"He was running to the greenhouse, he was opening the door, the heat and smell of flowers were surrounding him like a cape. It was the last time he had been so simply happy, the last time he had known such uncomplicated joy. ‘And here's my beautiful boy!’ Luke would cry. ‘Oh, Jude—I'm so happy to see you.’” (Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life)
“‘I will come,’ said Peter, but he sat on for a moment. What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement?
It is Clarissa, he said.
For there she was.” (Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway)
“What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, ‘Musing among the vegetables?’—was that it?—’I prefer men to cauliflowers’—was that it?” (Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway)
“‘Oliver, are you sleeping?’ I would ask when the air by the pool had grown oppressively torpid and quiet.
Then his reply would come, almost a sigh, without a single muscle moving in his body. ‘I was.’
That foot in the water—I could have kissed every toe on it. How often had I stared at his bathing suit while his hat was covering his face? He couldn't possibly have known what I was looking at.
‘Oliver, are you sleeping?’
His toes flicking the water.
‘About Heidegger's interpretation of a fragment by Heraclitus.’
Or, when I wasn't practicing the guitar and he wasn't listening to his headphones, still with his straw hat flat on his face, he would suddenly break the silence:
‘What are you doing?’
‘No, you're not.’
I was dying to tell him.
‘Private,’ I replied.
‘So you won't tell me?’
‘So I won't tell you.’
‘So he won't tell me,’ he repeated, pensively, as if explaining to someone about me." (André Aciman, Call Me By Your Name)
“History has failed us, but no matter.” (Min Jin Lee, Pachinko)
“Without her glasses, my face would have been little more than a pinkish smudge among many, but she seemed to know it was me as soon as I lifted my head.” (Lily King, Euphoria)
“I’d once organized my life, my conversations, even my sentences, in such a way as to never say what I was now trying to write. I had avoided the story for years with all the force I could bring to bear—intellectual, emotional, physical. Imagine a child’s teeth after wearing a gag for thirteen years. This is what my sentences were like then, pushed in around the shape of a story I did not want to tell, but pointing all the same to what was there.” (Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel)
“The bullet is already in the brain; it won’t be outrun forever, or charmed to a halt. In the end it will do its work and leave the troubled skull behind, dragging its comet’s tail of memory and hope and talent and love into the marble hall of commerce. That can’t be helped. But for now Anders can still make time. Time for the shadows to lengthen on the grass, time for the tethered dog to bark at the flying ball, time for the boy in right field to smack his sweat-blackened mitt and softly chant, They is, they is, they is.” (Tobias Wolff, Bullet in the Brain)
“She had not been in these waters since she was a young girl, but it rushed back, the sea’s hypnotic boil, the smell of blood, weather and salt, fish heads, spruce smoke and reeking armpits, the rattle of wash-ball rocks in hissing wave, turrs, the crackery taste of brewis, the bedroom under the eaves.” (Annie Proulx, The Shipping News)
“God loved the way humans loved one another; loved the way humans loved themselves; loved the genius on the cross who managed to do both and die knowing it.” (Toni Morrison, Paradise)
“Riley wore blue contact lenses and bleached his hair—which he worked with gel and a blow-dryer and a flatiron some mornings into Sonic the Hedgehog spikes so stiff you could prick your finger on them, and sometimes into a wispy side-swooped bob with long bangs—and he was black. But this wasn’t any kind of self-hatred thing. He’d read The Bluest Eye and Invisible Man in school and even picked up Disgruntled at a book fair, and yes, they were good and there was some resonance in those books for him, but this story isn’t about race or ‘the shame of being alive’ or any of those things. He was not self-hating; he was even listening to Drake—though you could make it Fetty Wap if his appreciation for trap music changes something for you, because all that’s relevant here is that he wasn’t against the music of ‘his people’ or anything like that—as he walked down Figueroa with his earbuds pushed in just far enough so as not to feel itchy.” (Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People)
“The wind sound huffed, once, and then the moist thud jolted us, the sound of a watermelon breaking open, and for that moment everyone remained still and composed, as though listening to an orchestra, heads tilted to allow the ears to work and no belief coming in yet.” (Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides)
“They had arranged to meet at 11 a.m. She arrived at 10:30. I know I must be there early or I won’t go at all. Why am I going. Am I in love. No. One doesn’t question. In love with the situation. Hope of love. Out of boredom. A few days by the sea. A hotel. Room overlooking sand. Gulls. Beach. Breakfast in bed. Meals served by gracious smiling waiters. But the land there is flat. Dreary. Endless. Though the sea. The sea. The whole Front to myself. But what if it rains all the time. It drizzled now as she looked out of the station. Cabs swished by. People rushed through barriers. Escape. Escape with my lover. But he isn’t even that. In her small room. On her single bed they had gone so far. Fully clothed. No we’ll wait it wouldn’t be fair I have to leave you soon. Now the weekend he would prove to be
She clutched her bag. Glanced at the clock. And there he was. His hat cuckoo-perched on an unfinished nest. Dressed in a new suit. Mac just cleaned over his arm. Hullo love. If people stopped to look they would think we were father and daughter on our way to an aunt’s funeral. They don’t look. But think dirty old man. As he takes my arm. My bag." (Ann Quin, A Double Room)
“The fish flat. Dry yellow. Little dishes with lumps of potatoes like ice cream dropped on a pavement. Vegetables as though chewed already. Looks good love doesn’t it? And it is good. It will be good. I can’t survive it all unless it’s going to be good. It’s up to me the whole thing. The next four days. Nights. I can love him. It will be all right once we’ve made it. Everything will be all right then. It’s just this interminable waiting.” (Ann Quin, A Double Room)
“I waited a few moments to gather my thoughts before opening my lungs for the first time and with an almighty roar, one that must have been heard by the men in the pub below who came running up the staircase to discover the cause of such a racket, announced to the world that I had arrived, that I was born, that I was part of it all at last.” (John Boyne, The Heart's Invisible Furies)
“And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it. Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud. Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer. The gardener had been up since dawn, mowing the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass and the dark flat rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine. As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that impress people at garden-parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing. Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels.” (Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party)
“The case comes in, or anyway it comes in to us, on a frozen dawn in the kind of closed-down January that makes you think the sun's never going to drag itself back above the horizon.” (Tana French, The Trespasser)
“Hester moved around to look.
‘Nothing big,’ she said. ‘A bullet clipped your scalp.’
‘Did you count how many fell, Hester?’
‘No. Too busy ducking. Reload while you can, boy.’
He rolled down behind the rock and worked the bolt back and forth. It was hot, and the blood that had flowed freely over it from the scalp wound was drying and making the mechanism stiff. He spat on it carefully, and it loosened.
Then he hauled himself back into position, and even before he'd set his eye to the sight, he took a bullet.
It felt like an explosion in his left shoulder. For a few seconds he was dazed, and then he came to his senses, with his left arm numb and useless. There was a great deal of pain waiting to spring on him, but it hadn't raised the courage yet, and that thought gave him the strength to focus his mind on shooting again.
He propped the rifle on the dead and useless arm that had been so full of life a minute ago, and sighted with stolid concentration: one shot...two...three, and each found its man.
‘How we doing?’ he muttered.
‘Good shooting,’ she whispered back, very close to his cheek. ‘Don't stop. Over by that black boulder—’
He looked, aimed, shot. The figure fell.
‘Damn, these men are like me,’ he said.
‘Makes no sense,’ she said. ‘Do it anyway.’
‘Do you believe him? Grumman?’
‘Sure. Plumb ahead, Lee.’
Crack: another man fell, and his daemon went out like a candle.
Then there was a long silence. Lee fumbled in his pocket and found some more bullets. As he reloaded, he felt something so rare his heart nearly failed: he felt Hester's face pressed to his own, and it was wet with tears.
‘Lee, this is my fault,’ she said.
‘The Skraeling. I told you to take his ring. Without that we'd never be in this trouble.’
‘You think I ever did what you told me? I took it because the witch—’
He didn't finish, because another bullet found him. This time it smashed into his left leg, and before he could even blink, a third one clipped his head again, like a red-hot poker laid along his skull.
‘Not long now, Hester,’ he muttered, trying to hold still.
‘The witch, Lee! You said the witch! Remember?’
Poor Hester, she was lying now not crouching tense and watchful as she'd done all his adult life. And her beautiful gold-brown eyes were growing dull.
‘Still beautiful," he said. ‘Oh, Hester, yeah, the witch. She gave me...’
‘Sure she did. The flower.’
‘In my breast pocket. Fetch it, Hester, I cain't move.’
It was a hard struggle, but she tugged out the little scarlet flower with her strong teeth and laid it by his right hand. With a great effort he clsoed it in his fist and said, ‘Serafina Pekkala! Help me, I beg…’
A movement below: he let go of the flower, sighted, fired. The movement died.
Hester was failing.
‘Hester, don't you go before I do,’ Lee whispered.
‘Lee, I couldn't abide to be anywhere away from you for a single second,’ she whispered back.
‘You think the witch will come?’
‘Sure she will. We should have called her before.’
‘We should have done a lot of things.’
Another crack, and this time the bullet went deep somewhere inside, seeking out the center of his life. He thought: It won't find it there. Hester's my center. And he saw a blue flicker down below, and strained to bring the barrel over to it.
‘He's the one,’ Hester breathed.
Lee found it hard to pull the trigger. Everything was hard. He had to try three times, and finally he got it. The blue uniform tumbled away down the slope.”
“Yes, those were luminous September days. The afternoon light pearling, the mood alert, turned-on, compassionate.” (Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter)
“I didn't know how badly I had needed them and how I'd been waiting for them, but I endured it, my joy, don't ever forget this moment, and Simone said, ‘Happy birthday, little one.’” (Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter)
“My grandfather is Russian, he said, we never waste anything. And that, too, had made us laugh, though he was serious now as he poured, tilting the plastic flask so that the barest ribbon of liquid threaded perfectly into the carton.” (Garth Greenwell, An Evening Out)
“She was dirty but what was a little dirt, I thought as I turned the latch, I should have let you in a long time ago, I said, I’m sorry... And then, because the dizziness didn’t pass or maybe because I wanted her warmth next to me, I lowered myself to the floor, I stretched myself out beside her and laid one hand on her flank. We’ll sleep, I said again, and she rolled onto her side, her stomach toward me, and placed one of her paws against my chest. It would leave a mark, I knew, I would have to scrub it out in the morning, but what did it matter, I thought as I closed my eyes, what does it matter, why not let it stay.” (Garth Greenwell, An Evening Out)
“I did not want to write to you. I wanted to write a lie. I did not want to write honestly about black lies, black thighs, black loves, black laughs, black foods, black addictions, black stretch marks, black dollars, black words, black abuses, black blues, black belly buttons, black wins, black beens, black bends, black consent, black parents, or black children. I did not want to write about us. I wanted to write an American memoir.
I wanted to write a lie.
I wanted to do that old blakc work of pandering and lying to folk who pay us to pander and lie to them every day. I wanted to write about our families’ relationships to simple carbohydrates, deep-friend meats, and high-fructose corn syrup. I wanted the book to begin with my weighing 319 pounds and end with my weighing 165 pounds. I wanted to pepper the book with acerbic warnings to us fat black folk in the Deep South and saccharine sentimental exortations from Grandmama. I did not want you to laugh.
I wanted to write a lie.
I wanted to write about how fundamental present black fathers, responsible black mothers, magical blackgrandmothers, and perfectly disciplined black children are to our liberation. I wanted to center a something, a someone who wants us dead and dishonest. I wanted white Americans, who have proven themselves even more unwilling to confront their lies, to reconsider how their lies limit our access to good love, healthy choices, and second chances. I wanted the book to begin and end with the assumption that if white Americans reckoned with their insatiable appetites for black American suffering, and we recognized with our insatiable appetites for unhalthy food, we could all be ushered into a reformed era of American propsperity. I wanted to create a fantastic literary spectacle. I wanted that literary spectacle to ask nothing of you, Grandmama, or me other than our adherence to a low-carb diet, limited sugar, weight lifting, twelve thousand steps a day, gallons of water, and no eating after midnight. I wanted you to promise. I did not want you to remember.
I wanted to write a lie.
I wanted that lie to be titillating.
I wrote that lie.
It was titillating.
You would have loved it.
I discovered nothing.
You would have loved it.
I started over and wrote what we hoped I’d forget.” (Kiese Laymon, Heavy)
“Most of the gyptians were sitting in a smoke-filled café facing the water, eating spice cakes and drinking strong sweet coffee at the long wooden tables under the fizz and crackle of some ancient anbaric lights.” (Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass)
“She might have been alone in the world, but of course she never was...” (Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass)
“A draft, created by the open door, sucked the curtains into the gap of the open window. For a moment or two, they shuddered against the screen. Then they breathed out again, with something like a sigh; and Henry, his eyes squeezed tight, and his knees giving way beneath him, fell with a thud to the carpet.” (Donna Tartt, The Secret History)