“I opened my eyes and watched the droplets of water fly up like sparks from a fire. I would have happily remained there for the rest of the afternoon, but I was conscious of my duty to the livestock. I allowed the sun to dry my skin, before dressing and setting off down the hillside” (pg 31).
“The continual afternoon rain made the pine windbreak dark and heavy. He couldn’t hear the waves at all. There was no wind, just the rain falling straight down from the sky. A flock of black birds flew by in the rain. The hearts of those birds were dark, and wet, too. The inside of the room was also wet. Everything there, pillows, books, desk, was damp. But oblivious to it all—to the weather, the damp, the wind, the sound of the waves—his father continued in an uninterrupted coma. Like a merciful cloak, paralysis enveloped his body. After a short break Tengo went back to reading aloud. In the damp, narrow room, that was all he was able to do…
“Things cultivated over such a long time don’t just vanish into nothingness” (pg 779).
Unlike hundreds of other writers and scholars, Pinker does correctly attribute (the oft-misattributed phrase) “Murder your darlings” to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch found in On the Art of Writing.
A “Book of Records” (or shī shū, the Book of Songs and the Book of History, see p 187) sounds odd to call Madeleine Thien’s long awaited criticism on her family history, on her culture, and on her heritage, but Do Not Say We Have Nothing incorporates a bit of everything from Madeleine’s life: she was born in Canada while her mother is a Hong Kong Chinese and her father is a Malaysian Chinese. In the book, Canada, Hong Kong, and China are the main settings while time crosses several generations in a story where two young girls must deal with tragedy and loss.
“You are the creator of reality, and yet you have no idea how you do it—the process is effortless… In ancient India, the Vedic sages declared Aham Brahmasmi, which can be translated as ‘I am the Universe’ or ‘I am everything.’ They arrived at this knowledge by diving deep into their own awareness, where astonishing discoveries were made…
“We have an agenda, which is to show that this is a participatory universe that depends for its very existence on human beings…
“A conscious universe responds to how we think and feel. It gains its shape, color, sound, and texture from us. Therefore, we feel the best name for it is the human universe, and it is the real universe, the only one we have” (pgs 3-4).
“The painting that had impressed them, entitled Say Hello to My Little Friend, was an acrylic rendering of a marmoset doing cocaine. In the painting the small primate hunched on a coffee table in front of a pile of white powder, some of which it had been divided into lines. The animal clasped a razor blade in its little hand. Its head was tilted back, its snout was dusted with powder, and its gaping mouth exposed two needle-like lower incisors” (pgs 65-67).
“A friend who had visited Baghdad’s Green Zone said that Harvard Business School felt eerily familiar. Whatever hell befell the rest of Iraq, the Green Zone was made luxurious with palm trees, swimming pools, and functioning electricity. Its occupants cocooned themselves from the unfolding horror so that they could focus on the broader mission of rebuilding a country. So, too, HBS smacks of an ivory tower, cut off from the world outside” (p 50).
30 Principles to Live By
1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain (p 17)
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation (p 31)
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want (p 50)
4. Become genuinely interested in other people (p 65)
5. Smile (p 74)
“On some subjects—for instance, writers’ workshops—one is tempted to pull punches or rest satisfied with oversimplified answers; but I’m assuming, as the primary reader of this book, an intensely serious beginning novelist who wants the strict truth (as I perceive it) for his life’s sake, so that he can plan his days of technique, theory, and attitude; and become as quickly and efficiently as possible a master of his craft” (p xxii).
“The iron horse still rumbled through the tunnel when she woke. Lumbly’s words returned to her: If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America. It was a joke, then, from the start. There was only darkness outside the windows on her journeys, and only ever would be darkness” (pgs. 262-263).