The dream of a writer is to be surprised by his characters. All of a sudden, they are living their own lives; they are not prisoners anymore. . . . Tati taught me how to observe, how to sit in a cafe in Paris and to look at the passersby and to guess what their story is, even a little moment of their story . . ..
Orion sniffed. "Good. Then, worthy centaur, perhaps you could give me a ride to the village on your way back. Then I can make a few pennies wth my verses while you build us a shack and perform circus tricks for passersby." This was such a surprising statement that Foaly briefly considered jumping into the hole to get away.
Our secret thoughts - do they ever show up? The small flame of our soul can be burning hot, but no one comes to its warmth. Passersby see only a small whiff going through the chimney. Don't we need to take care of that flame, cherish it and patiently wait until someone will come and sit at it, do we?
Out of all the neighborhoods in Manhattan, Soho in particular had the charged atmosphere of a movie set, populated with passersby who looked like extras from Central Casting, so perfectly did they fit into this environment. There was the feeling of everything being not quite real, or too perfectly cliched to actually be true, and it began to rain in a fine, misty drizzle from a black patent leather sky.
We are quiet, contemplative people, and our behaviour in the field is relatively aristocratic. Running is not necessarily beneath our dignity but it is in any case pointless because the flies move much too fast. Consequencly, we stand still, as if on guard, and moreover almost exclusively in blazing sunshine, little breeze and fragrant flowers. Passersby can therefore easily get the impression that the fly hunter is a convalescent of some kind, momentarily lost in meditation. This is not wholly inaccurate.
Freedom! To fill people's mailboxes, eyes, ears and brains with commercial rubbish against their will, television programs that are impossible to watch with a sense of coherence. Freedom! To force information on people, taking no account of their right not to accept it or their right of peace of mind. Freedom! To spit in the eyes and souls of passersby with advertisements.
Runaways are romantic. The girls are waiflike with dyed ratty hair and baggy pants. They usually own a stray dog of the mutt variety and drag it along by a rope, plopping down in front of storefronts to beg for money from passersby. They're a mess. It is likely they'll charm you, make you think you're their best friend and savior only to end up using you and then they'll disappear. That's why they're romantic. They're there and then they're gone. Romance is always about people appearing in a flash out of nothing or people who are there and then suddenly are not. A magic trick.
I read used books because fingerprint-smudged and dog-eared pages are heavier on the eye. Because every book can belong to many lives. Books should be kept in public places and step out with passersby who'll onto them for a spell. Books should die like people, consumed by aches and pains, infected, drowning off a bridge together with the suicides, poked into a potbellied stove, torn apart by children to make paper boats. They should die of anything, in other words, except boredom, as private property condemned to a life sentence on a shelf.
Erri De Luca
It seemed my whole life was composed of these disjointed fractions of time, hanging around in one public place and then another, as if I were waiting for trains that never came. And, like one of those ghosts who are said to linger around depots late at night, asking passersby for the timetable of the Midnight Express that derailed twenty years before, I wandered from light to light until that dreaded hour when all the doors closed and, stepping from the world of warmth and people and conversation overheard, I felt the old familiar cold twist through my bones again and then it was all forgotten, the warmth, the lights; I had never been warm in my life, ever.
I worry about exposing him to bands like Journey, the appreciation of which will surely bring him nothing but the opprobrium of his peers. Though he has often been resistant - children so seldom know what is good for them - I have taught him to appreciate all the groundbreaking musicmakers of our time - Big Country, Haircut 100, Loverboy - and he is lucky for it. His brain is my laboratory, my depository. Into it I can stuff the books I choose, the television shows, the movies, my opinion about elected officials, historical events, neighbors, passersby. He is my twenty-four-hour classroom, my captive audience, forced to ingest everything I deem worthwhile. He is a lucky, lucky boy! And no one can stop me.
My locker seems to have become the hub for sticky notes and nasty letters, none of which I ever see actually being placed on or in my locker. I really don't get what people gain out of doing things like this if they don't even own up to it. Like the note that was stuck to my locker this morning. All it said was, ' Whore.' Really? Where's the creativity in that? They couldn't back it up with an interesting story? Maybe a few details of my indiscretion? If I have to read this shit every day, the least they could do is make it interesting. If I was going to stoop so low as to leave an unfounded note on someone's locker, I'd at least have the courtesy of entertaining whoever reads it in the process. I'd write something interesting like, 'I saw you in bed with my boyfriend last night. I really don't appreciate you getting massage oil on my cucumbers. Whore.' I laugh and it feels odd, laughing out loud at my own thoughts. I look around and no one is left in the hallway but me. Rather than rip the sticky notes off of my locker like I probably should, I take out my pen and make them a little more creative. You're welcome, passersby.
He couldn't have known it, but among the original run of The History of Love, at least one copy was destined to change a life. This particular book was one of the last of the two thousand to be printed, and sat for longer than the rest in a warehouse in the outskirts of Santiago, absorbing the humidity. From there it was finally sent to a bookstore in Buenos Aires. The careless owner hardly noticed it, and for some years it languished on the shelves, acquiring a pattern of mildew across the cover. It was a slim volume, and its position on the shelf wasn't exactly prime: crowded on the left by an overweight biography of a minor actress, and on the right by the once-bestselling novel of an author that everyone had since forgotten, it hardly left its spine visible to even the most rigorous browser. When the store changed owners it fell victim to a massive clearance, and was trucked off to another warehouse, foul, dingy, crawling with daddy longlegs, where it remained in the dark and damp before finally being sent to a small secondhand bookstore not far from the home of the writer Jorge Luis Borges. The owner took her time unpacking the books she'd bought cheaply and in bulk from the warehouse. One morning, going through the boxes, she discovered the mildewed copy of The History of Love. She'd never heard of it, but the title caught her eye. She put it aside, and during a slow hour in the shop she read the opening chapter, called 'The Age of Silence.' The owner of the secondhand bookstore lowered the volume of the radio. She flipped to the back flap of the book to find out more about the author, but all it said was that Zvi Litvinoff had been born in Poland and moved to Chile in 1941, where he still lived today. There was no photograph. That day, in between helping customers, she finished the book. Before locking up the shop that evening, she placed it in the window, a little wistful about having to part with it. The next morning, the first rays of the rising sun fell across the cover of The History of Love. The first of many flies alighted on its jacket. Its mildewed pages began to dry out in the heat as the blue-gray Persian cat who lorded over the shop brushed past it to lay claim to a pool of sunlight. A few hours later, the first of many passersby gave it a cursory glance as they went by the window. The shop owner did not try to push the book on any of her customers. She knew that in the wrong hands such a book could easily be dismissed or, worse, go unread. Instead she let it sit where it was in the hope that the right reader might discover it. And that's what happened. One afternoon a tall young man saw the book in the window. He came into the shop, picked it up, read a few pages, and brought it to the register. When he spoke to the owner, she couldn't place his accent. She asked where he was from, curious about the person who was taking the book away. Israel, he told her, explaining that he'd recently finished his time in the army and was traveling around South America for a few months. The owner was about to put the book in a bag, but the young man said he didn't need one, and slipped it into his backpack. The door chimes were still tinkling as she watched him disappear, his sandals slapping against the hot, bright street. That night, shirtless in his rented room, under a fan lazily pushing around the hot air, the young man opened the book and, in a flourish he had been fine-tuning for years, signed his name: David Singer. Filled with restlessness and longing, he began to read.