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Mountains Beyond Mountains [11 Aug 2012|10:34am]

bessiemaemucho
On an evening a few days after arriving in Cange, I wondered aloud what compensation he got for these various hardships. He told me, "If you're making sacrifices, unless you're automatically following some rule, it stands to reason that you're trying to lessen some psychic discomfort. So, for example, if I took steps to be a doctor for those who don't have medical care, it could be regarded as a sacrifice, but it could also be regarded as a way to deal with ambivalence." He went on, and his voice changed a little. He didn't bristle, but his tone had an edge: "I feel ambivalent about selling my services in a world where some can't buy them. You can feel ambivalent about that, because you should feel ambivalent. Comma.

This was for me the first of many encounters with Farmer's use of the word comma, placed at the end of a sentence. It stood for the word that would follow the comma, which was asshole. I understood he wasn't calling me one--he would never do that; he was almost invariably courteous. Comma was always directed at third parties, at those who felt comfortable with the current distribution of money and medicine in the world. And the implication, of course, was that you weren't one of those. Were you?

-- Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains, p 24
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Putting Makeup on Dead People [12 Dec 2011|12:22pm]

bessiemaemucho
"Some people say everything happens for a reason; people die because God wants them to die or bring them home."

I remember hearing that. And hating it.

"You want to know what I think?" Mr. Brighton pushes the binders out of the way and leans his elbow on the desk. "That's a load of horseshit. People die when they die and not because God wants to take someone's dad away from them. There's not a reason. It just happens."
-- Jen Violi, Putting Makeup on Dead People
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Paper Towns [05 Jan 2011|02:04pm]

bessiemaemucho
"You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves. I mean, I could hate you for being massively unpunctual and for never being interested in anything other than Margo Roth Spiegelman, and for, like, never asking me about how it's going with my girlfriend - but I don't give a shit, man, because you're you. My parents have a shit ton of black Santas, but that's okay. They're them. I'm too obsessed with a reference website to answer my phone sometimes when my friends call, or my girlfriend. That's okay, too. That's me. You like me anyway. And I like you. You're funny, and you're smart, and you may show up late, but you always show up eventually."
-- John Green, Paper Towns
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The Sky is Everywhere [10 Dec 2010|11:42am]

bessiemaemucho
"Grief is forever. It doesn't go away; it becomes part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That's just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don't get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy."
-- The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson
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Princess Mia's cat care instructions [12 Nov 2010|04:57pm]

bessiemaemucho
HOW TO CARE FOR FAT LOUIE WHILE I AM AWAYCollapse )
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Under the Banner of Heaven [22 Aug 2010|02:08pm]

bessiemaemucho
"... He's convinced me that those who write about religion owe it to their readers to come clean about their own theological frame of reference. So here's mine:

I don't know what God is, or what God had in mind when the universe was set in motion. In fact, I don't know if God even exists, although I confess that I sometimes find myself praying in times of great fear, or despair, or astonishment at a display of unexpected beauty.

There are some ten thousand extant religious sects--each with its own cosmology, each with its own answer for the meaning of life and death. Most assert that the other 9,999 not only have it completely wrong, but are instruments of evil, besides. None of the ten thousand has yet persuaded me to make the requisite leap of faith. In the absence of conviction, I've come to terms with the fact that uncertainty is an inescapable corollary of life. An abundance of mystery is simply part of the bargain--which doesn't strike me as something to lament. Accepting the essential inscrutability of existence, in any case, is surely preferable to its opposite: capitulating to the tyranny of intransigent belief.

And if I remain in the dark about our purpose here, and the meaning of eternity, I have nevertheless arrived at an understanding of a few more modest truths: Most of us fear death. Most of us yearn to comprehend how we got here, and why--which is to say, most of us ache to know the love of our creator. And we will no doubt feel that ache, most of us, for as long as we happen to be alive."

-- Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven
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middlesex [06 Jul 2010|09:31am]

bessiemaemucho
Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." I'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever.

-- Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
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A Prayer for Owen Meany [21 Apr 2010|09:50pm]

bessiemaemucho
"When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time--the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes--when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she's gone, forever--there comes another day, and another specifically missing part."

-John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
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home [13 Mar 2010|11:55am]

bessiemaemucho
"The United States--how can you live in that country?" the man had asked. Agnes had shrugged. "A lot of my stuff is there," she'd said, and it was then that she first felt all the dark love and shame that came from the pure accident of home, the deep and arbitrary place that happened to be yours.

-- Lorrie Moore, "Agnes of Iowa" in Birds of America
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birds of america [10 Mar 2010|08:44pm]

bessiemaemucho
She hadn't been given the proper tools to make a real life with, she decided, that was it. She'd been given a can of gravy and a hairbrush and told, "There you go." She'd stood there for years, blinking and befuddled, brushing the can with the brush.

-- Lorrie Moore, "Willing," in Birds of America
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elegance of the hedgehog [07 Mar 2010|05:17pm]

bessiemaemucho
I smile to myself, thinking about the big fat windbag who has been my partner through these years of widowhood and solitude, and I smile sadly, tenderly, because, seen from death, our close relations with our domestic animals no longer seem to be something minor to be taken for granted, given their everyday nature; ten years of a lifetime have crystallized in Leo, and I take the measure of how the ridiculous, superfluous cats who wander through our lives with the placidity and indifference of an imbecile are in fact the guardians of life's good and joyful moments, and of its happy web, even beneath the canopy of misfortune. Farewell, Leo, I say to myself, saying farewell to a life I did not think I would be so reluctant to lose.

-- Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
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high tide in tucson [06 Jan 2010|10:15pm]

bessiemaemucho
The power of fiction is to create empathy. It lifts you away from your chair and stuffs you gently inside someone else's point of view. It differs drastically from a newspaper, which imparts information while allowing you to remain rooted in your own perspective. A newspaper could tell you that one hundred people, say, in an airplane, or in Israel, or in Iraq, have died today. And you can think to yourself, "How very sad," then turn the page and see how the Wildcats fared. But a novel could take just one of those hundred lives and show you exactly how it felt to be that person rising from bed in the morning, watching the desert light on the tile of her doorway and on the curve of her daughter's cheek. You would taste that person's breakfast, and love her family, and sort through her worries as your own, and know that a death in that household will be the end of the only life that someone will ever have. As important as yours. As important as mine.

At the height of the Gulf War, I found in the New York Times this quote from Loren Thompson, director of the national security program at Georgetown University, explaining why the Pentagon wasn't releasing information about the deaths in Iraq.Collapse )
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elizabeth costello [18 Nov 2009|11:36am]

bessiemaemucho
"How beautiful it is, this world, even if it is only a simulacrum! At least there is that to fall back on."
-- J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello

"Reading is not a typically African recreation. Music, yes; dancing, yes; eating, yes; talking, yes--lots of talking. But not reading, no, and particularly not reading fat novels. Reading has always struck us Africans as a strangely solitary business. It makes us uneasy. When we Africans visit great European cities like Paris and London, we notice how people on trains take books out of their bags or their pockets and retreat into solitary world. Each time the book comes out it is like a sign held up. Leave me alone, I am reading, says the sign. What I am reading is more interesting than you could possibly be."
-- J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello
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magpie to the morning [08 Oct 2009|04:48pm]

bessiemaemucho
The magpie comes a-calling
Drops a marble from the sky
Tin roof sounds alarming
Wake up child
"Let this be a warning," says the magpie to the morning
"Don't let this fading summer pass you by"

-- Neko Case, Magpie to the Morning
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everything is illuminated [11 Sep 2009|09:45am]

bessiemaemucho
"... One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be a family."

What she does not clutch is that I already do things for her that I hate. I listen to her when she talks to me. I resist complaining about my pygmy allowance. And did I mention that I do not spleen her nearly so much as I desire to? But I do not do these things because we are a family. I do them because they are common decencies. That is an idiom that the hero taught me. I do them because I am not a big fucking asshole. That is another idiom that the hero taught me.

-- Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated
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pigs in heaven [17 Aug 2009|08:16am]

bessiemaemucho
"I don't want anyone here to die," she tells her at last.
Boma blinks. "It's a big tribe. Somebody's always dying."
Sugar looks at the people gathered in this single green place and understands the price of love.
--Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs in Heaven, p 187
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a prayer for owen meany [02 Jun 2009|04:24pm]

bessiemaemucho
"Canon Mackie says I worry about 'mere words' too much. Mere words?"
-- John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany, p 135
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robber bride [20 Apr 2009|10:47am]

bessiemaemucho
He didn't use to be West. Once--thirty? thirty-two years ago?--he was Stewart, until he told her how much he hated being called Stew; so she reversed him, and he's been West ever since. She cheated a little, though: strictly speaking, he should have been Wets. But that's what happens when you love someone, thinks Tony. You cheat a little.
-- Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride, p 16
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the poisonwood bible [13 Feb 2009|09:37am]

bessiemaemucho
"On the verbal portion I missed four questions, all having to do with choosing a word in a series that doesn't belong. I have always had trouble with that line of questioning. Given my own circumstances, I find that anything can turn out to belong nearly anywhere."
-- Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible, p 409


"What is that, Aunt Adah? And that?" their Pascal asks in his wide-eyed way, pointing through the aisles: a pink jar of cream for removing hair, a can of fragrance to spray on the carpet, stacks of lidded containers the same size as the jars we throw away each day.
"But, Aunt Adah, how can there be so many kinds of things a person doesn't really need?"
I can think of no honorable answer. Why must some of us deliberate between brands of toothpaste, while others deliberate between damp dirt and bone dust to quiet the fire of an empty stomach lingering? There is nothing about the United States I can really explain to this child of another world.
-- Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible, p 441
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grace (eventually) [29 Dec 2008|01:48pm]

bessiemaemucho
I announced that I needed to speak out on behalf of the many women present, including myself, who had had abortions, and the women whose daughters might need one in the not-too-distant future--people who must know that teenage girls will have abortions, whether in clinics or dirty back rooms. Women whose lives had been righted and redeemed by Roe v. Wade. My answer was met with some applause, but mostly a shocked silence.

Pall is a good word. It did not feel good to be the cause of that pall.Collapse )
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