There comes a time in every man’s life when his thoughts lightly turn to setting his library on fire. To burn away the jungle to let him find the books that most matter to him.
His habit of reading isolated him: it became such a need that after being in company for some time he grew tired and restless; he was vain of the wider knowledge he had acquired from the perusal of so many books, his mind was alert, and he had not the skill to hide his contempt for his companions' stupidity. They complained that he was conceited; and, since he excelled only in matters which to them were unimportant, they asked satirically what he had to be conceited about. He was developing a sense of humour, and found that he had a knack of saying bitter things, which caught people on the raw; he said them because they amused him, hardly realising how much they hurt, and was much offended when he found that his victims regarded him with active dislike. The humiliations he suffered when he first went to school had caused in him a shrinking from his fellows which he could never entirely overcome; he remained shy and silent. But though he did everything to alienate the sympathy of other boys he longed with all his heart for the popularity which to some was so easily accorded. These from his distance he admired extravagantly; and though he was inclined to be more sarcastic with them than with others, though he made little jokes at their expense, he would have given anything to change places with them.
Wonder of time,' quoth she, 'this is my spite,That, thou being dead, the day should yet be light.'Since thou art dead, lo, here I prophesy:Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend:It shall be waited on with jealousy,Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end,Ne'er settled equally, but high or low,That all love's pleasure shall not match his woe.'It shall be fickle, false and full of fraud,Bud and be blasted in a breathing-while;The bottom poison, and the top o'erstraw'dWith sweets that shall the truest sight beguile:The strongest body shall it make most weak,Strike the wise dumb and teach the fool to speak.'It shall be sparing and too full of riot,Teaching decrepit age to tread the measures;The staring ruffian shall it keep in quiet,Pluck down the rich, enrich the poor with treasures;It shall be raging-mad and silly-mild,Make the young old, the old become a child.'It shall suspect where is no cause of fear;It shall not fear where it should most mistrust;It shall be merciful and too severe,And most deceiving when it seems most just;Perverse it shall be where it shows most toward,Put fear to valour, courage to the coward.'It shall be cause of war and dire events,And set dissension 'twixt the son and sire;Subject and servile to all discontents,As dry combustious matter is to fire:Sith in his prime Death doth my love destroy,They that love best their loves shall not enjoy.
When reading the history of the Jewish people, of their flight from slavery to death, of their exchange of tyrants, I must confess that my sympathies are all aroused in their behalf. They were cheated, deceived and abused. Their god was quick-tempered unreasonable, cruel, revengeful and dishonest. He was always promising but never performed. He wasted time in ceremony and childish detail, and in the exaggeration of what he had done. It is impossible for me to conceive of a character more utterly detestable than that of the Hebrew god. He had solemnly promised the Jews that he would take them from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. He had led them to believe that in a little while their troubles would be over, and that they would soon in the land of Canaan, surrounded by their wives and little ones, forget the stripes and tears of Egypt. After promising the poor wanderers again and again that he would lead them in safety to the promised land of joy and plenty, this God, forgetting every promise, said to the wretches in his power:—'Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness and your children shall wander until your carcasses be wasted.' This curse was the conclusion of the whole matter. Into this dust of death and night faded all the promises of God. Into this rottenness of wandering despair fell all the dreams of liberty and home. Millions of corpses were left to rot in the desert, and each one certified to the dishonesty of Jehovah. I cannot believe these things. They are so cruel and heartless, that my blood is chilled and my sense of justice shocked. A book that is equally abhorrent to my head and heart, cannot be accepted as a revelation from God.When we think of the poor Jews, destroyed, murdered, bitten by serpents, visited by plagues, decimated by famine, butchered by each, other, swallowed by the earth, frightened, cursed, starved, deceived, robbed and outraged, how thankful we should be that we are not the chosen people of God. No wonder that they longed for the slavery of Egypt, and remembered with sorrow the unhappy day when they exchanged masters. Compared with Jehovah, Pharaoh was a benefactor, and the tyranny of Egypt was freedom to those who suffered the liberty of God.While reading the Pentateuch, I am filled with indignation, pity and horror. Nothing can be sadder than the history of the starved and frightened wretches who wandered over the desolate crags and sands of wilderness and desert, the prey of famine, sword, and plague. Ignorant and superstitious to the last degree, governed by falsehood, plundered by hypocrisy, they were the sport of priests, and the food of fear. God was their greatest enemy, and death their only friend.It is impossible to conceive of a more thoroughly despicable, hateful, and arrogant being, than the Jewish god. He is without a redeeming feature. In the mythology of the world he has no parallel. He, only, is never touched by agony and tears. He delights only in blood and pain. Human affections are naught to him. He cares neither for love nor music, beauty nor joy. A false friend, an unjust judge, a braggart, hypocrite, and tyrant, sincere in hatred, jealous, vain, and revengeful, false in promise, honest in curse, suspicious, ignorant, and changeable, infamous and hideous:—such is the God of the Pentateuch.
An old book was a time capsule. When you opened the front cover, you opened a door to another world—a world accessible through a kind of looking glass made of hard-board and cloth. The author’s voice resonated in the reader’s head with the same words that had resonated in his own as he wrote them. He spoke to the reader from the past. What he had witnessed, experienced, learned, and discovered would live forever. You only had to turn a page to travel in time.
There were pools of light among the stacks, directly beneath the bulbs which Philip had switched on, but it was now with an unexpected fearfulness that he saw how the books stretched away into the darkness. They seemed to expand as soon as they reached the shadows, creating some dark world where there was no beginning and no end, no story, no meaning. And if you crossed the threshold into that world, you would be surrounded by words; you would crush them beneath your feet, you would knock against them with your head and arms, but if you tried to grasp them they would melt away. Philip did not dare turn his back upon these books. Not yet. It was almost, he thought, as if they had been speaking to each other while he slept.
Man’s life is a line that nature commands him to describe upon the surface of the earth, without his ever being able to swerve from it, even for an instant. He is born without his own consent; his organization does in nowise depend upon himself; his ideas come to him involuntarily; his habits are in the power of those who cause him to contract them; he is unceasingly modified by causes, whether visible or concealed, over which he has no control, which necessarily regulate his mode of existence, give the hue to his way of thinking, and determine his manner of acting. He is good or bad, happy or miserable, wise or foolish, reasonable or irrational, without his will being for any thing in these various states.
On to the library. And all through his time at the card catalog, combing the shelves, filling out the request cards, he danced a silent, flirtatious minuet of the eyes with a rosy-cheeked redhead in the biology section, pages of notes spread before her. All his life, he had had a yen for women in libraries. In a cerebral setting, the physical becomes irresistible. Also, he figured he was really more likely to meet a better or at least more compatible woman in a library than in a saloon. Ought to have singles libraries, with soups and salads, Bach and Mozart, Montaignes bound in morocco; place to sip, smoke, and seduce in a classical setting, noon to midnight. Chaucer's Salons, call them, franchise chain.
When you look at what C.S. Lewis is saying, his message is so anti-life, so cruel, so unjust. The view that the Narnia books have for the material world is one of almost undisguised contempt. At one point, the old professor says, ‘It’s all in Plato’ — meaning that the physical world we see around us is the crude, shabby, imperfect, second-rate copy of something much better. I want to emphasize the simple physical truth of things, the absolute primacy of the material life, rather than the spiritual or the afterlife.[The New York Times interview, 2000]
There is a time in the life of every boy when he for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the line into manhood. The boy is walking through the street of his town. He is thinking of the future and of the figure he will cut in the world. Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name. Ghosts of old things creep into his consciousness; the voices outside of himself whisper a message concerning the limitations of life. From being quite sure of himself and his future he becomes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a door is torn open and for the first time he looks out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched in procession before him, the countless figures of men who before his time have come out of nothingness into the world, lived their lives and again disappeared into nothingness. The sadness of sophistication has come to the boy. With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of his village. He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun.
Another time, talking about his books, the baroness confessed that she had never bothered to read any of them, because she hardly ever read 'difficult' or 'dark' novels like the ones he wrote. With the years, too, this habit had grown entrenched, and once she turned seventy the scope of her reading was restricted to fashion or news magazines.
John Armato, a Public relations executive, cherishes his growing Library of Candidates. When people ask him if he's actually read all those books, he asks them if they've actually eaten all the food in their kitchen. "It is good to put up a supply of books; it increases the odds that you'll have what you want when you're hungry for it," he says
I resolved to come right to the point. "Hello," I said as coldly as possible, "we've got to talk.""Yes, Bob," he said quietly, "what's on your mind?" I shut my eyes for a moment, letting the raging frustration well up inside, then stared angrily at the psychiatrist."Look, I've been religious about this recovery business. I go to AA meetings daily and to your sessions twice a week. I know it's good that I've stopped drinking. But every other aspect of my life feels the same as it did before. No, it's worse. I hate my life. I hate myself."Suddenly I felt a slight warmth in my face, blinked my eyes a bit, and then stared at him."Bob, I'm afraid our time's up," Smith said in a matter-of-fact style."Time's up?" I exclaimed. "I just got here.""No." He shook his head, glancing at his clock. "It's been fifty minutes. You don't remember anything?""I remember everything. I was just telling you that these sessions don't seem to be working for me."Smith paused to choose his words very carefully. "Do you know a very angry boy named 'Tommy'?""No," I said in bewilderment, "except for my cousin Tommy whom I haven't seen in twenty years...""No." He stopped me short. "This Tommy's not your cousin. I spent this last fifty minutes talking with another Tommy. He's full of anger. And he's inside of you.""You're kidding?""No, I'm not. Look. I want to take a little time to think over what happened today. And don't worry about this. I'll set up an emergency session with you tomorrow. We'll deal with it then."RobertThis is Robert speaking. Today I'm the only personality who is strongly visible inside and outside. My own term for such an MPD role is dominant personality. Fifteen years ago, I rarely appeared on the outside, though I had considerable influence on the inside; back then, I was what one might call a "recessive personality." My passage from "recessive" to "dominant" is a key part of our story; be patient, you'll learn lots more about me later on. Indeed, since you will meet all eleven personalities who once roamed about, it gets a bit complex in the first half of this book; but don't worry, you don't have to remember them all, and it gets sorted out in the last half of the book. You may be wondering -- if not "Robert," who, then, was the dominant MPD personality back in the 1980s and earlier? His name was "Bob," and his dominance amounted to a long reign, from the early 1960s to the early 1990s. Since "Robert B. Oxnam" was born in 1942, you can see that "Bob" was in command from early to middle adulthood.Although he was the dominant MPD personality for thirty years, Bob did not have a clue that he was afflicted by multiple personality disorder until 1990, the very last year of his dominance. That was the fateful moment when Bob first heard that he had an "angry boy named Tommy" inside of him. How, you might ask, can someone have MPD for half a lifetime without knowing it? And even if he didn't know it, didn't others around him spot it?To outsiders, this is one of the most perplexing aspects of MPD. Multiple personality is an extreme disorder, and yet it can go undetected for decades, by the patient, by family and close friends, even by trained therapists. Part of the explanation is the very nature of the disorder itself: MPD thrives on secrecy because the dissociative individual is repressing a terrible inner secret. The MPD individual becomes so skilled in hiding from himself that he becomes a specialist, often unknowingly, in hiding from others. Part of the explanation is rooted in outside observers: MPD often manifests itself in other behaviors, frequently addiction and emotional outbursts, which are wrongly seen as the "real problem."The fact of the matter is that Bob did not see himself as the dominant personality inside Robert B. Oxnam. Instead, he saw himself as a whole person. In his mind, Bob was merely a nickname for Bob Oxnam, Robert Oxnam, Dr. Robert B. Oxnam, PhD.
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.
I reckon if there’s ere a man or woman anywhere that He could turn it all over to and go away with His mind at rest, it would be Cora. And I reckon she would make a few changes, no matter how He was running it. And I reckon they would be for man’s good. Leastways, we would have to like them. Leastways, we might as well go on and make like we did.
[The Old Astronomer to His Pupil]Reach me down my Tycho Brahe, I would know him when we meet,When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of howWe are working to completion, working on from then to now.Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,And remember men will scorn it, 'tis original and true,And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,What for us are all distractions of men's fellowship and smiles;What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant's fate.Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.You 'have none but me,' you murmur, and I 'leave you quite alone'?Well then, kiss me, -- since my mother left her blessing on my brow,There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;I can dimly comprehend it, -- that I might have been more kind,Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.I 'have never failed in kindness'? No, we lived too high for strife,--Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you stillTo the service of our science: you will further it? you will!There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;And remember, 'Patience, Patience,' is the watchword of a sage,Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.I have sown, like Tycho Brahe, that a greater man may reap;But if none should do my reaping, 'twill disturb me in my sleepSo be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,--God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.
In a cage of wire-ribsThe size of a man’s head, the macaw bristles in a staringCombustion, suffers the stoking devils of his eyes.In the old lady’s parlour, where an aspidistra succumbsTo the musk of faded velvet, he hangs in clear flames,Like a torturer’s iron instrument preparingWith dense slow shudderings of greens, yellows, blues, Crimsoning into the barbs:Or like the smouldering head that hungIn Killdevil’s brass kitchen, in irons, who had beenVolcano swearing to vomit the world away in black ash,And would, one day; or a fugitive aristocratFrom some thunderous mythological hierarchy, caughtBy a little boy with a crust and a bent pin,Or snare of horsehair set for a song-thrush, And put in a cage to sing.The old lady who feeds him seedsHas a grand-daughter. The girl calls him ‘Poor Polly’, pokes fun.’Jolly Mop.’ But lies under every full moon,The spun glass of her body bared and so gleam-stillHer brimming eyes do not tremble or spillThe dream where the warrior comes, lightning and iron,Smashing and burning and rending towards her loin: Deep into her pillow her silence pleads.All day he stares at his furnaceWith eyes red-raw, but when she comes they close.’Polly. Pretty Poll’, she cajoles, and rocks him gently.She caresses, whispers kisses. The blue lids stay shut.She strikes the cage in a tantrum and swirls out:Instantly beak, wings, talons crashThe bars in conflagration and frenzy, And his shriek shakes the house.
Chapter 1.He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion...no, make that: he - he romanticized it all out of proportion. Yeah. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.'Uh, no let me start this over.'Chapter 1.He was too romantic about Manhattan, as he was about everything else. He thrived on the hustle bustle of the crowds and the traffic. To him, New York meant beautiful women and street-smart guys who seemed to know all the angles...'. Ah, corny, too corny for my taste. Can we ... can we try and make it more profound?'Chapter 1.He adored New York City. For him, it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. The same lack of individual integrity that caused so many people to take the easy way out was rapidly turning the town of his dreams in...'No, that's going to be too preachy. I mean, you know, let's face it, I want to sell some books here.'Chapter 1.He adored New York City, although to him it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. How hard it was to exist in a society desensitized by drugs, loud music, television, crime, garbage...'Too angry, I don't want to be angry.'Chapter 1.He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat.'I love this.'New York was his town, and it always would be.
There came to him an image of man’s whole life upon the earth. It seemed to him that all man’s life was like a tiny spurt of flame that blazed out briefly in an illimitable and terrifying darkness, and that all man’s grandeur, tragic dignity, his heroic glory, came from the brevity and smallness of this flame. He knew his life was little and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense and everlasting. And he knew that he would die with defiance on his lips, and that the shout of his denial would ring with the last pulsing of his heart into the maw of all-engulfing night.
I had assumed 'a man’s character is his fate' meant if my students worked hard they would get good grades, and if they were lazy they would fail—but any idiot could have seen that interpretation. It took no thought whatsoever, and it isn’t at all what Joe was trying to teach me. No, what Joe meant was this: my character shapes what my students become, and what they become is my fate. I began to see teaching in a whole new light. From that day forward, I knew everything that happened to my students would haunt me or bless me—and I began to teach as if my happiness depended on their happiness, my successes depended on their successes, and their world was the most important part of my world.
Another man’s property or not, Creed could not walk away from this and ignore it. He draped an arm around her and drew her to him so that her cheek rested against his thigh. His other hand stroked the top of her head, his fingers tangling through her soft hair. He was large in comparison to her, and he did not wish for her to be frightened by him again, so he sent a faint tendril of compulsion to belay her fear while he whispered a few nonsensical words of comfort.
Eddie Carroll had just come in from outside, and read Noonan's letter standing in the mudroom. He flipped to the beginning of the story. He stood reading for almost five minutes before noticing he was uncomfortably warm. He tossed his jacket at a hook and wandered into the kitchen.He sat for a while on the stairs to the second floor, turning through the pages. Then he was stretched on the couch in his office, head on a pile of books, reading in a slant of late October light, with no memory of how he had got there.He rushed through to the ending, then sat up, in the grip of a strange, bounding exuberance. He thought it was possibly the rudest, most awful thing he had ever read, and in his case that was saying something. He had waded through the rude and awful for most of his professional life, and in those fly-blown and diseased literary swamps had discovered flowers of unspeakable beauty, of which he was sure this was one. It was cruel and perverse and he had to have it. He turned to the beginning and started reading again.("Best New Horror")
The plane banked, and he pressed his face against the cold window. The ocean tilted up to meet him, its dark surface studded with points of light that looked like constellations, fallen stars. The tourist sitting next to him asked him what they were. Nathan explained that the bright lights marked the boundaries of the ocean cemeteries. The lights that were fainter were memory buoys. They were the equivalent of tombstones on land: they marked the actual graves. While he was talking he noticed scratch-marks on the water, hundreds of white gashes, and suddenly the captain's voice, crackling over the intercom, interrupted him. The ships they could see on the right side of the aircraft were returning from a rehearsal for the service of remembrance that was held on the ocean every year. Towards the end of the week, in case they hadn't realised, a unique festival was due to take place in Moon Beach. It was known as the Day of the Dead......When he was young, it had been one of the days he most looked forward to. Yvonne would come and stay, and she'd always bring a fish with her, a huge fish freshly caught on the ocean, and she'd gut it on the kitchen table. Fish should be eaten, she'd said, because fish were the guardians of the soul, and she was so powerful in her belief that nobody dared to disagree. He remembered how the fish lay gaping on its bed of newspaper, the flesh dark-red and subtly ribbed where it was split in half, and Yvonne with her sleeves rolled back and her wrists dipped in blood that smelt of tin.It was a day that abounded in peculiar traditions. Pass any candy store in the city and there'd be marzipan skulls and sugar fish and little white chocolate bones for 5 cents each. Pass any bakery and you'd see cakes slathered in blue icing, cakes sprinkled with sea-salt.If you made a Day of the Dead cake at home you always hid a coin in it, and the person who found it was supposed to live forever. Once, when she was four, Georgia had swallowed the coin and almost choked. It was still one of her favourite stories about herself. In the afternoon, there'd be costume parties. You dressed up as Lazarus or Frankenstein, or you went as one of your dead relations. Or, if you couldn't think of anything else, you just wore something blue because that was the colour you went when you were buried at the bottom of the ocean. And everywhere there were bowls of candy and slices of special home-made Day of the Dead cake. Nobody's mother ever got it right. You always had to spit it out and shove it down the back of some chair. Later, when it grew dark, a fleet of ships would set sail for the ocean cemeteries, and the remembrance service would be held. Lying awake in his room, he'd imagine the boats rocking the the priest's voice pushed and pulled by the wind. And then, later still, after the boats had gone, the dead would rise from the ocean bed and walk on the water. They gathered the flowers that had been left as offerings, they blew the floating candles out. Smoke that smelt of churches poured from the wicks, drifted over the slowly heaving ocean, hid their feet. It was a night of strange occurrences. It was the night that everyone was Jesus......Thousands drove in for the celebrations. All Friday night the streets would be packed with people dressed head to toe in blue. Sometimes they painted their hands and faces too. Sometimes they dyed their hair. That was what you did in Moon Beach. Turned blue once a year. And then, sooner or later, you turned blue forever.
If I am alive this is my book, and my father lives now in the afterlife that is a book, a thing not vague or virtual but something you can hold and feel and smell because to my mind heaven like life must be a thing sensual and real. And my book will be a river and have the Salmon literal and metaphoric leaping inside it and be called History of the Rain, so that his book does not perish, and you will know my book exists because of him and because of his books and his aspiration to leap up, to rise. You will know that I found him in his books, in the covers his hands held, the pages they turned, in the paper and the print, but also in the worlds those books contained, where now I have been and you have been too. You will know the story goes from the past to the present and into the future, and like a river flows.
One can't prescribe books, even the best books, to people unless one knows a good deal about each individual person. If a man is keen on reading, I think he ought to open his mind to some older man who knows him and his life, and to take his advice in the matter, and above all, to discuss with him the first books that interest him.