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“Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. Though I guess that presupposes there is a wine I wouldn’t drink.”
- From “The Magicians,” by Lev Grossman
On his first Monday he left it to them to do the incinerating. Rigor mortis had stiffened the corpses overnight. The dead legs caught in the bars of the trolley, and when the trolley came back from its trip to the furnace, the dog would as often as not come riding back too, blackened and grinning, smelling of singed fur, its plastic covering burnt away. After a while the workmen began to beat the bags with the backs of their shovels before loading them, to break the rigid limbs. It was then that he intervened and took over the job himself…
Why has he taken on the job? To lighten this burden on Bev Shaw? For this it would be enough to drop off the bags at the dump and drive away. For the sake of the dogs? But the dogs are dead; and what would dogs know of honour and dishonour anyway?
For himself, then. For his idea of the world, a world in which men do not use shovels to beat corpses into a more convenient shape for processing.
- From “Disgrace,” by J.M. Coetzee
The whole period stays by me with curious vividness. In my memory I live over incidents that might seem too petty to be worth recalling. I am in the dug-out at Monte Pocero again, on the ledge of limestone that serves as a bed, and young Ramon is snoring with his nose flattened between my shoulder-blades. I am stumbling up the mucky trench, through the mist that swirls round me like cold steam. I am halfway up a crack in the mountain-side, struggling to keep my balance and to tug a root of wild rosemary out of the ground. High overhead some meaningless bullets are singing.
- From “Homage To Catalonia,” by George Orwell
In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when that moment came, our lives – and time itself – would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also, that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first undiscernable.
- From “The Sense of an Ending,” by Julian Barnes
Now, what happens in your typical Murder Weekly story – or Hindi film, for that matter? A poor man kills a rich man. Good. Then he takes the money. Good. Then he gets dreams in which the dead man pursues him with bloody fingers, saying Mur-der-er, Mur-der-er.
Doesn’t happen like that in real life. Trust me. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stopped going to Hindi films.
There was just that one night when Granny came chasing me on a water buffallo, but it never happened again.
The real nightmare you get is the other kind. You toss about in the bed dreaming that you haven’t done it – that you lost your nerve and let Mr. Ashok get away – that you’re still in Delhi, still the servant of another man, and then you wake up.
- From “The White Tiger,” by Aravind Adiga
The enigma that had bothered me in Sydney was beginning to resolve itself. If Australians allowed themselves to be represented worldwide as a nation of beer-sodden boors and hysterical Amazons, it must be through sheer lack of imagination. Like most people everywhere they spent most of their time just getting by, but there was no collective dream or mythology that told them what it was they were supposed to be doing. In that respect they were far behind the Aborigines they had decimated and despised.
Yet many signs indicated that the time might not be too far away, when Australians would agree on a better reason for living than to eat a pound of beef a day. When that day came, I thought this would become one of the world’s best places to be.
The faces of the old men told me there had been something once that was lost and could be found again.
- From “Jupiter’s Travels,” by Ted Simon
He thinks, if you were born in Putney, you saw the river every day, and imagined it widening out to the sea. Even if you had never seen the ocean you had a picture of it in your head from what you had been told by foreign people who sometimes came upriver. You knew that one day you would be able to go out into a world of marble pavements and peacocks, of hillsides buzzing with heat, the fragrance of crushed herbs rising around you as you walked. You planned for what your journeys would bring you: the touch of warm terracotta, the night sky of another climate, alien flowers, the stone-eyed gaze of other people’s saints. But if you were born in Aslockton, in flat fields under a wide sky, you might just be able to imagine Cambridge: no further.
- From “Wolf Hall,” by Hilary Mantel
He rose and turned toward the lights of the town. The tide pools bright as smelterpots among the dark rocks where the phosphorescent seacrabs clambered back. Passing through the salt grass he looked back. The horse had not moved. A ship’s light winked in the swells. The colt stood against the horse with its head down and the horse was watching, out there past men’s knowing, where the stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.
- From “Blood Meridian,” by Cormac McCarthy
“Here, then,” he said, “is this old Lawless’s rabbit-hole; pray heaven there come no terrier! For I have rolled hither and thither, and here and about, since that I was fourteen years of mine age and first ran away from mine abbey, with the sacrist’s gold chain and a mass book that I sold for four marks. I have been in England and France and Burgundy, and in Spain, too, on a pilgrimage for my poor soul; and upon the sea, which is no man’s country. But here is my place, Master Shelton. This is my native land, this burrow in the earth. Come rain or wind – and whether it’s April, and the birds all sing, and the blossoms fall about my bed, or whether it’s winter, and I sit alone with my good gossip the fire, and robin redbreast twitters in the woods – here is my church and market, my wife and child. It’s here I come back to, and it’s here, so please the saints, that I would like to die.”
- From “The Black Arrow,” by Robert Louis Stevenson
“You seem to know a lot about stars.”
“Not a great lot. I know a bit, though. I got two letters from the Astronomer Royal thanking me for writing about meteors. Now and again I go out at night and watch for meteors. The stars are a free show; it doesn’t cost anything to use your eyes.”
“What a good idea! I should never have thought of it.”
“Well, you got to take an interest in something. It don’t follow that because a man’s on the road he can’t think of anything but tea and two-slices.”
“But isn’t it very hard to take an interest in things – things like stars – living this life?”
“Screeving, you mean? Not neccesarily. It don’t need turn you into a bloody rabbit – that is, not if you set your mind to it.”
“It seems to have that effect on most people.”
“Of course. Look at Paddy – a tea-swilliing old moocher, only fit to scrounge for fag-ends. That’s the way most of them go. I despise them. But you don’t need get like that. If you’ve got any education, it don’t matter to you if you’re on the road for the rest of your life.”
“Well, I’ve found just the contrary,” I said. “It seems to me that when you take a man’s money away he’s fit for nothing from that moment.”
“No, not necessarily. If you set yourself to it, you can live the same life, rich or poor. You can still keep on with your books and ideas. You just got to say to yourself, ‘I’m a free man in here-’ he tapped his forehead, “-and you’re all right.”
- From “Down And Out In Paris And London,” by George Orwell