In my Love in the Time of Cholera post, I mentioned that I liked the quote: “A man should have two wives: one to love and one to sew on his buttons.” And I did, I thought it was funny. But sometimes a passage from a book just speaks to you, manifests your feeling, but more eloquently, says it in a way you wish but know you never could.
Sometimes a quote is an instant classic, perfectly capturing the significance of a moment: “The horror, the horror” in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Famous beginnings: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
Sometimes it articulates a feeling you have felt, or wish you had felt: “But it was too interesting, too new, too flattering, too deeply comforting to resist, it was a liberation to be in love and say so, and she could only let herself go deeper.” On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan (actually, this book speaks to me poignantly on a number of levels, both in literary substance and storyline. Read it, and we can discuss).
Sometimes you admire a quote’s wording or simplistic conciseness: “I suppose the shock of recognition is one of the nastiest shocks of all.” The Secret History, Donna Tartt; “Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.” Id.
Sometimes everything an author says seems to speak our heart, speak the philosophical depths of our thought-secret souls: “We are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.” On Love, Alain de Botton; also “There are things that are not spoken about in polite society. Very quickly in most conversations you’ll reach a moment where someone goes, ‘Oh, that’s a bit heavy,’ or ‘Eew, disgusting.’ And literature is a place where that stuff goes; where people whisper to each other across books, the writer to the reader. I think that stops you feeling lonely – in the deeper sense, lonely;” and “The moment we cry in a film is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be;” and finally “It is in books, poems, paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge.” The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton.
I recently came across two passages in a book I am reading that I liked very much, but wonder if they have any impact if taken out of context. They are:
How lonely I am! he told himself. Lonely in his battle against ignorance, in his love of wisdom, truth, and order. Lonely in his love of beauty, too. He wondered if in all the town there was one other who stopped now to behold the sunset. That great slow soundless splash of color in the sky! Its beauty pained him, it called him to respond—one was obliged to beauty. And he wished with all his heart, that moment, for a way to answer, a way to praise it, for some one, even, to say to simply, “How beautiful it is.”
It was a habit he had, this falling in love with a schoolgirl; an affliction, like epilepsy, quiescent for long periods and cropping out unexpectedly, throwing him into fits. Wild palpitations, sweating palms, uncontrollable levity, and hallucinations of brilliance, personal comeliness, invincibility—in short, grandeur. All of this was part of the forbidden, secret rapture of having a young girl look upon him day after day as if he were the rising sun, that he should shine upon her. It renewed him, filled him with excessive wild delight.