“…No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence - that which makes its truth, its meaning - its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream - alone…”—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (via liquidnight)
“Fiction shows us the past as well as the present moment in mortal light; it is an art served by the indelibility of our memory, and one empowered by a sharp and prophetic awareness of what is ephemeral. It is by the ephemeral that our feeling is so strongly aroused for what endures.”—Eudora Welty, from On Writing
I remember one evening, as we were jumping about naked, she and I, in the bathroom, she suddenly asked me which I liked best, my father or mother. Such a question seemed to me rather terrible, surely one ought not to ask it. However, being asked, one had to reply. And I found I had little doubt as to my answer. “Mother,” I said. She went on to explain why she, on the whole, preferred father. I don’t think, however, her preferences were quite as sure and simple as mine. She’d considered both critically, and had more or less analysed her feelings for them which I, at any rate consciously, had never attempted. This seemed to begin an age of much freer speech between us. If one could criticise one’s parents, what or whom one could not criticise? Dimly, some freedom of thought and speech seemed born, created by her question.
“For the time, her own body was the source of all the life in the world, which tried to burst forth here — there — and was repressed now by the imposition of ponderous stupidity, the weight of the entire world. Thus tormented, she would twist her hands together, for all things were wrong, all people stupid. She represented them as aimless masses of matter, floating hither and thither, without aim except to impede her. What were they doing, those other people in the world?”—Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out (via fuckyeahvirginiawoolf)
“What better occupation, really, than to spend the evening at the fireside with a book, with the wind beating on the windows and the lamp burning bright. Haven’t you ever happened to come across in a book some vague notion that you’ve had, some obscure idea that returns from afar and that seems to express completely your most subtle feelings?”—Gustave Flaubert (via whiskey river)
“If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world… Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.”—David Foster Wallace, interview with Dalkey Archive Press (via trenchantashell)
“For what can one know even of the people one lives with every day? she asked. Are we not all prisoners? She had read a wonderful play about a man who scratched at the wall of his cell, and she had felt that was true of life—one scratched on the wall.”—Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
My mother sits befuddled at her telephone,
uncertain who she means to call
or why, which pill was the one
she feared she took.
Her dial tone is a tiny car,
its driver asleep, leaning on the horn.
These broken nights, when rest comes
late or not at all, her voice
gets lower, rougher, her father’s voice
emerging in her own.
One more day, she tells herself,
though what she is approaching she could not say.
And in time it comes, the mercy
of the empty places. In time
her mind gives out like headlights
over the darkened water. Closer,
I tell my mother, and she gazes up,
bemused, and down again;
hold the receiver closer, closer,
the phone’s grid of little figures
looking back. So foreign to her now,
this belly full of numbers
sparked and glowing, this far alarm
pulsing in her hand.
“She sat perfectly still, listening and looking always at the same spot. It became stranger and stranger. She was overcome with awe that things should exist at all ; she forgot that she had any fingers to raise. The things that existed were so immense and so desolate. She continued to be conscious of these vast masses of substance for a long stretch of time, the clock still ticking in the midst of the universal silence.”—Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out (via fuckyeahvirginiawoolf)
“The late evening is the time of times. Then with that unearthly beauty before one it is not hard to realise how far one has to go. To write something that will be worthy of that rising moon, that pale light.”—Katherine Mansfield, from her Notebooks (via katherine-mansfield)
“I think of you often. Especially in the evenings, when I am on the balcony and it’s too dark to write or to do anything but wait for the stars. A time I love. One feels half disembodied, sitting like a shadow at the door of one’s being while the dark tide rises. Then comes the moon, marvellously serene, and small stars, very merry for some reason of their own. It is so easy to forget, in a worldly life, to attend to these miracles.”—Katherine Mansfield, from a letter to Elizabeth, Countess Russell, 16 October 1921 (via katherine-mansfield)
“I am no longer coded and deciphered. I am all emptiness and futility. I am an empty stranger, a carbon copy of my form. I can no longer find what I’m looking for outside of myself. It doesn’t exist out there. Maybe it’s only in here, inside my head.”—David Wojnarowicz
“A stone thrown into a silent lake
is—the sound of your name.
The light click of hooves at night
Your name at my temple
—shrill click of a cocked gun.”—Marina Tsvetaeva, from “Poems for Blok, 1,” trans. Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine (via proustitute)
“There was the terror; the overwhelming incapacity, one’s parents giving it into one’s hands, this life, to be lived to the end, to be walked with serenely; there was in the depths of her heart an awful fear.”—Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway