Then you begin to give up the very idea of belonging. Suddenly this thing, this belonging,it seems like some long, dirty lie ... and I begin to believe that birthplaces are accidents, that everything is an accident. But if you believe that, where do you go? What do you do? What does anything matter?
Other people's words are so important. And then without warning they stop being important, along with all those words of yours that their words prompted you to write. Much of the excitement of a new novel lies in the repudiation of the one written before. Other people's words are the bridge you use to cross from where you were to wherever you're going.
We are split people. For myself, half of me wishes to sit quietly with legs crossed, letting the things that are beyond my control wash over me. But the other half wants to fight a holy war. Jihad! And certainly we could argue this out in the street, but I think, in the end, your past is not my past and your truth is not my truth and your solution-it is not my solution. So I do not know what it is you would like me to say. Truth and firmness is one suggestion, though there are many people you can ask if that answer does not satisfy. Personally, my hope lies in the last days. The prophet Muhammad-peace be upon Him!-tells us that on the Day of Resurrection everyone will be struck unconscious. Deaf and dumb. No chitchat. Tongueless. And what a bloody relief that will be.
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[..] as midnight inevitably came and went without the horsemen of the apocalypse making an appearance, Clara surprised herself by falling into a melancholy. For ridding oneself of faith is like boiling sea-water to retrieve the salt something is gained but something is lost. Though her friends Merlin, Wan-Si, et al. clapped her on the back and congratulated her for exorcizing those fervid dreams of perdition and redemption, Clara quietly mourned the warmer touch she had waited for these nineteen years, the all-enveloping bear hug of the Saviour, the One who was Alpha and Omega, both the beginning and the end; the man who was meant to take her away from all this, from the listless reality of life in a ground-floor flat in Lambeth. What now for Clara? Ryan would find another fad; Darcus need only turn to the other channel; for Hortense another date would of course materialize, along with more leaflets, ever more faith. But Clara was not like Hortense. Yet a residue, left over from the evaporation of Clara's faith, remained. She still wished for a saviour. She still wished for a man to whisk her away, to choose her above others so that she might Walk in white with Him: for [she] was worthy. Revelation 3:4.
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But I cannot be worrying-worrying all the time about the truth. I have to worry about the truth that can be lived with. And that is the difference between losing your marbles drinking the salty sea, or swallowing the stuff that comes from the streams. My Niece-of-Shame believes in the talking cure, eh?" says Alsana, with something of a grin. "Talk, talk, talk and it will be better. Be honest, slice open your heart and spread the red stuff around. But the past is made of more than words, dearie. We married old men, you see? These bumps" - Alasana pats them both - "they will always have daddy-long-legs for fathers. One leg in the present, one in the past. No talking will change this. Their roots will always be tangled. And roots get dug up. Just look in my garden - birds at the coriander every bloody day...
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And in the past, Archie wondered, was it just that fewer people cheated? Were they more honest, and did they leave their front doors open, did they leave their kids with the neighbors, pay social calls, run up tabs with the butcher? The funny thing about getting old in a country is people always want to hear that from you. They want to hear it really was once a green and pleasant land. They need it.
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Then you begin to give up the very idea of belonging. Suddenly this thing, this belonging, it seems like some long, dirty lie... and I begin to believe that birthplaces are accidents, that everything is an accident. But if you believe that, where do you go? What do you do? What does anything matter?
I have known many true connoisseurs, with excellent tastes that range across the humanities and the culinary arts-and they never fail to have a fatal effect on my self-esteem. When I find myself sitting at dinner next to someone who knows just as much about novels as I do but has somehow also found the mental space to adore and be knowledgeable about the opera, have strong opinions about the relative rankings of Renaissance painters, an encyclopedic knowledge of the English civil war, of French wines-I feel an anxiety that nudges beyond the envious into the existential. How did she find the time?
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This has been the century of strangers, brown, yellow and white. This has been the century of the great immigrant experiment. It is only this late in the day that you can walk into a playground and find Isaac Leung by the fish pond, Danny Rahman in the football cage, Quang O'Rourke bouncing a basketball, and Irie Jones humming a tune. Children with first and last names on a direct collision course. Names that secrete within them mass exodus, cramped boats and planes, cold arrivals, medical checks. It is only this late in the day, and possibly only in Willesden, that you can find best friends Sita and Sharon, constantly mistaken for each other because Sita is white (her mother liked the name) and Sharon is Pakistani (her mother thought it best - less trouble).
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Now, how do the young prepare to meet the old? The same way the old prepare to meet the young: with a little condescension; with low expectation of the other's rationality; with the knowledge that the other will find what they say hard to understand, that it will go beyond them (not so much over the head as between the legs); and with the feeling that they must arrive with something the other will like, something suitable.
Last year, when Zora was a freshman, sophomores had seemed altogether a different kind of human: so very definite in their tastes and opinions, in ther loves and ideas. Zora woke up this morning hopeful that a transformation of this kind might have visited her in the night, but, finding it hadn't, she did what girls generally do when they don't feel the part: she dressed it instead.
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They were married before they were friends, which is another way of saying: Their marriage was the occasion of their friendship. They were married before they noticed many small differences in background, aspiration, education, ambition. (...) Noting such differences, Leah was in some sense disappointed in herself that they did not cause real conflict between them. It was hard to get used to the fact that the pleasure her body found in his, and vice versa, should so easily overrule the many objections she had, or should have had, or thought she should have had.
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It starts innocently. Casually. You turn up at the annual spring fair full of beans, help with the raffle tickets (because the pretty red-haired music teacher asks you to) and win a bottle of whiskey (all school raffles are fixed), and, before you know where you are, you're turning up at the weekly school council meetings, organizing concerts, discussing plans for a new music department, donating funds for the rejuvenation of the water fountains-you're implicated in the school, you're involved in it. Sooner or later you stop dropping your children at the school gates. You start following them in.
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These days, it feels to me like you make a devil's pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started... but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers - who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like you are an animal finally house-trained.
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When my little group get together, if we disagree about something, we can sort it out. Example: Mohona Hossain hates Divargiit Singh. Hates all his movies. Hates him with a passion. She likes that other fool with the eyelashes like a lady! But we compromise. Never once have I burned a single video of hers.
Right. I look fine. Except I don't, ' said Zora, tugging sadly at her man's nightshirt. This was why Kiki had dreaded having girls: she knew she wouldn't be able to protect them from self-disgust. To that end she had tried banning television in the early years, and never had a lipstick or a woman's magazine crossed the threshold of the Belsey home to Kiki's knowledge, but these and other precautionary measures had made no difference. It was in the air, or so it seemed to Kiki, this hatred of women and their bodies- it seeped in with every draught in the house; people brought it home on their shoes, they breathed it in off their newspapers. There was no way to control it.
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Boys are just boys after all, but sometimes girls really seem to be the turn of a pale wrist, or the sudden jut of a hip, or a clutch of very dark hair falling across a freckled forehead. I'm not saying that's what they really are. I'm just saying sometimes it seems that way, and that those details (a thigh mole, a full face flush, a scar the precise shape and size of a cashew nut) are so many hooks waiting to land you.
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People talk about the happy quiet that can exist between two loves, but this, too, was great; sitting between his sister and his brother, saying nothing, eating. Before the world existed, before it was populated, and before there were wars and jobs and colleges and movies and clothes and opinions and foreign travel - before all of these things there had been only one person, Zora, and only one place: a tent in the living room made from chairs and bed-sheets. After a few years, Levi arrived; space was made for him; it was as if he had always been. Looking at them both now, Jerome found himself in their finger joints and neat conch ears, in their long legs and wild curls. He heard himself in their partial lisps caused by puffy tongues vibrating against slightly noticeable buckteeth. He did not consider if or how or why he loved them. They were just love: they were the first evidence he ever had of love, and they would be the last confirmation of love when everything else fell away.
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