I used to believe, although I don't now, that growing and growing up are analogous, that both are inevitable and uncontrollable processes. Now it seems to me that growing up is governed by the will, that one can choose to become an adult, but only at given moments. These moments come along fairly infrequently -during crises in relationships, for example, or when one has been given the chance to start afresh somewhere- and one can ignore them or seize them.
But what else can we do when we're so weak? We invest hours each day, months each year, years each lifetime in something over which we have no control; it is any wonder then, that we are reduced to creating ingenious but bizarre liturgies designed to give us the illusion that we are powerful after all, just as every other primitive community has done when faced with a deep and apparently impenetrable mystery?
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I have learned things from the game. Much of my knowledge of locations in Britain and Europe comes not from school, but from away games or the sports pages, and hooliganism has given me both a taste for sociology and a degree of fieldwork experience. I have learned the value of investing time and emotion in things I cannot control, and of belonging to a community whose aspirations I share completely and uncritically.
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Because music, like color, or a cloud, is neither intelligent nor unintelligent - it just is. The chord, the simplest building block for even the tritest, silliest chart song, is a beautiful, perfect, mysterious thing, and when an ill-read, uneducated, uncultured, emotionally illiterate boor puts a couple of them together, he has every chance of creating something wonderful and powerful. All I ask of music is that is sounds good.
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Being a reader is sort of like being president, except reading involves fewer state dinners, usually. You have this agenda you want to get through, but you get distracted by life events, e.g., books arriving in the mail/World War III, and you are temporarily deflected from your chosen path.
I may not know the weight of those things, but I could feel the weight of that one, so I kept it to myself. You know that things aren't going well for you when you can't even tell people the simplest fact about your life, just because they'll presume you're asking them to feel sorry for you. I suppose it's why you feel so far away from everyone, in the end; anything you can think of to tell them just ends up making them feel terrible.
That's the thing with the young these days, isn't it? They watch too many happy endings. Everything has to be wrapped up, with a smile and a tear and a wave. Everyone has learned, found love, seen the error of their ways, discovered the joys of monogamy, or fatherhood, or filial duty, or life itself. In my day, people got shot at the end of films, after learning only that life is hollow, dismal, brutish, and short.
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You need as much ballast as possible to stop you from floating away; you need people around you, things going on, otherwise life is like some film where the money ran out, and there are no sets, or locations, or supporting actors, and it's just one bloke on his own staring into the camera with nothing to do and nobody to speak to, and who'd believe in this character then?
We all spend so much time not saying what we want, because we know we can't have it. And because it sounds ungracious, or ungrateful, or disloyal, or childish, or banal. Or because we're so desperate to pretend that things are OK, really, that confessing to ourselves they're not looks like a bad move. Go on, say what you want. ... Whatever it is, say it to yourself. The truth will set you free. Either that or it'll get you a punch in the nose. Surviving in whatever life you're living means lying, and lying corrodes the soul, so take a break from the lies for just one minute.
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Have you got any soul?" a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I've got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can't seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn't be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.
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(About Love)The most important thing in life, and you can't tell whether people have it or not. Surely this is wrong? Surely people who are happy should look happy, at all times, no matter how much money they have or how uncomfortable their shoes are or how little their child is sleeping; and people who are doing OK but have still not found their soul-mate should look, I don't know, anxious, like Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally; and people who are desperate should wear something, a yellow ribbon maybe, which would allow them to be identified by similar desperate people.
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A man who wants to die feels angry and full of life and desperate and bored and exhausted, all at the same time; he wants to fight everyone, and he wants to curl up in a ball and hide in a cupboard somewhere. He wants to say sorry to everyone, and he wants everyone to know just how badly they've all let him down.
Hey, great idea: if you have kids, give your partner reading vouchers next Christmas. Each voucher entitles the bearer to two hours' reading time while the kids are awake. It might look like a cheapskate present, but parents will appreciate that it costs more in real terms than a Lamborghini.
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Clockers" asks-almost in passing, and there's a lot more to it than this-a pretty interesting question: if you choose to work for the minimum wage when everyone around you is pocketing thousands from drug deals, then what does that do to you, to your head and to your heart? (Hornby's thoughts after reading "Clockers" by Richard Price)
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I'm never going to complain about receiving free early copies of books, because clearly there's nothing to complain about, but it does introduce a rogue element into one's otherwise carefully plotted reading schedule... Being a reader is sort of like being president, except reading involves fewer state dinners, usually. You have this agenda you want to get through, but you get distracted by life events, e.g., books arriving in the mail/World War III, and you are temporarly deflected from your chosen path.
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No time spent with a book is ever entirely wasted, even if the experience is not a happy one: there's always something to be learned. It's just that, every now and again, you hit a patch of reading that makes you feel as if you're pootling about... But what can you do about it? We don't choose to waste our reading time; it just happens. The books let us down.
So this is supposed to be about the how, and when, and why, and what of reading - about the way that, when reading is going well, one book leads to another and to another, a paper trail of theme and meaning; and how, when it's going badly, when books don't stick or take, when your mood and the mood of the book are fighting like cats, you'd rather do anything but attempt the next paragraph, or reread the last one for the tenth time.
I don't have the heart to tell my sons that the older one gets, the less funny literature becomes-and they would refuse to believe me if I tried to explain that some people don't think jokes even belong in proper books. I won't bother breaking the news that, if they remain readers, they will insist on depressing themselves for about a decade of their lives, in a concerted search of gravitas through literature.
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I would never attempt to dissuade anyone from reading a book. But please, if you're reading something that's killing you, put it down and read something else, just as you would reach for the remote if you weren't enjoying a TV program... All I know is that you can get very little from a book that is making you weep with the effort of reading it. You won't remember it, and you'll be less likely to choose a book over [insert popular contemporary TV program] next time you have a choice.
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I don't mind nothing happening in a book, but nothing happening in a phony way-characters saying things people never say, doing jobs that don't fit, the whole works-is simply asking too much of a reader. Something happening in a phony way must beat nothing happening in a phony way every time, right? I mean, you could prove that, mathematically, in an equation, and you can't often apply science to literature.