“‘All this talk, this heightened feeling, it’s about more than the Corn Bill,’ he said gently. ‘It’s important because it’s about the future, Miss Julia, when we shall have fellowship among men, and common property, and fair wages. But before that, we must have a cheap loaf. Grub first, then ethics!’” For all the anachronism jokes — I think my favorite comes toward the end, when the hero...
But as the machinery that has enabled what used to... →
It may or may not be technology, but I think that we can all agree with Michael Bourne that nobody needs to recap plot for half of a full-page review. Right, NYTBR?
“Arkady slammed his hands down on his thighs. ‘Why when we talk about time travel do we always have to kill Hitler or not kill Hitler! It is to make Hitler a commonplace! The point is this. You are small and the river is big. Live, love, die, my priest. The river will roll on.’” And likewise, when Ridgway is able to raise and dismiss the big counterfactual hypothetical question of time travel...
For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends...– Claire Messud schools the world. (via elisabethdonnelly)
bee ridgway, the river of no return
“There, just beside him, Mibbs’s face. Mibbs’s breath on his face. Mibbs’s hand on his arm. Mibbs was holding him poised above the pit, as easily as he might hold a spider over a flame, and his eyes burned toward Nick.” I think that that’s actually “loathsome spider,” right? Ridgway has a lot of fun with anachronism — actually, she seems to have a lot of fun in general, and that makes much...
A buttery, unseasonal sun was trying hard to nudge its way through the thick...– Kate Atkinson, Life After Life | Regan Arthur 04.02.13
“‘Don’t you wonder sometimes,’ Ursula said. ‘If one small thing had been changed, in the past, I mean. If Hitler had died at birth, or if someone had kidnapped him as a baby and brought him up in — I don’t know, say, a Quaker household — surely things would be different.’” Clearly we have arrived at a corollary of Godwin’s Law.
kate atkinson, life after life
“And sometimes, too, she knew what someone was about to say before they said it or what mundane incident was about to occur — if a dish was about to be dropped or an apple thrown through a glasshouse, as if these things had happened many times before. Words and phrases echoed themselves, strangers seemed like old acquaintances.” This is a strange situation: a promising if rather thin...
“The commonest metaphors became a phantasmagoric horror movie — she caught his eye, he wore his heart on his sleeve, the earth stopped — everything had literal and unpleasantly physical dimensions.” There’s a strange thing about the way that this character works, too: she has a limited number of rather proud, salient quirks — a taste for pain (there’s a very nice chunk early on...
anna stothard, the pink hotel
“At Julie’s Place I found myself asking people questions all the time. How long would you wait in a restaurant for a date? Have you ever been arrested? Would you rather have a bath or a shower? What superhero would you be? If you had to lose one of your senses, what would it be? If you had to lose a limb, which would it be? Do you have any piercings? There are mountains of people in my memory of...
“The land is effortless: a lie. He hasn’t captured time: how long a walk might take; how long a piece of work might take; how long the seasons or the nights might last. No man has ever seen this view. But it is beautiful, nevertheless.” And Thirsk’s voice is important, and necessary to the success of the book. Because Thirsk is also poised quite perfectly in between the two stories that the book...
jim crace, harvest
“It did not take many working days before I understood that the land itself, from sod to meadow, is inflexible and stern. It is impatient, in fact. It cannot wait. There’s not a season set aside for pondering and reveries. It will not let us hesitate or rest; it does not wish us to stand back and comment on its comeliness or devise a song for it. It has no time to listen to our song. It wants to...
We were talking about No, No, Nanette. I said I thought there was such a thing...– Renata Adler, Speedboat | NYRB Classics 03.19.13
“Manhattan was narrower up here, the water deeper; Mitchell suspected that the Hudson River had flooded as well and the two rivers had converged in the middle, as in the era of the Lenape Indians.” This is somewhere near the Harlem Meer — the northeast corner of Central Park — after an enormous flood inundates Manhattan; the second act of Rich’s novel involves the anxious savant who...
nathaniel rich, odds against tomorrow
“Tornadoes were charted by the Fujita scale, named after Professor Tetsuya Fujita of Kitakyushu, Japan, a man known in press reports as ‘Mr. Tornado.’ Through his work on tornado classification, Mr. Tornado discovered a peculiar meteorological phenomenon that he named a ‘microburst.’ A microburst was a strong, localized air current that caused wind to change direction and speed rapidly. Mr....
jennifer gilmore, the mothers
“I heard Ramon come up the stairs and then he was there, and begging me to go back down. ‘Please,’ he said. ‘Your father is freaking out on me. You have to go downstairs and talk to him,’ he said, and I did, wordlessly, brushing by him, touching him gently enough to hurt him, and I gathered myself up, the way I knew even then I would continue to on nights to come, nights when the phone sat silent...
We look to genre fiction for something specific;... →
Eleanor Gold, well thought-out in a review of Charles Yu’s collection Sorry Please Thank You.
“His face relaxed, slightly amused at my eagerness. ‘I’m going to tell you in such a way that you’ll remember the answer but not the question or the asking of it.’” And this is the second memory wipe for our heroine, although unlike the first this one does sidestep the enormous clumsiness of the setup (where she remembers being told that she won’t remember anything) a page or two later, with the...
“‘Is there some other production we might attend which does not illustrate that dysfunctional pair bonding is endemic in most cultures?’ asked Dllenahkh with heavy disapproval.” The larger thought experiment is this: a human race that evolved in parallel on four planets, with four different courses of development; one planet — the best of all possible worlds — where their cultures...
karen lord, the best of all possible worlds
“‘But they say that for centuries the land was populated by two taSadiri clans who were constantly at war with each other. They had endured a particularly bad run of hostilities when a strange Cygnian turned up with an intriguing solution to their problem. Since the main cause of their war was the question of which clan’s rituals and dialect should take precedence, the compromise was for both...
If you want to write about North Korea, it’s not... →
Fiona Maazel, in the New York Times Book Review; interesting, especially because her North Korea was one of the things I liked least about the novel, and that now I like more after this piece.
“There’s a reason most people never see anything of North Korea but Pyongyang. It’s because the rest of the country is squalid beyond all imagining, and this to spite the homogeneity of its design: single-story homes in a grid, whitewashed timber or stucco walls, the rooftops an orange clay tile, and every plot squared in with a brindled picket fence. There is no cement to pave the roads and no...
fiona maazel, woke up lonely
“My parents were part of the middling salariat that votes right but acts left. Men who tout family values while dropping a load at Tart’s Bigbar. Women who abort their kids in secret. They were Reaganites who imposed an old-fashioned aesthetic on the scheduling of our lives, so that we seemed to meet only at dinners, which were opportunities to know each other that we never took. Our family...
“This was real. This was human. Not the high philosophies of America-Five, not their computer programs, not their counts, not their cube-shaped sleeprooms and suffocating enclosures, not the mercy she had always believed in. No, she was done with that fakery. From this moment on, she would believe that other voice inside her The one that loved the core things, like earth and fire and sky and...
“But no human society before the Alphas ever structured itself in stark opposition to the absolutes the way we have. Dared to look them in the eye. It’s what defines us. It’s what makes this the modern age. And it has — this recognition — it’s what allowed us to make such leaps in medical technology and ethics… . Only by feeling the full force of suffering and death were we able...
ariel djanikian, the office of mercy
“Unlike most people in the settlement, he did not consider the doctrines of the Ethical Code glaringly self-evident. He believed in them, of course, and lived by their word. But he also felt (and had told Natasha as much) that questioning and analyzing one’s own ethical feelings were essential practices for understanding. Every great ethical thinker, he had told her once, has struggled with or...
Schoenberg was incapable of the middle-C mind. He was unable to sustain...– William H. Gass, Middle C | Knopf 03.12.13
“But guys smiled or winked at him, and Joey had to assume they felt he had somehow cheated his way to perfection. They did not honor good grades — on the contrary — but they prized chicanery, and any successful dodge, so long as it didn’t threaten the curve, and Miss Gyer had no curves. She was a tall woman made entirely of posture. The y in her name was her best feature. Skizzen is...
Who was he? and Joseph, now in his wiseass teens, would reply, Who is anybody?...– William H. Gass, Middle C | Knopf 03.12.13
william h gass, middle c
“As a music critic — a musicologist — as a philosopher of music — he was used to working with words; they held no terrors for him; he thought of them simply as tools; they were not instruments like those in an orchestra, because he did not think of his books and essays as performances. His ideas, of course, needed them, but he didn’t dress up his thoughts like toffs or tarts and...
ned beauman, the teleportation accident
“‘All right — explain: can’t tell the difference between pictures and the real thing. Got it? Just can’t. See the difference, not blind, just don’t realize it. Damned confusing. Have to get Woodkin to remind me. Used to be all right, but it’s the polish. Sky-Shine. Huffed too much of it over the years, working on the formula, testing the product, sleeping in store rooms. Polished part of the...
‘When you’re in the thick of your life, Shannon,’ Vaughn says suddenly, ‘it...– Marjorie Celona, Y | Free Press 01.08.13
michael moorcock, the warlord of the air
“I don’t actually remember striking the first blow. I remember punching and punching and being pulled back. I remember seeing his blood flowing from his cut face. I remember shrieking something about what he had done to the skipper. I remember his pole clutched in my hands rising and falling and then I was being pulled back by several ratings and everything became suddenly, terrifyingly calm and...
“How do you see the world? Is there music underscoring scenes of your life? Do you slow things down for intensity and drama? Speed them up for comedy? Do you rewrite dialogue if, say, you’ve had a fight with your wife or your boss or some jackass who cut the line at the Dunkin’ Donuts? In these rewrites are you wittier, more bold? I do and I am. It makes life more interesting for me, gives me a...
john kenney, truth in advertising
“Copywriters and art directors. They are artists. They are misunderstood. They are impulsive, brilliant, difficult, short-tempered, divorced, heavy drinkers, smokers, recreational drug users, malcontents, sexual deviants. It is the land of misfit toys. Every one of them deep believers in their individuality, their Mr. Rogers “You-Are-Special”-ness. And yet so much alike in wardrobe, attitude,...
adam mansbach, rage is back
“I’m taking the time to acknowledge this out of respect for you, the reader, because I hate stories with fuzzy internal logic. Kids who’ve grown up on Harry Potter don’t know any better, poor schmucks: people in those books are constantly doing things that were impossible five minutes earlier. In a few years, you’ll see. The Rowling generation’s going to be the most fucked up yet. Whereas you...
Dude as a complete sentence is one of the best things I’ve learned from white...– Adam Mansbach, Rage is Back | Viking 01.10.13
“The odor that always greeted you upon entering Bardwell’s domain, however, was something unique, even in this city of smells good, bad, indifferent. This was the middle one. Part of it was cigars. Another part was perspiration. But the secret ingredient, as the ad boys put it, was monkey shit. “I will pause for you to process that information, and assure yourself that you did not stumble upon a...
max allan collins, seduction of the innocent
“Starring in these poster-sized exhibits were walking corpses, machine-gunning gangsters, rampaging werewolves, drooling space creatures, and leggy gun molls showing off their .38 revolvers and heaving ‘headlights.’ “Possibly also 38s, come to think of it.” One of the better cracks that Jack Starr makes, and totally representative of his delivery. But if this doesn’t quite reach the level of...
The reader’s been left behind. Everybody talks about the writer’s feeling and...– Mary Fucking Karr (via austinkleon) (via literaryartifacts)
I have never heard her tell one true fact in her... →
Oh, Amelia Gray.
james p blaylock, the aylesford skull
“The crime was to devious, too well thought out, too purposeful. He could think of only one man who might do such a thing, but why that man would be lurking in the environs of north Kent was a mystery to him. The man, an evil genius who called himself Dr. Narbondo, was well acquainted with their previous residence in Chingford.” Setting aside the fact that the devious crime involved the public...
elizabeth black, the drowning house
“In the past, I would have shot back a comment of my own. But I couldn’t do it to this new and unfamiliar Frankie, who not only looked but behaved differently. Then I realized with a rush why she tolerated Eleanor’s prodding, why she was willing to say what she never had before. And I knew that Frankie would do anything, make any sacrifice, if she could undo the one wrong thing that had made...
suzanne collins, mockingjay
“I don’t think they quite know what to do with the three of us, particularly me. I have my Mockingjay outfit with me, but I’ve only been taped in uniform. Sometimes I use a gun, sometimes they ask me to shoot with my bow and arrows. It’s as if they don’t want to entirely lose the Mockingjay, but they want to downgrade my role to foot soldier. Since I don’t care, it’s amusing rather than upsetting...
The Tao of cop shows, man. All those cop shows I grew up with, especially those...– Warren Ellis, Gun Machine | Mulholland 01.01.13
“‘Flows of shit,’ muttered Bat. ‘I’d go insane, listening to that all day. It’s just a river of ‘Hey, this crazy disgusting thing just happened, and hey, here’s another one, and another, and another, has your brain caught fire yet?’ It’s like disaster porn or something.’” Referring to the police radio, which Ellis defers to every now and again, with its litany of incidents and assaults and...
warren ellis, gun machine
“The hunter moved down the block and curled up in the doorway of a small, abandoned retail unit that had previously been a Christian bookstore. Its weathered signage and faded, skewed window posters pleased him. He felt like he was sheltering in the lee of the corpse of some strange dead animal that had made its way to the island from foreign climes and died before reproducing or polluting the...
jesse bullington, the folly of the world
“But mostly it had been green and gorgeous, and now it was all bleak, dirty water that sometimes revealed a ragged roof or a bony treetop lurking just beneath the surface like an old log in a creek. “And all for what? A little coin was the answer, was always the answer, no matter the question. Sander had heard that the reason the flood got all the way up here from the sea was that greedy...
“Her clown white smeared all over his big knuckles. The red smile around her lips turned to liquid and dripped onto his shirt. That pink rat boy ran away to his car in the parking lot, left his clothes behind. My father gave them to me, but I wouldn’t wear them.” And it’s to Wagman’s credit how natural the outlandish stuff seems, so that this (primal) moment, where a young boy watches his carnie...
diana wagman, the care and feeding of exotic pets
“She moisturized daily, but that wouldn’t help her here. She said no to that piece of chocolate cake, even though she wanted it so much and her friend said it was the best she’d ever eaten. She said no, but that wouldn’t help her here. She bought the expensive biodegradable dishwashing soap. She let the old lady go first. She gave up the parking spot. She never ever littered.” From the point of...