notes

Archive for the ‘lines worth underlining’ Category

One line: Flannery O’Connor

In lines worth underlining, reading on April 4, 2013 at 2:20 pm

It’s been far too long since I read Flannery O’Connor, so I pulled a thick anthology out of my grandmother’s glass-front cabinet the other day and left it on the coffee table where I’d be more likely to pick it up.

Last night, I dove in, and this was the first line that stopped me in my tracks.

“Everything that gave her pleasure was small and depressed him.”

 

Amy Hempel, on writing

In lines worth underlining, quotes about writing, reading, storytelling, words, writing on January 27, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Not so much a piece of advice as a question to keep in mind, which is the most basic of questions: Why are you telling me this? Someone out there will be asking, and you better have a very compelling answer, or reason.

There are people who have been raised by loving parents to believe that the world awaits their every thought and sentence, and I’m not one of them. So I respond to that. Is this essential?

The question might be, Is this something only you can say—or, only you can say it this way? Is this going to make anyone’s life better, or make anyone’s day better? And I don’t mean the writer’s day.

~ Wise words from an interview with Amy Hempel that I came across online years ago

#writerspace ~ Hemingway’s Key West studio

Finding the right time for a story that hits home: ‘The Tender Bar’

In book group, lines worth underlining, reading on July 1, 2012 at 2:10 am

Years ago, a friend asked me to drive to Durham (NC) to see JR Moehringer do a reading at The Regulator bookshop during his Tender Bar book tour.

I knew nothing about the book going in, but Moehringer was funny and engaging, and the more I listened, the more I saw the broad strokes of my own childhood in his. Strong single mother carrying a heavy load. Absent father (his disappeared; mine died young) shrouded in mystery and fascination and frustration. An explosive relative in and out of our lives (I didn’t learn the term ‘verbally abusive’ until I was much older).

I bought the book, of course, and asked him to sign to my daughter and me, in honor of my mother.

At the time, I was in the middle of a book I needed to finish for my book group, but I put it aside that night and began reading The Tender Bar, recognizing myself over and over again in the first few chapters. When someone has written what seems to be a description of your own young fears and heartaches, it’s a bittersweet thing – on the one hand, relief (misery sort of loves company?); on the other, old sadnesses, drifting back up to the surface.

Soon, I had to stop reading and rush to finish my abandoned book club book. I put The Tender Bar on the ‘to read’ bookshelf, but years went by, and I didn’t finish. In my own single parenthood, I have a terrible track record of skipping around between books, finishing a half or three-quarters of many fine books, always swearing I will finish one day. With this one, it wasn’t a lack of interest that kept me from picking it up again; in fact, I can’t count all the times I recommended The Tender Bar to friends.

Now that I’m reading it again – I went back and started from the beginning in late May – I’ve thought about why it took so long. I can only guess that it had something to do with that familiarity I felt at the bookshop that night; I did see so much of my growing-up story in his beautiful but real and painful passages, and that story isn’t always easy to revisit.

And I was just beginning my own story as a single mother at the point that I tagged along to Moehringer’s reading; I was in the midst of divorcing and was sad to see history repeating itself for the third generation (my mother’s father died when she was only six, so my mother and her mother were on their own, too).

Maybe it was just a little too early; a little too much to take.

But right now, this summer, the story feels … well, I’m afraid all that’s coming to mind after a 105-degree heat wave day is Goldilocks, of all things, so I’ll go there, with apologies: The timing now feels ‘just right.’

***

Like nothing else, words organized my world, put order to chaos, divided things neatly into black and white. Words even helped me organize my parents. My mother was the printed word – tangible, present, real – while my father was the spoken word – invisible, ephemeral, instantly part of memory. There was something comforting about this rigid symmetry.

~The Tender Bar

‘Every book is a miracle.’

In lines worth underlining, quotes about writing, reading on July 1, 2012 at 1:37 am

‘Every book is a miracle,’ Bill said. ‘Every book represents a moment when someone sat quietly – and that quiet is part of the miracle, make no mistake – and tried to tell the rest of us a story.’

Bud could talk ceaselessly  about the hope of books, the promise of books. He said it was no accident that a book opened like a door. Also, he said, intuiting one of my neuroses, I could use books to put order to chaos. 

~ from The Tender Bar, by JR Moehringer

‘Others in grief and loss will see more certainly / What they have loved…’

In lines worth underlining, poetry on May 4, 2012 at 1:05 am

Drouth

All day the crops burn in cloudless air,

Drouth lengthening against belief.  At night

The husbands and the wives lie side by side,

Awake, the ache of panic in their bones,

Their purposes betrayed by purposes

Unknown, whose mystery is the dark in which

They wait and grieve.  All may be lost, and then

What will they do?  When money is required

Of them, and they have none, where will they go?

Many will go in blame against the world,

Hating it for their pain, and they will go

Alone across the dry, bright, lifeless days,

And thus alone into the dark.  Others

in grief and loss will see more certainly

What they have loved, and will belong to it

And to each other as in happiness

They never did–hearing, though the whole world

Go dry, the hidden raincrow of their hope.

~Wendell Berry

I found this poem achingly beautiful.

I stumbled on it at the end of an update written by a friend-acquaintance facing one of the most difficult experiences anyone could be made to slog through in life – an experience that could lead anyone to ‘go in blame against the world.’

And yet, it’s clear that she is one of those extraordinary people who has determined to ‘see more certainly what they have loved, and will belong to it.’

Yes.

In lines worth underlining, running on May 3, 2012 at 1:42 am

the beautiful spot where I ‘run on it’

From the Runner’s World  ‘Daily Kick in the Butt’ email for today:

I really started running for meditative purposes. I would pick some problem to have in my head while running – not for the purpose of solving it, but for the purpose of having it bounce around in there. Like when you say you’re going to sleep on it; I say I’m going to run on it. Then at some point later on, a solution falls out. 

Biz Stone, cofounder of Twitter (Men’s Health, May 2012)

word wall.

In lines worth underlining, miscellany, reading on May 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm

word wall.

In answer to today’s Book Riot open thread question from @RebeccaSchinsky (http://bookriot.com/2012/05/01/open-thread-may-1-2012/) about where readers gather their favorite book passages, I’m posting a photo of one section of the wall where I’ve tacked up some of my favorite short and long passages (along with photos, bits torn out of magazines, my girl’s artwork and other quotations).

‘I want to write something so simply’ ~ Mary Oliver

In lines worth underlining, quotes about writing on March 14, 2012 at 12:45 am

I stumbled across this poem last year and thought how often I’ve had that sensation when reading books that truly spoke to me: ‘How did he/she get inside my head to write this?’

I want to write something so simply :: mary oliver

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your heart
had been saying.

Amy Hempel: ‘…your life rushes forth when you’re ready …’

In lines worth underlining, reading on March 5, 2012 at 1:42 am

“… I want him to know what it clearly seems to me: that if it’s true your life flashes past your eyes before you die, then it is also the truth that your life rushes forth when you’re ready to start to truly be alive.”

Amy Hempel, The Collected Stories

Book lines: Susan Minot

In book group, lines worth underlining, reading on January 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

Lines from Evening, by Susan Minot 

I encountered this novel via my book club, and it has stayed with me more than most novels I’ve read in the past decade.  I was drawn in by the way that the book interspersed Ann Lord’s hazy deathbed reflections and hallucinations with scenes from one life-changing weekend (during which she fell deeply in love with an unavailable man) and the marriages and heartaches that followed.

After my best friend died at only 43 after a miserable disease made life not worth living, the passages in which Ann is looking back on her life took on new layers of meaning for me.

 
“She looked across the room to all the things which had come to her over the years and by now ought to give her some satisfaction. The inkwell nestled in a bronze bird’s nest, the primitive oil of a church she’d found in that junk shop, the French enamel saucers with the fly pattern … they would last and not she. Is this what she would leave behind? The things in the house were not herself. The children would be left and they had come from her but they were not herself either. Nothing was herself but what had happened to her and the only place that was registered was inside. And even that was kind of a vapor.”

***

“All her life she’d listened to talk, life was full of talk. People said things, true and interesting things and ridiculous things. Her father used to say they talked too much. There was much to say, she had said her share. How else was one to know a thing except by naming it? But words now fell so far from where life was. Words fell on a distant shore. It turned out there were other tracks on which life registered where things weren’t acknowledged with words or given attention to or commented on.”

***

“She was pulling a rope out of the water and knew it was coming to the end when the barnacles started to appear and they became more think and clustered. Then it was strangely peaceful and the sound was turned off. She stood at the bow of a ship. If only she could have stood this way above the water and really breathed and let the waves go by like pages being turned and watched everything more closely and chosen things more carefully then she might have been able to read the spirit within herself and would not have spent her life as if she were only halfway in it.

“For a moment she felt an astonishing brilliance and heat and light and all of herself flared up and the vibration after sixty-five years was not weakened by time but more dense then suddenly it was as if the flame had caught the flimsiest piece of paper for it flickered up and flew into the air then quickly sank down withered into a thin cinder of ash which blew off, inconsequential. Her life had not been long enough for her to know the whole of herself, it had not been long enough or wide.”

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