2015 In Books And Words

2 Jan

The tradition continues.  Here are some of my favorite words I read/listened to/interacted with last year:


Out of my thoughts!  You are part of my existence, part of myself.  You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then.  You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since–on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the lights, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets.  You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with.  The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be.  Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil.  But in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may.  O God bless you, God forgive you!

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations



Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World



It all comes back.  Perhaps it is difficult to see the value in having one’s self back in that kind of mood, but I do see it; I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.  Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.  We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.  We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.  I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.

Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem


You’re not destined or chosen, I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it’s not true. You’re in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that’s enough.

Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus


Cold men destroy women. They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greenness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorably arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes–you hear all you have sacrificed, all you have given, landing with a loud clunk. They lock the greenhouse and you are as tiny as a figure in an architect’s drawing, a faceless splotch, a blur of stick limbs abandoned in some voluminous desert of stone.

Lorrie Moore, Self Help



One can get obsessions about people who give and then take away. Then what the lover doesn’t have he seeks for obsessively until the seeking becomes a replacement for the loved object and us more satisfying still.

Merle Shain, Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others

The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be ton forget being right or wrong aboutb people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that–well, lucky you.

Philip Roth, American Pastoral


Nothing is promised, no matter what spirituality you believe in. I guess that’s how faith works. You believe despite every reason you shouldn’t. You believe even when it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. You believe because you want to. You make that choice. I am finally starting to understand faith after so many years of having none.

Roxane Gay



I have always rejected timelessness. In fashion, the idea of purchasing something I can wear forever feels odd. Not because I don’t think I should want to wear something forever, but because the character, quirk, charm and reminiscence of owning a print that is so indicative of one season, one moment in your life, is just like owning a tangible memory. Why pass that up?

Leandra Medine, Man Repeller

What are you willing to fight for, even if the odds are stacked against you, even if you’ll most likely lose? In answering that, you’ll find what’s really important to you. You’ll define not just your dreams, but the essence of who you are.

Wendy Davis, Lenny Letter


Few books make the reader as happy as “Emma,” because few depict so well the joy of being understood, the way Mr. Knightley understands Emma Woodhouse. For all of Austen’s heroines, it is this sense of being truly seen, of marrying a man who loves them as they really are, that is the great reward. The institution of marriage, like the novel itself, has changed greatly since Austen’s time; but as long as human beings long for this kind of mutual recognition and understanding, “Emma” will live.

Adam Kirsch, “What Do Jane Austen’s Novels Have To Tell Us About Love and Life Today?” The New York Times

Living with the absence of someone we love is like living in front of a mountain from which a person–a speck in the distance, on some distant ridge–is perpetually waving.

In youth we wave back to the figure on the cliff.

Simon Van Booy, The Secret Lives of People in Love


She’d say, “I’ll get you, Jack, in another lifetime…and you’ll be very happy”

“What?” I’d yell to joke, “me running up the eternal halls of Karma tryina get away from you hey?”

“It’ll take you eternities to get rid of me,” she adds sadly,

which makes me jealous,

I want her to say I’ll never get rid of her.

I wanta be chased for eternity till I catch her.

Jack Kerouac, Big Sur



You are midwife to yourself and you’ll give birth to yourself over and over in dark rooms, alone.

Caitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl

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, Slouching Towards Bethlehem



You cannot murder interns, but other than that they are the same as mules. You can rob then, abuse them, debase them. There are no limits. When a man agrees to be an intern, he is saying, “I am no longer human being with rights, I am like dog or money. Use me for labor until my body breaks and then consume all of my meats.”

Simon Rich, Spoiled Brats


Isn’t it sad, growing up? You start off thinking you can kill all the baddies and save the world. Then you get a little bit older, and you realize that some of the world’s badness is inside you, that maybe you’re a part of it. And then you get a little bit older still, and a bit more comfortable, and you start wondering whether that badness you’ve seen in yourself is really all that bad at all. You start talking about ten percent.

Chris Cleave, Little Bee


That’s the thing about the internet: it doesn’t simply help us find the best thing out there; it has helped to produce the idea that there is a best thing, and if we search hard enough, we can find it.

Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance

Because real love, once blossomed, never disappears. It may get lost with a piece of paper, or transform into art, books or children, or trigger another couple’s union while failing to cement your own. But it’s always there, lying in wait for a ray of sun, pushing through thawing soil, insisting upon its rightful existence in our hearts and on earth.

Deborah Copaken, The New York Times Modern Love “When Cupid is a Prying Journalist” 


A creative life is an amplified life.  It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.  Living in this manner–continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you–is a fine art, in and of itself.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic


We choose to love people who cannot love us back to teach ourselves that we are, in fact, worthy of being loved back. We choose these people because they represent the parts of us that we don’t love – why else would we waste our time on people who don’t return our affection? We choose to love these people because they are the only ones with whom we share an intimate connection deep enough that it can awaken and illuminate the darkest corners of ourselves, and they are the only ones who can leave and let us do what we are here to do: resolve and actualize and heal them on our own.

Brianna West, Soul Anatomy











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2 Responses to “2015 In Books And Words”

  1. Hilary January 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    yes. yes. yes. (Specifically to Dickens, Huxley, and the NYT article on Emma)

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