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My companions for the afternoon were affable, welcoming middle-aged men in their late thirties and early forties who simply had no conception of the import of the afternoon for the rest of us. To them it was an afternoon out, a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon; if I were to meet them again, they would, I think, be unable to recall the score that afternoon, or the scorer (at half-time they talked office politics), and in a way I envied them their indifference. Perhaps there is an argument that says Cup Final tickets are wasted on the fans, in the way that youth is wasted on the young; these men, who knew just enough about football to get them through the afternoon, actively enjoyed the occasion, its drama and its noise and its momentum, whereas I hated every minute of it, as I hated every Cup Final involving Arsenal.
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Giovanni had awakened an itch, had released a gnaw in me. I realized it one afternoon, when I was taking him to work via the Boulevard Montparnasse. We had bought a kilo of cherries and we were eating them as we walked along. We were both insufferably childish and high-spirited that afternoon and the spectacle we presented, two grown men jostling each other on the wide sidewalk and aiming the cherry pits, as though they were spitballs, into each other's faces, must have been outrageous. And I realized that such childishness was fantastic at my age and the happiness out of which it sprang yet more so; for that moment I really loved Giovanni, who had never seemed more beautiful than he was that afternoon.
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We Americans, with our terrific emphasis on youth, action, and material success, certainly tend to belittle the afternoon of life and even to pretend it never comes. We push the clock back and try to prolong the morning, over-reaching and over-straining ourselves in the unnatural effort. ... In our breathless attempts we often miss the flowering that waits for afternoon.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
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The afternoon is bright, with spring in the air, a mild March afternoon, with the breath of April stirring, I am alone in the quiet patio looking for some old untried illusion - some shadow on the whiteness of the wall some memory asleep on the stone rim of the fountain, perhaps in the air the light swish of some trailing gown.
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We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.
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Speaking of earning, the revered 40-hour workweek is for losers. Forty hours should be considered the minimum, not the maximum. You don't see highly successful people clocking out of the office every afternoon at five. The losers are the ones caught up in that afternoon rush hour. The winners drive home in the dark.
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Transience is the force of time that makes a ghost of every experience. There was never a dawn, regardless how beautiful or promising, that did not grow into a noontime. There was never a noon that did not fall into afternoon. There was never an afternoon that did not fade toward evening. There never was a day yet that did not get buried in the graveyard of the night. In this way transience makes a ghost out of everything that happens to us.
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I begin early in the morning and edit everything I wrote the previous day. I write until mid-afternoon. My goal is to write a chapter per week, and if I am not finished by Friday, I write on the weekend. I get a lot of fan emails and answer them every day. In the late afternoon, I attend to the business of publishing, etc.
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This afternoon I sat at my window and alternately wrote at my new serial and watched a couple of dear, amusing, youngish maple-trees at the foot of the garden. They whispered secrets to each other all the afternoon. They would bend together and talk earnestly for a few moments, then spring back and look at each other, throwing up their hands comically in horror and amazement over their mutual revelations. I wonder what new scandal is afoot in Treeland.
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... we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.
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Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.
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Afternoon experience: autographing exposed legs, outstretched in lines like matchsticks. Afternoon epiphany: Those with smooth, hairless legs would soon lose all evidence of my contact when the sweat causes the ink from the marker to run. I am ephemeral. Skepticism would be the reaction to those with thick leg hair, as their curls frazzle the lines of my name outward illegibly. Among the scaly-legged, I flaked off immediately, like I never was at all.
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Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life's morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.
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We may, indeed, say that the hour of death is uncertain, but when we say this we think of that hour as situated in a vague and remote expanse of time; it does not occur to us that it can have any connexion with the day that has already dawned and can mean that death -- or its first assault and partial possession of us, after which it will never leave hold of us again -- may occur this very afternoon, so far from uncertain, this afternoon whose time-table, hour by hour, has been settled in advance.
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Quiet, moving, masterfully crafted. Such are the nine stories in Venus in the Afternoon. Tehila Lieberman writes with precision, restraint, with a compassionate heart. She inhabits her characters, young or old, men or women, honestly, but without judgment, until they rise off the page and stand before us breathing and alive. New York, the Atacama desert, Amsterdam or Cuzco in Peru, the settings in Venus in the Afternoon are just as varied as the lives which they contain. A wonderful collection, one that will stay in your mind long after you have bid it goodbye.
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After we became a couple, she composed our time together. She planned days as if they were artistic events. One afternoon we went to Tybee Island for a picnic; we ate blueberries and drank champagne tinted with curacao and listened to Miles Davis, and when I asked the name of her perfume, she said it was L'Heure Bleue. She talked about 'perfect moments.' One such moment happened that afternoon; she'd been napping; I lay next to her, reading. She said, 'I'll always remember the sounds of the sea and of pages turning, and the smell of L'Heure Bleue. For me they signify love.
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Thomas Merton wrote, 'there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.' There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won't have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock-more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you.
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We had bought a kilo of cherries and we were eating them as we walked along. We were both insufferably childish and high-spirited that afternoon and th spectacle we presented, two grown men, jostling each other on the wide sidewalk, and aiming the cherry-pips, as though they were spitballs, into each other's facesm must have been outrageous. And I realized that such childishness was fantastic at my age and the happiness out of which it sprang yet more so; for that moment I really loved Giovanni, who had never seemed more beautiful than he was that afternoon. And, watching his face, I realized that it meant much to me that I could make his face so bright. I saw that I might be willing to give a great deal not to lose that power. And I felt myself flow toward him, as a river rushes when the ice breaks up.
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