His penmanship was shamefully crabbed. Each sentence was a crowded village of capital letters and small letters, living side by side in tight misery, crawling up on one another as though trying to escape the page. His spelling was several degrees beyond arbitrary, and his punctuation brought reason to sigh with unhappiness.
The man is a perfect dragon for protocol.
His eyebrows, on their own accord, fled to the top of his brow.
A parent is inexcusable who does not personally teach her child to think.
“Don’t be simple, Hanneke,” Beatrix scolded. “At no moment in history has a bright young girl with plenty of food and a good constitution perished from too much learning.”
As a clever but unschooled man of botany, he had always felt that Greek and Latin were like two great iron struts, blocking the doorway of knowledge from him; he would not have his child similarly barred. Indeed, he would not have his child barred from anything.
“The world is a fool who longs to be tricked,”
“People die every day,” he told her. “But there are eight thousand chances against its being you.”
“What language did the mermaid speak?” Alma wanted to know, imagining that it would almost have to be Greek.
“English!” Henry said. “By God, Plum, why would I rescue a deuced foreign mermaid?”
As for her final two words, she spat them out like two sharp chips of ice: “Improve yourself.”
The air was so thick one nearly could have dissected it with a scalpel.
But both rooms belonged to Alma Whittaker alone, and in both rooms, she came into being.
Things could only be what they were, as her mother had taught her many times. As for things that could not be changed, they must stoically be endured.
What would such a clever man want with such a silly bit of lint like me?
This was simply not enough hours. This left far too many remaining hours free, and free hours were dangerous. Free hours created too much opportunity for examining the disappointments she was meant to be grinding under her boot heel.
Ministers and moralists feared that the vibrations and jostling of such fast travel would throw weak-minded women into sexual frenzies.
What sort of marriage was this, where people march through the years in diligent dullness?
Arthur did not approve of luxuries, so he kept his household as cold and bloodless as his own dry self.
The world was his divan.
“Too many people turn away from small wonders, I find. There is so much more potency to be found in detail than in generalities, but most souls cannot train themselves to sit still for it.”
I would like to spend the rest of my days in a place so silent— and working at a pace so slow— that I would be able to hear myself living.”
‘Growing vanilla in Tahiti will be easier than farting in your sleep.’”
The science was all so flawed. There were holes in their logic so gaping that one could feel gusts of wind blowing through the arguments.
“Imagination is gentle,” Jacob Boehme had written, “and it resembles water. But desire is rough and dry as a hunger.”
To lose him now would be an amputation.
She felt she could row a boat up a mountainside.
He called her “my other soul, my better soul.”
“Oh, for the godforsaken mercy of the twice-buggered mother of Christ!”
There were pages and pages of this. It was a confetti of thinking. It began nowhere, led to nothing, and concluded nothing.
You loved a man who thought the world was made of butter. You loved a man who wished to see stars by daylight.
The grief cauterizes itself, scars over, prevents inflated feelings. Such numbness is a kind of mercy.
People could be many things, apparently, and all at once.
She felt awash in curiosity, polished bright by anger.
How do you divide nothing into parts?
When death visits so many homes, all certainties are questioned.
She closed the valise as though closing the lid of a coffin.
He had wished for the world to be a paradise, when in fact it was a battlefield.
The trick at every turn was to endure the test of living for as long as possible. The odds of survival were punishingly slim, for the world was naught but a school of calamity and an endless burning furnace of tribulation. But those who survived the world shaped it— even as the world, simultaneously, shaped them.
“All transformation appears to be motivated by desperation and emergency.”
Anything less than a fight for endurance is cowardly. Anything less than a fight for endurance is a refusal of the great covenant of life.”
Her prose was a hammer; Darwin’s was a psalm. He came bearing not a sword but a candle.