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The art of reading is to skip judiciously. Whole libraries may be skipped these days, when we have the results of them in our modern culture without going over the ground again. And even of the books we decide to read, there are almost always large portions which do not concern us, and which we are sure to forget the day after we have read them. The art is to skip all that does not concern us, while missing nothing that we really need. No external guidance can teach us this; for nobody but ourselves can guess what the needs of our intellect may be.
As we passed by on the stony causeway, women looked up at us from the fields, their faces furrowed with all known distresses. By their sides, lambs skipped in gaiety and innocence, and goats skipped in gaiety but without innocence, and at their feet the cyclamens shone mauve; the beasts and flowers seemed fortunate because they are not human, as those who have passed within the breath of a plague and have escaped it.
A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, "Simba!
I wondered if that's what aging felt like. That desire and reality were dueling until the day you die, that nobody every got to a place of peace. I had always wanted to get old so I didn't have to care anymore, but I began to think that it would be best just to skip the getting older part and just die.
When people say to me, 'Why are you so good at writing at women?' I say, 'Why isn't everybody?' Obviously there are differences between men and women - that's what makes it all fun. But we're all people. There's a lot of good writers who are very humanist, but still manage to kind of skip fifty-five per cent of the race. And I just don't get that. Not to be able to write an entire gender? To me, the question isn't how do you do it? It's how can you possibly avoid doing it?
... then with the arrival of noisy helpers the scene became one of riotous carnival. For they carried boxes of coloured balls, bales of scarlet and yellow bunting, baskets laden with glittering tinsel, trumpets painted silver and vermilion, dolls in vivid muslin dresses, stars and medallions, tops and skipping ropes, and tumbled them in festive profusion over baskets and chairs.
First they done a lecture on temperance; but they didn't make enough forthem both to get drunk on. Then in another village they started adancing-school; but they didn't know no more how to dance than a kangaroodoes; so the first prance they made the general public jumped in andpranced them out of town. Another time they tried to go at yellocution; but they didn't yellocute long till the audience got up and give them asolid good cussing, and made them skip out.
Cavenaugh rubbed his hands together and smiled his sunny smile.'I like that idea. It's reassuring. If we can have no secrets, it means we can't, after all, go so far afield as we might,' he hesitated, 'yes, as we might.'Eastman looked at him sourly. 'Cavenaugh, when you've practiced law in New York for twelve years, you find that people can't go far in any direction, except-' He thrust his forefinger sharply at the floor.'Even in that direction, few people can do anything out of the ordinary. Our range is limited. Skip a few baths, and we become personally objectionable. The slightest carelessness can rot a man's integrity or give him ptomaine poisoning. We keep up only be incessant cleansing operations, of mind and body. What we call character, is held together by all sorts of tacks and strings and glue. ("Consequences")
let not thy sword skip one: Pity not honour'd age for his white beard; He is an usurer: strike me the counterfeit matron; It is her habit only that is honest, Herself's a bawd: let not the virgin's cheek. Make soft thy trenchant sword; for those milk-paps, That through the window-bars bore at men's eyes, Are not within the leaf of pity writ, But set them down horrible traitors: spare not the babe, Whose dimpled smiles from fools exhaust their mercy; Think it a bastard, whom the oracle. Hath doubtfully pronounced thy throat shall cut, And mince it sans remorse: swear against objects; Put armour on thine ears and on thine eyes; Whose proof, nor yells of mothers, maids, nor babes, Nor sight of priests in holy vestments bleeding, Shall pierce a jot. There's gold to pay soldiers: Make large confusion; and, thy fury spent, Confounded be thyself! Speak not, be gone.
A sensible person does not read a novel as a task. He reads it as a diversion. He is prepared to interest himself in the characters and is concerned to see how they act in given circumstances, and what happens to them; he sympathizes with their troubles and is gladdened by their joys; he puts himself in their place and, to an extent, lives their lives. Their view of life, their attitude to the great subjects of human speculation, whether stated in words or shown in action, call forth in him a reaction of surprise, of pleasure or of indignation. But he knows instinctively where his interest lies and he follows it as surely as a hound follows the scent of a fox. Sometimes, through the author's failure, he loses the scent. Then he flounders about till he finds it again. He skips.
And that taught me you can't have anything, you can't have anything at all. Because desire just cheats you. It's like a sunbeam skipping here and there about a room. It stops and gilds some inconsequential object, and we poor fools try to grasp it - but when we do the sunbeam moves on to something else, and you've got the inconsequential part, but the glitter that made you want it is gone.
There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: A people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea, that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time-- or even knew selflessness or courage or literature-- but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.
What all the ads and whorescopes seemed to imply was that if only you took proper care of your smells, your hair, your boobs, your eyelashes, your armpits, your crotch, your stars, your scars, your choice of Scotch in bars - you would meet a beautiful powerful, potent, and rich man who would satisfy every longing, fill every hole, make your heart skip a beat (or stand still), make you misty, and fly you to the moon (preferably on gossamer wings), where you would live totally satisfied forever.
Then the old man got to cussing, and cussed everything and everybody he could think of, and then cussed them all over again to make sure he hadn't skipped any, and after that he polished off with a kind of a general cuss all round, including a considerable parcel of people which he didn't know the names of, and so called them what's-his-name, when he got to them, and went right along with his cussing.
Looking out over the water, I spotted him right away, straddling his board. He was only a dot, but I would have known him anywhere. I thought of the shape of his hands, the hollow at the base of his spine, the way my heart had never stopped skipping a beat at the sound of his voice, and I realized it was the kind of loss- because I knew now that the thing I wanted more than anything in the world not to go fully wrong could- from which I would never fully recover. And I'm not sure I ever fully have.
Wendy: Once upon a time there was a boy named Peter Pan, who decided not to grow up. Hook: Skip the prologue. Wendy: So he flew away to Neverland where the pirates are. Hook: What fun he must have had. Wendy: Yes but he was rather lonely. Hook: Lonely? He needed a Wendy. Pirate: I need a Wendy. Hook: Why a Wendy? Wendy: He liked my stories. Hook: What stories? Wendy: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty. Hook: Love stories? Wendy: Adventures! In which good triumphs over evil! Hook: They all end in a kiss. Wendy: [gasps] Hook: A kiss. He does feel! He feels about you. Hook: She told him stories. He taught her to fly. How? Wendy: You just think happy thoughts. They lift you into the air. Hook: Alas, I have no happy thoughts. Wendy: That brings you down! Hook: [Hook threatens to cut Wendy's throat with his hook] How else? Michael: Fairy dust! You need fairy dust! The Lost Boys: Michael! Hook: What of Pan? Would unhappy thoughts bring him down? Wendy: He has no unhappy thoughts.
I could not resist the temptation to ask: Tell me something, Damiana: what do you recall? I wasn't recalling anything, she said, but your question makes me remember. I felt a weight in my chest. I've never fallen in love, I told her. She replied without hesitation: I have. And she concluded, not interrupting her work: I cried over you for twenty-two years. My heart skipped a beat. Looking for a dignified way out, I said: We would have made a good team. Well, it's wrong of you to say so now, she said, because you're no good to me anymore even as a consolation. As she was leaving the house, she said in the most natural way: You won't believe me but thanks be to God, I'm still a virgin.