Snippets.

"Like the rest of America, California is unformed, innovative, ahistorical, hedonistic, acquisitive, and energetic-only more so."

- Wallace Stegner, Saturday Review, 1967

Apr 14

"It was one of those instances one feels as if one’s skin has abruptly become thin as one layer of phyllo dough on a triangle of baklava, when one desperately doesn’t want the other person to go, but doesn’t say anything in order to feel isolation in its purest form, as a periodic table of element, one of the noble gases, Iso1."

- Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, p. 352

Jul 5

"I knew how complimentary it could feel when Hannah talked to you, when she singled you out - opened your meek cover, boldly creased the spine, stared inside at your pages, searching for the point at which she’d stopped reading, anxious to find out what happens next. (She always read with great concentration, so you thought you were her favorite paperback until she abruptly put you down and started to read another with the same intensity.)"

- Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, p. 322

Jul 5

"Leontyne Bennett skillfully dissected in The Commonwealth of Lost Vanities (1969) Virgil’s renowned quotation “Love conquers all.” “For centuries upon centuries,” he writes on p. 559, “we have been misinterpreting this famed trio of words. The uninformed masses breathlessly hold up this dwarfish phrase as a justification for snogging in public squares, abandoning wives, cuckolding husbands, for the escalating divorce rate, for swarms of bastard children begging for handouts in the Whitechapel and Aldgate tube stations - when in fact, there is nothing remotely encouraging or cheerful about this oft-quoted phrase. The Latin poet wrote ‘Amor vincit omnia’ or ‘Love conquers all.’ He did not write, ‘Love frees all or ‘liberates’ all, and therein lies the first degree of our flagrant misunderstanding. Conquer: to defeat, subjugate, massacre, cream, make mincemeat out of. Surely, this cannot be a positive thing. And then, he wrote ‘conquers all’ - not exclusively the unpleasant things, destitution, assassination, burglary, but all, including pleasure, peace, common sense, liberty, and self-determination. And thus we may appreciate that Virgil’s words are not encouragement, but rather a caveat, a cue to evade, shirk, elude the feeling at all costs, else we risk the massacre of the things we hold most dear, including our sense of self.”"

- Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, p. 293

Jul 5

"…and here she was, the seasoned artiste commanding the stage, about to begin her monologue - a terrifying monologue by the sound of things. Dad said it was imperative to avoid people’s fervent confidences and confessions. “Tell the person that you must leave the room,” he instructed, “that you ate something, that you’re ill, that your father has scarlet fever, that you feel the end of the world is imminent and you must rush to the grocery store to stock up on bottled water and gas masks. Or simply fake a seizure. Anything sweet, anything at all to rid yourself of that intimacy they plan to lay on you like a slab of cement.”"

- Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, p. 248

Jul 2

"I actually felt awed by the remote possibilities of the person you liked ever liking you back a corresponding amount. And this mathematical conundrum started its long division in my head at breakneck speed, so by the time I sat down in the front row of AP Calculus and Ms. Thermopolis at the dry-erase board was trying to wrestle to the ground a robust function from our homework, I was left with a disturbing number."

- Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, p. 200

Jul 2

"To describe this singular quality of hers (which I believe holds one of the brightest lanterns to her sometimes shadowy profile) is impossible, because what she did had nothing to do with words. It was just this ——- way about her. And the —— wasn’t premeditated, condescending, or forced. Obviously being able to simply ——, was a skill supremely underestimated in the Western world. As Dad was fond of pointing out, in America, apart from those who won the lottery, generally all Winners were in possession of a strident voice, which was successfully used to overpower the thrum of all the competing voices, thereby producing a country that was insanely loud, so loud, most of the time no actual meaning could be discerned - only “nationwide white noise.” And thus, when you met someone who listened, someone content to do nothing but ——, so overwhelming was the difference, you had the startling and quite lonely epiphany that everyone else, every person you’d encountered since the day you were born who’d supposedly listened, had not really been listening to you at all. They’d been subtly checking out their own reflection in the glass bureau a little to the west of your head, thinking what they had to do later that evening, or deciding that next, as soon as you shut up, they were going to tell that classic story about their bout of Bangladeshi beachside dysentery, thereby showcasing how worldly, how wild (not to mention how utterly enviable) a human being they were."

- Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, p. 98-99

Jul 2

"Is there anything more glorious than a professor? Forget about his molding the minds, the future of a nation - a dubious assertion; there’s little you can do when they tend to emerge from the womb predestined for Grand Theft Auto Vice City. No. What I mean, is, a professor is the only person on earth with the power to put a veritable frame around life - not the whole thing, God no - simply a fragment of it, a small wedge. He organizes the unorganizable. Nimbly partitions it into modern and postmodern, renaissance, baroque, primitivism, imperialism and so on. Splice that up with Research Papers, Vacation, Midterms. All that order - simply divine. The symmetry of a semester course. Consider the words themselves: the seminar, the tutorial, the advanced whatever workshop accessible only to seniors, to graduate fellows, to doctoral candidates, the practicum - what a marvelous word: practicum! You think me crazy. Consider a Kandinsky. Utterly muddled, put a frame around it, voila - looks rather quaint above the fireplace. And so it is with the curriculum. That celestial, sweet set of instructions, culminating in the scary wonder of the Final Exam. And what is the Final Exam? A test of ones’ deepest understanding of giant concepts. No wonder so many adults long to return to university, to all those deadlines - ahhh, that structure! Scaffolding to which we may cling! Even if it is arbitrary, without it, we’re lost, wholly incapable of separating the Romantic from the Victorian in our sad bewildering lives…"

- Marisha Pessl, Special Topics In Calamity Physics, p. 11-12

Jul 1

"The better emotions of our nature are felt and examined and understood more deeply during maturity, but they are born and rage in full intensity during childhood and adolescence. Thereafter they endure through the rest of life, serving as the wellsprings of creative work."

- Edward O. Wilson, Letters to a Young Scientist, pg. 101

Jun 29

"you seemed to have a special talent for chasing after the wrong person, for wanting what you couldn’t have, for giving your heart to girls who couldn’t or wouldn’t love you back. Occasional interest in your mind, flashes of interest in your body, but none whatsoever in your heart. Half-crazy girls, both of them ravishing and self-destructive and deeply exciting to you, but you understood almost nothing about them. You invented them. You used them as fictive embodiments of your own desires, ignoring their problems and personal histories, failing to grasp who they were outside of your own imagination, and yet the more they eluded you, the more passionately you longed for them."

- Paul Auster, Winter Journal, pg. 196

Jun 29