Miss Rossignol lived in the lazaretto
For Roman Catholic crones; she had white skin,
And underneath it, fine, old-fashioned bones;
Shew flew like bats to vespers every twilight,
The living Magdalen of Donatello;
And tipsy as a bottle when she stalked
On stilted legs to fetch the morning milk,
In a black shawl harnessed by rusty brooches.
My mother warned us how that flesh knew silk
Coursing a green estate in gilded coaches.
While Miss Rossignol, in the cathedral loft,
Sang to her one dead child, a tattered saint
Whose pride had paupered beauty to this witch
Who was so fine once, whose hands were so soft.
In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.
…from The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey, a debut novel, a magnificent story, a beautiful little crystal of a book and enough evidence for me to bet that as a kid Miss Ivey read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe twice, upset that C.S. Lewis didn’t really know snow.
To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.
The silence of the next few days must have been louder than the sound of all the music ever played since time began.
All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.
The kingdom is a spirit-like thing, and cannot be got by active doing. He who would so win it destroys it; he who would hold it in his grasp loses it.
The world is a sacred instrument
One cannot control it
The one who controls it will fail
The one who grasps it will lose
People are mysterious entities-
try to take hold of them and you will only lose them.
Thus, sometimes it is better to show the way,
and sometimes it is better to follow.
…three translations from Chapter 29 of the Dao De Jing, which was written a few years back.
That night they rode through a region electric and wild where strange shapes of soft blue fire ran over the metal of the horses’ trappings and the wagonwheels rolled in hoops of fire and little shapes of pale blue light came to perch in the ears of the horses and in the beards of the men. All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunderheads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear. The thunder moved up from the southwest and lightning lit the desert all about them, blue and barren, great clanging reaches ordered out of the absolute night like some demon kingdom summoned up or changeling land that come the day would leave them neither trace nor smoke nor ruin more than any troubling dream.
The book was in her lap; she had read no further. The power to change one’s life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in river water and enter the bodies of swimmers. She was excited, filled with strength. The polished sentences had arrived, it seemed, like so many other things, at just the right time. How can we imagine what our lives should be without the illumination of the lives of others?
Uncle Pumblechook: a large hard-breathing middle-aged slow man, with a mouth like a fish, dull staring eyes, and sandy hair standing upright on his head, so that he looked as if he had just been all but choked, and had that moment come to.
People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.
Love’s pure free joy when it works, but when it goes bad you pay for the good hours at loan-shark prices.
He was doing quite well until the last sentence, but if you bare your arse to a vengeful unicorn, the number of possible outcomes dwindles to one.
Julián had once told me that a story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.
…from a book that easily and silently slid into no less than the #3 spot on my all-time favorite book list.
Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.
…from The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and my current obsession, which I’m fairly certain is the only obsession I’ve ever had. My older brother recommended this book to me a few months ago, and my regret at not having followed his advice a few months sooner only proves the value in having older brothers.
If you are a troublemaker… it’s our job to politically destroy you… Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac.
Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no way you can govern a Chinese society.
Even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me to the grave and I feel that something is going wrong, I will get up.
…Lee Kuan Yew, who’s currently in heaven with George Washington, bullying Napoleon.
In this story, she is fire-born:
knee-deep in the shuddering world.
In this story, she knows no fear,
for what is fractured is a near-bitten star,
a false-bearing tree,
or a dishonest wind.
In this story, fear is a house gone dry.
Fear is not being a woman.
I’m no ordinary woman, she says.
My dreams come true.
And she says and she is
and I say, yes, give me that.
The Japanese poet Lady Sute-jo (1633-1698) asks:
Short-cuts in the sky,
…from the Moon as Muse, which closes with one of the more remarkable poems I’ve read this…ohh…decade.
This should have been amusing to me, the expression on Burdmoore’s face as Sandro recounted the story. But I was focused on Ronnie and Talia, on the way he was making her laugh. Taxi-dino, innuendo. Pointing out a green-and-yellow Blimpie’s sign, “There! One of ours!” Her laughter penetrating his fake sincerity like carbonation.
Writing is like “chatting up a woman”, Japan’s superstar novelist Haruki Murakami has said: “You can get better with practice to a certain degree, but basically, you’re either born with it, or you’re not.”