A Long Fall, published in the autumn 2015 issue of The Colored Lens, is now available to read for free: http://thecoloredlens.com/?p=39573
The Alchemist is one of my favorite books. I read it my senior year of college, right after France decided they didn’t want me as a teacher and a few months before China did.
I’ve read it several times since then. I underlined a lot of passages, took a lot of notes. What you see below is just one of many:
“Well, why don’t you go to Mecca now?” asked the boy.
“Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face these days that are all the same, these mute crystals on the shelves, and lunch and dinner at that same horrible café. I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.
“You dream about your sheep and the Pyramids, but you’re different from me, because you want to realize your dreams. I just want to dream about Mecca. I’ve already imagined it a thousand times crossing the desert, arriving at the Plaza of the Sacred Stone, the seven times I walk around it before allowing myself to touch it. I’ve already imagined the people who would be at my side, and those in front of me, and the conversations and prayers we would share. But I’m afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.”
And the passage above reminds me of the following exchange from Collateral, a very underrated movie:
Vincent: Look in the mirror. Paper towels, clean cab. Limo company some day. How much you got saved?
Max: That ain’t any of your business.
Vincent: Someday? Someday my dream will come? One night you will wake up and discover it never happened. It’s all turned around on you. It never will. Suddenly you are old. Didn’t happen, and it never will, because you were never going to do it anyway. You’ll push it into memory and then zone out in your barco lounger, being hypnotized by daytime TV for the rest of your life. Don’t you talk to me about murder. All it ever took was a down payment on a Lincoln town car. That girl, you can’t even call that girl. What the fuck are you still doing driving a cab?
Guy gets on the subway and dies. Think anybody’ll notice?
I just finished In the Country of Desire, by Leslie Garrett.
This, and Beasts, his other book, are both out of print. They’re easy to come by — I grabbed a used copy off Thriftbooks — while information on Leslie Garrett is not so easy to come by. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. He was a contemporary of Cormac McCarthy, and the best I could find was this page:
As my friend Leslie Garrett lay dying of cancer that clutched him by the throat, news came that his old comrade and competitor, Cormac McCarthy, had just realized his greatest professional triumph–winning the National Book Award for All the Pretty Horses. The award catapulted McCarthy to the front ranks of American letters. Less last book, In the Country of Desire, meanwhile, was dying like its author–a slow, painful wasting in obscurity.
I’ll cut to the chase: I didn’t enjoy the book. It was fairly well written, but I didn’t care about the people that much. I do plan on checking out Leslie Garrett’s first novel, Beasts.
Here’s a couple passages that stuck with me:
There is a street in the city dedicated to lonely men. It serves not the ordinary loneliness of ordinary men, which is wistful and longing, but that loneliness which deadens the spirit and makes the mind and body scream. And yet these are the quietest of men.
Willa had asked where God lived, and her grandmother had told her that he lived so far up in the sky that no one could see him. Later Willa went to the woods and climbed as far up in a tree as she could go and searched the sky for hours, but she could not see God. Now she thought that perhaps, in her own way, that was what her mother had been searching for too: the face of God that no one ever sees.
An average book despite some nice writing. Worth checking out if you’re into obscure books.
The first Hemingway I read was The Old Man & the Sea.
I didn’t read it in high school, or college. I read it in China, summer 2009. I’d bought it from a Hong Kong bookstore earlier that year. Back then (and maybe today, it’s a safe bet) Wuhan did not have a wide selection of English books. Even the much-touted store on Zhongnan Lu had little more than classic books.
I did most of my book buying through Albiris and later Thriftbooks. I did grab a few from some street vendors in Wudaokou on trips to Beijing, which netted me a copy of the fabulous Time Traveler’s Wife, a pirated copy whose text began repeating near the end.
Here’s a passage I underlined almost seven (seven!?) years ago:
He looked across the sea and knew how alone he was now. But he could see the prisms in the deep dark water and the line stretching ahead and the strange undulation of the calm. The clouds were building up now for the trade wind and he looked ahead and saw a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea.
Beautiful, isn’t it?