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As she stared at the restless pixels on the screen, her impatience grew. This agitation was familiar, a paradoxical feeling that built up inside her when she was spending too much time online, as though some force was at once goading her and holding her back. How to describe it? A temporal stuttering, an urgent lassitude, a feeling of simultaneous rushing and lagging behind. It was a horrible, stilted, panicky sensation, hard to put into words.
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Fed on a media diet of really bad news, we live in a perpetual state of repressed panic. We are paralyzed by bad knowledge, from which the only escape is playing dumb. Ignorance becomes empowering because it enables people to live. Stupidity becomes proactive, a political statement. Our collective norm.
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She missed the built environment of New York City. It was only in an urban landscape, amid straight lines and architecture, that she could situate herself in human time and history. She missed people. She missed human intrigue, drama and power struggles. She needed her own species, not to talk to, necessarily, but just to be among, as a bystander in a crowd or an anonymous witness.
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A name could be either a ghost or a portent depending on which side of time you were standing. The name Whaletown had become a mere specter of the past, a crepuscular Pacific shimmer, but the name Desolation Sound still hovered in the liminal space and felt to her both oracular and haunted.
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Jiko: "Surfer, wave, same thing." "That's just stupid, " I said. " A surfer's a person. A wave is a wave. How can they be the same?" Jiko looked out across the ocean to where the water met the sky. "A wave is born from deep conditions of the ocean. A person is born from deep conditions of the world. A person pokes up from the world and rolls along like a wave, until it is time to sink down again. Up, down. Person, wave.
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What is it that frightens us about a "novel of causes", and conversely, does fiction have to exist in some suspended, apolitical landscape in order to be literary? Can it not politically and temporally specific and still be in good literary taste? We are leery of literature that smacks of the polemic, instructional, or prescriptive, and I guess rightly so-it's a drag to be lectured to-but what does that imply about our attitudes towards intellectual inquiry? While I enjoy reading kitchen-table novels in which characters are distilled to their emotional essence and their lives stripped of politics and commerce, it simply is not reflective of my experience. I see our lives as being a part of an enormous web of interconnected spheres, where the workings of the larger social, political, and corporate machinery impact something as private and intimate as the descent of an egg through a woman's fallopian tube. This is the resonance I want to conjure in my books. I want to write novels that engage the emotions and the intellect, and that means going head to head with the chaos of evils and issues that threaten to overpower us all. And if they threaten to overpower the characters, then I have to make the characters stronger.
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It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they're all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.
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Truth is like the moon in the sky. Words are like a finger. A finger can point to the moon's location, but it is not the moon. To see the moon, you must look past the finger. To look for the truth in books, the Sixth Patriarch was saying, is like mistaking the finger for the moon. The moon and the finger are not the same thing. "Not same, " old Jiko would have said. "Not different, either.
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When she had him along, the world looked different, and she liked the way she saw things she'd never seen before... But she noticed other things, too - the way she herself felt acutely visible with the baby in her arms, and the way some people's faces lit up when they saw a child. His warm weight was like living ballast, thrumming with energy, giving her substance. Folks were drawn to that.
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