Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation is made on breath-seizing paragraphs [like the one above] that you try not to read over and over and over. (Try, try, try.) Funny, really, how you feel yourself snag on certain passages, and how it all seems like the beginning of a greater unraveling. (Tidy life, Sasha; remember your willfully well-ordered life.)
There is a man who travels around the world trying to find places where you can stand still and hear no human sound. It is impossible to feel calm in cities, he believes, because we so rarely hear birdsong there. Our ears evolved to be our warning systems. We are on high alert in places where no birds sing. To live in a city is to be forever flinching.
— From Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill.
Everywhere there was an air of unhurried thoroughness, of people being engaged in a gigantic endeavor that could never be completed and mustn’t be rushed.
— Bill Bryson, on the Natural History Museum in London; from his A Short History on Nearly Everything. (Oh, that is the life.)
She was a person you would not be surprised to find sitting by herself in a corner of the world where she didn’t belong, writing things in a notebook to prevent the rise of panic.
From “Hold Me Fast, Don’t Let Me Pass” by Alice Munro.
She’d been given something perfect—youth!—and done imperfect things with it. The moon shone whole then partial in the sky, having its life without her.
— From “Wings” by Lorrie Moore, collected in Bark.
A Sensitive Nature, from Descriptive Mentality from the Head Face and Hand by Holmes Whittier Merton, 1899. [x]
She was in contact with with her turmoil and with her ability to survive. How could that be anything less than emotional brilliance?
— From “Debarking” by Lorrie Moore, collected in Bark.
He wished this month had a less military verb for a name. Why March? How about a month named Skip? That could work.
— From “Debarking” by Lorrie Moore, collected in Bark
Detail of The Chocolate Girl, by Jean-Etienne Liotard.
Detail of Marion Collier (née Huxley) by John Maler Collier, 1882-1883.