Sunset Park – Paul Auster

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The absent people have all fled in haste, in shame, in confusion, and it is certain that wherever they are living now (if they have found a place to live and are not camped out in the streets) their new dwellings are smaller than the houses they have lost. Each house is story of failure –of bankruptcy and default, of debt and foreclosure- and he had taken it upon himself to document the last, lingering traces of those scattered lives in order to prove that the vanished families were once here, that the ghosts of people he will never see and know are still present in the discarded things strewn about their empty houses. 

 

Not even fresh air pouring in through open windows can wipe out the smells; not even the tidiest, most circumspect removal can erase the stench of defeat.  

 

… the unlikeliest of unlikely encounters. 

 

Omniscient narrator. 

 

He who has denied himself so much for so many years, who has been so stolid in his abnegations, who has taught himself to rein in his temper and drift through the world with cool, stubborn detachment has slowly come back to life in the face of her emotional excesses, her combustibility, her mawkish tears when confronted by the image of an abandoned teddy bear, a broken bicycle, or a vase of wilted flowers. 

 

… anomalies and idiosyncrasies of their love life… 

 

The two adults were steadfast allies, their marriage was solid and remarkably free of trouble, and each one bent over backward to give the other’s kid every benefit of the doubt. But still, there were invisible fault lines, microscopic fissures to remind them that they were a patched-together entity, something not completely whole. 

 

He couldn’t bear to listen anymore. They were chopping him into pieces, dismembering him with the calm and efficient strokes of pathologists conducting a post-mortem, talking about him as if they thought he was already dead.  

 

Maria and Teresa are polite and innocuous motormouths, unobjectionable but boring company for more than an hour at a stretch, and Angela, who is anything but boring, rubs him the wrong way. 

 

She delivered those words with a self-questioning hesitation that seemed to open up her very insides to the audience. An extraordinary thing to behold, his father said. Utterly heartbreaking.  

 

In a throwaway culture spawned by the greed of profit-driven corporations, the landscape has grown ever more shabby, ever more alienating, ever more empty of meaning and consolidating purpose.  

 

Babies are popping out all over, in every part of the globe women are huffing and heaving and disgorging fresh battalions of newborns, doing their bit to prolong the human race, and at some point in the not-too-distant future she hopes to put her womb to the test and see if she can’t contribute as well. 

 

The Best Years of our Lives the movie 1946 

 

Early on, he discovers that she is mostly ignorant of Europeans and South American literature, which comes as a small disappointment, but she is one of those specialized academics steeped in her narrow Anglo-American world, far more familiar with Beowulf and Dreiser than with Dante and Borges, but that … 

 

Now he thinks about the dank chill of Venice in the dead of winter, the canals overflowing onto streets knee-deep in water, the shivering loneliness of unheated rooms, a head splitting open from the sheer force of darkness within it, a life broken apart by the too-much and too-little of this world. 

 

… wounds are an essential part of life, and until you are wounded in some way, you cannot become a man. 

 

… in the play, and even if Beckett is inordinately difficult, cerebral, at times obscure, the language is so clean and precise, so gorgeous in its simplicity, that I gives her physical pleasure to feel the words coming out of her mouth.  

 

Damaged souls. Walking wounded, opening their veins and bleeding in public. 

 

That was her response to the fatwa at ten, her naïve but earnest reaction to the absurd injustice that had been committed, and her outrage was all the more intense because it was tinged with fear, for this was the first time she had been exposed to the ugliness of brute, irrational hatred, the first time her young eyes had looked into the darkness of the world.  

 

The campaign to reform Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, for example, the insult law that has threatened the lives and safety of scores of writers and journalists for making critical remarks about their country. 

 

Chinese Liu Xiaobo 

 

Writers should never talk to journalists. The interview is a debased literary form that serves no purpose except to simplify that which should never be simplified. 

 

… the queen of excess, the Madonna of naked feelings…
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