If one loves stories, then one would naturally love the story of the story. Or the story behind the story, pick your preposition. It does seem to me to be a kind of animal impulse almost, a mammalian curiosity. For a reader to wonder about the autobiography in a fiction may be completely unavoidable and in fact may speak to the success of a particular narrative, though it may also speak to its failure.
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The detachment of the artist is kind of creepy. It's kind of rude, and yet really it's where art comes from. It's not the same as courage. It's closer to bad manners than to courage. [...] if you're going to be a writer, you basically have to say, 'this is just who I am [... ]'. There's a certain indefensibility about it. It's not about loving your community and taking care of it "" you're not attached to the chamber of commerce. It's a little unsafe. You have to be willing to have only four friends, not 11.
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Writing is both the excursion into and the excursion out of one's life. That is the queasy paradox of the artistic life. It is the thing that, like love, removes one both painfully and deliciously from the ordinary shape of existence. It joins another queasy paradox: that life is both an amazing, hilarious, blessed gift and that it is also intolerable.
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That is what is wrong with cold people. Not that they have ice in their souls - we all have a bit of that - but that they insist every word and deed mirror that ice. They never learn the beauty or value of gesture. The emotional necessity. For them, it is all honesty before kindness, truth before art. Love is art, not truth. It's like painting scenery.
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Though she would have preferred long ago to have died, fled, gotten it all over with, the body-Jesus, how the body!-took its time. It possessed its own wishes and nostalgias. You could not just turn neatly into light and slip out the window. You couldn't go like that. Within one's own departing but stubborn flesh, there was only the long, sentimental, piecemeal farewell. Sir? A towel. Is there a towel? The body, hauling sadness, pursued the soul, hobbled after. The body was like a sweet, dim dog trotting lamely toward the gate as you tried slowly to drive off, out the long driveway. Take me, take me, too, barked the dog. Don't go, don't go, it said, running along the fence, almost keeping pace but not quite, its reflection a shrinking charm in the car mirrors as you trundled past the viburnium, past the pin grove, past the property line, past every last patch of land, straight down the swallowing road, disappearing and disappearing. Until at last it was true: you had disappeared.
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Pulling through is what people do around here. There is a kind of bravery in their lives that isn't bravery at all. It is automatic, unflinching, a mix of man and machine, consuming and unquestionable obligation meeting illness move for move in a giant even-steven game of chess - an unending round of something that looks like shadowboxing, though between love and death, which is the shadow? 'Everyone admires us for our courage, ' says one man. 'They have no idea what they're talking about.' 'Courage requires options, ' the man adds. 'There are options, ' says a woman with a thick suede headband. 'You could give up. You could fall apart.' 'No you can't. Nobody does. I've never seen it, ' says the man. 'Well, not really fall apart.
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Abby began to think that all the beauty and ugliness and turbulence one found scattered through nature, one could also find in people themselves, all collected there, all together in a single place. No matter what terror or loveliness the earth could produce- wind, seas- a person could produce the same, lived with the same, lived with all that mixed-up nature swirling inside, every bit. There was nothing as complex in the world- no flower or stone- as a single hello from a human being.
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Cold men destroy women, ' my mother wrote me years later. 'They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greenness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorably arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes-you hear all you have sacrificed, all you have given, landing with a loud clunk. They lock the greenhouse and you are as tiny as a figure in an architect's drawing, a faceless splotch, a blur of stick limbs abandoned in some voluminous desert of stone.
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Her rage flopped awkwardly away like a duck. She felt as she had when her cold, fierce parents had at last grown sick and old, stick-boned and saggy, protected by infirmity the way cuteness protected a baby, or should, it should protect a baby, and she had been left with her rage-vestigial, girlhood rage-inappropriate and intact. She would hug her parents good-bye, the gentle, emptied sacks of them, and think Where did you go?
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My new apartment might be a place where there are lots of children. They might gather on my porch to play, and when I step out for groceries, they will ask me, "Hi, do you have any kids?" and then, "Why not, don't you like kids?" "I like kids, " I will explain. "I like kids very much." And when I almost run over them with my car, in my driveway, I will feel many different things.
Why do you haunt me? You, like a tattoo on my tongue, like the bay leaf at the bottom of every pan. You who sprawled out beside me and sang my horoscope to a Schubert symphony, something about travel and money again, and we lay there, both of our breaths bad, both of our underwear dangling elastic, and then you turned toward me with a gaze like two matches, putting the horoscope aside, you traced my buried ribs with your index finger, lingered at my collarbone, admiring it as one might a flying buttress, murmuring: Nice clavicle. And me, too new at it and scared, not knowing what to say, whispering: You should see my ten-speed.
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He began to prefer talking on the phone to actually getting together with someone, preferred the bodilessness of it, and started to turn down social engagements. He didn't want to actually sit across from someone in a restaurant, look at their face, and eat food. He wanted to turn away, not deal with the face, have the waitress bring them two tin cans and some string so they could just converse, in a faceless dialogue.
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Back at home, days later, feel cranky and tired. Sit on the couch and tell him he's stupid. That you bet he doesn't know who Coriolanus is. That since you moved in you've noticed he rarely reads. He will give you a hurt, hungry-to-learn look, with his James Cagney eyes. He will try to kiss you. Turn your head. Feel suffocated. (from "How")
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Observing others go through them, he used to admire midlife crises, the courage and shamelessness and existential daring of them, but after he'd watched his own wife, a respectable nursery school teacher, produce and star in a full-blown one of her own, he found the sufferers of such crises not only self-indulgent but greedy and demented, and he wished them all weird unnatural deaths with various contraptions easily found in garages.
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