Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Ask me a question.
“ Written in ink, in German, in a small, hopelessly sincere handwriting, were the words “Dear God, life is hell.” Nothing led up to or away from it. Alone on the page, and in the sickly stillness of the room, the words appeared to have the stature of an uncontestable, even classic indictment. X stared at the page for several minutes, trying, against heavy odds, not to be taken in. Then, with far more zeal than he had done anything in weeks, he picked up a pencil stub and wrote down under the inscription, in English, “Fathers and teachers, I ponder, ‘What is Hell?’ I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love. ”
J. D. Salinger, For Esme—With Love and Squalor
“ The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers,
Little we see in nature is ours… ”
William Wordsworth, The World is too Much With Us; Late And Soon
At this point Kublai Khan interrupted him or imagined interrupting him, or Marco Polo imagined himself interrupted, with a question such as: ‘You advance always with your head turned back?’ or ‘Is what you see always behind you?’ or rather, ‘Does your journey take place only in the past?’
All this so Marco Polo could explain or imagine explaining or be imagined explaining or succeed finally in explaining to himself that what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveler’s past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, Heaven-Haven
“ We all have to die a bit every now and then and usually it’s so gradual that we end up more alive than ever. Infinitely old and infinitely alive. ”
Roberto Bolano, The Skating Rink
“ If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. ”
Roald Dahl, The Twits
“ But all the witcheries of that unwaning weather did not merely lend new spells and potencies to the outward world. Inward they turned upon the soul, especially when the still mild hours of eve came on; then, memory shot her crystals as the clear ice forms of noiseless twilights. ”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick