...maybe I've just read too many novels. In novels, alcoholics are always attractive and fuuny and charming and complex, like Sebastian Flyte or ABe North in Tender in the Night, and they're drinking because of a deep, unquenchable sadness of the soul, or the terrible legacy of the First World War, whereas I just get drunk because I'm thirsty, and I like the taste of lager...
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He wanted to live life to the extreme, but without any mess or complications. He wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph. Things should look right. Fun; there should be a lot of fun and no more sadness than absolutely necessary.
What are you going to do with your life?" In one way or another it seemed that people had been asking her this forever; teachers, her parents, friends at three in the morning, but the question had never seemed this pressing and still she was no nearer an answer... "Live each day as if it's your last', that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.
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You know what i can't understand? You have all these people telling you all the time how great you are, smart and funny and talented and all that, i mean endlessly, i've been telling you for years. So why don't you believe it? why do you think people say that stuff, Em? Do you think it's a conspiracy, people secretly ganging up to be nice about you?
Live each day as if it's your last', that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard at ... something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever...
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In portraiture I look for people that I recognise - 'Look, it's Uncle Tony' - or for the faces of film stars. The Madame Tussaud's school of art appreciation. In realist works I look for detail; 'Look at the eyelashes!' I say, in idiotic admiration at the fineness of the brush. 'Look at the reflection in his eye!' In abstract art I look for colour - 'I love the blue' as if the works of Rothko and Mondrian were little more than immense paint charts. I understand the superficial thrill of seeing the object in the flesh, so to speak; the sightseeing approach that lumps together the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal and the Sistine Chapel as items to tick off. I understand rarity and uniqueness, the 'how much?' school of criticism.
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So they were pen pals now, Emma composing long, intense letters crammed with jokes and underlining, forced banter and barely concealed longing; two-thousand-word acts of love on air-mail paper. Letters, like compilation tapes, were really vehicles for unexpressed emotions and she was clearly putting far too much time and energy into them. In return, Dexter sent her postcards with insufficient postage: 'Amsterdam is MAD', 'Barcelona INSANE', 'Dublin ROCKS. Sick as DOG this morning.' As a travel writer, he was no Bruce Chatwin, but still she would slip the postcards in the pocket of a heavy coat on long soulful walks on Ilkley Moor, searching for some hidden meaning in 'VENICE COMPLETELY FLOODED!!!!
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Can I say something?' 'Go on' 'I'm a little drunk' 'Me too. That's okay.' 'Just... I missed you, you know.' 'I missed you too.' 'But so, so much, Dexter. There were so many things I wanted to talk to you about, and you weren't there-' 'same here.' 'I tell you what it is. It's...When I didn't see you, I thought about you every day, I mean EVERY DAY in some way or another-' 'same here.' '-Even if it was just "I wish Dexter could see this" or "Where's Dexter now?" or "Christ that Dexter, what an idiot", you know what I mean, and seeing you today, well, I thought I'd got you back - my BEST friend. And now all this, the wedding, the baby- I'm so happy for you, Dex, but it feels like I've lost you again.'- -'You know what happens you have a family, your responsibilities change, you lose touch with people' 'It won't be like that, I promise.' 'Do you?' 'Absolutely' 'You swear? No more disappearing?' 'I won't if you won't.' Their lips touched now, mouths pursed tight, their eyes open, both of them stock still. The moment held, a kind of glorious confusion.
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These days grief seems like walking on a frozen river; most of the time he feels safe enough, but there is always that danger that he will plunge through. Now he hears the ice creak beneath him, and so intense and panicking is the sensation that he has to stand for a moment, press his hands to his face and catch his breath.
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He hadn't been this nervous since the last disastrous night at the improv, and he firmly told himself to calm down as he blotted at the tablecloth, glancing upwards to see Emma wriggling out of her summer jacket, pushing her shoulders back and her chest forward in that way that women do without realising the ache they cause.
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She drinks pints of coffee and writes little observations and ideas for stories with her best fountain pen on the linen-white pages of expensive notebooks. Sometimes, when it's going badly, she wonders if what she believes to be a love of the written word is really just a fetish for stationery.