And, lying on my bed in some biscuit-colored hotel room in Nice, with a balcony facing the Promenade des Anglais, I watch the clouds reflected on sliding panes and marvel even how my sadness can make me happy . . .

I waited, uncertainly, my eyes on the Japanese chest. It was a beauty, a prize for a retired sea-captain's home in backwater Boston: scrimshaw and cowrie shells, Old Testament samplers cross-stitched by unmarried sisters, the smell of whale oil burning in the evenings, the stillness of growing old.

And who knows-but maybe that's what's waiting for us at the end of the journey, a majesty unimaginable until the very moment we find ourselves walking through the doors of it, what we find ourselves gazing at in astonishment when God finally takes His hands off our eyes and says: Look!

Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves our of despair.

Her eyes--lined with black makeup--stared blankly at the ceiling; and her tan was obviously sprayed on since her skin had a healthy apricot glow even though the top of her head was missing.

I'm not sure whay I've been drawn to this subject, except that murder is a subject that has always drawn people for as long as people have been telling stories.

I slept all day, face down in the pillow, a comfortable dead-man's float only remotely disturbed by a chill undertow of reality—talk, footsteps, slamming doors—which threaded fitfully through the dark, blood-warm waters of dream.

It is my experience, stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you. What you want, to live and be happy in the world, is a women who has her own life and let's you have yours.

When I looked at the painting I felt the same convergence on a single point: a glancing sun-struck instance that existed now and forever. Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch's ankle, or think what a cruel life for a little living creature--fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place.

For if the modern mind is whimsical and discursive, the classical mind is narrow, unhesitating, relentless. It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive.

How quickly he fell; how soon it was over.

By his own choice, he had so little contact with the outside world that he frequently considered the commonplace to be bizarre: an automatic-teller machine, for instance, or some new peculiarity in the supermarket—cereal shaped like vampires, or unrefrigerated yogurt sold in pop-top cans.

And besides (I told myself) wasn't it time to Move Forward, Let Go, turn from the garden that was locked to me? Live In The Present, Focus On The Now instead of grieving for what I could never have?

They all shared a certain coolness, a cruel, mannered charm which was not modern in the least but had the strange cold breath of the ancient world : they were magnificent creatures, such eyes, such hands, such looks - sic oculos, sic ille manus, sic ora ferebat.

I believe, in a funny way, the job of the novelist is to be out there on the fringes and speaking for an experience that has not really been spoken for.

It's a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to lose control completely? To throw off all the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves?

Beauty is terror.

And isn't the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?

But though I knew just how lucky I was, still it was impossible to feel happy or even grateful for my good fortune. It was as if I'd suffered a chemical change of the spirit: as if the acid balance of my psyche had shifted and leached the life out of me in aspects impossible to repair, or reverse, like a frond of living coral hardened to bone.

I never realized, you know, how much we rely on appearances," he said. "It's not that we're so smart, it's just that we don't look like we did it. We might as well be a bunch of Sunday-school teachers as far as everyone else is concerned. But these guys won't be taken in by that.

Do you have any idea why you might be feeling better?

We don't like to admit it, but the idea of losing control is one that fascinates controlled people such as ourselves more than almost anything. All truly civilized people – the ancients no less than us – have civilized themselves through the wilful repression of the old, animal self.

Well, whatever one thinks of the Roman Church, it is a worthy and powerful foe. I could accept that sort of conversion with grace. But I shall be very disappointed indeed if we lose him to the Presbyterians.

It was rotten top to bottom. Putting your time in at the office; dutifully spawning your two point five; smiling politely at your retirement party; then chewing on your bedsheet and choking on your canned peaches at the nursing home. It was better never to have been born – never to have wanted anything, never to have hoped for anything.

God has tortured Theo plenty. If suffering makes noble, then he is a prince.

The job of the novelist is to invent: to embroider, to color, to embellish, to make things up.

Because, here's the truth: life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence—of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do—is catastrophe.

Still when I lost her, I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life...

All that blind, infantile hunger to save and be saved, to repeat the past and make it different, had somehow attached itself, ravenously, to her.

It's funny, but thinking back on it now, I realize that this particular point in time, as I stood there blinking in the deserted hall, was the one point at which I might have chosen to do something very different from what I actually did. But of course I didn't see this crucial moment then for what is was; I suppose we never do.

They took the wrong ones! Mistake was made! Everything is unfair! Who do we complain to, in this shitty place? Who is in charge here?

Demands? said Andy. She makes it sound as if you're asking for ten million in unmarked notes.

I felt disincarnate, cut loose from myself. How it would feel to be back in my body again I couldn't imagine.

Well, I've already got ten thousand set aside. That's a good start. If you think about it when we get home, give me your Social and next time I drop by the bank, I'll open an account in your name, okay?

War? One can lose oneself in the joy of battle, in fighting for a glorious cause, but there are not many glorious causes for which to fight these days.

She'd heard the stories so often that she knew them by heart, could repeat them if she wanted, sometimes even dash in a detail or two neglected in the retelling [...]. The stories were familiar much as stories from her mother's girlhood were familiar, or stories from books. But none of them seemed connected with her in any fundamental way.

III. We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves. —FRANÇOIS DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD.

And the heart-shock of believing, for only a moment, that you might just have what could never be yours.

How could the apartment have seemed so permanent and solid-looking when it was only a stage set, waiting to be struck and carried away by movers in uniform?

A month or two before, I would have been appalled at the idea of any murder at all. But that Sunday afternoon, as I actually stood watching one, it seemed the easiest thing in the world. How quickly he fell; how soon it was over.

If I had grown up in that house I couldn't have loved it more, couldn't have been more familiar with the creak of the swing, or the pattern of the clematis vines on the trellis, or the velvety swell of land as it faded to gray on the horizon . . . . The very colors of the place had seeped into my blood.

Beauty—unless she is wed to something more meaningful—is always superficial.

I'm not blaming anything on your mom, I'm way past that. It's just that she loved you so much, I always felt like kind of an interloper with you guys. Stranger-in-my-own-house kind of thing. You two were so close— he laughed, sadly—there wasn't much room for three.

Maybe, I thought- reaching in the bag, taking out a stack of money and looking it over- maybe good luck was like bad luck in that it took a while to sink in. You didn't feel anything at first.

No second chances.

Eugene accepted the legitimacy of such phenomena, much as he and his brothers accepted the pageantry and feuds of World Federation professional wrestling, not caring much if some of the matches were fixed.

And her laugh was enough to make you want to kick over what you were doing and follow her down the street.

After all, the appeal to stop being yourself, even for a little while, is very great. To escape the cognitive mode of experience, to transcend the accident of one's moment of being. There are other advantages, more difficult to speak of, things which ancient sources only hint at and which I myself only understood after the fact.

The ceilings had set off a ghostly echo, giving all that desperate hilarity the quality of a memory even as I sat listening to it, memories of things I'd never known.