Book Passage of the Week: from Lancelot, by Walker Percy

I spent much of the book believing that Percival is a figment of Lancelot’s imagination. The brilliance of Lancelot‘s format is that by addressing the reader directly, we become Percival, the priest who hears his confession and his deranged ideas about ushering in a new order.

Good book. Highly recommended.

On to the quotes:

Next follows catastrophe of some sort. I can feel it in my bones. Perhaps it has already happened. Has it? Have you noticed anything unusual on the “outside”? I’ve noticed that the doctors and guards and attendants here who are supposed to be healthy — we’re the sick ones — seem depressed, anxious, gloomy, as if something awful had already happened.

Talk? Talk about what? Some years ago I discovered that I had nothing to say to anybody nor anybody to me, that is, anything worth listening to. There is nothing left to say. So I stopped talking. Until you showed up. … It’s strange, I have to tell you in order to know what I already know. I talk, you don’t. Perhaps you know even better than I that too much has been said already. Perhaps I talk to you because of your silence. Your silence is the only conversation I can listen to.

That was one of the pleasures of the sixties: it was so easy to do a little which seemed a lot. We basked in our own sense of virtue and in what we took to be their gratitude. Maybe that was why it didn’t last very long. Who can stand gratitude?

I’ve discovered that even in this madhouse if you tell someone something, face to face, with perfect seriousness, without emotion, gazing directly at him, he will believe you. One need only speak with authority.

Book Passage of the Week – from The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

Lately, I’ve been spending less time on social media and more time reading and writing. I know I’m missing bouts of fashionable outrage and status signaling, and you know what? I don’t care. You can have it, and you can keep it.

I have read Steven Pressfield’s magnificent The War of Art so many times that I can quote most of it offhand. As I finish City of Mirrors and prepare to start Swimming in Hong Kong, this particular quote kept popping up in my head. I hope you enjoy it, and do check out The War of Art. Mr. Pressfield also runs a blog, Writing WednesdaysIf nothing else, read Find What You Love and Let It Kill You and Collectively-Enforced Mediocrity. You’re welcome.

On to the quote:

In my little house I had no TV. I never read a newspaper or went to a movie. I just worked. One afternoon I was banging away in the little bedroom I had converted to an office, when I heard my neighbor’s radio playing outside. Someone in a loud voice was declaiming “…to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I came out. What’s going on? “Didn’t you hear? Nixon’s out; they got a new guy in there.”

I had missed Watergate completely.

How’s that for #amwriting?

Book Passage of the Week (12/10/2016) – from The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

A slow, rewarding read…

Still, today it is water who is the stranger here. Water is the exile, carried back in cans and flasks, the ghost between your hands and your mouth.

In the street of imported parrots in Cairo one is hectored by almost articulate birds. The birds bark and whistle in rows, like a plumed avenue. I knew which tribe had travelled which silk or camel road carrying them in their petite palanquins across the deserts. Forty-day journeys, after the birds were caught by slaves or picked like flowers in equatorial gardens and then placed in bamboo cages to enter the river that is trade. They appeared like brides in a mediaeval courtship.

When someone speaks he looks at a mouth, not eyes or their colours, which, it seems to him will always alter depending on the light of a room, the minute of the day. Mouths reveal insecurity or smugness or any other point on the spectrum of character.

Book Passage of the Week (11/20/2016) – from The 50th Law

From The 50th Law, by Robert Greene and 50 Cent:

You do not wait for things to get better—you seize this chance to prove yourself. Mentally framing a negative event as a blessing in disguise makes it easier for you to move forward. It is a kind of mental alchemy, transforming shit into sugar.


No matter how much money or resources you have accumulated, someone will try to take them from you, or unexpected changes in the world will push you backward. These are not adverse circumstances but merely life as it is.


What you must do instead is accept the fact that all events occur for a reason, and that it is within your capacity to see this reason as positive. Marcus Aurelius compared this to a fire that consumes everything in its path—all circumstances become consumed in your mental heat and converted into opportunities. A man or woman who believes this cannot be hurt by anything or anyone.

If you buy the book (and I recommend it, because it’s great), then go for the paperback. Not only is it easier to make notes, but did you see the Kindle price? $14.99? Do they secretly want people NOT to buy the ebook?

Book Passage of the Week – from Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy

Suttree and A Death in the Family are the two famous Knoxville novels. They even have similar openings; Agee’s book gives us Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and McCarthy gives us:

Dear friend now in the dusty clockless hours of the town when the streets lie black and steaming in the wake of the watertrucks and now when the drunk and the homeless have washed up in the lee of walls in alleys or abandoned lots and cats go forth highshouldered and lean in the grim perimeters about, now in these sootblacked brick or cobbled corridors where lightwire shadows make a gothic harp of cellar doors no soul shall walk save you.

Seven un-indented paragraphs of that, introducing us to Suttree’s Knoxville.

I’m in the middle of reading Suttree. I can’t say I enjoy the book — my favorite remains The Road  — but there are some nice passages:

In the long days of all they went like dreamers. Watching the sky for rain. When it came it rained for days. They sat in groups and watched the rain fall over the deserted fairgrounds. Pools of mud and dark sawdust and wet trodden papers. The painted canvas funhouse walls and the stark skeletons of amusement rides against a gray and barren sky.


A dim world receded above his upturned toes, shapes of skewed shacks erupted bluely in the niggard lamplight. The rusting carcass of an automobile passed slowly on his right. Dim scenes pooling in the summer night, wan inkwash of junks tilting against a paper sky, rorschach boatmen poling mutely over a mooncobbled sea.

And this, from a fever dream. Shades of The Road?

By the side of a dark dream road he’d seen a hawk nailed to a barn door. But what loomed was a flayed man with his brisket tacked open like a cooling beef and his skull peele, blue and bulbous and palely luminiscent, black grots his eyeholes and bloody mouth gaped tongueless. The traveler had seized his fingers in his jaws, but it was not alone this horror that he cried. Beyond the flayed man dimly adumbrate another figure paled, for his surgeons moved about the world even as you and I.

While you’re here, check out Yelping with Cormac. My favorite is The Apple Store.