Sometimes you can do all the right things and not succeed. And that's a hard lesson of reality.
Does such a thing as 'the fatal flaw,' that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.
As much fun as it is to read a book, writing a book is one level deeper than that.
And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.
Children love secret club houses. They love secrecy even when there's no need for secrecy
Sometimes we want what we want even if we know it's going to kill us.
Sometimes it's about playing a poor hand well.
What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted-? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight towards a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?
Storytelling and elegant style don't always go hand in hand.
I'd always rather stand or fall on my own mistakes. There's nothing worse than looking back, in a published book, at a line edit or a copy edit that you felt queasy about and didn't want to take, but took anyway.
And as much as I'd like to believe there's a truth beyond illusion, I've come to believe that there's no truth beyond illusion. Because, between "reality' on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there's a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.
After all, the appeal to stop being yourself, even for a little while, is very great
Does such a thing as "the fatal flaw," that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature?
I believe, in a funny way, the job of the novelist is to be out there on the fringes and speaking for an experience that has not really been spoken for.
The books I loved in childhood - the first loves - I've read so often that I've internalized them in some really essential way: they are more inside me now than out.
On the other hand, I mean, that is what writers have always been supposed to do, was to rely on their own devices and to - I mean, writing is a lonely business.
It is is better to know one book intimately than a hundred superficially.
To really be centered and to really work well and to think about the kinds of things that I need to think about, I need to spend large amounts of time alone.
Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.
A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don't get to choose our own hearts. We can't make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are.
The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone.
If he had his wits about him Bunny would surely keep his mouth shut; but now, with his subconscious mind knocked loose from its perch and flapping in the hollow corridors of his skull as erratically as a bat, there was no way to be sure of anything he might do.
There is to me about this place a smell of rot, the smell of rot that ripe fruit makes. Nowhere, ever, have the hideous mechanics of birth and copulation and death -those monstrous upheavals of life that the Greeks call miasma, defilement- been so brutal or been painted up to look so pretty; have so many people put so much faith in lies and mutability and death death death.
Some things are too terrible to grasp at once. Other things - naked, sputtering, indelible in their horror - are too terrible to really grasp ever at all.It is only later, in solitude, in memory that the realization dawns: when the ashes are cold; when the mourners have departed; when one looks around and finds oneself - quite to one's surprise - in an entirely different world.
But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.
Who was it said that coincidence was just God's way of remaining anonymous?
But romantic vision can also lead one away from certain very hard, ugly truths about life that are important to know.
To understand the world at all, sometimes you could only focus on a tiny bit of it, look very hard at what was close to hand and make it stand in for the whole;
Who cares? If he is good to you? None of us ever find enough kindness in the world, do we?
There's an expectation these days that novels - like any other consumer product - should be made on a production line, with one dropping from the conveyor belt every couple of years.
Always remember, the person we're really working for is the person who's restoring the piece a hundred years from now. He's the one we want to impress.
It happened in New York, April 10th, nineteen years ago. Even my hand balks at the date. I had to push to write it down, just to keep the pen moving on the paper. It used to be a perfectly ordinary day, but now it sticks up on the calendar like a rusty nail.
The storytelling gift is innate: one has it or one doesn't. But style is at least partly a learned thing: one refines it by looking and listening and reading and practice - by work.
I'd rather write one good book than ten mediocre ones.
For me - showing a half-finished manuscript is tricky. Just as a bird will get spooked and abandon her eggs if some outside party comes around and makes too much noise or pokes around the nest too intrusively - well, that's what it's like for me if I show work too early and I get a lot of editorial suggestions at the wrong time.
I had the epiphany that laughter was light, and light was laughter, and that this was the secret of the universe.
Stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you.
Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only-if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn't it? And isn't the whole point of things-beautiful things-that they connect you to some larger beauty?
Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.
The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.