“Get scared. It will do you good. Smoke a bit, stare blankly at some ceilings, beat your head against some walls, refuse to see some people, paint and write. Get scared some more. Allow your little mind to do nothing but function. Stay inside, go out - I don’t care what you’ll do; but stay scared as hell. You will never be able to experience everything. So, please, do poetical justice to your soul and simply experience yourself.”—Albert Camus, Notebooks, 1951-1959
“Art flies around truth, but with the definite intention of not getting burnt. Its capacity lies in finding in the dark void a place where the beam of light can be intensely caught, without this having been perceptible before.”—Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks
“We did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew. Perhaps it was so that we would not ask the other questions, the ones whose answers we did not want to know.”—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus
“He knew that there was passion there, but there was no shadow of it in her eyes or on her mouth; there was a faint spray of champagne on her breath. She clung nearer desperately and once more he kissed her and was chilled by the innocence of her kiss, by the glance that at the moment of contact looked beyond him out into the darkness of the night, the darkness of the world.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
“It’s like I’m reading a book, and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you, and the words of our story, but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live your book any more.”—Her (2013)
“My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder. My art is grounded in reflections over being different from others. My sufferings are part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art. I want to keep those sufferings.”—Edvard Munch
“And the good writer chooses his words for their ‘meaning,’ but that meaning is not a set, cut-off thing like the move of knight or pawn on a chess-board. It comes up with roots, with associations, with how and where the word is familiarly used, or where it has been used brilliantly or memorably.”—Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading
“There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can’t do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.”—Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
“An intellectual? Yes. And never deny it. An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself. I like this, because I am happy to be both halves, the watcher and the watched. ‘Can they be brought together?’ This is a practical question. We must get down to it. ‘I despise intelligence’ really means: ‘I cannot bear my doubts.’”—Albert Camus
“But I’d rather sleep with junkies than with angels
As the moonlight turns all of us to werewolves
And sunrise, it’s just a gorgeous bedtime,
The way the light hits the cheap wine.”—Johnny Hobo, “Free as the Rent We Don’t Pay”
“What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music. And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ - that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.”—Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or
“You’re always in a rush, or else you’re too exhausted to have a proper conversation. Soon enough, the long hours, the traveling, the broken sleep have all crept into your being and become part of you, so everyone can see it, in your posture, your gaze, the way you move and talk.”—Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
I once had an angel
who watched over my shoulder
and told me how to act like a lady.
When the boy with the threatening grin
pulled on my hair with his dirty hands
the angel stopped me from telling my mother.
‘It’s only because he likes you.’
So I kept quiet
and when the boy grabbed my wrist
hard enough to leave a bruise
I pretended it was instead
a birthmark conveniently formed
in the shape of a heart.
I was walking to work
when I heard a catcall from a car
stopped at a light.
I wanted to tell him that my existence
was not an open invitation to fuck me
but the angel told me
that I was overreacting,
so I smiled at him
while wishing the ground would
swallow me whole.
It was a Saturday night
and I was in bed
when he came tumbling into the room
smelling strongly of whiskey and cigarettes.
He pulled the covers off
and slid his hands up my thighs.
I told him I was tired but his hands
The angel told me to stay still,
to relish his touch
to make him feel good. He wants you, let him have you.
So I listened and closed my eyes
and waited for it to end.
Later that night,
I sat on the bathroom floor
and carved into my skin
all the words the angel
has ever told me.
Do not raise your voice.
Cross your legs.
I once had an angel
who watched over my shoulder
and told me how to act like a lady
so I grabbed a .22
and shot it dead.
I had to kill my angel
before it killed me.
“I’m sitting here thinking of all the things I wanted to apologize to you for. All the pain we caused each other. Everything I put on you. Everything I needed you to be or needed you to say. I’m sorry for that. I’ll always love you because we grew up together. You helped make me who I am. I just wanted you to know, there will be a piece of you in me always. And I’m grateful for that. Whatever someone you become and wherever you are in the world, I’m sending you love. You’re my friend to the end.”—Her (2013)
“His face looked so scornful, so savage, and finally, gloriously, ugly. Not cute at all, just an ugly scornful boy face. I hadn’t felt such disgust for a boy since the early days, when they’d tease girls on the playground, kicking us and throwing gravel and raising their voices in high screechy mockery. ‘They do that because they like you,’ all the adults said, grinning like pumpkins. We believed them, back then. Back then we thought it was true, and we were drawn toward all that meanness because it meant we were special, let them kick us, let them like us. We liked them back. But now it was turning out our first instincts were right. Boys weren’t mean because they liked you; it was because they were mean.”—Daniel Handler, The Basic Eight
“I will love you forever; whatever happens. Until I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, until I find you again.”—Phillip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass
“People like saying life’s short a lot. The problem is, they don’t really mean it. It actually is short, very short, but they don’t believe in its shortness until the very end. Had they truly meant it, our world would have been a really different place. They would know what to do with their lives.”—Ray N. Kuili, Eden Can Wait
“If you saw her in these moments, you might think she was collecting her thoughts in order to go forward. But I see it another way: Her mind is being overwhelmed by two processes that must simultaneously proceed at full steam. One is to deal with and live in the present world. The other is to re-experience and mourn something that happened long ago. It is as though her lightness pulls her toward heaven, but the extra gravity around her keeps her earthbound.”—Steve Martin, The Pleasure of My Company
“I learned not to trust people; I learned not to believe what they say but to watch what they do; I learned to suspect that anyone and everyone is capable of ‘living a lie’. I came to believe that other people - even when you think you know them well - are ultimately unknowable.”—Lynn Barber, An Education
“She looks sad. She looks angry. She looks different from everyone else I know—she cannot put on that happy face others wear when they know they are being watched. She doesn’t put on a face for me, which makes me trust her somehow.”—Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook
“I’m not totally mad at you. I’m just sad. You’re all locked up in that little world of yours, and when I try knocking on the door, you just sort of look up for a second and go right back inside.”—Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
“I am not good. I am not virtuous. I am not sympathetic. I am not generous. I am merely and above all a creature of intense passionate feeling. I feel—everything. It is my genius. It burns me like fire.”—Mary MacLane, I Await The Devil’s Coming
“When you are your own best friend, you don’t endlessly seek out relationships, friendships, and validation from the wrong sources because you realize that the only approval and validation you need is your own.”—Mandy Hale, The Single Woman