors, Greek philosophy. He wanted to read what he was told each evening, to do as he was told. There were the great thinkers he had never read. His daughters would begin that journey soon enough, the world opening up for them in its awesome entirety. But there was no time now, not even to look at the whole paper on Sundays.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

He placed his hands on her hips, over the stretch marks that were like inlaid streaks of mother-of-pearl that would never fade, whose brilliance spoke only for the body’s decay.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

For hours they stared into the bassinet, at the stern downy creature with Roger’s pale skin and Sudha’s dark hair and a destiny all his own.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

In another minute he would cry out, wanting her, expecting breakfast; he was young enough so that Sudha was still only goodness to him, nothing else.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

Now she was free of both of them, free of her past and free of her future in a place where so many different times stood cheek by jowl like guests at a crowded party.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

During her years with Julian, even when she was by herself, men had sense that her heart was taken, that she would not pause to consider them, as if she were a passing taxi with its off-duty light on.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

Their parents had liked one another only for the sake of their origins, for the sake of a time and place to which they’d lost access. Hema had never been drawn to a person for that reason, until now.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

They entered a small piazza where she was aware everywhere of children, boys and girls of five and seven, eight and ten, swarming around them as if a school had just been dismissed. She had known Kaushik at that age, she had worn his coat, given him her bed, dreamed of him kissing her, these facts of the past haunting her and steadying her at the same time.

(Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri)

—— ∫ ——

It’s not that he’s impervious to bad news: on the contrary. He’s angular, he has less body fat than I do and therefore less capacity to absorb, to cushion, to turn the calories of bad news - and it does have calories, it raises your blood pressure - into the substance of his own body. I can do that, he can’t. He wants to pass the bad news on as soon as possible - get it off his hands, like a hot potato. Bad news burns him.

(Bad News - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

There are pictures. Is bad news worse with pictures? I think so. Pictures make you look, whether you want to or not. There’s the burnt-out car, one of a series by now, with its skeletal frame of twisted metal. A charred shadow crouches inside. In pictures like these there are always empty shoes. It’s the shoes that get to me. Sad, that innocent daily task - putting your shoes on your feet, in the firm belief that you’ll be going somewhere.

(Bad News - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

The colour I’d chosen was white. It was the orthodox colour, though a few of the Beehive patterns were shown in an elfin pale green or a practical yellow. But white was best: after it was known whether the baby was a boy or a girl I could add the ribbons, blue or pink. I had a vision of how the entire set would look when finished - pristine, gleaming, admirable, a tribute to my own goodwill and kindness. I hadn’t yet realized it might also be a substitute for them.

(The Art of Cooking and Serving - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

What he mistook for calmness and competence was actually fright: that was why I stared at him in silence, nodding my head. The danger that loomed was so vague, and therefore so large - how could I even prepare for it? At the back of my mind, my feat of knitting was a sort of charm, like the fairy-tale suits of nettles mute princesses were supposed to make for their swan-shaped brothers, to turn them back into human beings. If I could only complete the full set of baby garments, the baby that was supposed to fit inside them would be conjured into the world, and thus out of my mother. Once outside, where I could see it - once it had a face - it could be dealty with. As it was, the thing was a menace.

(The Art of Cooking and Serving - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

The baby started to cry. “Could you go and put her to sleep?” she said, as she had done so often. Ordinarily, I would trudge off,soothe, sing, rock.

“Why should I” I said. “She’s not MY baby. I didn’t have her. You did.” I’d never said anything this rude to her. Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I knew I’d gone too far, though all I’d done was spoken the truth, or part of it.

My mother stood up and whirled around, all in one movement, adn slapped me hard across the face. She’d never done that before, or anything remotely like it. I didn’t say anything. She didn’t say anything. We were both shocked by ourselves, and also by each other.

I ought to have felt hurt, and I did. But I also felt set free, as if released from an enchantment. I was no longer compelled to do service. On the outside, I would still be helpful. But another, more secret life spread out before me, unrolling like dark fabric. I too would soon go to the drive-in theaters, I too would eat popcorn. Already in spirit I was off and running - to the movies, to the skating rinks, to the swooning blue-lit dances, and to all sorts of other seductive and tawdry and frightening pleasures I could not yet begin to imagine.

(The Art of Cooking and Serving - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

I hadn’t yet discovered that I lived in a sort of transparent balloon, drifting over the world without making much contact with it, and that the people I knew appeared to me at a different angle at which they appeared to themselves; and that the reverse was also true. I was smaller to others, up there in my balloon, than I was to myself. I was also blurrier.

(The Headless Horseman - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

…all doors used regularly are doors to the afterlife.

(The Headless Horseman - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

The dropouts, as we called them, had left as early as they could, but not before they’d tortured is with taunts of “brainer,” “brown nose,” “show-off,” and “suckup,” and had jeered relentlessly at anyone who actually did homework. They’d left us with an ambiguous opinion of ourselves. “Think you’re so smart,” they’d sneered, and we had thought we were smart, smarter than them at any rate; but we didn’t altogether approve of our smartness. It was like having an extra hand: an advantage for opening doors, but freakish despite that.

(The Last Duchess - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

Then I got into bed with Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Miss Bessie would be tackling it on Monday. It would be full gallop for all of us, and I told myself I wanted to get a head start on it. In reality, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep: I needed some distraction from my fight with Bill, which otherwise would have replayed itself over and over while I changed the words we’d spoken into other words that gave me more of an advantage, and tried to figure out what our actual words had meant, and then cried some more.

(The Last Duchess - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

That was all quite long ago. I see it in retrospect, indulgently, from the point of view I’ve reached now. But how else could I see it? We can’t really travel to the past, no matter how we try. If we do, it’s as tourists.

(The Other Place - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

…my dreaming self refuses to be consoled. It continues to wander, aimless, homeless, alone. It cannot be convinced of its safety by any evidence drawn from my waking life.

(The Other Place - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

She’d been in love, a state of being she thought of as wiping the mind clean of any of the soothsaying abilities or even ordinary common sense it might otherwise have had.

(Monopoly - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

Tig didn’t exactly run away. He ambled away. It was a slowed-down, freeze-framed movement, like a solitary Chinese person doing Tai Chi on a lawn. As any bank robber can tell you (Nell would say), the best thing to do when running away is not to run. Just walk. Just stroll. A combination of ease and purposefulness is desirable. Then no one will notice you’re running. In addition to which, don’t carry heavy suitcases, or canvas bags full of money, or packsacks with body parts in them. Leave everything behind you except what’s in your pockets. Lightest is best.

(Monopoly - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

…he’d been so enraged one evening after an argument that he’d hurled every single one of their glassware and china items against the wall, leaving a pile of broken dishes to confront Oona in the morning. Nell was impressed by this gesture. She herself had never been good at impromptu rage. Throwing all the dishes at the wall was a fine and open act, much preferable to the white-faced silences and glum grudge-holding and resentful sulking she herself might have employed instead.

(Monopoly - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

The soil of the garden was good enough, though there were a lot of stones. Also shards from broken crockery, and medicine bottles of pressed glass, white, blue and brown. A doll’s arm. A tarnished silver spoon. Animal bones. A marble. Layer upon layer of lives lived out. For someone, once, this farm had been new. There must have been struggles, misgivings, failures, and despair. And deaths, naturally. Deaths of various kinds.

(Moral Disorder - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

… Nell had no way of knowing. She and her mother weren’t exactly speaking. They weren’t exactly not speaking, either. The silence that had taken the place of speech between them had become its own form of speech. In this silence, language was held suspended. It contained many questions, though no definite answers.

(White Horse - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

…she became afraid to walk, although she never said so, and the she became angry at her own fear. Finally she became rebellious. She rebelled against all of it: the blindness, the restriction, the falling down, the injuries, the fear. She no longer wanted to have anything to do with these sources of misery, and so she retreated under the bedcovers. It was her way of changing the subject.

(The Boys at the Lab - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

Talking into her ear is like talking into the end of a long narrow tunnel that leads through darkness to a place I can’t really imagine. What does she do in there all day? All day, and all night. What does she think about? Is she bored, is she sad, what’s really going on? Her ear is the single link to a whole world of buried activity; it’s like a mushroom, a brief pale signal thrust up from under the ground to show that a large network of interconnected threads is still alive and flourishing down there.

(The Boys at the Lab - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

—— ∫ ——

Despite her letter-burning and diary-destroying, despite the way she covered her tracks, even she must have wanted a witness of sorts - a testament to her light-footed passage through her time. Or a few clues, scattered here and there along the trail for anyone who might be following, trying to find her

(The Boys at the Lab - Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood)

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