Paul Harding

And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.

I breathed the book before I saw it; tasted the book before I read it.

When his grandchildren had been little, they had asked if they could hide inside the clock. Now he wanted to gather them and open himself up and hide them among his ribs and faintly ticking heart.

What an awful thing then, being there in our house together with our daughter gone, trying to be equal to so many sudden orders of sorrow, any one of which alone would have wrenched us from our fragile orbits around each other.

What of miniature boats constructed of birch bark and fallen leaves, launched onto cold water clear as air? How many fleets were pushed out toward the middles of ponds or sent down autumn brooks, holding treasures of acorns, or black feathers, or a puzzled mantis? Let those grassy crafts be listed alongside the iron hulls that cleave the sea, for they are all improvisations built from the daydreams of men, and all will perish, whether from the ocean siege or October breeze.


Chang-Rae Lee

It is 'where we are' that should make all the difference, whether we believe we belong there or not.

For sometimes you can't help but crave some ruin in what you love.

For if there is ever a moment when we are most vulnerable, it’s when we’re closest to the idea of the attained desire, and thus farthest from ourselves, which is when we’ll tread through any flame.

You can be affected by a person because of something particular they said or did but sometimes how a person was, a manner of being, that gets most deeply absorbed, and prompts you to revisit certain parts of your life with an enhanced perspective, flowing forward right up to now.

I'm a B+ student of life. 

And while it's easy to say this is a situation to be avoided, isn't this what we also fear and crave simultaneously, that some internal force which defies understanding might remake us into the people we dream we are?”

A tale, like the universe, they tell us, expands ceaselessly each time you examine it, until there is finally no telling exactly where it begins, where it ends, or where it places you now.”

But maybe it’s the laboring that gives you shape. Might the most fulfilling times be those spent solo at your tasks, literally immersed or not, when you are able to uncover the smallest surprises and unlikely details of some process or operation that in turn exposes your proclivities and prejudices both? 



Jonathan Dee

On the way home I was mugged and hit my head and got amnesia. I don't remember anything that happened before yesterday. I found your address in my wallet. I couldn't remember my name. I still can't. Let's go out and get new ones. My treat.

The rain made for an odd effect forty floors up, because you didn't get to see it hit anything on the way down, it was just a kind of static in the gray air.

I mean she's not exactly a complex figure. You can look at her and pretty much imagine what that whole relationship was like. She's like a dog. One bit of kindness and she's so grateful she forgets about what happened a minute ago.

She wanted to find his limit, because knowing that limit would drive a wedge between them; but in his mind, the question was not how far he would go but how far he would follow her, and she couldn't find the limit to that.

Well, if you got Cynthia drunk enough, Cynthia thought, she would cop to wanting to do some good in the world, or at least to feel like her presence in it was value-added. How, though? Without some framework, some resources, even your secret aspirations just curdled into sentimental bullshit.


Karen Russell

The beginning of the end can feel a lot like the middle when you are living in it.

My older sister has entire kingdoms inside of her, and some of them are only accessible at certain seasons, in certain kinds of weather.

Hopes were wallflowers. Hopes hugged the perimeter of a dance floor in your brain, tugging at their party lace, all perfume and hems and doomed expectation. They fanned their dance cards, these guests that pressed against the walls of your heart.

Heaven, Kiwi thought, would be the reading room of a great library. But it would be private. Cozy. You wouldn’t have to worry about some squeaky-shoed librarian turning the lights off on you or gauging your literacy by reading the names on your book spines, and there wouldn’t be a single other patron. The whole place would hum with a library’s peace, filtering softly over you like white bars of light … 

It is a special kind of homelessness to be evicted from your dreams.

Somehow I wasn't adding up right anymore. My parts weren't summing into myself. 


Nathan Englander

I'd much prefer my books to shoes...In the summer I sometimes take walks without shoes but never without a novel.

How terribly unfair that his whole self aches because of the shape of a shoulder, the soft line of a hip.

Harder than waking from a nightmare was trying to wake herself into one

The Jewish day begins in the calm of evening, when it won't shock the system with its arrival.

They went off to the Holy Land and went from Orthodox to ultra-Orthodox, which to me sounds like a repackaged detergent–ORTHODOX ULTRA®, now with more deep-healing power.

When my mother told my father what had happened, he didn't want to believe it. "Nobody ever wants to believe what happens to the Jews," she said, "not even us."

It is hard to know what a person would and wouldn't do in any specific instance. And you, spoiled child, apply the rules of civilization to a boy who had only seen its opposite. Maybe the fault for those deaths lies in a system designed for the killing of Tendlers that failed to do its job. An error, a slip that allowed a Tendler, no longer fit, back loose in the world.


Adam Johnson

But people do things to survive, and then after they survive, they can't live with what they've done.

Where we are from... [s]tories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he'd be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.

"Today, tomorrow," she said. "A day is nothing. A day is just a match you strike after the ten thousand matches before it have gone out.

A name isn't a person,' Ga said. 'Don't ever remember someone by their name. To keep someone alive, you put them inside you, you put their face on your heart. Then, no matter where you are, they're always with you because they're a part of you.

Use your imagination only on the future, never on the present or the past.

Orphans are the only ones who get to choose their fathers, and they love them twice as much.

In communism, you'd threaten a dog into compliance, while in capitalism, obedience is obtained through bribes.

In my experience, ghosts are made up only of the living, people you know are out there but are forever out of range.

The darkness inside your head is something your imagination fills with stories that have nothing to do with the real darkness around you.


Bob Shacochis

I should like to elbow aside the established pieties and raise my martini glass in salute to the mortal arts of pleasure.

Unhealthy to the point of diseased, he’d say—he had caught something from her, some decay transmitted from soul to soul, but then he recollected contemptuously that by her own admittance she lacked a soul. At the intersection ahead they could see.

I want you so much, he said with such heart-tugging sincerity that to be fair, a translation from Turkish to English would have to flip a coin between "want" and "love.”

It almost felt like too much, just by the sad weight of its being so little.

Whatever your resources, the world was yours to the exact degree to which you summoned the fortitude and faith to step away from convention and orthodoxy and invent your own life. Tay

Yeah, what’s new, a typical case of brass myopia, nothing personal, never a reason for an officer to pay attention to an enlisted joe unless he wants his ass licked or is experiencing some Zulu impulse to ram a spear through your chest.


Laila Lalami

A name is precious; it carries inside it a language, a history, a set of traditions, a particular way of looking at the world. Losing it meant losing my ties to all those things too.

He needed time to adjust to real life, where heroes and villains could not be told apart by their looks or their accents, where there were no last minute reversals of fortune.

His anger took many shapes: sometimes soft and familiar, like a round stone he had caressed for so long that is was perfectly smooth and polished; sometimes it was thin and sharp like a blade that could slice through anything; sometimes it had the form of a star, radiating his hatred in all directions, leaving him numb and empty inside.

No lies are more seductive than the ones we use to console ourselves.

To overcome my fear, I shackled myself with hope, its links heavier than any metal known to man.

The universe had an odd sense of fairness; it took away things one did not want to give up, and then gave things one did not ask for

I was preoccupied only with the price of things and neglected to consider their value.


Richard Ford

Some people want to be bank presidents. Other people want to rob banks.

What's friendship's realest measure?
I'll tell you. The amount of precious time you'll squander on someone else's calamities and fuck-ups.

People surprise you, Frank, with just how fuckin stupid they are.

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again.

What was our life like? I almost don't remember now. Though I remember it, the space of time it occupied. And I remember it fondly.

Find what causes a commotion in your heart. Find a way to write about that.

Then, what's the matter?' I wonder, in fact, how many times I have said that or something equal to it to a woman passing palely through my life. What're you thinking? What's made you so quiet? You seem suddenly different. What's the matter? Love me is what this means, of course. Or at least, second best: surrender. Or at the very least, take some time regaling me with why you won't, and maybe by the end you will.


William Finnegan

The particulars of new places grabbed me and held me, the sweep of new coasts, cold, lovely, dawns. The world was incomprehensibly large, and there was still so much to see. Yes, I got sick sometimes of being an expatriate, always ignorant, on the outside of things, but I didn't feel ready for domestic life, for seeing the same people, the same places, thinking more or less the same thoughts, each day. I liked surrendering to the onrush, the uncertainty, the serendipity of the road.

I felt the weight of unmapped worlds, unborn language.

Being friends as in writing letters was so much easier than being friends as in living together.

By thirteen, I'd mostly stopped believing in God, but that was a new development and it left a hole in my world, a feeling that I'd been abandoned. The ocean was like an uncaring god, endlessly dangerous, power beyond measure.

I continued to doubt. But I was not afraid. I just didn’t want this to end.