"Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth. Is life kind or cruel? Yes, Literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says Literature. But unlike other systems of knowing, Literature declines to eradicate one truth in favor of another; rather, it teaches us to abide with the fact that, in their own way, all things are true, and helps us, in the face of this terrifying knowledge, continually push ourselves in the direction of Open the Hell Up."

George Saunders

Faint Music

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

When everything broken is broken,   
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,   
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.
As in the story a friend told once about the time   
he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.
Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash.   
He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,   
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.
And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,”
that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.
No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch
he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,   
scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp
along the coast—and he realized that the reason for the word   
was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise
the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs,   
and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled up   
on the girder like a child—the sun was going down
and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket   
he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing   
carefully, and drove home to an empty house.

There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties
hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.   
A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick   
with rage and grief. He knew more or less
where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.   
They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears   
in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,”   
she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights,   
a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.   
“You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?”
“Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now,
“I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while—
Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall—
and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more,   
and go to sleep.
                        And he, he would play that scene
once only, once and a half, and tell himself
that he was going to carry it for a very long time
and that there was nothing he could do
but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened   
to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark
cracking and curling as the cold came up.

It’s not the story though, not the friend
leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized—,”
which is the part of stories one never quite believes.   
I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing.
                                 - Robert Hass

"I wanted to do something real American, about what it’s like to live in America around the millennium.” He continued, “There’s something particularly sad about it, something that doesn’t have very much to do with physical circumstances, or the economy, or any of the stuff that gets talked about in the news. It’s more like a stomach-level sadness. I see it in myself and my friends in different ways. It manifests itself as a kind of lostness. Whether it’s unique to our generation I really don’t know."

David Foster Wallace on his novel Infinite Jest

10 Novels We Dare You To Finish - Flavorwire

(Source: flavorpill)

"This is what it’s like to be alive without you here: some fall out of the world. I fall back into what I was. Days go by when I do nothing but underline the damp edge of myself.

What I want is what I’ve always wanted. What I want is to be changed."

Mary Szybist, from “To Gabriela at the Donkey Sanctuary” (via renegadetongue)

"The primary challenges of the theatre should not always be getting people to give a shit about it. The primary challenge should be to produce plays that reach out to people and change their lives. Theatre is not an event, like a hayride or a junior prom—it’s an artistic, emotional experience in which people who have privately worked out their stories share them with a group of people who are, without their knowledge, their friends, their peers, their equals, their partners on a remarkable ride."

Arthur Penn

It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores! Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over — the moment. 

When something is festering in your memory or your imagination, laws of silence don’t work, it’s just like shutting a door and locking it on a hose on fire in hope of forgetting that the house is burning. But not facing a fire doesn’t put it out. Silence about a thing just magnifies it. It grows and festers in silence, becomes malignant…

Rain Light

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning

XXIII

There many pages keep the impression
where a sharp nail has made a dent.
On these, with something like obsession,
the girl’s attentive eyes are bent.
Tatyana sees with trepidation
what kind of thought, what observation,
had drawn Eugene’s especial heed
and where he’d silently agreed.
Her eyes along the margin flitting
pursue his pencil. Everywhere
Onegin’s soul encountered there
declares itself in ways unwitting —
terse words or crosses in the book,
or else a query’s wondering hook.

XXIV

And so, at last, feature by feature,
Tanya begins to understand
more thoroughly, thank God, the creature
for whom her passion has been planned
by fate’s decree: this freakish stranger,
who walks with sorrow, and with danger,
whether from heaven or from hell,
this angel, this proud devil, tell,
what is he? Just an apparition,
a shadow, null and meaningless,
a Muscovite in Harold’s dress,
a modish second-hand edition,
a glossary of smart argot…
a parodistic raree-show?

"Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course, but exactly what was it I wanted to remember? How much of it actually happened? Did any of it? Why do I keep a notebook at all? It is easy to deceive oneself on all those scores. The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss."

On Keeping a Journal - Joan Didion