Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Love me some quotations!

From Zadie Smith's On Beauty, because:

Because her language enhances an everyday experience:
p. 211 - And so it happened again, the daily miracle whereby interiority opens out and brings to bloom the million-petalled flower of being here, in the world, with other people. Neither as hard as she had thought it might be nor as easy as it appeared.

Because her pacing and word choice rock:
p. 341 - In January, at the first formal of the year, the tremendous will-power of Wellington's female students is revealed. Unfortunately for the young women, this demonstration of pure will is accredited to 'femininity' - that most passive of virtues - and, as a result, does not contribute to their Grade Point Average. It is unfair. Why are there no awards for the girl who starves herself through the Christmas period - refusing all sweetmeets, roasts, and liquers offered to her - so that she might appear in the January formal in a backless dress with toeless shoes, although the temperature is near to freezing and the snow is heavy upon the ground? Howard, who wore a floor-length overcoat, gloves, leather shoes and a thick college scarf, stood by Emerson's front gate and watched with real awe the mist of white flakes falling upon bare shoulder and hands, the clothed men holding their near-naked, decorative partners as together they stepped around puddles and snowdrifts like ballroom dancers on an assault course.

Because she knows when to play with the reader:
p. 437 - Murdoch [a dachsund], fresh from a short-legged scramble through the long grass, came scuffling into the kitchen. He was overwhelmed by attention from all side: Zora ran over to pick him up; Levi played with his ears; Howard offered him a bowl of food. Kiki had wanted desperate to take him, but her apartment was not dog-friendly. And now the remaining Belseys being nice to Murdoch was, in some way, for Kiki; there was the unspoken, irrational hope that, although not with them in this room, she could somehow sense the care they were lavishing upon her beloved little dog, and that these good vibes would . . . it was ridiculous. It was a way of missing her.

Because she characterizes so fluidly:
p. 197-8 - This was why Kiki had dreaded having girls: she knew she wouldn't be able to protect them from self-disgust. To that end she had tried banning television in the early years, and never had a lipstick or a woman's magazine crossed the threshold of the Belsey home to Kiki's knowledge, but these and other precautionary measures had made no difference. It was in the air, so it seemed to Kiki, this hatred of women and their bodies - it seeped in with every draught in the house; people brought it home on their shoes, they breathed it in off the newspapers. There was no way to control it.

Because I'll always think of this image when I hear this music:
p. 69 - Mozart's Requiem begins with you walking towards a huge pit. The pit is on the other side of a precipice, which you cannot see over until you are right at its edge. Your death is awaiting you in that pit. You don't know what it looks like or sounds like or smells like. You don't know whether it will be good or bad. You just walk towards it. Your will is a clarinet and your footsteps are attended by all the violins. The closer you get to the pit, the more you begin to have the sense that what awaits you there will be terrifying. Yet you experience this terror as a kind of blessing, a gift. Your long walk would have had no meaning were it not for this pit at the end of it. You peer over the precipice: a burst of ethereal noise crashes over you. In the pit is a great choir, like the one you joined for two months in Wellington in which you were the only black woman. This choir is the heavenly host and simultaneously the devil's army. It is also every person who has changed you during your time on this earth: your many lovers; your family; your enemies, the nameless, faceless woman who slept with your husband; the man you thought you were going to marry; the man you did. The job of this choir is judgement. The men sing first, and their judgement is very severe. And when the women join in there is no respite, the debate only grows louder and sterner. For it is a debate - you realize that now. The judgement is not yet decided.

There's more to that section, but it's so long and delightful that I hate to bore you and spoil the surprise. If these piqued your interest, read the book.

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