None of us really either know the circumstances of our death or are likely to exert as much control over it as we would like to, but we can certainly have a little more say in it if we are terminally ill than we have at the moment. That's the element of dignity, but sure, life is very hard to organise even when you are fit and healthy.
I watched our friends' wary, intelligent faces droop at our tale. Their shock was a mere shadow of our own, resembling more the goodwilled imitation of that emotion, and for this reason it was a temptation to exaggerate, to throw a rope of superlatives across the abyss that divided experience from its representation by anecdote.
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I'll wait for you. Come back. The words were not meaningless, but they didn't touch him now. It was clear enough - one person waiting for another was like an arithmetical sum, and just as empty of emotion. Waiting. Simply one person doing nothing, over time, while another approached. Waiting was a heavy word.
She had lolled about for three years at Girton with the kind of books she could equally have read at home-Jane Austen, Dickens, Conrad, all in the library downstairs, in complete sets. How had that pursuit, reading the novels that others took as their leisure, let her think she was superior to anyone else?
It is photography itself that creates the illusion of innocence. Its ironies of frozen narrative lend to its subjects an apparent unawareness that they will change or die. It is the future they are innocent of. Fifty years on we look at them with the godly knowledge of how they turne dout after all - who they married, the date of their death - with no thought for who will one day be holding photographs of us.
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He saw it for the first time: on the day he died he would be wearing unmatching socks, there would be unanswered e-mails, and in the hovel he called home there would still be shirts missing cuff buttons, a malfunctioning light in the hall, and unpaid bills, uncleared attics, dead flies, friends waiting for a reply and lovers he had not owned up to.
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The light of artistic creation is also blinding. The artist can't see the suffering he causes to those around him. And the'll never understand the purity of his goal, how the heat of his invention won't melt the ice in his heart. He must be ruthless! No religion, no purpose except this: Make something perfect before you die. Life is short, art is for all time
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For children, childhood is timeless. It is always the present. Everything is in the present tense. Of course, they have memories. Of course, time shifts a little for them and Christmas comes round in the end. But they don't feel it. Today is what they feel, and when they say 'When I grow up, ' there is always an edge of disbelief-how could they ever be other than what they are?
At best he read popular science magazines like the Scientific American he had now, to keep himself up-to-date, in layman's terms, with physics generally. But even then his concentration was marred, for a lifetime's habit made him inconveniently watchful for his own name. He saw it as if in bold. It could leap out at him from an unread double page of small print, and sometimes he could sense it coming before the page turn.
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It's at moments like these in a game that the essentials of his character are exposed: narrow, ineffectual, stupid-and morally so. The game becomes an extended metaphor of character defect. Every error he makes is so profoundly, so irritatingly typical of himself, instantly familiar, like a signature, like a tissue scar or some deformation in a private place.
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Becoming drunk is a journey that generally elates him in the early stages-he's good company, expansive, mischievous and fun, the famous old poet, almost as happy listening as talking. But once the destination is met, once established up there on that unsunny plateau, a fully qualified drunk, the nastier muses, the goblins of aggression, paranoia, self-pity take control. The expectation now is that an evening with John will go bad somehow, unless everyone around is prepared to toil at humouring and flattering and hours of frozen-faced listening. No one will be.
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In a language as idiomatically stressed as English, opportunities for misreadings are bound to arise. By a mere backward movement of stress, a verb can become a noun, an act a thing. To refuse, to insist on saying no to what you believe is wrong, becomes at a stroke refuse, an insurmountable pile of garbage.
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They were beyond the present, outside time, with no memories and no future. There was nothing but obliterating sensation, thrilling and swelling, and the sound of fabric on fabric and skin on fabric as their limbs slid across each other in this restless, sensuous wrestling... They moved closer, deeper and then, for seconds on end, everything stopped. Instead of an ecstatic frenzy, there was stillness. They were stilled not by the astonishing fact of arrival, but by an awed sense of return - they were face to face in the gloom, staring into what little they could see of each other's eyes, and now it was the impersonal that dropped away.
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