Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….…at night, coming down the River Highway, you were caught in a dazzling galaxy of brilliant suns, a web of lights strung out from the river and then south to capture the city in a brilliant display of electrical wizardry. The highway lights glistened close and glistened farther as they skirted the city and reflected in the dark waters of the river. The windows of the buildings climbed in brilliant rectangular luminosity, climbed to the stars and joined the wash of red and green and yellow and orange neon which tinted the sky. The traffic lights blinked their gaudy eyes and along the stem, the incandescent display tangled in a riot of color and eye-aching splash.
….The city lay like a sparkling nest of rare gems, shimmering in layer upon layer of pulsating intensity.
….The buildings were a stage set.
….They faced the river, and they glowed with man-made brilliance, and you stared up at them in awe, and you caught your breath.
….Behind the buildings, behind the lights, were the streets.
….There was garbage in the streets.

* * * * * * * * *

December 25, 1942… Our division no. 333 of the 56th Army occupied an elevation on the approach to Stalingrad. The enemy decided to take it back at all costs. A battle began. Tanks attacked us, but our artillery stopped them. The Germans rolled back, and a wounded lieutenant, the artillerist Kostia Khudov, was left in no-man’s land. The orderlies who tried to bring him back were killed. Two first-aid sheepdogs (this was the first time I saw them) crept toward him, but were also killed. And then I took off my flap-eared hat, stood up tall, and began to sing our favourite pre-war song: “I saw you off to a great deed,” first softly, then more and more loudly. Everything became hushed on both sides – ours and the Germans’. I went up to Kostia, bent down, put him on a sledge, and took him to our side. I walked and thought: “Only not in the back, better let them shoot me in the head.” So, right now… right now… The last minutes of my life… Right now! Interesting: will I feel the pain or not? How frightening, mama dear! But not a single shot was fired…

Maria Petrovna Smirnova, Medical Assistant

* * * * * * * * *

….He had steeled himself just a little for the Jump through hyper-space, a phenomenon one did not experience in simple interplanetary trips. The Jump remained, and would probably remain forever, the only practical method of travelling between the stars. Travel through ordinary space could proceed at no rate more rapid than that of ordinary light (a bit of scientific knowledge that belonged among the items known since the forgotten dawn of human history), and that would have meant years of travel between even the nearest of inhabited systems. Through hyper-space, that unimaginable region that was neither space nor time, matter nor energy, something nor nothing, one could traverse the length of the Galaxy in the interval between two neighboring instants of time.
….Gaal had waited for the first of those Jumps with a little dread curled gently in his stomach, and it ended in nothing more than a trifling jar, a little internal kick which ceased an instant before he could be sure he had felt it. That was all.

* * * * * * * * *

….Time passed. I acquired a girlfriend, lost her, acquired another, lost her as well. My secret movie script, my most demanding lover, disliked my attempts at these misconceived relationships with human beings, and sulked, and refused to yield up its secrets. My Late Twenties were steaming toward me, and I like a swooning nickelodeon hero lay helpless across the tracks. (My literary parents would no doubt have preferred that I refer, instead, to the climactic railway-tracks scene in Forster’s The Longest Journey.) The Gardens were my microcosm, and every day I saw the creatures of my imagination staring back at me from the windows of houses on both Macdougal and Sullivan, hollow-eyed, pleading to be born. I had pieces of them all but the shape of the work eluded me. At #XX Sullivan Street, on the first floor, with garden access, I had placed my Burmese – I should say Myanmaran – diplomat, U Lnu Fnu of the United Nations, his professional heart broken by his defeat in the longest-ever battle for the post of Secretary-General, twenty-nine consecutive rounds of voting without a winner, and in the thirtieth round he lost to the South Korean.

* * * * * * * * *

….“…they call me Barbecue.”
….“Barbecue? Why’s that?”
….“Oh, you don’t want to hear. It’s a sad story . . . we’d barely rounded that great jut on the French coast when we got shipwrecked. On the island of Ushant, hiding in all them jagged barren rocks from the French troops, having to fend for ourselves on starvation rations till we could hail the next British ship sailing by. What food we had was running low and so, Jim, what could I do but make a sacrifice for my own shipmates?”
….“A… a sacrifice?”
….“We’d saved from the wreck some of my cooking equipment, including a great chopping knife – like this one here. And with the edge of that knife, why, I sawed off my own leg.”
….“S…sawed…?”
….“What else could I do? And then I cooked it.”
….“Cooked…?”
….“The flesh off my calves made a fine pair of fillet steaks. The blood I drained for a kind of sauce. I screwed the marrow out of the bones to make a brand of paté, and I even boiled my bony old foot for soup. And I said to my starving shipmates ‘Take! Eat! This is my body. This is my blood. Which I ask you to eat and drink in remembrance, should I not survive, of your old shipmate John Silver. And d’ye know what happened next, Jim?”
….“What?”
….“Why, they all choked to death on that rotten meat and I got all the good grub to myself. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha-a-a! I’m joking! Jim! Joking! Storifying!”

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

22 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. Oh, you do have some great reads there, FictionFan. I’ve been wanting to read The Unwomanly Face of War, so I’m glad you reminded me of it . And the McBain series is classic, in my opinion. That particular one evokes a hot, sticky, city summer so well, and that adds to the tension. Oooh, and Asimov, too. Yes, a very good week, I think.

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    • A good week, indeed! (Except for the Salman Rushdie, perhaps… but least said, soonest mended… 😉 ) The Unwomanly Face of War is very good so far, and I loved the McBain! I had read it before many years ago, but I’d forgotten just how excellent the actual writing is.

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    • Some great quotes this week, I felt – sometimes they just leap off the page! The Unwomanly Face of War can be a bit variable, but some of the people’s stories are gut-wrenching. Treasure Island is totally fab! I finished it on Sunday and really wanted to start again at the beginning – great script, great acting! 😀

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    • It’s very good so far though, as you’d imagine in this kind of book, some passages are more moving than others. It’s probably a book that’s better for dipping than reading straight through, I think.

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    • It’s strange reading Asimov these days – some of it is so dated and yet you can still see what a huge influence he has been on sci-fi ever since. Haha! Didn’t you like Long John Silver’s story then? I loved it – and the actor on the audiobook gave it his all… spinetinglingly funny! 😉

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    • It’s so long since I read Foundation I’d really forgotten it almost entirely. I always have mixed feelings about re-reading Asimov – I loved him so much in my youth, but there’s no doubt his books are feeling a bit dated now. But it’s still fascinating to see how many Asimov “inventions” are still being used as standard in modern science fiction… 😀

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    • The Ed McBain was great! Haha – I fear Mr Rushdie and I parted company at around the 30% mark but I’d already prepared the post by then so I let him stay. Ah well, the Rushdie book I enjoyed was clearly the exception to the rule… I won’t be reviewing it but I posted some bitter remarks on Goodreads. 😉

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    • I loved Rushdie’s last book but I fear this one and I parted company at the 30% mark. He’s gone back to being all intellect and no heart. This version of Treasure Island is a full cast dramatisation with some great British actors in the lead parts. It’s totally fab – I loved it!

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  2. Oh the Isaac Asimov is actually sort of interesting to me, mainly because his work is so famous, and I’d like to be able to honestly say I’ve read something by him. I think it would make me sound more intelligent no?

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    • Haha – how could you possibly sound more intelligent than you already do?!! I’m going to be honest and say I didn’t totally love this one and wouldn’t recommend it as a first. I would however recommend either Caves of Steel – a robot and a policeman are paired up to solve a murder centuries in the future – or The Gods Themselves, which is about how scientists sometimes do things that have unintended consequences. Sounds dull I know, but it has the most wonderful form of alien sex in it I’ve ever read, so much so that I’ve always felt our kind is a bit second-rate ever since… 😉 (Totally not graphic or yucky though, I promise!)

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    • I loved his last book – Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights – and so far it’s the only one I’ve read. Unfortunately I didn’t get along with this one and have now abandoned it. It seemed to be so full of references to art, mythology, etc., that there wasn’t much room for story or emotion. But I’m still intending to backtrack and read Midnight’s Children one day…

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