Lives make no sense, I argued. A man lives and then he dies, and what happens in between makes no sense. […] In general, lives seem to veer abruptly from one thing to another, to jostle and bump, to squirm. A person heads in one direction, turns sharply in mid-course, stalls, drifts, starts up again. Nothing is ever known, and inevitably we come to a place quite different from the one we set out for.
246-247. oldal (Penguin, 2006)
We all want to be told stories, and we listen to them in the same way we did when we were young. We imagine the real story inside the words, and to do this we substitute ourselves for the person in the story, pretending that we can understand him because we understand ourselves. This is a deception. We exist for ourselves, perhaps, and at times we even have a glimmer of who we are, but in the end we can never be sure, as our lives go on, we become more and more opaque to ourselves, and more and more aware of our own incoherence. Noone can cross the boundary into another – for the simple reason that no one can gain access to himself.
249. oldal, The Locked Room (Faber&Faber, 2004)
In thinking about this moment now, I am tempted to use the traditional language of love. I want to talk in metaphors of heat, of burning, of barriers melting down in the face of irresistible passions. I am aware of how overblown these terms might sound, but in the end I believe they are accurate. Everything had changed for me, and words that I had never understood before suddenly began to make sense. This came as a revelation, and when I finally had time to absorb it, I wondered how I had managed to live so long without learning this simple thing. I am not talking about desire so much as knowledge, the discovery that two people, through desire, can create a thing more powerful than either of them can create alone. This knowledge changed me, I think, and actually made me feel more human. By belonging to Sophie, I began to feel as though I belonged to everyone else as well.
234. oldal (Faber and Faber, 2004)
Take Hawthorne, says Black. A good friend of Thoreau's, and probably the first real writer America ever had. After he graduated from college, he went back to his mother's house in Salem, shut himself up in his room, and didn't come out for twelve years.
What did he do in there?
He wrote stories.
Is that all? He just wrote?
Writing is a solitary business. It takes over your life. In some sense, a writer has no life of his own. Even when he's there, he's not really there.
177-178. oldal (Faber and Faber, 2004)
All his life Whitman believed in the science of phrenology – you know, reading the bumps on the skull. It was very popular at the time.
Can't say I've ever heard of it, replies Blue.
Well, that doesn't matter, says Balck. The main thing is that Whitman was interested in brains and skulls – thought they could tell you everthing about a man's character. Anyway, when Whitman lay dying over there in New Jersey about fifty or sixty years ago, he agreed to let them perform and autopsy on him after he was dead. […] A lot of people thought he was a genius, you see, and they wanted to take a look at his brain to find out if there was anything special about it. So, the day after he died, a doctor removed Whitman's brain – cut it right out of his head – and had it sent to the American Anthropometric Society to be measured and weighed.
Like a giant cauliflower, interjects Blue.
Exactly. Like a big grey vegetable. But this is where the story gets interesting. The brain arrives at the laboratory, and just as they're about to work on it, one of the assistants drops it on the floor.
Did it break?
Of course it broke. A brain isn't very tough, you know. It splattered all over the place, and that was that. The brain of America's gretest poet got swept up and thrown out with the garbage.
175-176. oldal (Faber and Faber, 2004)
One night, therefore, Blue finally turns to his copy of Walden. The time has come, he says to himself, and if he doen't make an effort now, he knows that he never will. But the book is not a simple business. As Blue begins to read, he feels as though he is etering an alien world. Trudging through swamps and brambles, hoisting himself up gloomy screes and treacherous cliffs, he feels like a prisoner on a forced march, and his only thought is to escpe. He is bored by Thoreau's words and finds it difficult to concentrate. Whole chapters go by, and when he comes to the end of them he realizes that he has not retained a thing. Why would anyone want to go off and live alone in the woods? What's all this about planting beans and not drinking coffee or eating meat? Why all these interminable descriptions of birds? Blue thought that he was going to get a story, or at least have something like a story, but this is no more than blather, an endless harangue about nothing at all.
It would be unfair to blame him, however. Blue has never read much of anyting except newspapers and magazines, and an occasional adventure novel when he was a boy. Even experienced and sophisticated readers have been known to have trouble with Walden, and no less a figure than Emerson once wrote in his journal that readign Thoreau made him feel nervous and wretched. To Blue's credit, he does not give up. The next day he begins again, and this second go-through is somewhat less rocky than the first. In the third chapter he comes across a sentence that finally says something to him – Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written – and suddenly he understands that the trick is to go slowly, more slowly than he has ever gone with the words before. This helps to some extent, and certain passages begin to grow clear: the business about clothes in the beginning, the battle between the red ants and the black ants, the argument against work. But Blue still finds it apianful, and though he grudgingly admits that Thoureau is perhaps not as stupid as he thought, he begins to resent Black for putting him through this torture.
164-165. oldal (Faber and Faber, 2004)