Book Passage of the Week (1/30/2016) – from Atonement

This week’s passage is from Atonement by Ian McEwan. I read Fight Club before watching the movie, read No Country for Old Men before watching the movie, but Atonement one of the few books whose movie version I watched first.

It helps to see the movie so you know what’s coming. Because this book drags, particularly at the beginning. Had I not known what was going to happen, I would’ve put it down.

I love the ending passage, but I ultimately decided not to put it here. I went with a passage instead that helps explain why Briony stuck to a story that ruined two lives:

Children hated generously, capriciously. It hardly mattered. But to be the object of adult hatred was an initiation into a solemn new world. It was promotion.

Or perhaps not, when you see how many people grow older but not up.

Sea Age (from a work-in-progress)

On the way home, William thought about aging.

William had seen the effects of the Navy. You had a shore age and a sea age, and your age at sea could affect your shore age. For example, a former AG, Tindale, had joined the Navy at nineteen. Four years later, he left at twenty-three, only he looked closer to forty-three. Life as a ship’s company AG — duty days, maintenance, cranking in the mess decks twice — had made him skip a few grades in the primary school of life. Now he was in college, older, wiser, haggard . . . and not without a huge drinking problem, undisputed master of the beer funnel.

Your shore age is twenty-nine. Which made his sea age . . . he thought about it. One did not simply add a number to get one’s sea age.

William parked in his driveway and looked in the rearview mirror. Adding a number didn’t cut it. You had to look in the mirror too. The changes to your face helped determine the number; they didn’t lie.

“I’d say about fifty,” he said to the face in the mirror.

The lines on that face agreed.


Other samples from Keepers of Time:

Bloody Marys

Book Passage of the Week (1/23/2016)

Missed last week. Working three mids shifts in a row, I had no time or energy for last week. In that regard, the Navy has finally succeeded in its purpose: it took over my life, if only for a few days.

Here’s another quote from Happy Hour is for Amateurs. I’ll leave it alone. It speaks for itself:

 A friend of mine once explained the average life of toil by quoting his father, a psychiatrist. “People hate their jobs. We call it depression and give them drugs.” “Do anything solely for money and you’ll never be rich,” my father used to tell me when I was young. … Now the lesson was finally sticking. A little late, a little costly, but I was still lucky. For a lot of people, it never registers at all. They piss away the only irreplaceable resource they’ll ever have.

Last night a young E-3 said he regretted not taking SGOT-Norfolk orders. He finds the watchfloor too tedious…as if tedium goes away when you’re out to sea for months at a time. Perhaps he’d like to work mids on the ship, and have to wake up in the middle of the day for twelve GQ drills on a twenty-five day underway. I wanted to laugh, but when you’re awake long enough, you forget what laughter is.

Humor is secured. Bitching, on the other hand…

Missing Hong Kong Booksellers + Book Passage of the Week (1/9/2016) – from The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

HK booksellers have gone missing, if you haven’t heard the news. One of them was a British citizen, so the CCP is now kidnapping citizens of other countries for publishing books they don’t want you to read.

And don’t doubt for a second they’re behind it. You can’t put anything past the mainland regime. When you operate the strictest internet censorship in the world and require companies to turn over customer data as a condition to do business in their country…yeah, it’s not a stretch at all.

The appropriate response would be to disseminate these books as widely as possible. Far as I know, the book is about Xi Jiping’s alleged mistress. If I had more power, I’d do everything I could to not only publish it but make it as widely read as possible: every language, every country. Fuck your hurt feelings.

As it stands, I’m here, blogging about it. If you want to help, spread the word. Sign the petition. Don’t let them get away with this shit. You think this just stays in Hong Kong? Wake up. It sets a horrible precedent all over the globe.

This passage is from The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. He’s the guy who helped get Confederacy of Dunces published, which is how I knew about him and ended up reading The Moviegoer:

For some time now the impression has been growing upon me that everyone is dead.

It happens when I speak to people. In the middle of a sentence it will come over me: yes, beyond a doubt this is death. There is little to do but groan and make an excuse and slip away as quickly as one can. At such times it seems that the conversation is spoken by automatons who have no choice in what they say. I hear myself or someone else saying things like: “In my opinion the Russian people are a great people, but—” or “Yes, what you say about the hypocrisy of the North is unquestionably true. However—” and I think to myself: this is death.

I felt the same way the other day at work, when people had a length discussion about whether Caitlyn Jenner still has a penis, and does this make him a man or a woman? I can’t even pretend to care about this shit.


Book Passage of the Week (1/2/2016) – from George Orwell

Animal Farm was required reading in 9th grade English. I read 1984 several years later, but only recently have I dove into Orwell’s nonfiction.

Today’s rather short passage comes from the essay Such, Such Were the Joys, collected here.

Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults, in a child’s eyes, is that the child is usually looking upwards, and few faces are at their best when seen from below.

The essay is about Orwell’s experiences at a prep school. Besides life at an English prep school in the early twentieth century, it delves into class conflict, the effects of (and reasons for) corporal punishment, psychological abuse … and the authority figures who frightened you as a child:

What should I think of Bingo and Sim, those terrible, all-powerful monsters? I should see them as a couple of silly, shallow, ineffectual people, eagerly clambering up a social ladder which any thinking person could see to be on the point of collapse. I would be no more frightened of them than I would be frightened of a dormouse.

A good read. Check it out.