Tuesday, January 27, 2009

rabbit at rest

With John Updike's passing I was reminded of an old notebook I used to keep of notable passages from books I was reading. Below are some of the highlights. Feel free to contribute some of your own...


While some of us burned on the edges of life, insatiable and straining to see more deeply in, he sat complacently at the center and let life come to him - so much of it, evidently, that he could not keep track of his appointments. - Updike

When I thought back to our hectic, somehow sacred heyday, it was, as I say, less in terms of the women closest to me than of those in the middle distance, relatively virginal, who had taken the siren call of the unknown with them as they disappeared over my horizon. - Updike

I felt in her presence the fear of death a man feels with a woman who once opened herself to him and is available no more. - Updike

Why I was intruding I have forgotten, but I remember receiving a genial welcome, as if I were already one of these men who had filled the glass ashtrays to overflowing and whose coffee cups had left a lace of brown circles on the card table top. As a teachers' child I was privileged to peel behind the formal stage-set of education's daily theatre. It was slight shock to see, on the stained table, a deck of worn pinnacle cards, held together by a rubber band. Teachers were human. I was expected to become, eventually, one of them. - Updike

Anything, just to put something there, some bliss, to live on later for awhile. If he goes empty now he won't last at all, because we only get emptier. - Updike

The wish to be held as a passive spectator by some work or sight of greatness. Not to make it, but to accept it; not to begin, but to respond; not to create, but to admire. I need it to let me go on, because joy is one's fuel. - Ayn Rand

... the dream of belief can be more real than the reality of disbelief...

Despair is the result of each earnest attempt to go through life with virtue, justice and understanding and fulfill their requirements. Children live on one side of despair, the awakened on the other. - Herman Hesse

There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to asset itself. - Herman Hesse

He in his madness prays for storms,
And dreams that storms will bring him peace - Kipling

The Island beyond reach, Lilia lost, his every hope beaten, why should the invisible Orange Dove not be transformed into the Golden Medulla, the philosopher's stone, the end of ends, volatile like everything passionately wanted? To aspire to something you will never have: is this not the aime of the most generous of desires? - Umberto Eco

I shall surely die, he said to himself...What illusion was I harboring? I would die, perhaps later, even if I had not arrived on this wreck. I entered life knowing that the Law requires us to leave it. As Saint-Savin said, we play our role, some long, some not so long, and then we leave the stage. I have seen others go before me, others will see me go, and they will give the same performance for their successors. For that matter, how long was the time when I did not exist, and for how long in the future will I not be? I occupy a very small space in the abyss of the years. This little interval does not succeed in distinguishing me from the nothingness into which I shall go. I came into the world only to swell the ranks. My part was so small that even if I had remained in the wings, everyone would still have declared the play perfect. It is like a storm at sea: some drown immediately, others are dashed against the rocks, still others are cast up on an abandoned ship, but not for long, not even they. Life goes out, on its own, like a candle that has consumed its substance. And we should be accustomed to it, because, like a candle, we have been shedding atoms since the moment we were lit. It is no great wisdom to know these things. We should know them from the moment we are born. But usually we reflect always and only on the death of others. Ah yes, we all have strength enough to bear others' ills. Then the moment comes when we think of death because the illness is our own, and we realize it is impossible to stare directly at the sun and at death. Unless we have had good teachers. I did. Someone said to me that truly few know death. As a rule it is tolerated through stupidity or habit, not through resolve. We die because we cannot do otherwise. Only the philosopher can think of death as a duty, to be performed willingly and without fear. As long as we are here, death is not here, and when death comes, we have gone. Why would I have spent so much time conversing about philosophy if now I were not capable of making my death the masterwork of my life? - maybe Beckett maybe Updike (actually turns out it's Eco)

Jealousy doesn't show how much you love someone. It shows how insecure you are. - Margaret Meade

It's not goodbye, and what magic in those dim things to which it will be time enough, when next they pass, to say goodbye. For you must say goodbye, it would be madness not to say goodbye, when the time comes. If you think of the forms and light of other days it is without regret. But you seldom think of them, with what would you think of them? I don't know. - Beckett

The fact is, it seems, that the most you can hope is to be a little less, in the end, the creature you were in the beginning, and the middle. - Beckett

What I liked in anthropology was its inexhaustible faculty of negation, its relentless definition of man, as though he were no better than God, in terms of what he is not. - Beckett

But more he felt sorry for that old figure of himself, waiting for grace to descend, afraid when it left him. No one could live that way, not forever. It was too much to expect from life. Always waiting. - Michael Byers

Your separate parts are not unknown
but the way you assemble 'ems all your own - Pat Boone

Life is fury, he'd thought. Fury - sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal - it drives us to our finest heights and coarsest depths. Out of fury comes creation, inspiration, originality, passion, but also violence, pain, pure unafraid destruction, the giving and receiving of blows from which we never recover. The fury pursues us... This is what we are, what we civilize ourselves to disguise - the terrifying human animal in us, the exalted, transcendent, self-destructive, untrammeled lord of creation. We raise each other to the heights of joy. We tear each other limb from fucking limb. - Rushdie

And if he failed, then he failed, but one did not contemplate what lay beyond failure while one was still trying to succeed. After all, Jay Gatsby, the highest bouncer of them all, failed too in the end, but lived out, before he crashed, that brilliant, brittle, gold-hatted, exemplary American life. - Gatsby

Goodnight, you princes of Maine... you kings of New England. - Irving

Goodnight you too, Mr. Updike. - me


EcMc said...

thanks for sharing...

Katie said...

hey frank, its katie. email me at katiekrum@gmail.com and we can exchange info...