My in-ear Babelfish provides synopses of the passages rather than a running translation, but now and then the interpreter confesses, I'm sorry, but I have no idea what he just said. I'm not sure the author knew, either.

Hey, metaphysics seminar is on the roof. Just take the elevator up and keep walking until you hit the sidewalk. Anything is true if enough people believe it.

Now smoking really is an expression of the rebel spirit—it's virtually sodding illegal! Yet what are we without our addictions? Insipid. Flavorless. Careerless!

Old Father Timothy offers this advice to his younger readers, included for free in the price of this memoir: conduct your life in such a way that, when you train breaks down in the eve of you years, you have a warm dry car drive by a loved one - or a hired one, it matters not - to take you home.

A mountain you're plannin' on climbin' ain't the same as the one you ain't. It ain't so pretty...

Why care about other people's six-year-olds who'll never perform anything because they died when Israeli bulldozers or Hezbollah rockets destroyed their homes? They're not our kids. We're clever enough to be born where such things don't happen.

The music provokes a sharp longing the music soothes.

These jokes the world plays, they're not funny at all.

The woman was sincere—bigots mostly are—but no less dangerous for that, and she shall be named and shamed.

War's never a picnic. Although obviously soldiers do end up eating outdoors quite a lot.

Do either of you know clock patience? You have to add cards up to fifteen?

I wonder what love feels like on the inside because externally it turns you into the King of Tit Mountain.

Books don't offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.

Do soldiers feel this, when they get back from a war? The utter weirdness of utter normality.

Taro taught me that people respect spirit, but even cowards don't respect cowards.

All minds pulse in a unique way, just as every lighthouse in the world has a unique signature. Some minds pulse consistently, some erratically. Some are lukewarm, some are hot. Some flare out, some are very nearly not there. Some stay on the fringe, like quasars.

Don't you ever have days when you're just so glad to be alive you want to – he turns to me – howl at the sun?

Your place does keep you sane, but can also keep you lonely.

Mortality is inscribed in your cellular structure, and you say you're not ill?

These...xistential qualms you suffer, they just mean you're truly human.

For me, novels coalesce into being, rather than arrive fully formed.

The pursuit of insight takes you deep into the forest.

The better organized the state, the duller its humanity.

Grin and bear it! Remember your heritage! You're a Japanese law-abiding straight! You grin and bear it until your Zimmer frame buckles and your drinking water is mercury oxide, and our whole country is one coast-to-coast parking lot.

This isn't lust. Lust wants, does the obvious, and pads back into the forest. Love is greedier. Love wants round-the-clock care; protection; rings, vows, joint accounts; scented candles on birthdays; life insurance. Babies. Love's a dictator.

Surely a program of incremental reforms, of cautious steps, is the wisest way to proceed? You show xtraordinary erudition for an eighth-stratum, Archivist. I wonder if you encountered this dictum first spoken by a twentieth-century statesman: An abyss cannot be crossed in two steps.

An idler and a sluggard are as different as a gourmand and a glutton.

Only the inanimate can be so alive.

Clark Kent gives up his powers just to have sexual intercourse with Lois Lane in a glittery bed. Who'd make such a stupid swap? If you could fly? Deflect nuclear missiles into space? Turn back time by spinning the planet in reverse? Sexual intercourse can't be that good.

His skin's so tanned he could be Turkish or something.

When I talk about my artist parents, people imagine a bohemian environment and think, 'Aha, so that's where he gets it from!' But we were as white, straight, and middle-class as the next family on our white, straight, middle-class housing estate.

I could pop with all the fear, irritation, and love.

We all of us have less time than we think, Ed.

Writing is world making and the peopling of those worlds, complete with time lines and heartache.

Through the window I looked across the oil-black Tigris at the Green Zone, lit up like Disneyland in Dystopia. I thought about J.G. Ballard's novel High Rise, where a state-of-the-art London tower block is the vertical stage for civilization to unpeel itself until nothing but primal violence remains.

Laughter is an anarchic blasphemy. Tyrants are wise to fear it.

Well wakey fucking wakey, sunbeam! Life's fucking Borstal!

A Titus Andronicus catalog of threats beat at the door. They haunt my nightmares still.

Bad things happen to realists.

Miguel tries to look jokey-penitent, but misses and looks like a man in white jeans who underestimates a spot of flatulence.

Her oil-black hair's sort of punky. She must use gel. I'd love to gel her gel in for her.

To quote an early mentor, I tell the kid, ‘A journalist needs ratlike cunning, a plausible manner, and a little literary ability.

Faust tends not to have happy endings.

Four high school girls in, but one of them was completely, completely different. She pulsed, invisibly, like a quasar. I know that sounds stupid, but she did... She was listening to the music! She was afraid she'd scare the music away if she moved.

Prayer may be a placebo for the disease of helplessness, but placebos can make you feel better.

Dawn Madden's got cruel eyes like a Chinese empress and sometimes one glimpse at school makes me think about her all day.

The river's vowels and the trees' consonants speak a not-quite-foreign language.

Hershey is so bent on avoiding cliché that each sentence is as tortured as an American whistleblower.

Some magic is normality you're not yet used to.