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Paul Auster   ::   Hand To Mouth

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Reach a certain moment in your life, and you discover that your days are spent as much with the dead as they are with the living.
... we live under the eyes of death and no matter what we do, there is no escape.

Paul Auster   ::   In the Country of Last Things

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Once a thing is gone, that is the end of it.
... you can survive only if nothing is necessary to you.
The closer you come to the end, the more there is to say. The end is only imaginery, a destination you invent to keep yourself going, but a point comes when you realize you will never get there. You might have to stop, but that is only because you have run out of time. You stop, but that does not mean you have come to the end.

Paul Auster   ::   Leviathan

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... she confessed to me that she was a terrible cook, which was why she had delegated the responsibility of preparing the dinner to her daughters. But, she added (and here she drew close to me and whispered in my ear), those three girls were none too swift in the kitchen either. After all, she said, she had taught them everything they knew, and if the teacher was an absentminded clod, what could you expect of the disciples?
He worked when the spirit moved him (most often late at night), and the rest of the time he roamed free, prowling the streets of the city like some nineteenth-century flâneur, following his nose wherever it happened to take him. He walked, he went to museums and art galleries, he saw movies in the middle of the day, he read books on park benches. He wasn't beholden to the clock in the way other people are, and as a consequence he never felt as if he were wasting his time. That doesn't mean he wasn't productive, but the wall between work and idleness had crumbled to such a degree for him that he scarcely noticed it was there. This helped him as a writer, I think, since his best ideas always seemed to come to him when he was away from his desk. In that sense, then, everything fell into the category of work for him. Eating was work, watching basketball games was work, sitting with a friend in a bar at midnight was work. In spite of appearances, there was hardly a moment when he wasn't on the job.
A good marriage can withstand any amount of external pressure, a bad marriage cracks apart.
'I'm taking this out of the mouth of William Tecumseh Sherman,' he said. 'I hope the general doesn't mind, but he got there before I did and I can't think of a better way to express it.' Then, turning in my direction, Sachs lifted his glass and said: 'Grant stood by me when I was crazy. I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other always.'

Paul Auster   ::   Man in the Dark

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... I wish to God she would learn that the rotten acts human beings commit against one another are not just aberrations - they're an essential part of who we are.
... I've begun to lapse into the old, dirty pleasures, cadging butts off her while we plunge through the entire corpus of world cinema, side by side on the sofa, blowing smoke in tandem, two locomotives chugging away from the loathsome, intolerable world, but without regret, I might add, without a second thought or single pang of remorse.
... only the good doubt their own goodness, which is what makes them good in the first place. The bad know they are good, but the good know nothing. They spend their lives forgiving others, but they can't forgive themselves.

Paul Auster   ::   Moon Palace

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After such a promising start, it would not have been difficult for me to go on acting sensibly. All kinds of options were available to people in my situation - scholarships, loans, work-study programs - but once I began to think about them, I found myself stricken with disgust. It was a sudden, involuntary response, a jolting attack of nausea. I wanted no part of those things, I realized, and therefore I rejected them all - sabotaged my only hope of surviving the crisis. From that point on, in fact, I did nothing to help myself, refused even to lift a finger. God knows why I behaved liked that. I invented countless reasons at the time, but in the end it probably boiled down to despair. I was in despair, and in the face of so much upheaval, I felt that drastic action of some sort was necessary. I wanted to spit on the world, to do the most outlandish thing possible. With all the fervor and idealism of a young man who had thought too much and read too many books, I decided that the thing I should do was nothing: my action would consist of a militant refusal to take any action at all. This was nihilism raised to the level of an aesthetic proposition. I would turn my life into a work of art, sacrificing myself to such exquisite paradoxes that every breath I took would teach me how to savor my own doom. The signs pointed to a total eclipse, and grope as I did for another reading, the image of that darkness gradually lured me in, seduced me with the simplicity of its design. I would do nothing to thwart the inevitable, but neither would I rush out to meet it. If life could continue for the time being as it always had, so much the better. I would be patient, I would hold fast. It was simply that I knew what was in store for me, and whether it happened today, or whether it happened tomorrow, it would nevertheless happen. Total eclipse. The beast had been slain, its entrails had been decoded. The moon would block the sun, and at that point I would vanish. I would be dead broke, a flotsam of flesh and bone without a farthing to my name.
The essential thing was to plot my next move. But that was precisely what gave me the most trouble, the thing I could no longer do. I had lost the ability to think ahead, and no matter how hard I tried to imagine the future, I could not see it, I could not see anything at all. The only future that had ever belonged to me was the present I was living in now, and the struggle to remain in that present had gradually overwhelmed the rest. I had no ideas anymore. The moments unfurled one after the other, and at each moment the future stood before me as a blank, a white page of uncertainty. If life was a story, as Uncle Victor had often told me, and each man was the author of his own story, then I was making it up as I went along. I was working without a plot, writing each sentence as it came to me and refusing to think about the next. All well and good, perhaps, but the question was no longer whether I could write the story off the top of my head. I had already done that. The question was what I was supposed to do when the pen ran out of ink.
As Uncle Victor had once told me long ago, a conversation is like having a catch with someone. A good partner tosses the ball directly into your glove, making it almost impossible for you to miss it; when he is on the receiving end, he catches everything sent his way, even the most errant and incompetent throws. That's what Kitty did. She kept lobbing the ball straight into the pocket of my glove, and when I threw the ball back to her, she hauled in everything that was even remotely in her area: jumping up to spear balls that soared above her head, diving nimbly to her left or right, charging in to make tumbling, shoestring catches. More than that, her skill was such that she always made me feel that I had made those bad throws on purpose, as if my only object had been to make the game more amusing. She made me seem better than I was, and that strengthened my confidence, which in turn helped me to make my throws less difficult for her to handle. In other words, I started talking to her rather than to myself, and the pleasure of it was greater than anything I had experienced in a long time.
"We're all victims of something, Mr. Effing. If only of the fact that we're alive."
I realized that I had never acquired the habit of looking closely at things, and now that I was being asked to do it, the results were dreadfully inadequate. Until then, I had always had a penchant for generalizing, for seeing the similarities between things rather than their differences.

Paul Auster   ::   Oracle Night

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When I agreed to have dinner the other night, I was expecting to have a dull time of it, to slog my way through a couple of hours of awkward conversation and then dash for the door and head home. But I was wrong. I'm happy to report that I was wrong. It always stimulates me to discover new examples of my own prejudice and stupidity, to realize that I don't know half as much as I think I do.
I was her husband, not a lieutenant in the moral police, and I meant to stand by her no matter what.
If given the choice of going forward or backward, I for one wouldn't have hesitated. I would much rather have found myself among the no-longer-living than the unborn.
"You're lucky you don't have any children, Sid. They're nice when they're small, but after that they break your heart and make you miserable. Five feet, that's the maximum. They shouldn't be allowed to grow any taller than that."

Paul Auster   ::   Sunset Park

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... a head splitting open from the sheer force of the darkness within it ...
... he tells himself that a marriage can't stand or fall on a simple matter of leaving London a few days early to attend a funeral. And if it does stand or fall on that matter, perhaps it was destined to fall in the first place.
Too many years of anticipation, perhaps, too many years of imagining how the reunion would unfold, and therefore a feeling of anticlimax when it finally happened, for the imagination is a powerful weapon, and the imagined reunions that played out in your head so many times over the years were bound to be richer, fuller, and more emotionally satisfying than the real thing.
... but one mustn't dream too much, thoughts of that kind can plant poisonous seeds in one's head, and it is best to refrain from writing another person's future, especially if that person is your son.

Paul Auster   ::   The Book of Illusions

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What matters is not how well you can avoid trouble, but how you cope with trouble when it comes.

Paul Auster   ::   The Brooklyn Follies

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"Gliding through Times Square at three-thirty in the morning, and all the traffic is gone, and suddenly you're alone in the center of the world, with neon raining down on you from every corner of the sky. Or pushing the speedometer up past seventy on the Belt Parkway just before dawn and smelling the ocean as it pours in on you through the open window. Or traveling across the Brooklyn Bridge at the very moment a full moon rises into the arch, and that's all you can see, the bright yellow roundness of the moon, so big that it frightens you, and you forget that you live down here on earth and imagine you're flying, that the cab has wings and you're actually flying through space. No book can duplicate those things."
"Con men and tricksters run the world. Rascals rule. And do you know why?"
"Tell me, Master. I'm all ears."
"Because they're hungrier than we are. Because they know what they want. Because they believe in life more than we do."
"By the time a man gets to our age, Nathan, he's little more than a series of exes. N'est-ce pas? In my own case, I could probably reel off a dozen or more. Ex-husband. Ex-art dealer. Ex-navy man. Ex-window dresser. Ex-perfume salesman. Ex-millionaire. Ex-Buffalonian. Ex-Chicagoan. Ex-convict."
As Oscar Wilde once put it, after twenty-five everyone is the same age...
... at least I knew my dream girl's name, and whenever I repaired to the Cosmic Diner and sat down at my regular table, I could actually talk to her. That was enough for an old has-been like myself. I had already danced my dance and had my fun, and what happened to me was of little importance. If the opportunity came along to add another notch to my belt, I wouldn't have said no, but it was hardly a matter of life and death.
"I miss everyone I've lost. I get so sad sometimes, I can't believe I don't just drop dead from the weight that's crushing down on me."
"... when a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exists."
Joyce and I hadn't reached the December of our lives, but there was no question that May was well behind us. What we were together was an afternoon in mid- to late October, one of those bright fall days with a vivid blue sky above, a gusty nip in the air, and a million leaves still clinging to the branches - most of them brown, but with enough golds and reds and yellows left to make you want to stay outdoors as long as you can.
"Nancy's my daughter..."
"And Rory's my niece. So what? They don't belong to us. We just have them on loan."
Most lives vanish. A person dies, and little by little all traces of that life disappear. An inventor survives in his inventions, an architect survives in his buildings, but most people leave behind no monuments or lasting achievements: a shelf of photograph albums, a fifth-grade report card, a bowling trophy, an ashtray filched from a Florida hotel room on the final morning of some dimly remembered vacation. A few objects, a few documents, and a smattering of impressions made on other people. Those people invariably tell stories about the dead person, but more often than not dates are scrambled, facts are left out, and the truth becomes increasingly distorted, and when those people die in their turn, most of the stories vanish with them.

Paul Auster   ::   The Invention of Solitude

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... he learned never to trust anyone. Not even himself. Someone would always come along to prove that what he thought was wrong, that it did not count for anything. He learned never to want anything too much.
The bond was still there, but as time went on A. began to wonder if it was not, in fact, a memory of that other bond, formed six years earlier, which sustained this bond in the present. For it turns out that after A. moved back to New York (July 1974), he no longer wrote any letters to S. It was not that he did not continue to think of him. But it was the memory of him, more than any need to carry on contact with S. into the future, that seemed to concern A. now. In this way he began to feel, as if palpably in his own skin, the passage of time. It sufficed him to remember. And this, in itself, was a startling discovery.
Until there was death, there was always the possibility there would not be death, and this chance, slight though it was, had to be credited.
... the sudden knowledge that came over him that even alone, in the deepest solitude of his room, he was not alone, or, more precisely, that the moment he began to try to speak of that solitude, he had become more than just himself. Memory, therefore, not simply as the resurrection of one's private past, but an immersion in the past of others, which is to say: history - which one both participates in and is a witness to, is a part of and apart from. Everything, therefore, is present in his mind at once, as if each element were reflecting the light of all the others, and at the same time emitting its own unique and unquenchable radiance. If there is any reason for him to be in this room now, it is because there is something inside him hungering to see it all at once, to savor the chaos of it in all its raw and urgent simultaneity. And yet, the telling of it is necessarily slow, a delicate business of trying to remember what has already been remembered. The pen will never be able to move fast enough to write down every word discovered in the space of memory. Some things have been lost forever, other things will perhaps be remembered again, and still other things have been lost and found and lost again. There is no way to be sure of any of this.

Paul Auster   ::   The Music of Chance

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There was a strange inevitability to it, he felt, as if their fluke encounter called for an extravagant response, a spirit of anarchy and celebration. They were not creating an event so much as trying to keep up with one ... his desire for her was so powerful that it was already verging on a feeling of loss - for he knew that he was bound to disappoint her in the end, that sooner of later a moment would come when he would want to be back in the car.
"I know you don't love me, but that doesn't mean I'm the wrong girl for you."
"At least you're still breathing."

"Yeah. Maybe I got lucky, after all. Now I get a chance to see how many more dumb things can happen to me."

Paul Auster   ::   The New York Trilogy

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In the end, each life is no more than the sum of contingent facts, a chronicle of chance intersections, of flukes, of random events that divulge nothing but their own lack of purpose.

Paul Auster   ::   The Red Notebook

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I consider myself a realist. Chance is a part of reality : we are continually shaped by the forces of coincidence, the unexpected occurs with almost numbing regularity in all our lives.
.. we can only see ourselves because someone else has seen us first.
It isn't possible for a person to isolate himself from other people.

Paul Auster   ::   Winter Journal

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Whenever you come to a fork in the road, your body breaks down, for your body has always known what your mind doesn't know, and however it chooses to break down, whether with mononucleosis or gastritis or panic attacks, your body has always borne the brunt of your fears and inner battles, taking the blows your mind cannot or will not stand up to.
... afraid to die, which in the end is probably no different from saying: afraid to live.
... heroes must remain tough until the bitter end, and even when time is running out, they can't allow themselves to get bogged down in useless sentiment.
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books i've read..
2013 [12 read]
2012 [36 read]
2011 [5 read]
2010 [6 read]
2009 [5 read]
2008 [21 read]
2007 [31 read]
2006 [37 read]
2005 [37 read]
2004 [32 read]
2003 [18 read]
2002 [52 read]
2001 [43 read]
2000 [7 read]
1999 [25 read]
1998 [3 read]
unknown year [65 read]

read over the years