I have been a writer since 1949. I am self-taught. I have no theories about writing that might help others. When I write, I simply become what I seemingly must become. I am six feet two and weigh nearly two hundred pounds and am badly coordinated, except when I swim. All that borrowed meat does the writing. In the water I am beautiful.
Kurt Vonnegut, “Introduction,” Welcome To The Monkey House
Parlant toutes les langues, il entrait dans toutes les âmes.”
— Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
“I’m not Yellowstone Park!” she said. “I’m not supported by taxes! I don’t belong to everybody! You don’t have any right to say anything about the way I look!”
“Good gravy!” said Fuller.
“I’m so tired of dumb toots like you!” said Susanna. She stamped her foot and suddenly looked haggard. “I can’t help it if you want to kiss me! Whose fault is that?”
Fuller could now glimpse his side of the question only dimly, like a diver glimpsing the sun from the ocean floor. “All I was trying to say was, you could be a little more conservative,” he said.
Susanna opened her arms. “Am I conservative enough now?” she said. “Is this all right with you?”
The appeal of the lovely girl made the marrow of Fuller’s bones ache. In his chest was a sigh like the lost chord. “Yes,” he said. And then he murmured, “Forget about me.”
Susanna tossed her head. “Forget about being run over by a truck,” she said. “What makes you so mean?”
“I just say what I think,” said Fuller.
“You think such mean things,” said Susanna, bewildered. Her eyes widened. “All through high school, people like you would look at me as if they wished I’d drop dead. They’d never dance with me, they’d never talk to me, they’d never even smile back.” She shuddered. “They’d just go slinking around like small-town cops. They’d look at me the way you did—like I’d just done something terrible.”
The truth of the indictment made Fuller itch all over. “Probably thinking about something else,” he said.
“I don’t think so,” said Susanna. “You sure weren’t. All of a sudden, you started yelling at me in the drugstore, and I’d never even seen you before.” She burst into tears. “What is the matter with you?”
Fuller looked down at the floor.
“Never had a chance with a girl like you—that’s all,” he said. “That hurts.”
Susanna looked at him wonderingly. “You don’t know what a chance is,” she said.
“A chance is a late-model convertible, a new suit, and twenty bucks,” said Fuller.
Susanna turned her back to him and closed her suitcase. “A chance is a girl,” she said. “You smile at her, you be friendly, you be glad she’s a girl.” She turned and opened her arms again. “I’m a girl. Girls are shaped this way,” she said. “If men are nice to me and make me happy, I kiss them sometimes. Is that all right with you?”
“Yes,” said Fuller humbly. She had rubbed his nose in the sweet reason that governed the universe. He shrugged. “I better be going. Good-bye.”
“Wait!” she said, “You can’t do that—just walk out, leaving me feeling so wicked.” She shook her head. “I don’t deserve to feel wicked.”
“What can I do?” said Fuller helplessly.
“You can take me for a walk down the main street, as though you were proud of me,” said Susanna. “You can welcome me back to the human race.” She nodded to herself. “You owe that to me.”
- Kurt Vonnegut, “Miss Temptation” Welcome to the Monkey House
One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.”
— Joan Didion, “Goodbye to All That”
"I love myself when I am laughing…and then again when I am looking mean and impressive."
- Zora Neale Hurston
photographs by Carl Van Vechten
"Those Who Don’t"
Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake.
But we aren’t afraid. We know the guy with the crooked eye is Davey the Baby’s brother, and the tall one next to him in the straw brim, that’s Rosa’s Eddie V., and the big one that looks like a dumb grown man, he’s Fat Boy, though he’s not fat anymore nor a boy.
All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. Yeah. That is how it goes and goes.
- Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street
Youth can not know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty, if they forget what it was to be young.”
— Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
At night, after the exhausting games of canasta, we would look out over the immense sea, full of white-flecked and green reflections, the two of us leaning side by side on the railing, each of us far away, flying in his own aircraft to the stratospheric regions of our own dreams. There we understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world. Always curious, looking into everything that came before our eyes, sniffing out each corner but only ever faintly - not setting down roots in any land or staying long enough to see the substratum of things; the outer limits would suffice.”
— Ernesto Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries
Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.
- Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
- Fellowship of the Ring
Happy birthday, JRR Tolkein. Thanks for the stories.
A Litany for Survival
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
- Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn