I think people do look to writers to tell the truth in a way that nobody else quite will, not politicians or ministers or sociologists. A writer's job, is to, by way of fiction, somehow describe the way we live. And to me, this seems an important task, very worth doing, and I think also, to the reading public, it seems, even though they might not articulate it, it seems to them something worth doing also.
Seemed to me important in writing about people to be able to describe the sexual transactions between them. It's - for many people it's the height of, what they see, of ecstasy and poetry is in their sexual encounters. And furthermore, personality - human personality does not end in the bedroom, but persists.
When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but to a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teen-aged boy finding them, and having them speak to him. The review, the stacks in Brentano's, are just hurdles to get over, to place the books on that shelf.
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When we try in good faith to believe in materialism, in the exclusive reality of the physical, we are asking our selves to step aside; we are disavowing the very realm where we exist and where all things precious are kept - the realm of emotion and conscience, of memory and intention and sensation.
Dollars had once gathered like autumn leaves on the wooden collection plates; dollars were the flourishing sign of God's specifically American favor, made manifest in the uncountable millions of Carnegie and Mellon and Henry Ford and Catholina Lambert. But amid this fabled plenty the whiff of damnation had cleared of dollars and cents the parched ground around Clarence Wilmot.
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In the purifying sweep of atheism human beings lost all special value. The numb misery of the horse was matched by that of the farmer; the once-green ferny lives crushed into coal's fossiliferous strata were no more anonymous and obliterated than Clarence's own life would soon be, in a wink of earth's tremendous time. Without Biblical blessing the physical universe became sherry horrible and disgusting. All fleshy acts became vile, rather than merely some. The reality of men slaying lambs and cattle, fish and fowl to sustain their own bodies took on an aspect of grisly comedy-the blood-soaked selfishness of a cosmic mayhem.
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I never heard enough damnation from your pulpit. Many mornings I had to strain to take hold of what you were saying, Reverend. I couldn't figure it out, and got dizzy listening, the way you were dodging here and there. A lot of talk about compassion for the less fortunate, I remember that. Never a healthy sign, to my way of thinking, too much fuss and feathers about the poor. They're with us always, the Lord Himself said. Wait till the next go-around, if the poor feel so sorry for themselves on this. The first shall be last. Take away damnation, in my opinion, a man might as well be an atheist. A God that can't damn a body to an eternal Hell can't lift a body up out of the grave either.
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In fact we do not try to picture the afterlife, nor is it our selves in our nervous tics and optical flecks that we wish to perpetuate; it is the self as the window on the world that we can't bear to thinkof shutting. My mind when I was a boy of ten or eleven sent up its silent scream at the thought of future aeons - at the thought of the cosmic party going on without me. The yearning for an afterlife is the opposite of selfish: it is love and praise of the world that we are privileged, in this complex interval of light, to witness and experience.
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The faith in an afterlife, however much our reason ridicules it, very modestly extends our faith that each moment of our consciousness will be followed by another - that a coherent matrix has been prepared for this precious self of ours. The guarantee that our self enjoys an intended relation to the outer world is most, if not all, of what we ask from religion. God is the self projected onto reality by our natural and necessary optimism. He is the not-me personified.
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The voice welling up out of this little man is terrific, Harry had noticed it at the house, but here, in the nearly empty church, echoing off the walnut knobs and memorial plaques and high arched rafters, beneath the tall central window of Jesus taking off into the sky with a pack of pastel apostles for a launching pad, the timbre is doubled, richer, with a rounded sorrowful something Rabbit hadn't noticed hitherto, gathering and pressing the straggle of guests into a congregation, subduing any fear that this ceremony might be a farce. Laugh at ministers all you want, they have the words we need to hear, the ones the dead have spoken.
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As long as Nelson was socked into baseball statistics or that guitar or even the rock records that threaded their sound through all the fibers of the house, his occupation of the room down the hall was no more uncomfortable than the persistence of Rabbit's own childhood in an annex of his brain; but when the stuff with hormones and girls and cars and beers began, Harry wanted out of fatherhood.
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Dabbling in the sandbox gives Rabbit a small headache. Over at the pavilion the rubber thump of Roofball and the click of checkers call to his memory, and the forgotten smell of that narrow plastic ribbon you braid bracelets and whistlechains out of and of glue and of the sweat on the handles on athletic equipment is blown down by a breeze laced with children's murmuring. He feels the truth: the thing that has left his life has left irrevocably; no search would recover it. No flight would reach it. It was here, beneath the town, in these smells and these voices, forever behind him. The fullness ends when we give Nature her ransom, when we make children for her. Then she is through with us, and we become, first inside, and then outside, junk. Flower stalks.
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Teddy was reminded of Paterson, but that polyglot population had appeared healthier, more hopeful, the American mood more fertile then in its promises, and the streets of Silk City with their little yards holding a fuchsia bush or a blue-robed plaster statue of the Virgin more livable than these stacked, stinking, ill-lit dens. He had been a part of the population then, a schoolboy immersed in its details of competition and expectation and childish collusion and hierarchy, alive in its struggle and too absorbed to judge or pity, whereas now he came upon it from outside, from above, as an agent of power and ownership, an enforcer and avenger, the representative of the system which squeezed the lowly by the same iron laws whereby it generation profits for the lucky and strong.
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We expect the world of doctors. Out of our own need, we revere them; we imagine that their training and expertise and saintly dedication have purged them of all the uncertainty, trepidation, and disgust that we would feel in their position, seeing what they see and being asked to cure it. Blood and vomit and pus do not revolt them; senility and dementia have no terrors; it does not alarm them to plunge into the slippery tangle of internal organs, or to handle the infected and contagious. For them, the flesh and its diseases have been abstracted, rendered coolly diagrammatic and quickly subject to infallible diagnosis and effective treatment. The House of God is a book to relieve you of these illusions; it ... displays it as farce, a melee of blunderers laboring to murky purpose under corrupt and platitudinous superiors.
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No matter how cheerful and blameless the day's activities have been, when you wake in the middle of the night there is guilt in the air, a gnawing feeling of everything being slightly off, wrong - you in the wrong, and the world too, as if darkness is a kind of light that shows us the depth we are about to fall into.
The thing about her is, she's good-natured. He knew it the second he saw her standing by the parking meters. He could just tell from the soft way her belly looked. With women, you keep bumping against them, because they want different things, they're a different race. Either they give, like a plant, or scrape, like a stone. In all the green world nothing feels as good as a woman's good nature.
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TV families and your own are hard to tell apart, except your isn't interrupted every six minutes by commercials and theirs don't get bogged down into nothingness, a state where nothing happens, no skit, no zany visitors, no outburst on the laugh track, nothing at all but boredom and a lost feeling, especially when you get up in the morning and the moon is still shining and men are making noisy bets on the first tee.
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Slim is queer and though Nelson isn't supposed to mind that he does. He also minds that there are a couple of slick blacks making it at the party and that one little white girl with that grayish kind of sharp-chinned Polack face from the south side of Brewer took off her shirt while dancing even though she has no tits to speak of and now sits in the kitchen with still bare tits getting herself sick on Southern Comfort and Pepsi. At these parties someone is always in the bathroom being sick or giving themselves a hit or a snort and Nelson minds this too. He doesn't mind any of it very much, he's just tired of being young. There's so much wasted energy to it.
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he is unlike the other customers. They sense it too, and look at him with hard eyes, eyes like little metal studs pinned into the white faces of young men [... ] In the hush his entrance creates, the excessive courtesy the weary woman behind the counter shows him amplifies his strangeness. He orders coffee quietly and studies the rim of the cup to steady the sliding in his stomach. He had thought, he had read, that from shore to shore all America was the same. He wonders, Is it just these people I'm outside or is it all America?
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