Thursday, July 24, 2008


“AND THERE WERE THE SMELLS, always the smells that remain unchanged even to this day—the scents of spices drying in the sun, sweetmeats roasting on charcoal grills, curries bubbling on fiery stoves, dried salted fish swaying on strings, nutmeg, pickled shrimps—all these swirled and mixed with the scent of the sea, fusing into a pungent concoction that entered us and lodged itself into the memory of our hearts.” Tan Twan Eng, in The Gift of Rain (Myrmidon, 2007; Weinstein, 2008)

“SOMETIMES she would hook an orange peel with her nail so it would sputter a little of its pungent, spicy juice on her finger. She avoided the hairy egg-shaped kiwis and wormlike string beans. She liked to stroke the light, feathery bunches of dill and parsley, and to squeeze artichokes, which felt like pine cones, but soft ones. She liked to pat cantaloupes and tap watermelons with her index finger to hear the hollow sound they made. Most of all, Nina loved broccoli.” Lara Vapnyar, in Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love (Pantheon, 2008)

“OUTSIDE, the blue hour has arrived. Everything draws closer; the shed, the edge of the wood, the lake beyond the trees, it is as if the tinted air binds the world together and there is nothing disconnected out there. That’s a good thing to think about, but whether it is true or not is a different matter. To me it is better to stand alone, but for the moment the blue world gives a consolation I am not sure I want, and do not need, and still I take it.” Per Petterson, in Out Stealing Horses [trans. from the Norwegian, Ut og stjoele hester (2003), by Anne Born] (Harvill Secker, 2005/Vintage, 2006; Graywolf Press, 2007)

“THEY SETTLED DOWN at the wooden tables in a sort of rumble of well-being, steam rising from their tatters. Their ageless faces, so bare and shiny with use that they let the light through, would begin to glow like old cooking pots. They played draughts, lapping tea from saucers with long-drawn sighs, or sat round a basin of warm water and soaked their sore feet. The better off puffed away at a nargileh, and between fits of coughing sometimes recited one of those visionary stanzas for which Persia has had no equal over a thousand years. The winter sun on blue walls, the fine scent of tea, the tapping of draughts on the board—everything had such a peculiar lightness that one wondered whether this bunch of horny-handed seraphim might lift off in a great flapping of wings, bearing the tea house away.” Nicholas Bouvier, describing a Persian tea house in winter where porters gather in his book, The Way of the World (trans. from the French by Robyn Marsack) (Marlboro Press, 1994; Elan Press, 2007)

“WE THINK WE KNOW THE ONES we love, and though we should not be surprised to find that we don’t, it is heartbreak nonetheless.” Andrew Sean Greer, in The Story of a Marriage (Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008)

“I TRIED to make the best of being a bachelor. My married or otherwise engaged friends put a positive spin on it by pointing out that I never had to eat with boring couples, bicker, clean up after myself, shop, talk about my feelings, talk about her feelings, or be anywhere besides work and home. I didn
t have to remember birthdays or anniversaries or Valentine’s Day, nor did I have to think about the toilet bowl lid or hide my pornography or apologize. The last point was especially important to them. Being alone, they said, meant never having to say youre sorry.” Josh Emmons, in Prescription for a Superior Existence (Scribner, 2008)


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