Sometimes no length of string is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said. In such cases all the string can do, in whatever its form, is conduct a person's silence.
Only later did I come to understand that to be a mother is to be an illusion. No matter how vigilant, in the end a mother can't protect her child - not from pain, or horror, or the nightmare of violence, from sealed trains moving rapidly in the wrong direction, the depravity of strangers, trapdoors, abysses, fires, cars in the rain, from chance.
...after all, who isn't a survivor from the wreck of childhood?
One is always changing. I don't want to write the same book and I couldn't, because I'm a different person.
When at last I came upon the right book, the feeling was violent: it blew open a hole in me that made life more dangerous because I couldn't control what came through it.
Loneliness: there is no organ that can take it all.
For me, the most powerful way to write about something is through the absence of it. Rather than writing about what it was to become a new mother, I wrote, for example, a father facing death and addressing his estranged son about the regrets of his relationship.
To touch and feel each thing in the world, to know it by sight and by name, and then to know it with your eyes closed so that when something is gone, it can be recognized by the shape of its absence. So that you can continue to possess the lost, because absence is the only constant thing. Because you can get free of everything except the space where things have been.
. . . I would have let him go one finger at a time, until, without his realizing, he'd be floating without me. And then I thought, perhaps that is what it means to be a [parent] - to teach your child to live without you.
So many words get lost. They leave the mouthand lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves. On rainy days you can hear their chorus rushing past.
Life in general in my experience gets deeper and deeper, more and more profound, more and more complex, the older one gets.
What is literature, really? Boiled down to a single sentence, I'd say it's this: an endless conversation about what it means to be human. And to read literature is to engage in that conversation.
She struggled with her sadness, but tried to conceal it, to divide it into smaller and smaller parts and scatter these in places she thought no one would find them.
Sometimes just to paint a head you have to give up the whole figure. To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you're limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter of an inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.
In one's youth, one has tremendous access to one's feelings. And as one gets older, some of those feelings kind of drift away. But so much more happens to you. There's more at stake in life.
...we take comfort in the symmetries we find in life because they suggest a design where there is none.
I want to say somewhere: I've tried to be forgiving. And yet. There were times in my life, whole years, when anger got the better of me. Ugliness turned me inside out. There was a certain satisfaction in bitterness. I courted it. It was standing outside, and I invited it in.
Part of the work of writing a novel is to uncover the symmetries or connections that make it whole, which might not reveal itself at first.
What about you? Are you happiest and saddest right now that you've ever been?" "Of course I am." "Why?" "Because nothing makes me happier and nothing makes me sadder than you.
One of us had loved the other more perfectly, had watched the other more closely, and one of us listened and the other hadn't, and one of us held on to the ambition of the one idea far longer than was reasonable, whereas the other, passing a garbage can one night, had casually thrown it away.
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.
There are times when the kindness of strangers only makes things worse because one realizes how badly one is in need of kindness and that the only source is a stranger.
Because of the illusion. You fall in love, it's intoxicating, and for a little while, you actually feel like you've become one with the other person, merged souls and so on. You think you'll never be lonely again.
I have always written about characters who fall somewhere in the spectrum between solitary and totally alienated.
When you're younger, it's all theoretical. It's all potential. As you get older, it becomes actual, and your life gets filled with unexpected complexity; some of it asked for, and some of it not. It becomes richer, I find.
In life we sit at the table and refuse to eat, and in death we are eternally hungry.
...our eyes locked in one of those looks that sometimes happen between strangers, when both wordlessly agree that reality contains sinkholes whose depths neither can ever hope to fathom.
I have a very strong sense of architecture in my novels. But at first it's sometimes like building a doorknob before you have a door, and a door before you have a room.
Our kiss was niticlimactic. It wasn't that the kiss was bad, but it was just a note of punctuation in our long conversation, a parenthetical remark made in order to assure each other of a deeply felt agreement, a mutual offer of companionship, which is so much more rare than sexual passion or even love.
The truth was I'd given up waiting long ago. The moment had passed, the door between the lives we could have led and the lives we led had shut in our faces. Or better to say, in my face. Grammar of my life: as a rule of thumb, wherever there appears a plural, correct for singular. Should I ever let slip a royal We, put me out of my misery with a swift blow to the head.
. . . she gave him one of those broad smiles she reserved for strangers, as if she were aware of being able to pass, in their eyes, for an ordinary woman.
I do realize that the reader needs some form of resolution. Sometimes I think of it almost like writing a musical score where things have to harmonize and certain lines have to come to a close.
Herman slipped his hand into mine, and I thought, An average of seventy-four species become extinct every day, which was one good reason but not the only one to hold someone's hand, and the next thing that happened was we kissed each other, and I found I knew how, and I felt happy and sad in equal parts, because I knew that I was falling in love, but it wasn't with him.
What interests me very much as a writer is the ability for writing to have our lives to be occupied so vividly by others. I think that's what we long for as writers.
I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I'm out, I'll buy a juice even when I'm not thirsty. If the store is crowded I'll even go so far as dropping change all over the floor, nickels and dimes skidding in every direction. All I want is not to die on a day I went unseen.
At night the sky is pure astronomy.
The unique thing that literature provides is to be able to step so fully into another situation and condition.
Sometimes I get the feeling that we're just a bunch of habits. The gestures we repeat over and over, they're just our need to be recognized. Without them, we'd be unidentifiable. We have to reinvent ourselves every minute.
I like to think the world wasn't ready for me, but maybe the truth is that I wasn't ready for the world. I've always arrived too late for my life.
Perhaps that is what it means to be a father-to teach your child to live without you.