Ageing Jokes Quotes

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Every Joke is a Tiny Revolution
George Orwell (An Age Like This: 1920-1940 (The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, Vol. 1))
I nodded. “I’m sorry I let you down.” “No, no, dear,” she said, turning forward. “I see potential in you. I worked in a factory when I was your age. I was dirty and hungry, and sometimes I was angry. But I had an undying crush on the prince of Illéa, and when I got the chance to make him my own, I learned to check those feelings. There’s a lot to be done from here, but it might not happen the way you want it to. You need to learn to accept that, okay?” “Yes, Mom,” I joked. She looked back at me, her face like stone. “I mean, ma’am. Ma’am.” Her eyes started glistening, and she blinked a few times, turning forward again. “If it ends as I suspect it will, Mom will be just fine.
Kiera Cass (The One (The Selection, #3))
Fat-bashing in all its varied forms–criticism, exclusion, shaming, fat talk, self-deprecation, jokes, gossip, bullying–is one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice. From a very young age, before they can walk away or defend themselves, women are taught that they are how they look, not what they do or what they know. (1)
Robyn Silverman (Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It)
Little James Herondale, age two, was in fact holding a dagger quite well. He stabbed it into a sofa cushion, sending out a burst of feathers. "Ducks," he said, pointing at the feathers.
Cassandra Clare (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy)
If we had to earn our age by thinking for ourselves at least once a year, only a handful of people would reach adulthood.
Mokokoma Mokhonoana
I believe in aristocracy, though -- if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secreat understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but power to endure, and they can take a joke.
E.M. Forster (Two Cheers for Democracy)
I felt I was drawing close to that age, that place in life, where you realize one day what you'd told yourself was a Zen detachment turns out to be naked fear. You'd had one serious love relationship in your life and it had ended in tragedy, and the tragedy had broken something inside you. But instead of trying to repair the broken place, or at least really stop and look at it, you skated and joked. You had friends, you were a decent citizen. You hurt no one. And your life was somehow just about half of what it could be.
Roland Merullo (A Little Love Story)
So, explain this," Avery said, "You just, what, hang around the Academy all day? Are you trying to redo your high school experience?" "Nothing to redo," said Adrian loftily. "I totally ruled my high school. I was worshiped and adored—not that that should come as a shock." Beside him, Christian nearly choked on his food. "So. . .You're trying to relive your glory days. It's all gone downhill since then, huh?" "No way," said Adrian. "I'm like a fine wine. I get better with age. The best is yet to come." "Seems like it'd get old after a while," said Avery, "I'm certainly bored, and I even spend part of the day helping my dad." "Adrian sleeps most of the day," noted Lissa, "So he doesn't actually have to worry about finding things to do." "Hey, I spend a good portion of my time helping you unravel the mysteries of spirit," Adrian reminded her. "And," he added, "I can visit people in their dreams." Christian held up a hand. "Stop. I can feel there's a comment coming on about how women already dream about you. I just ate, you know." "I wasn't going to go there," said Adrian. But he kind of looked like he wished he'd thought of the joke first.
Richelle Mead (Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, #4))
OK, now let’s have some fun. Let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about women. Freud said he didn’t know what women wanted. I know what women want. They want a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything. What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish people wouldn’t get so mad at them. Why are so many people getting divorced today? It’s because most of us don’t have extended families anymore. It used to be that when a man and a woman got married, the bride got a lot more people to talk to about everything. The groom got a lot more pals to tell dumb jokes to. A few Americans, but very few, still have extended families. The Navahos. The Kennedys. But most of us, if we get married nowadays, are just one more person for the other person. The groom gets one more pal, but it’s a woman. The woman gets one more person to talk to about everything, but it’s a man. When a couple has an argument, they may think it’s about money or power or sex, or how to raise the kids, or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though, without realizing it, is this: “You are not enough people!” I met a man in Nigeria one time, an Ibo who has six hundred relatives he knew quite well. His wife had just had a baby, the best possible news in any extended family. They were going to take it to meet all its relatives, Ibos of all ages and sizes and shapes. It would even meet other babies, cousins not much older than it was. Everybody who was big enough and steady enough was going to get to hold it, cuddle it, gurgle to it, and say how pretty it was, or handsome. Wouldn't you have loved to be that baby?
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian)
It becomes evident that Olmo hasn't really been spotting his underwear, at least not with blood. Azzy has messed with his gullibility. Dad shoots Azzy a we'll-talk-about-this-later look. "Olmo, diarrhea and periods are very different things." Azzy smiles maliciously. "Diarrhea is hereditary; it runs in your jeans.
Mya Robarts (The V Girl: A Coming of Age Story)
Love is meant to be taken seriously, like a joke.
Jarod Kintz (Love quotes for the ages. Specifically ages 18-81.)
Love has teeth; they bite; the wounds never close. No word, no combination of words, can close those lovebites. It's the other way around, that's the joke.
Stephen King (The Body)
Breeze chuckled. "He was completely insane, you know. The worse things got, the more he'd joke. I remember how chipper he was the very day after one of our worst defeats, when we lost most of our skaa army to that fool Yeden. Kell walked in, a spring in his step, making one of his inane jokes." "Sounds insensitive," Allrianne said. Ham shook his head. "No. He was just determined. He always said that laughter was something the Lord Ruler couldn't take from him. He planned and executed the overthrow of a thousand-year empire—and he did it as a kind of . . . penance for letting his wife die thinking that he hated her. But, he did it all with a smirk on his lips. Like every joke was his way of slapping fate in the face." "We need what he had," Elend said.
Brandon Sanderson (The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3))
You remember having friends who used to lampoon the world so effortlessly, crouching at the verge of every joke and waiting to pounce on it, and you remember how they changed as they grew older and the joy of questioning everything slowly became transformed into the pain of questioning everything, like a star consuming its own core.
Kevin Brockmeier (The View from the Seventh Layer)
Adults always teased me about having boyfriends, but there was an age where it was no longer a joke, the idea that boys might actually want you.
Emma Cline (The Girls)
In a classical joke a child stays behind after school to ask a personal question. "Teacher, what did I learn today? " The surprised teacher asks, "Why do you ask that?" and the child replies, "Daddy always asks me and I never know what to say".
Seymour Papert (The Children's Machine: Rethinking School In The Age Of The Computer)
Werewolves never joke about age,” he said solemnly. “Why not?” Connor shrugged, a smile teasing his lips. “I dunno,” he finally admitted. “I just thought it sounded good.
Rose Wynters (My Wolf Cowboy (Wolf Town Guardians, #3))
Death would not surprise us as often as it does, if we let go of the misbelief that newborns are less mortal than the elderly.
Mokokoma Mokhonoana
Boundary construction is most evident in three-year-olds. Boundary construction is most evident in three-year-olds. By this time, they should have mastered the following tasks: 1. The ability to be emotionally attached to others, yet without giving up a sense of self and one‘s freedom to be apart, 2. The ability to say appropriate no's to others without fear of loss of love, 3. The ability to take appropriate no's from others without withdrawing emotionally. Noting these tasks, a friend said half-joking, "They need to learn this by age three? How about by fourty-three?" Yes, these are tall orders but boundary development is essential in the early years of life.
Henry Cloud (Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life)
Is that another sort of joke?" asked the old man. "You've no excuse for being bored anywhere. When I was your age I had never heard of such a thing.
Henry James (The Portrait of a Lady)
Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. This has been always the instinct of Christendom, and especially the instinct of Christian art. Remember how Fra Angelico represented all his angels, not only as birds, but almost as butterflies. Remember how the most earnest mediaeval art was full of light and fluttering draperies, of quick and capering feet. It was the one thing that the modern Pre-raphaelites could not imitate in the real Pre-raphaelites. Burne-Jones could never recover the deep levity of the Middle Ages. In the old Christian pictures the sky over every figure is like a blue or gold parachute. Every figure seems ready to fly up and float about in the heavens. The tattered cloak of the beggar will bear him up like the rayed plumes of the angels. But the kings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One "settles down" into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man "falls" into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky. Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.
G.K. Chesterton
Have you ever noticed that neither cats nor dogs ever laugh? I used to think I was doing something wrong, that maybe I needed to start telling better jokes. But no, all I needed to do was get a different audience. That's when I discovered ducks.
Jarod Kintz (Duck Quotes For The Ages. Specifically ages 18-81. (A BearPaw Duck And Meme Farm Production))
Dear Son, I would call you by name, but I’m waiting for your mother to decide. I only hope she is joking when she calls you Albert Dalbert. For weeks now I have watched your mother zealously gather her tokens for this box. She’s so afraid of you not knowing anything about her, and it bothers me greatly that you’ll never know her strength firsthand. I’m sure by the time you read this, you’ll know everything I do about her. But you’ll never know her for yourself and that pains me most of all. I wish you could see the look on her face whenever she talks to you. The sadness she tries so hard to hide. Every time I see it, it cuts through me. She love you so much. You’re all she talks about. I have so many orders from her for you. I’m not allowed to make you crazy the way I do your Uncle Chris. I’m not allowed to call the doctors every time you sneeze and you are to be allowed to tussle with your friends without me having a conniption that someone might bruise you. Nor am I to bully you about getting married or having kids. Ever. Most of all, you are allowed to pick your own car at sixteen. I’m not supposed to put you in a tank. We’ll see about that one. I refuse to promise her this last item until I know more about you. Not to mention, I’ve seen how other people drive on the roads. So if you have a tank, sorry. There’s only so much changing man my age can do. I don’t know what our futures will hold. I only hope that when all is said and done, you are more like your mother than you are like me. She’s a good woman. A kind woman. Full of love and compassion even though her life has been hard and full of grief. She bears her scars with a grace, dignity, and humor that I lack. Most of all, she has courage the likes of which I haven’t witnessed in centuries. I hope with every part of me that you inherit all her best traits and none of my bad ones. I don’t really know what more to say. I just thought you should have something of me in here too. Love, Your father (Wulf)
Sherrilyn Kenyon (Kiss of the Night (Dark-Hunter, #4))
Evolution doesn’t ‘try’ to do anything,” M-Bot said. “But like it or not, you are the pinnacle of its work. All evolutionary pressures throughout all the ages among your species have resulted in you.” “Bet it feels embarrassed,” I said
Brandon Sanderson (Cytonic (Skyward, #3))
Jokes about Crazy Cat Ladies seem harmless enough, but at their core is a disturbing echo of the hysterical witch superstitions of the Middle Age.
Tom Cox (The Good, the Bad and the Furry: Life with the World's Most Melancholy Cat and Other Whiskery Friends)
Women were invented ages ago, before the 1960s, because God realised very quickly that Adam needed an audience for his jokes.
Bridget Christie (A Book for Her)
You may go. The spell will hit you shortly.” I ignored what the witch said and I went on my way.
Mark Mulle (The Prankster Diaries (Book 1): Jokes on the Jokester (An Unofficial Minecraft Book for Kids Ages 9 - 12 (Preteen))
Why do fish live in salt water? A: Because pepper makes them sneeze!
Silly Willy (Silly Jokes for Silly Kids. Children's joke book age 5-12 (Joke books for Silly Kids))
Sympathy once more reveals its limits when faced with madness.
José Alaniz (Death, Disability, and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond)
If you've spent any time trolling the blogosphere, you've probably noticed a peculiar literary trend: the pervasive habit of writers inexplicably placing exclamation points at the end of otherwise unremarkable sentences. Sort of like this! This is done to suggest an ironic detachment from the writing of an expository sentence! It's supposed to signify that the writer is self-aware! And this is idiotic. It's the saddest kind of failure. F. Scott Fitzgerald believed inserting exclamation points was the literary equivalent of an author laughing at his own jokes, but that's not the case in the modern age; now, the exclamation point signifies creative confusion. All it illustrates is that even the writer can't tell if what they're creating is supposed to be meaningful, frivolous, or cruel. It's an attempt to insert humor where none exists, on the off chance that a potential reader will only be pleased if they suspect they're being entertained. Of course, the reader isn't really sure, either. They just want to know when they're supposed to pretend to be amused. All those extraneous exclamation points are like little splatters of canned laughter: They represent the "form of funny," which is more easily understood (and more easily constructed) than authentic funniness.
Chuck Klosterman (Eating the Dinosaur)
The young women in all the YA books I loved were high-school age. By eighteen, the majority of them had saved the world, not to mention: kissed people, traveled, been in a relationship, had sex. At twenty I felt like a pathetic, unaccomplished, uncultured, virgin grandma. It sounds like a joke now, but at the time, around all these people my age casually discussing all of the above, I felt so small.
Christine Riccio (Again, But Better)
What - what - what are you doing?" he demanded. "I am almost six hundred years old," Magnus claimed, and Ragnor snorted, since Magnus changed his age to suit himself every few weeks. Magnus swept on. "It does seem about time to learn a musical instrument." He flourished his new prize, a little stringed instrument that looked like a cousin of the lute that the lute was embarrassed to be related to. "It's called a charango. I am planning to become a charanguista!" "I wouldn't call that an instrument of music," Ragnor observed sourly. "An instrument of torture, perhaps." Magnus cradled the charango in his arms as if it were an easily offended baby. "It's a beautiful and very unique instrument! The sound box is made from an armadillo. Well, a dried armadillo shell." "That explains the sound you're making," said Ragnor. "Like a lost, hungry armadillo." "You are just jealous," Magnus remarked calmly. "Because you do not have the soul of a true artiste like myself." "Oh, I am positively green with envy," Ragnor snapped. "Come now, Ragnor. That's not fair," said Magnus. "You know I love it when you make jokes about your complexion." Magnus refused to be affected by Ragnor's cruel judgments. He regarded his fellow warlock with a lofty stare of superb indifference, raised his charango, and began to play again his defiant, beautiful tune. They both heard the staccato thump of frantically running feet from within the house, the swish of skirts, and then Catarina came rushing out into the courtyard. Her white hair was falling loose about her shoulders, and her face was the picture of alarm. "Magnus, Ragnor, I heard a cat making a most unearthly noise," she exclaimed. "From the sound of it, the poor creature must be direly sick. You have to help me find it!" Ragnor immediately collapsed with hysterical laughter on his windowsill. Magnus stared at Catarina for a moment, until he saw her lips twitch. "You are conspiring against me and my art," he declared. "You are a pack of conspirators." He began to play again. Catarina stopped him by putting a hand on his arm. "No, but seriously, Magnus," she said. "That noise is appalling." Magnus sighed. "Every warlock's a critic." "Why are you doing this?" "I have already explained myself to Ragnor. I wish to become proficient with a musical instrument. I have decided to devote myself to the art of the charanguista, and I wish to hear no more petty objections." "If we are all making lists of things we wish to hear no more . . . ," Ragnor murmured. Catarina, however, was smiling. "I see," she said. "Madam, you do not see." "I do. I see it all most clearly," Catarina assured him. "What is her name?" "I resent your implication," Magnus said. "There is no woman in the case. I am married to my music!" "Oh, all right," Catarina said. "What's his name, then?" His name was Imasu Morales, and he was gorgeous.
Cassandra Clare (The Bane Chronicles)
Life 1.0”: life where both the hardware and software are evolved rather than designed. You and I, on the other hand, are examples of “Life 2.0”: life whose hardware is evolved, but whose software is largely designed. By your software, I mean all the algorithms and knowledge that you use to process the information from your senses and decide what to do—everything from the ability to recognize your friends when you see them to your ability to walk, read, write, calculate, sing and tell jokes.
Max Tegmark (Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence)
Some people do not really hate aging; they merely love the colour black.
Mokokoma Mokhonoana
In some ways, he was the same Jeremiah, but in other ways, I could see how this had changed him. Had aged him. Everything took more effort, his jokes, his smiles. Nothing was easy anymore.
Jenny Han (It's Not Summer Without You (Summer, #2))
But no one wants to listen to our sad stories unless they are smoothed over with a joke or nice melody. And even then, not always. No one wants to hear a woman talking or writing about pain in a way that suggests that it doesn't end. Without a pat solution, silver lining, or happy ending we're just complainers -- downers who don't realize how good we actually have it. Men's pain and existential angst are the stuff of myth and legends and narratives that shape everything we do, but women's pain is a backdrop- a plot development to push the story along for the real protagonists. Disrupting that story means we're needy or shellfish, or worst of all, man-haters - as if after all men have done to women over the ages the mere act of not liking them for it is most offensive.
Jessica Valenti (Sex Object: A Memoir)
At age 6 I was born without a face.
Arin Hansen
My favorite people are the ones that can make any unfunny joke hilarious by just laughing.
Ziad K. Abdelnour (Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics)
The basic message is this: If you’re losing your cool, you are losing. If you are triggered, it is because you allowed someone else to dictate your emotional state. If you are outraged, it is because you lack discipline and self-control. These are personal defeats, not the fault of anyone else. And each defeat shapes who you are as a person, and in the collective sense, who we are as a people. This book is about actively hardening your mind so that you can be the person you think you should be. It is about identifying who that person is in the first place, and taking responsibility for the self-improvement required to become them. It is about learning what it means to never quit. It is about learning to take a joke and giving others some charity when they make a bad one. It is about the importance of building a society of iron-tough individuals who can think for themselves, take care of themselves, and recognize that a culture characterized by grit, discipline, and self-reliance is a culture that survives.
Dan Crenshaw (Fortitude: Resilience in the Age of Outrage)
So why bother investing in one’s memory in an age of externalized memories? The best answer I can give is the one I received unwittingly from EP, whose memory had been so completely lost that he could not place himself in time or space, or relative to other people. That is: How we perceive the world and how we act in it are products of how and what we remember. We’re all just a bundle of habits shaped by our memories. And to the extent that we control our lives, we do so by gradually altering those habits, which is to say the networks of our memories. No lasting joke, invention, insight, or work of art was ever produced by an external memory. Not yet, at least. Our ability to find humor in the world, to make connections between previously unconnected notions, to create new ideas, to share in a common culture: All these essentially human acts depend on memory. Now more than ever, as the role of memory in our culture erodes at a faster pace than ever before, we need to cultivate our ability to remember. Our memories make us who we are. They are the seat of our values and source of our character.
Joshua Foer (Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything)
Not satisfied with what he's got? Is that it? That's husbands all over. Ungrateful pigs. You do everything for them, you bring up their kids, you cook their food, you wash their clothes, you warm their beds, you fuss over your face day after day so they'll fancy you, you wear yourself out to keep them happy and at the end of it all, what happens? They find someone else they fancy more. Someone young some man hasn't had the chance to wear out yet. Marriage is a con trick. A girl should marry a rich man, then at least she'd have a fur coat to keep her warm in her old age.
Fay Weldon (The Fat Woman's Joke)
Her photographs, lining the hall outside my bedroom-- many different Pippas, at many different ages-- were a daily torment, always expected, always new; but though I tried to keep my eyes away always it seemed I was glancing up by mistake and there she was, laughing at someone else's joke or smiling at someone who wasn't me, always a fresh pain, a blow straight to the heart.
Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch)
The most appalling racist, sexist, and perversely cruel remarks are served up on social media, often with a wink or a sneer, and when called out, practitioners frequently respond that they were simply joking—much the way that White House aides say Trump is simply joking or misunderstood when he makes offensive remarks. At a November 2016 alt-right conference, the white supremacist Richard Spencer ended his speech, shouting, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” When asked about the Nazi salutes that greeted his exclamation, Spencer replied that they were “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.
Michiko Kakutani (The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump)
If we’re going to confront reality honestly, then nothing can be off-limits. Our power structures, our political leaders, and our religious institutions all must be fair game in a free society. There’s a fine line when jokes and mockery become cruel and pointless, but this is the line comedians have toed since the beginning of time. We must relentlessly defend their ability not only to push our limits but also to occasionally trip over the line into sacrilege and controversy.
Dave Rubin (Don't Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason)
Major Major's father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a long-limbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn't earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major's father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” he counseled one and all, and everyone said, “Amen.
Joseph Heller (Catch-22)
The music from my youth has aged poorly and is now like a joke out of context. You had to be there.
Jonathan Tropper (The Book of Joe)
Control was the basis of all humor. Even at its most innocent, what was a joke or a clever comment if not a way to take control? To become King of the Moment.
Adam Rex (Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story)
Some women wear a miniskirt to reveal their thighs; some wear one to conceal their age.
Mokokoma Mokhonoana
After a certain point, all natural bodily changes are for the worst.
Mokokoma Mokhonoana
You can tell you're getting old when the heat blast from your birthday cake candles feels hotter than the surface of the sun.
Stewart Stafford
It was in the realm of his humor, and Carney had doubtless laughed. You get older and the old jokes grow less funny.
Colson Whitehead (Harlem Shuffle (Ray Carney, #1))
It was on old joke among underfed, angry sailors that should mutiny fail, the weight of their bodies would not be enough to hang them.
Marcus Rediker (Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age)
Maybe your aunt is funny in quiet moments with her friends because like many women her age, she was taught to not draw attention to herself. And maybe she also noticed how men of her generation weren't attracted to the women who spoke out of turn and uttered their own opinions out loud. And certainly these types of men weren't attracted to women who were funnier than them. Women have always been funny. They just weren't interested in sharing their jokes with you. Truth in point, my mom is hilarious. She has also been single since 1974.
W. Kamau Bell (The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6' 4", African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian)
Listen son, at ma age love is a nuisance of a thing. What ye want is some easy company on a Tuesday night, a bit of help runnin’ the hoose, and if yer lucky a bit of nookie as long as ye can both lie on yer side while ye’re at it.” Mungo didn’t laugh at the joke. Jocky dropped his dout into his mug. “What ye want is an easy life. There’s nothin’ easy about love.
Douglas Stuart (Young Mungo)
The young man was sincerely but placidly in love. He delighted in the radiant good looks of his betrothed, in her health, her horsemanship, her grace and quickness at games, and the shy interest in books and ideas that she was beginning to develop under his guidance. She was straightforward, loyal, and brave; she had a sense of humour (chiefly proved by her laughing at his jokes); and he suspected, in the depths of her innocently-gazing soul, a glow of feeling that it would be a joy to waken. But when he had gone the brief round of her he returned discouraged by the thought that all this frankness and innocence were only an artificial product. Untrained human nature was not frank and innocent; it was full of the twists and defences of an instinctive guile. And he felt himself oppressed by this creation of factitious purity, so cunningly manufactured by a conspiracy of mothers and aunts and grandmothers and long-dead ancestresses, because it was supposed to be what he wanted, what he had a right to, in order that he might exercise his lordly pleasure in smashing it like an image made of snow.
Edith Wharton (The Age of Innocence)
It’s like returning to a familiar room and noticing objects had been moved while you were gone—a chair here, a picture frame there. Items that were once brand new were suddenly broken in and worn from age. It was all very subtle, but enough to suspect paranormal activity or a cruel practical joke. When no one else saw what you saw, the freak factor really kicked in, because you were singled out and left questioning reality." ~Ellia
Jaime Reed (Keep Me In Mind)
After that [father's death] I never cried with any real conviction, nor expected much of anyone's God except indifference, nor loved deeply without fear that it would cost me dearly in pain. At the age of five I had become a skeptic and began to sense that any happiness that came my way might be the prelude to some grim cosmic joke.
Russell Baker (Growing Up)
Their message will never be decoded, not only because there is no key to it, but also because people have no patience to listen to it in an age when the accumulation of messages old and new is such that their voices cancel one another out. Today history is no more than a thin thread of the remembered stretching over an ocean of the forgotten, but time moves on, and an epoch of millennia will come which the inextensible memory of the individual will be unable to encompass; whole centuries and millennia will therefore fall away, centuries of painting and music, centuries of discoveries, of battles, of books, and this will be dire, because man will lose the notion of his self, and his history, unfathomable, unencompassable, will shrivel into a few schematic signs destitute of all sense.
Milan Kundera (The Joke)
Fanfare for the Makers A cloud of witnesses. To whom? To what? To the small fire that never leaves the sky. To the great fire that boils the daily pot. To all the things we are not remembered by, Which we remember and bless. To all the things That will not notice when we die, Yet lend the passing moment words and wings. So fanfare for the Makers: who compose A book of words or deeds who runs may write As many who do run, as a family grows At times like sunflowers turning towards the light. As sometimes in the blackout and the raids One joke composed an island in the night. As sometimes one man’s kindness pervades A room or house or village, as sometimes Merely to tighten screws or sharpen blades Can catch a meaning, as to hear the chimes At midnight means to share them, as one man In old age plants an avenue of limes And before they bloom can smell them, before they span The road can walk beneath the perfected arch, The merest greenprint when the lives began Of those who walk there with him, as in default Of coffee men grind acorns, as in despite Of all assaults conscripts counter assault, As mothers sit up late night after night Moulding a life, as miners day by day Descend blind shafts, as a boy may flaunt his kite In an empty nonchalant sky, as anglers play Their fish, as workers work and can take pride In spending sweat before they draw their pay. As horsemen fashion horses while they ride, As climbers climb a peak because it is there, As life can be confirmed even in suicide: To make is such. Let us make. And set the weather fair. Louis Macneice
Louis MacNeice (Collected Poems)
It Hurts To Be Alive and Obsolete: Often when men are attracted to me, they feel ashamed and conceal it. They act as if it were ridiculous. If they do become involved, they are still ashamed and may refuse to appear publicly with me. Their fear of mockery is enormous. There is no prestige attached to having sex with me. Since we are all far more various sexually than we are supposed to be, often, in fact, younger men become aware of me sexually. Their response is similar to what it is when they find themselves feeling attracted to a homosexual: they turn those feelings into hostility and put me down. Listen to me! Think what it is like to have most of your life ahead and be told you are obsolete! Think what it is like to feel attraction, desire, affection towards others, to want to tell them about yourself, to feel that assumption on which self-respect is based, that you are worth something, and that if you like someone, surely he will be pleased to know that. To be, in other words, still a living woman, and to be told that every day that you are not a woman but a tired object that should disappear. That you are not a person but a joke. Well, I am a bitter joke. I am bitter and frustrated and wasted, but don’t you pretend for a minute as you look at me, forty-three, fat, and looking exactly my age, that I am not as alive as you are and that I do not suffer from the category into which you are forcing me.
Zoe Moss (Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement)
F. Scott Fitzgerald believed inserting exclamation points was the literary equivalent of an author laughing at his own jokes, but that's not the case in the modern age; now, the exclamation point signifies creative confusion. All it illustrates is that even the writer can't tell if what they're creating is supposed to be meaningful, frivolous, or cruel. It's an attempt to insert humor where none exists, on the off chance that a potential reader will only be pleased if they suspect they're being entertained. Of course, the reader isn't really sure, either. They just want to know when they're supposed to pretend to be amused.
Chuck Klosterman (Eating the Dinosaur)
Funnier still how much faith her parents put in him, considering the fact that Jay would officially be younger than Violet in less than a week. Violet was about to turn seventeen, while Jay would still be sixteen for nearly two full months/ Jay liked that, the whole older-woman thing. He also liked to joke about the fact that Violet would soon be dating a younger man. One night, when Violet’s parents had gone out, he teased her about it, whispering against his throat, “I should probably be dating girls my own age now that you’ll be over-the-hill.” Jay was stretched out on Violet’s bed as she curled against him. Violet laughed, rising to the bait. “Fine,” she challenged, pulling away and leaning up on her elbow. “I’m sure there are plenty of men my own age who would be willing to finish what you’ve started.
Kimberly Derting (Desires of the Dead (The Body Finder, #2))
That maybe I’m the answer,’ I blurted. ‘To healing your heart. I could … you know, be your boyfriend. As Lester. If you wanted. You and me. You know, like … yeah.’ I was absolutely certain that up on Mount Olympus, the other Olympians all had their phones out and were filming me to post on Euterpe-Tube. Reyna stared at me long enough for the marching band in my circulatory system to play a complete stanza of ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’. Her eyes were dark and dangerous. Her expression was unreadable, like the outer surface of an explosive device. She was going to murder me. No. She would order her dogs to murder me. By the time Meg rushed to my aid, it would be too late. Or worse – Meg would help Reyna bury my remains, and no one would be the wiser. When they returned to camp, the Romans would ask, What happened to Apollo? Who? Reyna would say. Oh, that guy? Dunno, we lost him. Oh, well! the Romans would reply, and that would be that. Reyna’s mouth tightened into a grimace. She bent over, gripping her knees. Her body began to shake. Oh, gods, what had I done? Perhaps I should comfort her, hold her in my arms. Perhaps I should run for my life. Why was I so bad at romance? Reyna made a squeaking sound, then a sort of sustained whimper. I really had hurt her! Then she straightened, tears streaming down her face, and burst into laughter. The sound reminded me of water rushing over a riverbed that had been dry for ages. Once she started, she couldn’t seem to stop. She doubled over, stood upright again, leaned against a tree and looked at her dogs as if to share the joke. ‘Oh … my … gods,’ she wheezed. She managed to restrain her mirth long enough to blink at me through the tears, as if to make sure I was really there and she’d heard me correctly. ‘You. Me? HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA.
Rick Riordan (The Tyrant's Tomb (The Trials of Apollo, #4))
You really want to know?” He drags out the suspense. “Yes.” I grow restless. “Spill.” “Well, for starters… most guys our age aren’t looking to date.” He elaborates. “They just want to fuck around. And those who do want to date are only looking for a girl to make them feel good about themselves.” “Meaning?” “Meaning they want her to laugh at their jokes, stroke their egos, give good head and… that’s pretty much it.” He draws a small smile out of me. “So, when guys like that see a girl like you, a girl who doesn’t look easy or desperate, they get intimidated. Label her high-maintenance and run like hell. You’re beauty and brains, Vee. You’re an immature high school boy’s worst nightmare.
Eliah Greenwood (Dear Love, I Hate You (Easton High, #1))
One Sufi mystic who had remained happy his whole life—no one had ever seen him unhappy—he was always laughing. He was laughter, his whole being was a perfume of celebration. In his old age, when he was dying—he was on his deathbed, and still enjoying death, laughing hilariously—a disciple asked, “You puzzle us. Now you are dying. Why are you laughing? What is there funny about it? We are feeling so sad. We wanted to ask you many times in your life why you are never sad. But now, confronting death, at least one should be sad. You are still laughing! How are you managing it?” And the old man said, “It is a simple clue. I had asked my master. I had gone to my master as a young man; I was only seventeen, and already miserable. And my master was old, seventy, and he was sitting under a tree, laughing for no reason at all. There was nobody else, nothing had happened, nobody had cracked a joke or anything. And he was simply laughing, holding his belly. And I asked him, ‘What is the matter with you? Are you mad or something?’ “He said, ‘One day I was also as sad as you are. Then it dawned on me that it is my choice, it is my life. Since that day, every morning when I get up, the first thing I decide is, before I open my eyes, I say to myself, “Abdullah”—that was his name—‘what do you want? Misery? Blissfulness? What are you going to choose today? And it happens that I always choose blissfulness.’” It is a choice. Try it. The first moment in the morning when you become aware that sleep has left, ask yourself, “Abdullah, another day! What is your idea? Do you choose misery or blissfulness?” And who would choose misery? And why? It is so unnatural—unless one feels blissful in misery, but then too you are choosing bliss, not misery.
Osho (Meditation: The First and Last Freedom: A Practical Guide to Osho Meditations)
He was baffled to know that apricot trees existed in, of all places, our orchard. On late afternoons, when there was nothing to do in the house, Mafalda would ask him to climb a ladder with a basket and pick those fruits that were almost blushing with shame, she said. He would joke in Italian, pick one out, and ask, Is this one blushing with shame? No, she would say, this one is too young still, youth has no shame, shame comes with age.
André Aciman (Call Me By Your Name (Call Me By Your Name, #1))
We thought ourselves kings of the ages. Now we find that our civilization has been nothing but a brief, brightly lit nursery, where we have played with paper crowns and wooden scepters. Beyond the door are the dark wastes where Leviathans wrestled for millennia. We are a blink of an eye, a joke amidst a tragedy.
Frances Hardinge (The Lie Tree)
Whereas my tribe is motley and chaotic. My tribe is dense and tumultuous. We argue and tease and wrangle and goof and fly upside down. We are brilliant and stupid. We are lonely and livid. We lie, we laugh. We are greedy and foolish. Sometimes we all sing together. We tease dogs. We can be cruel, but never for very long. We just can't sustain it. If we could sustain and organize our cruelty we'd rule the world. But what kind of life is that? We all fly home together at the end of the day. We have no kings. We have no outlaws. We have no ranking. We have no priests. We have no status. Age confers nothing in our clan. Size confers nothing. We have no warriors. We have no beauties. That's just how it is. We all look the same. Our stories go all day long. We remember everything. Our life can be maddening. It gets loud. We never agree on anything. We bicker. We play jokes. We take chances. I have often taken refuge with your tribe just to escape the hubbub of my tribe. Your tribe is better able to be alone.
Brian Doyle (Mink River)
There are various theories about why the years seem to pass faster as you get older. The most popular is also the most obvious. As you get older, each year is a smaller percentage of your life. If you are ten years old, a year is ten percent. If you are fifty years old, a year is two percent. But she read a theory that spurned that explanation. The theory states that time passes faster when we are in a set routine, when we aren't learning anything new, when we stay stuck in a life pattern. They key to making time slow down is to have new experiences. You may joke that the week you went on vacation flew by far too quickly, but if you stop and think about it, that week actually seemed to last much longer than one involving the drudgery of your day job. You are complaining about it going away so fast because you loved it, not because it felt as though time was passing faster. If you want to slow down time, this theory holds: If you want to make the days last, do something different. Travel to exotic locales. Take a class.
Harlan Coben (Don't Let Go)
I want to be able to remember it all, not just the books but the newsrooms and the playgroups and the bad jokes and the holiday traditions. In my mind I can walk through the house where I grew up even though I have not been inside it for decades . . . I want to be able to walk through the house of my own life until my life is done. I want to hold on to who and what I have been even as both become somehow inevitably less.
Anna Quindlen (Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake)
It wasn’t that I couldn’t get enough of him. Or that he was the best man I’d ever known. (I’d thought that was my dad, but now it was the dad from my favorite 2000s teen drama, Veronica Mars.) Or that he was my favorite person. (That was Shadi.) Or because he made me laugh so hard I wept. (He laughed easily, but rarely joked.) Or that when something bad happened, he was the first person I wanted to call. (He wasn’t.) It was that we met the same age my parents had, that the snowball fight and impromptu road trip had felt like fate, that my mother adored him. He fit so perfectly into the love story I’d imagined for myself that I mistook him for the love of my life.
Emily Henry (Beach Read)
Physical love only rarely merges with the soul's love. What does the soul actually do when the body unites (in that age-old, universal, immutable motion) with another body? What a wealth of invention it finds in those moments, thus reaffirming its superiority over the monotony of the corporeal life! How it scorns the body, and uses it (together with its partner) as a pretext for insane fantasies a thousand times more carnal than the two coupled bodies! Or conversely: how it belittles the body by leaving it to its pendular to-and-fro while the soul (already wearied by the caprices of the body) turns its thoughts entirely elsewhere: to a game of chess, to recollections of dinner, to a book...
Milan Kundera (The Joke)
I believe in aristocracy, though - if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.
E.M. Forster (Two Cheers for Democracy)
Thinking back now, I can see we were just at that age when we knew a few things about ourselves—about who we were, how we were different from our guardians, from the people outside—but hadn’t yet understood what any of it meant. I’m sure somewhere in your childhood, you too had an experience like ours that day; similar if not in the actual details, then inside, in the feelings. Because it doesn’t really matter how well your guardians try to prepare you: all the talksvideos, discussions, warnings, none of that can really bring it home. Not when you’re eight years old, and you’re all together in a place like Hailsham; when you’ve got guardians like the ones we had; when the gardeners and the delivery men joke and laugh with you and call you “sweetheart.”    All the same, some of it must go in somewhere. It must go in, because by the time a moment like that comes along, there’s a part of you that’s been waiting. Maybe from as early as when you’re five or six, there’s been a whisper going at the back of your head, saying: “One day, maybe not so long from now, you’ll get to know how it feels.” So you’re waiting, even if you don’t quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realise that you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don’t hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you—of how you were brought into this world and why—and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs. The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it’s a cold moment. It’s like walking past a mirror you’ve walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange.
Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go)
LIVE FROM THE PASTA FARMS, THIS HAS BEEN AL DENTE: The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired a documentary on its new show Panorama about Spaghetti growers in Switzerland-- on April 1, 1957. The joke broadcast showed Swiss spaghetti farmers picking fresh spaghetti from 'spaghetti trees' and preparing the spaghetti for market. It also mentioned that the pasta farmers had a bumper crop partly because of the 'virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.' Soon after the broadcast, the BBC received phone calls from viewers eager to know if spaghetti really grew on trees and how they might grow a spaghetti tree of their own. To the last question, the BBC reportedly replied that they should 'place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.
Leland Gregory (Stupid History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Mythconceptions Throughout the Ages)
Tru only matched his grin and walked on. Pen caught up with him, tugging on his arm. “What is it?” “I took a walk yesterday when you were working.” “A walk.” “Yup.” “Had you shifted?” “Yes, I had.” Pen caught his humor, although she couldn’t understand its origins. “And?” “I may have used their freshwater reserves as a latrine. And then encouraged the other skinwalkers to do the same.” She giggled like a little girl being told a dirty joke. “That’s remarkably crude.” “I like to think of it as clever and resourceful.” “That, too.
Ellen Connor (Daybreak (Dark Age Dawning, #3))
The older Mario gets, the more confused he gets about the fact that everyone at E.T.A. over the age of about Kent Blott finds stuff that’s really real uncomfortable and they get embarrassed. It’s like there’s some rule that real stuff can only get mentioned if everybody rolls their eyes or laughs in a way that isn’t happy. The worst-feeling thing that happened today was at lunch when Michael Pemulis told Mario he had an idea for setting up a Dial-a-Prayer telephone service for atheists in which the atheist dials the number and the line just rings and rings and no one answers. It was a joke and a good one, and Mario got it; what was unpleasant was that Mario was the only one at the big table whose laugh was a happy laugh; everybody else sort of looked down like they were laughing at somebody with a disability. The whole issue was far above Mario’s head…
David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest)
They asked me to tell you what it was like to be twenty and pregnant in 1950 and when you tell your boyfriend you’re pregnant, he tells you about a friend of his in the army whose girl told him she was pregnant, so he got all his buddies to come and say, “We all fucked her, so who knows who the father is?” And he laughs at the good joke…. What was it like, if you were planning to go to graduate school and get a degree and earn a living so you could support yourself and do the work you loved—what it was like to be a senior at Radcliffe and pregnant and if you bore this child, this child which the law demanded you bear and would then call “unlawful,” “illegitimate,” this child whose father denied it … What was it like? […] It’s like this: if I had dropped out of college, thrown away my education, depended on my parents … if I had done all that, which is what the anti-abortion people want me to have done, I would have borne a child for them, … the authorities, the theorists, the fundamentalists; I would have born a child for them, their child. But I would not have born my own first child, or second child, or third child. My children. The life of that fetus would have prevented, would have aborted, three other fetuses … the three wanted children, the three I had with my husband—whom, if I had not aborted the unwanted one, I would never have met … I would have been an “unwed mother” of a three-year-old in California, without work, with half an education, living off her parents…. But it is the children I have to come back to, my children Elisabeth, Caroline, Theodore, my joy, my pride, my loves. If I had not broken the law and aborted that life nobody wanted, they would have been aborted by a cruel, bigoted, and senseless law. They would never have been born. This thought I cannot bear. What was it like, in the Dark Ages when abortion was a crime, for the girl whose dad couldn’t borrow cash, as my dad could? What was it like for the girl who couldn’t even tell her dad, because he would go crazy with shame and rage? Who couldn’t tell her mother? Who had to go alone to that filthy room and put herself body and soul into the hands of a professional criminal? – because that is what every doctor who did an abortion was, whether he was an extortionist or an idealist. You know what it was like for her. You know and I know; that is why we are here. We are not going back to the Dark Ages. We are not going to let anybody in this country have that kind of power over any girl or woman. There are great powers, outside the government and in it, trying to legislate the return of darkness. We are not great powers. But we are the light. Nobody can put us out. May all of you shine very bright and steady, today and always.
Ursula K. Le Guin
One day while I was apologizing to Serennah for not having the money to pay for something that she needed, she pointed out that our lack of finances has kept us humble. We do not have any high-maintenance spoiled brats in this household. We have never missed a meal; some of those blessed meals have consisted of beans and rice (nutritionally okay but harder for Kip to swallow), but we were still thankful. I told our kids that if you have never had your debit card denied while trying to make a purchase, you have not lived! I was joking at the time, but as I thought about it some more, I agreed with Serennah. These humbling moments keep us from getting too proud.
Mona Lisa Harding (The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family's Method to College Ready by Age Twelve)
Their message will never be decoded… because people have no patience to listen to it in an age when the accumulation of messages old and new is such that their voices cancel one another out. Today history is no more than a thin thread of the remembered stretching over an ocean of the forgotten, but time moves on, and an epoch of millennia will come which the inextensible memory of the individual will be unable to encompass; whole centuries and millennia will therefore fall away, centuries of painting and music, centuries of discoveries, of battles, of books, and this will be dire, because man will lose the notion of his self, and his history, unfathomable, unencompassable, will shrivel into a few schematic signs destitute of all sense.
Milan Kundera (The Joke)
All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. Nonstop. Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that's what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That's the bottom line. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average. The deluge of exceptional information drives us to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate, because clearly we are somehow not good enough. So more and more we feel the need to compensate through entitlement and addiction.
Mark Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life)
In view of the possibility of finding meaning in suffering, life's meaning is an unconditional one, at least potentially. That unconditional meaning, however, is paralleled by the unconditional value of each and every person. It is that which warrants the indelible quality of the dignity of man. Just as life remains potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable, so too does the value of each and every person stay with him or her, and it does so because it is based on the values that he or she has realized in the past, and is not contingent on the usefulness that he or she may or may not retain in the present. More specifically, this usefulness is usually defined in terms of functioning for the benefit of society. But today's society is characterized by achievement orientation, and consequently it adores people who are successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the young. It virtually ignores the value of those who are otherwise, and in so doing blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that na individual's value stems only from his present usefulness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler's program, that is to say, "mercy" killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer. Confounding the dignity of man with mere usefulness arises from a conceptual confusion that in turn may be traced back to the contemporary nihilism transmitted on many an academic campus and many an analytical couch. Even in the setting of training analyses such an indoctrination may take place. Nihilism does not contend that there is nothing, but it states that everything is meaningless. And George A. Sargent was right when he promulgated the concept of "learned meaninglessness." He himself remembered a therapist who said, "George, you must realize that the world is a joke. There is no justice, everything is random. Only when you realize this will you understand how silly it is to take yourself seriously. There is no grand purpose in the universe. It just is. There's no particular meaning in what decision you make today about how to act." One must generalize such a criticism. In principle, training is indispensable, but if so, therapists should see their task in immunizing the trainee against nihilism rather than inoculating him with the cynicism that is a defense mechanism against their own nihilism.
Viktor E. Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning)
Grandpa recently turned sixty-five and went to the doctor for a complete physical. After an exam the doctor said grandpa was doing “fairly well” for his age. Grandpa was a little concerned and asked, “Doc, do you think I’ll live to eighty?” The doctor asked, “Do you smoke tobacco or drink alcohol?” “Oh no,” Grandpa replied, “and I don’t do drugs, either.” “Do you have many friends and entertain frequently?” Grandpa said, “No, I usually stay home and keep to myself.” “Do you eat beef and pork?” “No, my other doctor said red meat is unhealthy!” “Do you spend a lot of time doing things in the sun, like playing golf, sailing, or bicycling?” “No, I don’t.” “Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have lots of sex?” “No, I don’t do any of those things anymore.” The doctor looked at Grandpa and said, “Then why do you care?
Scott McNeely (Ultimate Book of Jokes: The Essential Collection of More Than 1,500 Jokes)
these gentlemen had no idea what a huge joke all our doctor degrees, our whole mandarin educational system, was to the masses, how they ridiculed our public grammar schools, that instrument of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, maintained under the delusion that by watering down scholarship one educated the commonfolk. The masses had long since learned that for the education and discipline needed in the battle against the decaying bourgeoisie they should look elsewhere than to coercive schools imposed by the authorities; and by now every idiot knew that the school system developed from the cloisters of the Middle Ages was as anachronistic and absurd as a periwig, that no one owed his real education to schools anymore, and that free, open instruction by public lectures, exhibitions, films, and so forth was far superior to that found in any schoolroom.
Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain: First Edition (Arkosh Fiction))
It is the sheer weight of the robot that makes us feel we are living in a ‘wooden world’. We can see for example that the moment Ouspensky or Ward returned from the mystical realm of perfect freedom and found themselves ‘back in the body’ they once again found themselves saddled with all their boring old habits and worries and neuroses, all their old sense of identity built up from the reactions of other people, and above all the dreary old heaviness, as if consciousness has turned into a leaden weight. This is the sensation that made the romantics feel that life is a kind of hell — or at the very least, purgatory. Yet we know enough about the robot to know that this feeling is as untrustworthy as the depression induced by a hangover. The trouble with living ‘on the robot’ is that he is a dead weight. He takes over only when our energies are low. So when I do something robotically I get no feedback of sudden delight. This in turn makes me feel that it was not worth doing. ‘Stan’ reacts by failing to send up energy and ‘Ollie’ experiences a sinking feeling. Living becomes even more robotic and the vicious circle effect is reinforced. Beyond a certain point we feel as if we are cut off from reality by a kind of glass wall: suddenly it seems self-evident that there is nothing new under the sun, that all human effort is vanity, that man is a useless passion and that life is a horrible joke devised by some demonic creator. This is the state I have decribed as ‘upside-downness’, the tendency to allow negative emotional judgements to usurp the place of objective rational judgements. Moreover this depressing state masquerades as the ‘voice of experience’, since it seems obvious that you ‘know’ more about an experience when you’ve had it a hundred times. This is the real cause of death in most human beings: they mistake the vicious circle effects of ‘upside-downness’ for the wisdom of age, and give up the struggle.
Colin Wilson (Beyond the Occult: Twenty Years' Research into the Paranormal)
She spoke about it with such emphasis (somewhat affected) that I could see at once that I was hearing the manifesto of her generation. Every generation has its own set of passions, loves, and interests, which it professes with a certain tenacity, to differentiate it from older generations and to confirm itself in its uniqueness. Submitting to a generation mentality (to this pride of the herd) has always repelled me. After Miss Broz had developed her provocative argument (I've now heard it at least fifty times from people her age) that all mankind is divided into those who give hitchhikers lifts (human people who love adventure) and those who don't (inhuman people who fear life), I jokingly called her a "dogmatist of the hitch." She answered sharply that she was neither dogmatist nor revisionist nor sectarian nor deviationist, that those were all words of ours, that we had invented them, that they belonged to us, and that they were completely alien to them.
Milan Kundera (The Joke)
As psychologist Bruce Hood writes in his book The Self Illusion, you have an origin story and a sense that you’ve traveled from youth to now along a linear path, with ups and downs that ultimately made you who you are today. Babies don’t have that. That sense is built around events that you can recall and place in time. Babies and small children have what Hood calls “unconscious knowledge,” which is to say they simply recognize patterns and make associations with stimuli. Without episodic memories, there is no narrative; and without any narrative, there is no self. Somewhere between ages two and three, according to Hood, that sense of self begins to come online, and that awakening corresponds with the ability to tell a story about yourself based on memories. He points to a study by Alison Gopnik and Janet Astington in 1988 in which researchers presented to three-year-olds a box of candy, but the children were then surprised to find pencils inside instead of sweets. When they asked each child what the next kid would think was in the box when he or she went through the same experiment, the answer was usually pencils. The children didn’t yet know that other people have minds, so they assumed everyone knew what they knew. Once you gain the ability to assume others have their own thoughts, the concept of other minds is so powerful that you project it into everything: plants, glitchy computers, boats with names, anything that makes more sense to you when you can assume, even jokingly, it has a sort of self. That sense of agency is so powerful that people throughout time have assumed a consciousness at the helm of the sun, the moon, the winds, and the seas. Out of that sense of self and other selves come the narratives that have kept whole societies together. The great mythologies of the ancients and moderns are stories made up to make sense of things on a grand scale. So strong is the narrative bias that people live and die for such stories and devote whole lives to them (as well as take lives for them).
David McRaney (You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself)
any. Make sure your drink doesn’t get spiked. Don’t drink too much to make yourself vulnerable. Make sure you don’t get an unlicensed cab. Don’t let yourself get picked in the wrong way. Look at this woman in the papers who has had more than three boyfriends – the slut. A guy grabbing your arse in the club is a compliment. A guy telling you you’re ugly is actually him saying he likes you. Do you know how many men are falsely accused of rape? Isn’t it disgusting? Don’t ever lie about something so terrible. We won’t believe you anyway. Go to a festival and see no women onstage, but try to have fun, when it’s not safe to be near the front. You’re so basic to put a flower in your hair. Go to the cinema and see men grow, and women help them grow while wearing next to no clothes and then getting raped and dying. Give it an Oscar. Fuck like a porn star. Make me a sandwich. Stop being difficult. Shut up. Put up. Use this anti-ageing cream. Nobody wants to fuck you any more, Karen. Oh, come on, it’s only a joke.
Holly Bourne (Girl Friends: the unmissable, thought-provoking and funny new novel about female friendship)
On the other hand, maybe what attracts us aren't the stories of falling apart so much as the stories of self-creation. The falling apart stuff is just a byproduct, a hazard of the trade. Maybe what I loved about Camille Claudel was what she created out of what she smashed to bits. How did a bourgeois girl become an artist and a woman? What was the female equivalent of the Great Man? If it didn't exist, why not? Who said it didn't? Who said it couldn't? What were the conditions that made it so hard? Rodin was the image Claudel identified with and against which she defined herself. Scott was this image for Zelda. A woman could not be a great artist and have a traditional marriage - not unless her husband was a Leonard Woolf. One boyfriend I had in college used to joke, 'Only one artist in the family,' meaning not me. I didn't get it then, but I get it now. There was always something self-annihilating in the act of loving, for a girl with creative aspirations - always - but far more then than now. The message, invariably, was that youthful passions lead to middle-age breakdowns, so choose your institution wisely. Marriage or the nuthouse. One or the other. It started to dawn on me that it wasn't that I was attracted to stories about girls who went mad, I was attracted to stories about girls with ambitions who wound up institutionalized. Getting locked up was not the result of adventure, it was the price you paid for adventure, it was your punishment. I had mistaken correlation for causation. Rookie mistake.
Carina Chocano (You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages)
you are required to assume an attitude of detachment and objectivity. This includes your bringing to the task what Bertrand Russell called an “immunity to eloquence,” meaning that you are able to distinguish between the sensuous pleasure, or charm, or ingratiating tone (if such there be) of the words, and the logic of their argument. But at the same time, you must be able to tell from the tone of the language what is the author’s attitude toward the subject and toward the reader. You must, in other words, know the difference between a joke and an argument. And in judging the quality of an argument, you must be able to do several things at once, including delaying a verdict until the entire argument is finished, holding in mind questions until you have determined where, when or if the text answers them, and bringing to bear on the text all of your relevant experience as a counterargument to what is being proposed. You must also be able to withhold those parts of your knowledge and experience which, in fact, do not have a bearing on the argument. And in preparing yourself to do all of this, you must have divested yourself of the belief that words are magical and, above all, have learned to negotiate the world of abstractions, for there are very few phrases and sentences in this book that require you to call forth concrete images. In a print-culture, we are apt to say of people who are not intelligent that we must “draw them pictures” so that they may understand. Intelligence implies that one can dwell comfortably without pictures, in a field of concepts and generalizations.
Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business)
I’d be sixteen by now,” he said slowly. "Oh, Magnus!” Ragnor wailed. “That’s disgusting! How could you? Have you lost your mind?” “What?” Magnus asked again. “We agreed eighteen was the cutoff age,” said Ragnor. “You, I, and Catarina made a vow.” “A v— Oh, wait. You think I’m dating Raphael?” Magnus asked. “Raphael? That’s ridiculous. That’s—” “That’s the most revolting idea I’ve ever heard.” Raphael’s voice rang out to the ceiling. Probably people in the street could hear him. “That’s a little strong,” said Magnus. “And, frankly, hurtful.” “And if I did wish to indulge in unnatural pursuits— and let me be clear, I certainly do not,” Raphael continued scornfully, “as if I would choose him. Him! He dresses like a maniac, acts like a fool, and makes worse jokes than the man people throw rotten eggs at outside the Dew Drop every Saturday.” Ragnor began to laugh. “Better men than you have begged for a chance to win all this,” Magnus muttered. “They have fought duels in my honor. One man fought a duel for my honor, but that was a little embarrassing since it is long gone.” “Do you know he spends hours in the bathroom sometimes?” Raphael announced mercilessly. “He wastes actual magic on his hair. On his hair!” “I love this kid,” said Ragnor.
Cassandra Clare (The Bane Chronicles)
She was the first close friend who I felt like I’d re­ally cho­sen. We weren’t in each other’s lives be­cause of any obli­ga­tion to the past or con­ve­nience of the present. We had no shared his­tory and we had no rea­son to spend all our time to­ gether. But we did. Our friend­ship in­ten­si­fied as all our friends had chil­dren – she, like me, was un­con­vinced about hav­ing kids. And she, like me, found her­self in a re­la­tion­ship in her early thir­ties where they weren’t specif­i­cally work­ing to­wards start­ing a fam­ily. By the time I was thirty-four, Sarah was my only good friend who hadn’t had a baby. Ev­ery time there was an­other preg­nancy an­nounce­ment from a friend, I’d just text the words ‘And an­other one!’ and she’d know what I meant. She be­came the per­son I spent most of my free time with other than Andy, be­cause she was the only friend who had any free time. She could meet me for a drink with­out plan­ning it a month in ad­vance. Our friend­ship made me feel lib­er­ated as well as safe. I looked at her life choices with no sym­pa­thy or con­cern for her. If I could ad­mire her de­ci­sion to re­main child-free, I felt en­cour­aged to ad­mire my own. She made me feel nor­mal. As long as I had our friend­ship, I wasn’t alone and I had rea­son to be­lieve I was on the right track. We ar­ranged to meet for din­ner in Soho af­ter work on a Fri­day. The waiter took our drinks or­der and I asked for our usual – two Dirty Vodka Mar­ti­nis. ‘Er, not for me,’ she said. ‘A sparkling wa­ter, thank you.’ I was ready to make a joke about her un­char­ac­ter­is­tic ab­sti­nence, which she sensed, so as soon as the waiter left she said: ‘I’m preg­nant.’ I didn’t know what to say. I can’t imag­ine the ex­pres­sion on my face was par­tic­u­larly en­thu­si­as­tic, but I couldn’t help it – I was shocked and felt an un­war­ranted but in­tense sense of be­trayal. In a de­layed re­ac­tion, I stood up and went to her side of the ta­ble to hug her, un­able to find words of con­grat­u­la­tions. I asked what had made her change her mind and she spoke in va­garies about it ‘just be­ing the right time’ and wouldn’t elab­o­rate any fur­ther and give me an an­swer. And I needed an an­swer. I needed an an­swer more than any­thing that night. I needed to know whether she’d had a re­al­iza­tion that I hadn’t and, if so, I wanted to know how to get it. When I woke up the next day, I re­al­ized the feel­ing I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing was not anger or jeal­ousy or bit­ter­ness – it was grief. I had no one left. They’d all gone. Of course, they hadn’t re­ally gone, they were still my friends and I still loved them. But huge parts of them had dis­ap­peared and there was noth­ing they could do to change that. Un­less I joined them in their spa­ces, on their sched­ules, with their fam­i­lies, I would barely see them. And I started dream­ing of an­other life, one com­pletely re­moved from all of it. No more chil­dren’s birth­day par­ties, no more chris­ten­ings, no more bar­be­cues in the sub­urbs. A life I hadn’t ever se­ri­ously con­tem­plated be­fore. I started dream­ing of what it would be like to start all over again. Be­cause as long as I was here in the only Lon­don I knew – mid­dle-class Lon­don, cor­po­rate Lon­don, mid-thir­ties Lon­don, mar­ried Lon­don – I was in their world. And I knew there was a whole other world out there.
Dolly Alderton (Good Material)
This was no coincidence. The best short stories and the most successful jokes have a lot in common. Each form relies on suggestion and economy. Characters have to be drawn in a few deft strokes. There's generally a setup, a reveal, a reversal, and a release. The structure is delicate. If one element fails, the edifice crumbles. In a novel you might get away with a loose line or two, a saggy paragraph, even a limp chapter. But in the joke and in the short story, the beginning and end are precisely anchored tent poles, and what lies between must pull so taut it twangs. I'm not sure if there is any pattern to these selections. I did not spend a lot of time with those that seemed afraid to tell stories, that handled plot as if it were a hair in the soup, unwelcome and embarrassing. I also tended not to revisit stories that seemed bleak without having earned it, where the emotional notes were false, or where the writing was tricked out or primped up with fashionable devices stressing form over content. I do know that the easiest and the first choices were the stories to which I had a physical response. I read Jennifer Egan's "Out of Body" clenched from head to toe by tension as her suicidal, drug-addled protagonist moves through the Manhattan night toward an unforgivable betrayal. I shed tears over two stories of childhood shadowed by unbearable memory: "The Hare's Mask," by Mark Slouka, with its piercing ending, and Claire Keegan's Irishinflected tale of neglect and rescue, "Foster." Elizabeth McCracken's "Property" also moved me, with its sudden perception shift along the wavering sightlines of loss and grief. Nathan Englander's "Free Fruit for Young Widows" opened with a gasp-inducing act of unexpected violence and evolved into an ethical Rubik's cube. A couple of stories made me laugh: Tom Bissell's "A Bridge Under Water," even as it foreshadows the dissolution of a marriage and probes what religion does for us, and to us; and Richard Powers's "To the Measures Fall," a deftly comic meditation on the uses of literature in the course of a life, and a lifetime. Some stories didn't call forth such a strong immediate response but had instead a lingering resonance. Of these, many dealt with love and its costs, leaving behind indelible images. In Megan Mayhew Bergman's "Housewifely Arts," a bereaved daughter drives miles to visit her dead mother's parrot because she yearns to hear the bird mimic her mother's voice. In Allegra Goodman's "La Vita Nuova," a jilted fiancée lets her art class paint all over her wedding dress. In Ehud Havazelet's spare and tender story, "Gurov in Manhattan," an ailing man and his aging dog must confront life's necessary losses. A complicated, only partly welcome romance blossoms between a Korean woman and her demented
Geraldine Brooks (The Best American Short Stories 2011)
These examinations and certificates and so on--what did they matter? And all this efficiency and up-to-dateness--what did that matter, either? Ralston was trying to run Brookfield like a factory--a factory for turning out a snob culture based on money and machines. The old gentlemanly traditions of family and broad acres were changing, as doubtless they were bound to; but instead of widening them to form a genuine inclusive democracy of duke and dustman, Ralston was narrowing them upon the single issue of a fat banking account. There never had been so many rich men's sons at Brookfield. The Speech Day Garden Party was like Ascot. Ralston met these wealthy fellows in London clubs and persuaded them that Brookfield was the coming school, and, since they couldn't buy their way into Eton or Harrow, they greedily swallowed the bait. Awful fellows, some of them--though others were decent enough. Financiers, company promoters, pill manufacturers. One of them gave his son five pounds a week pocket money. Vulgar . . . ostentatious . . . all the hectic rotten-ripeness of the age. . . . And once Chips had got into trouble because of some joke he had made about the name and ancestry of a boy named Isaacstein. The boy wrote home about it, and Isaacstein père sent an angry letter to Ralston. Touchy, no sense of humor, no sense of proportion--that was the matter with them, these new fellows. . . . No sense of proportion. And it was a sense of proportion, above all things, that Brookfield ought to teach--not so much Latin or Greek or Chemistry or Mechanics. And you couldn't expect to test that sense of proportion by setting papers and granting certificates...
James Hilton (Good-Bye, Mr. Chips)
A thug. In peacetime Fitch would be hanging around a pool table giving the cops trouble. He was perfect for war. Tibbets had chosen his men well - most of them, anyway. Moving back past Haddock January stopped to stare at the group of men in the navigation cabin. They joked, drank coffee. They were all a bit like Fitch: young toughs, capable and thoughtless. They're having a good time, an adventure. That was January's dominant impression of his companions in the 509th; despite all the bitching and the occasional moments of overmastering fear, they were having a good time. His mind spun forward and he saw what these young men would grow up to be like as clearly as if they stood before him in businessmen's suits, prosperous and balding. They would be tough and capable and thoughtless, and as the years passed and the great war receded in time they would look back on it with ever-increasing nostalgia, for they would be the survivors and not the dead. Every year of this war would feel like ten in their memories, so that the war would always remain the central experience of their lives - a time when history lay palpable in their hands, when each of their daily acts affected it, when moral issues were simple, and others told them what to do - so that as more years passed and the survivors aged, bodies falling apart, lives in one rut or another, they would unconsciously push harder and harder to thrust the world into war again, thinking somewhere inside themselves that if they could only return to world war then they would magically be again as they were in the last one - young, and free, and happy. And by that time they would hold the positions of power, they would be capable of doing it.
Kim Stanley Robinson (Lucky Strike (PM's Outspoken Authors, #2))
Grom greets him with a smile full of nausea. "I'm not ready for this, little brother," he confesses. "Sure you are," Galen laughs, slapping his brother's back. Grom shakes his head. "It feels like...like I'm betraying her. Nalia." Galen stiffens. Oh. He doesn't feel qualified to talk Grom out of this kind of mood. "I'm sure she would understand," he offers. Grom studies him thoughtfully. "I'd like to think she would. But you didn't know Nalia. She had an amazing temper." He chuckles. "I keep looking over my shoulder, expecting to see her ready to bludgeon me with something for mating with someone else." Galen frowns, unsure of what to say. Grom chuckles. "I'm joking, of course." Then he shrugs. "Well, half joking, anyway. I swear I've been sensing her lately, Galen. It feels so real. It takes all I've got not to follow the pulse. Do you think I'm losing my mind?" Galen shakes his head out of obligation. Secretly though, he thinks he might be. "I'm sure you're just feeling guilty. Er...not that you have a reason to feel guilty. Uh, it's just natural that you feel that way before your mating ceremony. Nerves and all." Galen runs a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry. I'm not very good at this sort of thing." "What sort of thing? Being mature?" Grom smirks. "Funny." "Maybe you should spend some more time on land, then come back and talk to me. Being on land ages you, you know. Might do you some good." Galen snorts. Now you tell me. "I heard." Out of nowhere, Grom grabs Galen's face and wrestles him into a hold. Galen hates it when he does this. "Let me see that cute little face of yours, minnow. Yep, just like I thought. Your eyes are turning blue. How much time have you been spending on land? Please tell me you're not head over fin for a human?" Then he laughs and releases him just as suddenly. Galen stares at him. "What do you mean?" "I was just teasing, minnow. Giving you a hard time." "I know but...why did you say my eyes are turning blue? What does that have to go with the humans?" Grom waves a dismissive hand at him. "Forget it. I think you might be more uptight than me right now. I said I was just kidding.
Anna Banks (Of Poseidon (The Syrena Legacy, #1))
The studio was immense and gloomy, the sole light within it proceeding from a stove, around which the three were seated. Although they were bold, and of the age when men are most jovial, the conversation had taken, in spite of their efforts to the contrary, a reflection from the dull weather without, and their jokes and frivolity were soon exhausted. In addition to the light which issued from the crannies in the stove, there was another emitted from a bowl of spirits, which was ceaselessly stirred by one of the young men, as he poured from an antique silver ladle some of the flaming spirit into the quaint old glasses from which the students drank. The blue flame of the spirit lighted up in a wild and fantastic manner the surrounding objects in the room, so that the heads of old prophets, of satyrs, or Madonnas, clothed in the same ghastly hue, seemed to move and to dance along the walls like a fantastic procession of the dead; and the vast room, which in the day time sparkled with the creations of genius, seemed now, in its alternate darkness and sulphuric light, to be peopled with its dreams. Each time also that the silver spoon agitated the liquid, strange shadows traced themselves along the walls, hideous and of fantastic form. Unearthly tints spread also upon the hangings of the studio, from the old bearded prophet of Michael Angelo to those eccentric caricatures which the artist had scrawled upon his walls, and which resembled an army of demons that one sees in a dream, or such as Goya has painted; whilst the lull and rise of the tempest without but added to the fantastic and nervous feeling which pervaded those within. Besides this, to add to the terror which was creeping over the three occupants of the room, each time that they looked at each other they appeared with faces of a blue tone, with eyes fixed and glittering like live embers, and with pale lips and sunken cheeks; but the most fearful object of all was that of a plaster mask taken from the face of an intimate friend but lately dead, which, hanging near the window, let the light from the spirit fall upon its face, turned three parts towards them, which gave it a strange, vivid, and mocking expression. All people have felt the influence of large and dark rooms, such as Hoffmann has portrayed and Rembrandt has painted; and all the world has experienced those wild and unaccountable terrors - panics without a cause - which seize on one like a spontaneous fever, at the sight of objects to which a stray glimpse of the moon or a feeble ray from a lamp gives a mysterious form; nay, all, we should imagine, have at some period of their lives found themselves by the side of a friend, in a dark and dismal chamber, listening to some wild story, which so enchains them, that although the mere lighting of a candle could put an end to their terror, they would not do so; so much need has the human heart of emotions, whether they be true or false. So it was upon the evening mentioned. The conversation of the three companions never took a direct line, but followed all the phases of their thoughts; sometimes it was light as the smoke which curled from their cigars, then for a moment fantastic as the flame of the burning spirit, and then again dark, lurid, and sombre as the smile which lit up the mask from their dead friend's face. At last the conversation ceased altogether, and the respiration of the smokers was the only sound heard; and their cigars glowed in the dark, like Will-of-the-wisps brooding o'er a stagnant pool. It was evident to them all, that the first who should break the silence, even if he spoke in jest, would cause in the hearts of the others a start and tremor, for each felt that he had almost unwittingly plunged into a ghastly reverie. ("The Dead Man's Story")
James Hain Friswell
Kekulé dreams the Great Serpent holding its own tail in its mouth, the dreaming Serpent which surrounds the World. But the meanness, the cynicism with which this dream is to be used. The Serpent that announces, "The World is a closed thing, cyclical, resonant, eternally-returning," is to be delivered into a system whose only aim is to violate the Cycle. Taking and not giving back, demanding that "productivity" and "earnings" keep on increasing with time, the System removing from the rest of the World these vast quantities of energy to keep its own tiny desperate fraction showing a profit: and not only most of humanity—most of the World, animal, vegetable, and mineral, is laid waste in the process. The System may or may not understand that it's only buying time. And that time is an artificial resource to begin with, of no value to anyone or anything but the System, which must sooner or later crash to its death, when its addiction to energy has become more than the rest of the World can supply, dragging with it innocent souls all along the chain of life. Living inside the System is like riding across the country in a bus driven by a maniac bent on suicide . . . though he's amiable enough, keeps cracking jokes back through the loudspeaker . . . on you roll, across a countryside whose light is forever changing--castles, heaps of rock, moons of different shapes and colors come and go. There are stops at odd hours of teh mornings, for reasons that are not announced: you get out to stretch in lime-lit courtyards where the old men sit around the table under enormous eucalyptus trees you can smell in the night, shuffling the ancient decks oily and worn, throwing down swords and cups and trumps major in the tremor of light while behind them the bus is idling, waiting--"passengers will now reclaim their seats" and much as you'd like to stay, right here, learn the game, find your old age around this quiet table, it's no use: he is waiting beside the door of the bus in his pressed uniform, Lord of the Night he is checking your tickets, your ID and travel papers, and it's the wands of enterprise that dominate tonight...as he nods you by, you catch a glimpse of his face, his insane, committed eyes, and you remember then, for a terrible few heartbeats, that of course it will end for you all in blood, in shock, without dignity--but there is meanwhile this trip to be on ... over your own seat, where there ought to be an advertising plaque, is instead a quote from Rilke: "Once, only once..." One of Their favorite slogans. No return, no salvation, no Cycle--that's not what They, nor Their brilliant employee Kekule, have taken the Serpent to mean.
Thomas Pynchon
Why did you cry off?” She stiffened in surprise; then, trying to match his light, mocking tone, she said, “Viscount Mondevale proved to be a trifle high in the instep about things like his fiancé cavorting about in cottages and greenhouses with you.” She fired and missed. “How many contenders are there this Season?” he asked conversationally as he turned to the target, pausing to wipe the gun. She knew he meant contenders for her hand, and pride absolutely would not allow her to say there were none, nor had there been for a long time. “Well…” she said, suppressing a grimace as she thought of her stout suitor with a houseful of cherubs. Counting on the fact that he didn’t move in the inner circles of the ton, she assumed he wouldn’t know much about either suitor. He raised the gun as she said, “There’s Sir Francis Belhaven, for one.” Instead of firing immediately as he had before, he seemed to require a long moment to adjust his aim. “Belhaven’s an old man,” he said. The gun exploded, and the twig snapped off. When he looked at her his eyes had chilled, almost as if he thought less of her. Elizabeth told herself she was imagining that and determined to maintain their mood of light conviviality. Since it was her turn, she picked up a gun and lifted it. “Who’s the other one?” Relieved that he couldn’t possibly find fault with the age of her reclusive sportsman, she gave him a mildly haughty smile. “Lord John Marchman,” she said, and she fired. Ian’s shout of laughter almost drowned out the report from the gun. “Marchman!” he said when she scowled at him and thrust the butt of the gun in his stomach. “You must be joking!” “You spoiled my shot,” she countered. “Take it again,” he said, looking at her with a mixture of derision, disbelief, and amusement. “No, I can’t shoot with you laughing. And I’ll thank you to wipe that smirk off your face. Lord Marchman is a very nice man.” “He is indeed,” said Ian with an irritating grin. “And it’s a damned good thing you like to shoot, because he sleeps with his guns and fishing poles. You’ll spend the rest of your life slogging through streams and trudging through the woods.” “I happen to like to fish,” she informed him, striving unsuccessfully not to lose her composure. “And Sir Francis may be a trifle older than I, but an elderly husband might be more kind and tolerant than a younger one.” “He’ll have to be tolerant,” Ian said a little shortly, turning his attention back to the guns, “or else a damned good shot.” It angered Elizabeth that he was suddenly attacking her when she had just worked it out in her mind that they were supposed to be dealing with what had happened in a light, sophisticated fashion. “I must say, you aren’t being very mature or very consistent!
Judith McNaught (Almost Heaven (Sequels, #3))
I heard the fear in the first music I ever knew, the music that pumped from boom boxes full of grand boast and bluster. The boys who stood out on Garrison and Liberty up on Park Heights loved this music because it told them, against all evidence and odds, that they were masters of their own lives, their own streets, and their own bodies. I saw it in the girls, in their loud laughter, in their gilded bamboo earrings that announced their names thrice over. And I saw it in their brutal language and hard gaze, how they would cut you with their eyes and destroy you with their words for the sin of playing too much. “Keep my name out your mouth,” they would say. I would watch them after school, how they squared off like boxers, vaselined up, earrings off, Reeboks on, and leaped at each other. I felt the fear in the visits to my Nana’s home in Philadelphia. You never knew her. I barely knew her, but what I remember is her hard manner, her rough voice. And I knew that my father’s father was dead and that my uncle Oscar was dead and that my uncle David was dead and that each of these instances was unnatural. And I saw it in my own father, who loves you, who counsels you, who slipped me money to care for you. My father was so very afraid. I felt it in the sting of his black leather belt, which he applied with more anxiety than anger, my father who beat me as if someone might steal me away, because that is exactly what was happening all around us. Everyone had lost a child, somehow, to the streets, to jail, to drugs, to guns. It was said that these lost girls were sweet as honey and would not hurt a fly. It was said that these lost boys had just received a GED and had begun to turn their lives around. And now they were gone, and their legacy was a great fear. Have they told you this story? When your grandmother was sixteen years old a young man knocked on her door. The young man was your Nana Jo’s boyfriend. No one else was home. Ma allowed this young man to sit and wait until your Nana Jo returned. But your great-grandmother got there first. She asked the young man to leave. Then she beat your grandmother terrifically, one last time, so that she might remember how easily she could lose her body. Ma never forgot. I remember her clutching my small hand tightly as we crossed the street. She would tell me that if I ever let go and were killed by an onrushing car, she would beat me back to life. When I was six, Ma and Dad took me to a local park. I slipped from their gaze and found a playground. Your grandparents spent anxious minutes looking for me. When they found me, Dad did what every parent I knew would have done—he reached for his belt. I remember watching him in a kind of daze, awed at the distance between punishment and offense. Later, I would hear it in Dad’s voice—“Either I can beat him, or the police.” Maybe that saved me. Maybe it didn’t. All I know is, the violence rose from the fear like smoke from a fire, and I cannot say whether that violence, even administered in fear and love, sounded the alarm or choked us at the exit. What I know is that fathers who slammed their teenage boys for sass would then release them to streets where their boys employed, and were subject to, the same justice. And I knew mothers who belted their girls, but the belt could not save these girls from drug dealers twice their age. We, the children, employed our darkest humor to cope. We stood in the alley where we shot basketballs through hollowed crates and cracked jokes on the boy whose mother wore him out with a beating in front of his entire fifth-grade class. We sat on the number five bus, headed downtown, laughing at some girl whose mother was known to reach for anything—cable wires, extension cords, pots, pans. We were laughing, but I know that we were afraid of those who loved us most. Our parents resorted to the lash the way flagellants in the plague years resorted to the scourge.
Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me)