When the Sun Shines Brighter

Overall, the last few weeks have gone well — busy, and filled with the typical “end of school year” work, but still very positive. I’m on much firmer ground again in both my personal sense of self and my attitude toward the world around me, and that’s something I’m going to continue working on…in other words, the fewer negative thoughts, actions, and reactions, the better. Personal growth is, of course, an ongoing, life-long process, but when you’re coming back from the edge of a cliff, it’s easier to quantify progress as you see the cliff recede behind you.

I’m also sticking to a strict workout schedule and diet, and have kept off the 30 pounds I’ve lost since January, but this time by doing more of the right things. I have more energy, endurance, and generally just feel better physically than I have in a long time.

That’s not to say things are perfect. Shadows, as I mentioned in a previous post, always remain. But staying busy, being productive, spending time with good people, trying new things, and going new places all help to keep them largely where they belong…which is out of my way. Life can and does come at you fast, but the groundwork is in place for a positive and productive summer.

And with that in mind, I’m gearing up for my summer writing routine, which I’ll begin almost as soon as the school year is over. I’m aiming for June 17th as the starting date, and from that point on I’ll do my best to park myself at the local Panera five mornings out of every seven, and also some evenings at the nearby Starbucks, for the next eight weeks — when I’m not traveling or otherwise running around. I know, I know, there’s a whole cliché about writing at Starbucks, but I like being out among people, especially during the summer, when you can enjoy the sunlight or twilight without feeling rushed, and sometimes sit outside and enjoy the warmth too.

There are few quiet pleasures more satisfying than sitting on the patio of a bar or café on a sunny morning or warm evening and feeling the world hum around you. Everyone should have at least one “Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” as Hemingway put it, and everyone should visit it frequently.

One of my favorite memories is from the end of my junior year at Penn State. My friends and I were all 21, it was early-May, the semester was coming to a close, the sun was shining, the temperature was in the mid-70s, and it was a late Friday afternoon, so all our classes were finished for the week. So we grabbed a table and sat on the patio at Café 210 West, right on College Avenue, drinking beer and bullshitting the afternoon away. Other students filled the surrounding tables, and State College came alive the way only a college town entering the weekend in good weather can. It was perfect. We had worked hard to get to that point in our lives; our futures stretched out before us, great unknowns but full of potential; and to me, the sunlight seemed brighter, the beer tasted better, and the world’s hum was more vibrant and euphonious than at almost any other time I could remember. To this day, the sun only rarely seems quite as bright as it did that afternoon…and when it does, I take notice, because it means life in those moments is truly good.

So I do like being surrounded by that hum, and in a place – sometimes familiar, sometimes not – where I can really hear it and feel a part of it. In other words, as I said before, I like being around people, even when I’m working…because those special moments can happen at any time, even when it’s only while writing in a public place on a summer morning or evening. They can’t be planned, so they’re always a surprise. But if you tuck yourself away from everything you can be sure they’ll never come. You must get out and, however dramatically or quietly, be a part of things, whether that means skydiving in New Zealand or writing outside a Starbucks in Pennsylvania.

So if you’re in the area this summer, and you stop by that Panera in the morning or that Starbucks in the evening – where I’m writing this now, in fact – there’s a decent chance you’ll find me there, working on stories from my inner world while also quietly enjoying the world around me.

And if you do, please tap me on the shoulder and say “Hi.” Sometimes even a little thing like that is all it takes to make the sun shine a bit brighter, no matter what time of day it is, or how many clouds are in the sky.


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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned


Fitzgerald’s second novel, published in 1922 at the height of his popularity, is a tough read – not because the book isn’t well-written, or illuminating, or because its messages aren’t true. It’s because the main characters are so unlikable, and their lives so damn empty. Whether or not this is their fault, or society’s, or – which is always much more likely – a combination of both, doesn’t really matter. They are empty, entitled people living in a culture that seems to encourage emptiness and entitlement.

Anthony Patch and Gloria Gilbert have both been raised with one ultimate goal in mind: to marry “well”…Anthony someone beautiful, and Gloria someone rich. Anthony is banking off an inheritance that he assumes will one day be his, and Gloria is banking off her beauty. Once they do marry, they are left without any clear goals. Everything in their lives had led up to that moment, and now, once they have the marriage clinched, they are lost. Their relationship descends into arguments, empty affairs, and alcoholism. Neither have any practical skills. Neither have accomplished anything important or meaningful in their lives. And neither of them have a plan for how to fill the years ahead.

It reminds me of a line spoken by Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby: “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon?…and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”

Imagine The Great Gatsby without the “romantic readiness” of Jay Gatsby. Imagine, instead, if it focused wholly on Tom and Daisy Buchanan as the main and only characters. It would be a penetrating and incisive look at the emptiness and diminishment that comes from living with wealth but without purpose, yes…but at the same time offer no relief through anything romantic, bittersweet, or stirring.

That is The Beautiful and Damned. An excellent book about people who have no excellent qualities, and which is unrelenting in its examination of those people.

Favorite quotes:

“I will go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a meaningless world.”

“All she wanted was to be a little girl, to be efficiently taken care of by some yielding yet superior power, stupider and steadier than herself. It seemed that the only lover she had ever wanted was a lover in a dream.”

“Two souls are sometimes created together – and in love before they’re born.”

“I don’t care about truth. I want some happiness.”

“Life plays the same lovely and agonizing joke on all of us.”

“Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know – because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly…and when I got it, it turned to dust in my hand.”

“How I feel is that if I wanted anything I’d take it. That’s what I’ve always thought all my life. But it happens that I want you, and so I just haven’t room for any other desires.”

“This was his healthy state and it made him cheerful, pleasant, and very attractive to intelligent men and to all women. In this state he considered that he would one day accomplish some quiet subtle thing that the elect would deem worthy and, passing on, would join the dimmer stars in a nebulous, indeterminate heaven halfway between death and immortality.”

“Then I grew up, and the beauty of succulent illusions fell away from me.”

“Beautiful things grow to a certain height and then they fail and fade off, breathing out memories as they decay.”

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The Ritual

A beat-up old picnic table has been sitting on my back patio now for almost a decade, and yesterday I repainted it. It’s something I do every three years.

It used to belong to my grandparents. Some of my earliest memories are of having picnics with them in the shade of the maple tree in their backyard, right next to the little flower garden they re-planted every year. My grandfather and I would play whiffle ball on the sunny lawn directly behind it, and go for walks in the woods behind that. I knew every inch of that yard, and in many ways the picnic table was the heart of it.

A summer was never really a summer without it.

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Me in August 1979. My grandparents’ garden, Maple tree, and picnic table, same year.

Every spring, when my parents and I drove the two hours to see my grandparents for the first post-winter visit of the year, it would magically appear from the shed, cleaned, sometimes re-painted, and waiting for use. Its return was one of the rituals that proved winter was really over, and that the Fourth of July, the Dayton Fair, and all the other promises of summer were on the way.

And every summer, when those special days finally came around, we would use it. My mom and grandmother would spend an hour in the kitchen getting lunch ready – sandwiches and meatloaf and potato salad and coleslaw and fruit salad and corn on the cob, then pie and cookies and ice cream.

Those were the years when it felt like summer would last almost forever – that the days between early June and late August were a gulf of time that could barely be comprehended. Back then, you never knew which family members would show up on any given day. It might just be my grandparents, my parents, and yours truly – or my Uncle Loren, Great-Uncle Tom, Great-Aunt Sis, some cousins, and a few neighbors might stop by, too. If that happened, card tables and lawn chairs were set up nearby, extra table cloths unfurled, and more food would miraculously appear (courtesy of my grandmother) from the bottomless cupboards, overworked Roper stove, and fridge.

picnic table

With my cousins Aggie and Bill, 1983

If the visit was near the Fourth of July and evening was coming on, sometimes an older relative would give sparklers to the kids, so we’d run around the picnic table, the tree, the yard, the house, leaving trails of magic fire behind us. And in the evening we’d often sit out there, and I’d listen to the old people talking as I played, until the ice in the glasses began to melt, bugs began to bite, the fireflies became too hard to catch, and it got too dark to see.

My grandfather died on a cold February morning in 1988, a week before my 10th birthday. In the following years, Uncle Tom and Aunt Sis also passed, along with all the other older relatives and neighbors from their generation, until now there are only a few of us left who shared those times together.

But still, for the rest of her life, my grandmother made sure that every spring, the picnic table was brought out, wiped clean, sometimes painted, and always ready.

During those later years, the maple tree had to be cut down, and finally, toward the end, the little flower garden became too much for her to handle, even with help. The picnic table sat alone in the much more empty (but smaller-seeming) back yard. Before she moved to a nursing home I would still sometimes sit out there with her, just the two of us. When one of its wooden planks broke free, I nailed it back. When it needed to be painted, I painted it, just like my grandfather used to.

And when she died at the age of 96, over 20 years after my grandfather, and the house went up for sale, I saw one of the great centers of my life dismantled bit by bit – most of the furniture auctioned off, the belongings of a lifetime divvied up between my parents and my uncle, or given away to more distant relatives, sold, or thrown away.

And when the house was all but empty, as barren as the back yard, and we knew this was the last time we would ever set foot inside it, my dad and I loaded up a small moving van with things I wanted to keep. From the kitchen, I took the red wooden bench, the hutch, and the stool by the stove where my grandfather used to sit. I also took mugs and clocks and books and dozens of other knick-knacks from around the house that no one else wanted, each a catalyst for my childhood memories…In other words, treasures.

And I took the picnic table.

That was ten years ago. Since then, I’ve only driven past my grandparents’ old house once, two years back, when I made a detour through their town on my way to someplace else. I wish I hadn’t. The side porch had been ripped away. My grandmother’s clothesline was gone, along with my grandfather’s shed. The yard was patchy and overgrown. It was the same house, but not. It was the same yard, but different. Everything that had made it theirs was gone. I will never go back again.

But my grandfather’s stool, the red wooden bench, and the hutch from my grandparents’ kitchen are now safely in my den. And outside, on my back porch, the picnic table sits. My sons have grown up using it, and for them, it is now as much a fixture of summer as it was to me. And every few years, like I did yesterday, I re-paint it the same maroon color my grandparents always did.

We leave behind legacies we can’t even comprehend. They are comprised of thousands upon thousands of memories, lessons, and experiences. And some of the most important parts of those legacies don’t have to be grand, or even obvious.

They just have to remind us of love. And when they do, they create more of it.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Winter Dreams


This is a difficult story for me to read. It always has been, it always will be. Fitzgerald understands and expresses the nature of love and loss better than any other writer I’ve encountered, and “Winter Dreams,” along with Gatsby, is the apex of that understanding and expression. It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.

Just as Daisy doesn’t deserve Gatsby, Judy doesn’t deserve Dexter. But he still loves her – wholly, deeply, and with utter and passionate abandon. When she throws him over for the last time, he slowly recovers, converting his memories of her into what Fitzgerald, to quote from Gatsby, describes as “a melancholy beauty.”

It is hard enough to lose the person you love. But Dexter can somehow live with that pain, as long as his image of her – his dream of her – is not shattered. It is only when he realizes that the dream of her is dead, killed by time, by circumstance, by life…her spirit oppressed, her beauty faded, her existence rendered mundane…that the foundation of his youthful exuberance and ambition is destroyed, and he is broken.

It is only when our dreams die that we truly grow old.

Favorite Quotes:

“Often he reached out for the best without knowing why he wanted it – and sometimes he ran up against the mysterious denials and prohibitions in which life indulges.”

“…because the sound of a piano over a stretch of water had always seemed beautiful to Dexter he lay perfectly quiet and listened….The sound of the tune precipitated in him a sort of ecstasy and it was with that ecstasy he viewed what happened to him now. It was a mood of intense appreciation, a sense that, for once, he was magnificently attuned to life and that everything about him was radiating a brightness and a glamour he might never know again.”

“She was not a girl who could be ‘won’ in the kinetic sense – she was proof against cleverness, she was proof against charm; if any of these assailed her too strongly she would immediately resolve the affair to a physical basis, and under the magic of her physical splendor the strong as well as the brilliant played her game and not their own.”

“May at last. Dexter walked the streets at night when the darkness was damp as rain, wondering that so soon, with so little done, so much of ecstasy had gone from him….fire and loveliness were gone, the magic of nights and the wonder of the varying hours and seasons.”

“She was watching him closely and the silence was embarrassing, yet in this crisis he could find no casual word with which to profane the hour.”

“A million phrases of anger, pride, passion, hatred, tenderness fought on his lips. Then a perfect wave of emotion washed over him, carrying off with it a sediment of wisdom, of convention, of doubt, of honor. This was his girl who was speaking, his own, his beautiful, his pride.”

“…she communicated her excitement to him, lavishly, deeply, with kisses that were not a promise but a fulfillment….kisses that were like charity, creating want by holding back nothing at all.” 

“Dexter was at bottom hard-minded. The attitude of the city on his action was of no importance to him, not because he was going to leave the city, but because any outside attitude on the situation seemed superficial. He was completely indifferent to popular opinion.”

“…he had tasted the deep pain that is reserved only for the strong, just as he had tasted for a little while the deep happiness.”

“He wanted to care, and he could not care. For he had gone away and he could never go back any more. The gates were closed, the sun was gone down, and there was no beauty but the gray beauty of steel that withstands all time. Even the grief he could have borne was left behind in the country of illusion, of youth, of the richness of life, where his winter dreams had flourished.”

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night


Tender is the Night had a troubled creation and publication. After the financial disappointment of The Great Gatsby in 1925, Fitzgerald was convinced it would be his “comeback” novel – a tour de force that would re-establish his literary reputation and financial security.

He needed it. Between the start of its composition in 1926 and its publication in 1934, The Great Depression struck, Zelda Fitzgerald’s mental illness developed into a schizophrenia from which she never fully recovered, Fitzgerald’s income dwindled significantly, and his popularity declined. His alcoholism also began to take a much greater toll on him. On top of that, he borrowed a great deal of money from his publisher, Scribner’s, against future book sales, and Tender… took far longer to complete than he expected.

In short, he really needed it to be a success in every way.

It wasn’t. Sales were poor and reviews were tepid. The general consensus seemed to be that although the world had moved on from the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald hadn’t, and was therefore out of touch with the current plight of the average American…when, considering his personal life, nothing could have been further from the truth. Other critics slammed the structure of the novel, especially the integration and pacing of the flashbacks.

Fitzgerald was crushed. He considered Tender is the Night to be his greatest work, and was profoundly affected by its reception. For one of the first and only times in his life, he began to openly second-guess his instinct based on the critical response, and even prepared a reordered version of the novel sometime after its initial publication. Thankfully that version was never published in his lifetime…only years after his death, and as something of a curiosity — kind of like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road scroll, or Thomas Wolfe’s O Lost (the unedited version of Look Homeward, Angel). Ray Bradbury once lent me his copy of the reordered Tender is the Night and asked for my thoughts on it. I was honest…I felt it destroyed the carefully-structured flow, not only of the plot, but of the character development. Imagine if all the flashbacks in The Great Gatsby, so perfectly placed exactly where they needed to be, were belatedly moved to the front of the book, before Nick even states, “In my younger and more vulnerable years…,” and you get the idea.

Ray agreed. “It’s terrible, isn’t it?” he told me. “You must never second-guess yourself.”

Thankfully, the originally published version is still the accepted one, and in the long decades since its first appearance, Tender is the Night has been reassessed in a far more positive light. It is now considered a classic, although in my opinion it is still under-appreciated compared to Fitzgerald’s other major works.

The story of Dick and Nicole Diver, Rosemary Hoyt, and Tommy Barban is a beautifully-written but painful examination of how pity, lust, pride, mental illness, the “Florence Nightingale effect,” and betrayal can destroy careers, reputations, relationships, and self-worth. At the beginning of the novel, Dick Diver seems to have everything. By the end, he has lost it all. Fitzgerald, who once wrote, “Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy,” excelled at this type of rise-and-fall story, but rarely, if ever, did he craft one so intricately, or with such harrowing candor. For example, all the details of Nicole’s mental illness, her treatment, and Dick’s reaction to them came from Fitzgerald’s own experience with Zelda’s deteriorating mental health, and the things he had to learn while dealing with it, her doctors, and her care…They are unflinching, accurate, and honest. This, mixed with Fitzgerald’s exquisite prose, makes Tender is the Night both devastating and brilliant.

Favorite Quotes:

“Actually that’s my secret – I can’t even talk about you to anybody because I don’t want any more people to know how wonderful you are.”

“Wanting above all to be brave and kind, he had wanted, even more than that, to be loved. So it had been. So it would forever be…”

“When she saw him face to face their eyes met and brushed like birds’ wings. After that everything was all right, everything was wonderful, she knew that he was beginning to fall in love with her.”

“Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am tonight.”

“Either you think – or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.”

“For him time stood still and then every few years accelerated in a rush, like the quick re-wind of a film, but for Nicole the years slipped away by clock and calendar and birthday, with the added poignance of her perishable beauty.”

“He sometimes looked back with awe at the carnivals of affection he had given, as a general might gaze upon a massacre he had ordered to satisfy an impersonal blood lust.”

“When people are taken out of their depths they lose their heads, no matter how charming a bluff they put up.”

“They looked at each other at last, murmuring names that were a spell. Softly the two names lingered on the air, died away more slowly than other words, other names, slower than music in the mind.”

“One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are opens wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.”

“In any case you musn’t confuse a single failure with a final defeat.”

“She did not know yet that splendor is something in the heart; at the moment when she realized that and melted into the passion of the universe he could take her without question or regret.”

“Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy – one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure, but turn out to have been the pleasure itself.”

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It’s Personal

This morning I wrote a new short story.

It’s been a long time since the last one…at least six months. During the school year I devote most of my time and energy to teaching, so I usually wait until mid-June to really settle in to a full, summer-long writing schedule. But the idea had been percolating for a few days, so I decided to write the thing down now rather than later. Ever since I began recovering from my bout of depression (and even before, when I was still in the thick of it), I’ve been working hard to do as much and as many things as I can. Lying around helps nothing. Instead, you start something, you keep at it, and you get the job done, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes. Setbacks don’t equal defeat. Delays don’t equal defeat. Only giving up does…either far down the line, or before you even start. Knowing that, and living by it, is one of the major foundations for a good life.

So rather than just continuing to think about it, I found a table at my local Panera, where I do all my morning writing (yeah, yeah, but I like the noise and the people…usually), got myself situated, and an hour and a half later, the story was done. I don’t often complete a short story all in one sitting, but this one flowed. It’s a personal story based on something that recently happened to me, but it’s also tinged with the supernatural, so will find a home in the next Uncanny Valley book.

I realize I just wrote that it’s “personal.” Of course it is. They all are.

I always feel good looking over a new story right after I finish writing it, because what I see, for better or worse, is a prismed reflection of myself. When you open one of my books, that’s me you’re looking at, and me who’s talking to you…It doesn’t matter if you’re reading it now, or a century from now, long after I’m dead. If you really want to know what I care about the most, what moves me and inspires me and angers me and thrills me, I’m there in those pages to show you. It’s an amazing connection, and I should take the time to consciously appreciate it more often.

For example, when you open up Beowulf and start to read, at that moment the nameless author who wrote it down, and the nameless scops who told it verbally for generations before that, are all calling across oceans of time to you – and you, by listening, are responding. In this way, they are alive again. It’s as close to time travel as any of us will ever get: a conversation taking place over a gulf of a dozen centuries, which somehow, despite all the distance, connects people through the common threads of humanity that never change.

The same is true every single time we open a book. As readers, by turning to the first page we are entering into a relationship with the author. And like all relationships, we don’t know where it will lead…but we hope it will be someplace good.

Finally, thank you again for all the feedback about my other recent posts. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by it (in a good way), and remain deeply grateful. I’m happy to report that I’m still much better, both mentally and physically. Also, I just finished re-reading Tender is the Night, so I’ll post about that in a few more days, as I continue working my way through five of Fitzgerald’s major works.

But I’ll end this post with two quotes, neither by Fitzgerald.

The first is from an almost-contemporary of his, William Saroyan. It comes from the preface to his 1934 collection of short stories, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze:

“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

Yes, indeed, we will be. But sometimes we can also be brought back, even by people who have yet to live.

As Terry Pratchett once wrote, “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

Read to give life. And write to live. Because it’s personal.

Beautifully personal.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Love of the Last Tycoon

last tycoon

Just recently I took a trip to Washington D.C. for an award ceremony, but instead of spending the night there, I decided to stay in Rockville, Maryland – about 30 miles away. So I attended the ceremony, drove back to Rockville after midnight, then woke up early the next morning so I could visit St. Mary’s Church Cemetery, where F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are buried.

And at dawn, just as the sun was rising, that’s what I did. I’d always wanted to, and it was perfect. I spent about half an hour by their grave, all by myself, thinking about those two triumphant-tragic lives, and how their legacy – deservedly — has lived on far beyond even their wildest expectations.

The end of Fitzgerald’s life dramatically reflects that blend of triumph and tragedy. By 1940, age 44, he was living in debt in Los Angeles, trying to support himself, pay for his daughter’s college tuition, and finance Zelda’s medical bills. MGM had cancelled his screenwriter’s contract the previous year, so he made most of his income writing the short “Pat Hobby” stories for Esquire, which paid just a tenth of the price his earlier stories had brought in. All of his books, including Gatsby, were out of print. He was also still struggling with alcoholism, and on top of that had suffered two heart attacks the previous year. Based on his letters from the period, he knew – or at least highly suspected – that he didn’t have long to live.

But at the same time, Fitzgerald also became enthusiastically dedicated to writing a new novel, his first since the extremely tortuous process of completing Tender is the Night. He planned for this one to be leaner and tighter, much like The Great Gatsby. The story of the doomed movie producer Monroe Stahr (modeled after Irving Thalberg) in the final weeks of his life, Fitzgerald intended it to be a penetrating look into the inner workings of Hollywood, as well as a tragic love story.

Stahr, like Fitzgerald, knew he was suffering from terminal heart disease. And Fitzgerald, like Stahr, seemed determined to push on with his work, no matter how little time he had left. And what a work it is. The Love of the Last Tycoon tackles the topics of mortality, the hope and despair that come with love gained and lost, the sundering of power that comes with the passage of time, and the wild, rapidly-evolving cultures of Hollywood and Los Angeles. What’s extraordinary is that even though he only lived long enough to complete half of the novel (and that in various drafts, none of them final), Fitzgerald succeeded in addressing all of those things with elegance and wisdom. Some critics feel that even in its incomplete state, The Love of the Last Tycoon is one of the greatest novels about Hollywood ever written. To me, it is also one of the finest requiems for a life and career — his own.

Fitzgerald died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940. Zelda died in a fire on March 10, 1948.

Favorite Quotes:

“Stahr’s eyes and Kathleen’s met and tangled. For an instant they made love as no one ever dares to do after. Their glance was slower than an embrace, more urgent than a call.”

“There’s no substitute for will. Sometimes you have to fake will when you don’t feel it at all.”

“He wanted the pattern of his life broken. If he was going to die soon, like the two doctors said, he wanted to stop being Stahr for a while and hunt for love like men who had no gifts to give, like young nameless men who looked along the streets in the dark.”

“These lights, this brightness, these clusters of human hope, of wild desire – I shall take these lights in my fingers. I shall make them bright, and whether they shine or not, it is in these fingers that they shall succeed or fail.”

“They were smiling at each other as if this was the beginning of the world.”

“Under the moon the back lot was thirty acres of fairyland – not because the locations really looked like African jungles and French chateaux and schooners at anchor and Broadway at night, but because they looked like the torn picture books of childhood, like fragments of stories dancing in an open fire. I never lived in a house with an attic, but a back lot must be something like that, and at night of course in an enchanted distorted way, it all comes true.”

“People fall in and out of love all the time. I wonder how they manage it.”

“Now they were different people as they started back. Four times they had driven along the shore road today, each time a different pair. Curiosity, sadness, and desire were behind them now; this was a true returning – to themselves and all their past and future and the encroaching presence of tomorrow.”

“There was a midsummer restlessness abroad – early August with imprudent loves and impulsive crimes. With little more to expect from summer one tried anxiously to live in the present – or, if there was no present, to invent one.”

“In its way the little trip they made was one of the best times he had ever had in life. It was certainly one of the times when, if he knew he was going to die, it was not tonight.”

“We all have one story.”


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