Fiction

Mae finished her wine, and felt briefly aglow. She squinted into the sun, turned away, and saw a man in the distance, on a silver sailboat, raising a tricolored flag.

“How old are you?” the woman asked. “You look about eleven.”

“Twenty-four,” Mae said.

“My god. You don’t have a mark on you. Were we ever twenty-four, my love?” She turned to the man, who was using a ballpoint pen to scratch the arch of his foot. He shrugged, and the woman let the matter drop.

“Beautiful out here,” Mae said.

“We agree,” the woman said. “The beauty is loud and constant. The sunrise this morning, it was so good. And tonight’s a full moon. It’s been rising full orange, turning silver as it climbs. The water will be soaked in gold, then platinum. You should stay.”

Excerpt from The Circle – Dave Eggers

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Fiction

Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot speak, so I listen very well. I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own. People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another’s conversations constantly. It’s like having a passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street. For instance, if we met at a party and I wanted to tell you a story about the time I needed to get a soccer ball in my neighbor’s yard but his dog chased me and I had to jump into a swimming pool to escape, and I began telling the story, you, hearing the words “soccer” and “neighbor” in the same sentence, might interrupt and mention that your childhood neighbor was Pele, the famous soccer player, and I might be courteous and say, Didn’t he play for the Cosmos of New York? Did you grow up in New York? And you might reply that, no, you grew up in Brazil on the streets of Tres Coracoes with Pele, and I might say, I thought you were from Tennessee, and you might say not originally, and then go on to outline your genealogy at length. So my initial conversational gambit—that I had a funny story about being chased by my neighbor’s dog—would be totally lost, and only because you had to tell me all about Pele. Learn to listenI beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal stories.

Excerpt from The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein

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Fiction

Mom was also in the kitchen, rinsing a colander of broccoli under the faucet.

I looked at her when he was off and back.

Nice boy, she said

Not a desert, I said.

What do you mean? She put the broccoli aside, to drip into the sink.

You said Joseph was the desert?

She ran her hands under the tap. Nah, not the desert, she said, as if that conversation had never happened. Joseph, she said, is like a geode—plain on the outside, gorgeous on the inside.

I watched her dry her hands. My mother’s lithe, able fingers. I felt such a clash inside, even then, when she praised Joseph. Jealous, that he got to be a geode—a geode!—but also relieved, that he soaked up most of her super-attention, which on occasion made me feel like I was drowning in light. The same light he took and folded into rock walls to hide in the beveled sharp edges of topaz crystal and schorl.

He has facets and prisms, she said. He is an intricate geological surprise.

I stayed at the counter. I still held the Lego train in my hands.

And what’s Dad? I said.

Oh, your father, she said, leaning her hip against the counter. Your father is a big strong stubborn gray boulder. She laughed.

And me? I asked, grasping, for the last time.

You? Baby, you’re—

I stood still. Waiting.

You’re—

She smiled at me, as she folded the blue-and-white-checked dish towel. You’re seaglass, she said. The pretty green kind. Everybody loves you, and wants to take you home.

Excerpt from The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender

Aside
Fiction

There isn’t any division of time to express the marrow of our lives, the time between the explosion of lead from the muzzle and the meat impact, between the impact and the darkness. There’s only barren instant replay that shows nothing new. I shot her; she fell; and there was an indescribable moment of silence, an infinite duration of time, and we all stepped back, watching the ball go around and around, ticking, bouncing, lighting for an instant, going on, heads and tails, red and black, odd and even…I think that moment ended. I really do. But sometimes, in the dark, I think that hideous random moment is still going on, that the wheel is even yet in spin, and I dreamed all the rest. What must it be like for a suicide coming down from a high ledge? I’m sure it must be a very sane feeling. That’s probably why they scream all the way down.

Excerpt from Rage (1977) – Stephen King

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Commentary

I’m wary of saying that writers have an obligation to do anything in particular — most often, you’ll find someone who doesn’t do whatever thing so beautifully that they redeem its absence — but it’s hard to imagine an essay that would be satisfying without complexity, and it’s hard to imagine complexity without some version of what we’re calling problematizing: the negative capability of holding multiple possibilities at once.

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Periodicals

alexthegayzebra:

I waited in line to meet John Green today for about 2 hours. He was signing books that whole time. When I finally reached the front of the line, I sort-of-jokingly asked him, “How’s your hand holding up?” And he looked up at me with wide, borderline-manic eyes and said flatly, “My head always goes before my hand.”

Waiting in Line for John Green

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Fiction

You sleep only four hours a night. You go to bed at eleven and get up at three and everything is clear as crystal. You begin your day then, have your coffee, read a book for an hour, listen to the faint, far, unreal talk and music of the predawn stations and perhaps go out for a walk, always being certain to have your special police permit with you. You have been picked up before for late and unusual hours and it got to be a nuisance, so you finally got yourself a special permit. Now you can walk and whistle where you wish, hands in your pockets, heels striking the pavement in a slow, easy tempo. This has been going on since you were sixteen years old. You’re now twenty-five, and four hours a night is still enough sleep.

A Careful Man Dies – Ray Bradbury

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