Reading list: The Go-Between

How to start: I confess I really enjoyed this book. I brought it along during a three-week vacation and loved slipping away from the rudimentary demands of camping to a world of high-class English society and the author’s sophisticated use of words. L.P. Hartley has an interesting biography.

Quotes: “From being my enemy the summer had become my friend: this was another consequence of our Norwich shopping. I felt I had been given the freedom of the heat, and I roamed about in it as if I was exploring a new element. I liked to watch it rise shimmering from the ground and hang heavy on the tops of the darkening July trees. I liked the sense of suspended movement that it gave or seemed to give, reducing everything in Nature to the stillness of contemplation. I liked to touch it with my hand, and feel it on my throat and round my knees, which now were bare to its embrace. I learned to travel far, ever father into it, and achieve a close approximation with it; for I felt that my experience of it would somehow be cumulative and that if it would only get hotter and hotter there was a heart of heat I should attain to.”

“One remembers things at different levels. I still have an impression, distinct but hard to analyse, of the change that came over the household with Lord Trimingham’s arrival. Before, it had an air of self-sufficiency, and, in spite of Mrs. Maudsley’s hand on the reins, a go-as-you-please gait: now everyone seemed to be strung up, on tip-toe to face some test, as we were in the last weeks at school, with the examinations coming on. What one said and did seemed to matter more, as if something hung on it, as if it was contributing to a coming event.”

“Now the thought of the farmyard had lost its magic for me: it was as dead as a hobby that one has grown out of.”

“Also I knew we should not have the Litany, as we had had it last Sunday: this also was a great gain. Less than ever was I in a mood to repent of my sins or to feel that other people should repent of theirs: I could not find a flaw in the universe and was impatient with Christianity for bringing imperfection to my notice, so I closed my ears to its message and chose as a subject of meditation the annals of the Trimingham family emblazoned on the transept wall.”

“He indicated a row of small dark canvasses, set deep in heavy frames. (…) I didn’t like the look of the picture or its feeling; pictures, I thought, should be of something pretty, should record a moment chosen for its beauty. These people hadn’t even troubled to look their best; they were ugly and quite content to be so. They got something out of being their naked selves, their faces told me that: but this self-glory, depending on nobody’s approval but their own, struck me as rather shocking - more shocking than their occupations, unseemly as those were. They had forgotten themselves, that was it; and you should never forget yourself.”

“How everything else had been diminished by [the Ted and Marian relationship] and drained of quality! - for it was a standard of comparison but dwarfed other things. Its colours were brighter, its voice was louder, its power of attraction infinitely greater. It was a parasite of the emotions. Nothing else could live with it or have an independent existence while it was there. It created a desert, it wouldn’t share with anyone or anything, it wanted all the attention for itself. And being secret it contributed nothing to our daily life; it could no more be discussed than could some shameful illness.”

“We talked a little of my journey and of what I had done in life: both subjects that were easily disposed of. For conversational purpose, an ounce of incident is worth a pound of routine progress, and my life had little incident to record.”

Reading list: I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek

How to start: This is a fun collection of stories!

Favourite quotes: “He sang with facial expressions that caused him to cut himself shaving. He shaved with a straight razor rather than wasting money on blades, and he bled as he sang, the foam on the razor stained pink and his face stuck up with bloody clots of toilet paper. I was afraid that, reaching for a note, he’d cut his throat.” (p 15)

“I’d done it out of the same wildness that made for an alliance between us - a bond that turned life comic at the expense of anything gentle. An impulsiveness that permitted a stupid, callous curiosity, the same dangerous lack of sense that had made me ride one day down Luther, a sunless side street that ran only a block, and, peddling at full speed, attempt to jump off my J. C. Higgins bike and back on in a single bounce.” (p127)

“A curfew of cold had emptied the streets.” (p 164)

“Picnics on a windowsill: braunschweiger, Jewish rye, mayonnaise, raw onion, potato salad blushing with paprika, a cold beer, an enormous garlicky sea green pickle tonged just minutes before at the corner deli by a young woman with high cheekbones and a slavic accent, her golden hair standing from turquoise combs that could hardly contain the weight of curls, ample breasts so loose they had to be bare in the sleeveless blue sundress she wore, and the blond hair growing profusely under her arms flashing as she dipped into a huge glass crock where a school of kosher pickles darted away and tried to hide amidst the dill weed, roiled seeds, and wheeling peppercorns.” (p 217)

“Children herded by billowing nuns, jostled into lines.
”The pigeon-launching church bells tolled one o’clock, if a single ring can be considered a toll. Its reverberation filled my apartment.
”That was lunch at the Loyola Arms Hotel - on one or another of those days when nothing happened really but lunch - and yet I don’t remember ever feeling more free, or more alone, than when I’d watch the children marching into school, surrendering the street back to the pigeons and shadow until it was empty and quiet again, and I sat propped in the window, draining the foam, with the length of an entire afternoon still before me.” (p 232)

“At eight a.m., he was waiting in the doorway when the Chinese herbalist came to open his pharmacy. Mick stepped into the shop’s alien atmosphere of dried herbs and powdered animals and inhaled a smell that seemed in itself curative.” (p 264)

“The boy and his gran seem more real to him than his room in the present. Suddenly, it’s clear to him that memory is the channel by which the past conducts its powerful energy; it’s how the past continues to love.” (p 283)

Tangential: This interview he gave makes me want to sit down and write!

Reading list: Collected Stories of Raymond Carver

How to start: The New York Times calls Raymond Carver "the most influential writer of American short stories in the second half of the 20th century". When the author himself writes about why he chose to write short stories and poems, he explains in an essay titled Fires: "During these ferocious years of parenting, I usually didn't have the time, or the heart, to think about working on anything very lengthy. (...) The circumstances of my life with these children dictated something else. They said if I wanted to write anything, and finish it, and if ever I wanted to take satisfaction out of finished work, I was going to have to stick to stories and poems." Later, his children grown, he reflects: "The circumstances of my life are much different now, but now I choose to write short stories and poems. Or at least I think I do. Maybe it's all a result of the old writing habits from those days."

Favourite quote: It could be said, for instance, that to take a wife is to take a history, And if that's so, the I understand that I'm outside history now - like horses and fog. Or you could say that my history has left me. Or that I'm having to go on without history. Or that history will now have to do without me - unless my wife writes more letters, or tells a friend who keeps a diary, say. Then, years later, someone can look back on this time, interpret it according to the record, its scraps and tirades, its silences and innuendos. That's when it dawns on me that Autobiography is the poor man's history. And that I am saying good-bye to history. Good-bye, my darling. (Blackbird Pie)

Tangential: There's a documentary on Youtube about his life.

Reading list: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

How to start: In giving advice to an aspiring writer named Arnold Samuelson, Earnest Hemingway wrote: “Here’s a list of books any writer should have read as part of his education… If you haven’t read these, you just aren’t educated.” Wuthering Heights was included, of course, on his list of 16, seen here. In a chapter about narration, Francine Prose explains what makes the book so compelling: “It’s hard to imagine a more ornate or artificial structure. So what’s surprising is how natural it seems, how quickly our awareness of artifice fades before the urgency of the story being narrated, and how fully the various characters emerge through the eyes and in the voice of a woman who is intuitive, wise, but not, strictly speaking, omniscient.” (Reading Like A Writer, p 88.)

Favourite passage: “I used to draw a comparison between him, and Hindley Earnshaw, and perplex myself to explain satisfactorily, why their conduct was so opposite in similar circumstances. They had both been fond husbands, and were both attached to their children; and I could not see how they shouldn’t both have taken the same road, for good or evil. But, I though in my mind, Hindley, with apparently the stronger head, has shown himself sadly the worse and the weaker man. When his ship struck, the captain abandoned his post; and the crew, instead of trying to save her, rushed into riot and confusion, leaving no hope for their luckless vessel. Linton, on the contrary, displayed the true courage of a loyal and faithful soul: he trusted God; and God comforted him. One hoped, and the other despaired; they chose their own lots, and were righteously doomed to endure them.” 

Tangential: The Guardian published a list of the “100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time” and it included Elizabeth Gaskill’s biography of Charlotte Brontë, Emily’s sister. I read the book and it has a passage that alludes to Charlotte’s impression of her sister’s book, Wuthering Heights. The author writes:

“In December 1847, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey appeared. The first-named of these stories has revolted many readers by the power with which wicked and exceptional characters are depicted. Others, again, have felt the attraction of remarkable genius, even when displayed on grim and terrible criminals. Miss [Charlotte] Brontë herself says, with regard to this tale,
‘Where delineation of human character is concerned, the case is different. I am bound to avow that she had scarcely more practical knowledge of the peasantry amongst whom she lived, than a nun has of the country people that pass her convent gates. My sister’s disposition was not naturally gregarious: circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church, or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though the feeling for the people around her was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought, nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced; and yet she knew them, knew their ways, their language, and their family histories; she could head or them with interest, and talk of them with detail minute, graphic, and accurate; but with them she rarely exchanged a word. Hence it ensured, that what her mind has gathered of the real concerning them, was too exclusively confined to those tragic and terrible traits, of which, in listening to the secret annals of every rude vicinage, the memory is sometimes compelled to receive the impress. Her imagination, which was a spirit more sombre than sunny – more powerful than sportive – found in such traits material whence it wrought creations like Heathcliffe, like Earnshaw, like Catharine. Having formed these beings, she did not know what she had done. If the auditor of her work, when read in manuscript, shuddered under the grinding influence of natures so relentless and implacable – of spirits so lost and fallen; if it was complained that the mere hearing of certain vivid and fearful scenes banished sleep by night, and disturbed mental peace by day, Ellis Bell [Emily Brontë’s pseudonym] would wonder what was meant, and suspect the complainant of affectation. Had she but lived, her mind would of itself have grown like a strong tree – loftier, straighter, wider-spreading – and its matured fruits would have attained a mellower ripeness and sunnier bloom; but on that mind time and experience alone could work; to the influence of other intellects she was not amenable.’”

Reading List: Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield

How to start: Katherine Mansfield was born in 1888 and is considered to be New Zealand's "most internationally famous author" according to the website in her name. She sounds like an endearing person if only for having said this: "Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others... Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth."

Favourite quotes: Alice was a mild creature in reality, but she had the most marvellous retorts ready for questions that she knew would never be put to her. The composing of them and the turning of them over and over in her mind comforted her just as much as if they'd been expressed. (Prelude)

But what I wanted to do was to behave in the most extraordinary fashion - like a clown. To start singing, with large extravagant gestures, to point out of the window and cry: "We are now passing, ladies and gentlemen, one of the sights for which notre Paris is justly famous," to jump out of the taxi while it was going, climb over the roof and drive in by another door; to hang out of the window and look for the hotel through the wrong end of a broken telescope, which was also a peculiarly ear-splitting trumpet. (Je ne parle pas français)

You know I had the mad idea that they were kissing in that quiet room - a long, comfortable kiss. One of those kisses that not only puts one's grief to bed, but nurses it and warms it and tucks it up and keeps it fast enfolded until it is sleeping sound. Ah! how good that is! (Je ne parle pas français)

What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome, suddenly, by a feeling of bliss - absolute bliss! - as though you'd suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle, into every finger and toe?...
Oh, is there no way you can express it without being "drunk and disorderly"? How idiotic civilization is! Why be given a body is you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle? (Bliss)

He was passionately fond of music; every spare penny he had went on books. He was always full of new ideas, schemes, plans. But nothing came of it all. The new fire blazed in Jonathan; you almost heard it roaring softly as he explained, described, and dilated on the new thing; but a moment later it had fallen in and there was nothing but ashes, and Jonathan went about with a look like hunger in his black eyes. (At the Bay)

"Well, my opinion is that you two people ought to part. You'll do no earthly good together. Indeed, it seems to me, it's the duty of either of to set the other free." What happens then? He - and she - agree. It is their conviction too. You are only saying what they have been thinking all last night. And away they go to act on your advice, immediately... And the next time you hear of them they are still together. You see - you've reckoned without the unknown quantity - which is their secret relation to each other - and that they can't disclose even if they want to. Thus far you may tell and no further. Oh, don't misunderstand me! It need not necessarily have anything to do with their sleeping together... But this brings me to a thought I've often half entertained. Which is that human beings, as we know them, don't choose each other at all. It is the owner, the second self inhabiting them, who makes the choice for his own particular purposes, and - this may sound absurdly far-fetched - it's the second self in the other which responds. Dimly - dimly - or so it has seemed to me - we realize this, at any rate to the extent that we realize the hopelessness of trying to escape. (A Married Man's Story)

There is a very unctuous and irritating English proverb to the effect that "every cloud has a silver lining." What comfort can it be to one steeped to the eyebrows in clouds to ponder over their linings, and what an unpleasant picture postcard seal it sets upon one's tragedy - turning it into a little ha' penny monstrosity with a moon in the left-hand corner like a vainglorious threepenny bit! Nevertheless, like most unctuous and irritating things, it is true. The lining woke me after my first night at the Pension Séguin and showed me over the feather bolster a room bright with sunlight as if every golden-haired baby in heaven were pelting the earth with buttercup posies. (Violet)


Reading list: La Cousine Bette by Balzac

How to start: La cousine Bette is one book from among the 91 stories, novels and essays that comprise La Comédie humaine.  Balzac was a prolific French writer who died at the age of 51.

Favourite quote: (in the original French) "Puis, que les vrais amants de l'art aillent voir, à Florence, le Penseur, de Michel-Ange, et, dans la cathédrale de Mayence, la Vierge d'Albert Durer, qui a fait, en ébène, une femme vivante sous ses triples robes, et la chevelure la plus ondoyante, la plus maniable que jamais femme de chambre ait peignée; que les ignorants y courent, et tous reconnaitront que le génie peut imprégner l'habit, l'armure, la robe, d'une pensée et y mettre un corps, tout aussi bien que l'homme imprime son caractère et les habitudes de sa vie à son enveloppe.
"La sculpture est la réalisation continuelle du fait qui s'est appelé pour la seule et unique fois dans la peinture: Raphaël! La solution de ce terrible problème ne se trouve que dans un travail constant, soutenu, car les difficultés matérielles doivent être tellement vaincues, la main doit être si châtiée, si prête et obéissante, que le sculpteur puisse lutter âme à âme avec cette insaisissable nature morale, qu'il faut transfigurer en la matérialisant. Si Paganini, qui faisait raconter son âme par les cordes de son violon, avait passé trois jours sans étudier, il aurait perdu, avec son expression, le registre de son instrument: il désignait ainsi le mariage existant entre le bois, l'archet, les cordes et lui; cet accord dissous, il serait soudain devenu un violoniste ordinaire. 
"Le travail constant est la loi de l'art comme celle de la vie; car l'art, c'est la création idéalisée. Aussi, les grands artistes, les poètes complets n'attendent-ils ni les commandes ni les chalands; ils enfantent, aujourd'hui, demain, toujours. Il en résulte cette habitude du labeur, cette perpétuelle connaissance des difficultés qui les maintient en concubinage avec la muse, avec ses forces créatrices. Canova vivait dans son atelier, comme Voltaire a vécu dans son cabinet, Homère et Phidias ont dû vive ainsi."

Tangential: Balzac loved coffee! In fact his death has been attributed to its overconsumption. The Airship Blog has an entertaining read on the subject.

Reading list: Bright Lights Big City

How to start: This novel by Jay McInerney is short, fast-paced and has an ending as satisfying as a pickle with snap. 

Favourite quote: "But what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name." (page 127)

Tangential: This was Jay McInerney's first novel and if you want to know more about him than the wikipedia entry, there's this article from The Guardian.

5 books I read in my youth

Preface: I don’t like re-reading books. Some people do. As I get older, I feel like I read better, which lends weight to something I read by Peter Brown, who, writing about Augustine of Hippo included a quote by Proust: “No one can truly understand a book, Proust has said, unless he has already been able to ‘allow the equivalents to ripen slowly in his own heart.’” The more I read, the more I notice which is a cause of delight and occasional discouragement. I’m aspiring. The aspiration is a gift and nourishing it is the responsibility. When I look back and worry that I didn’t properly absorb a book, I have to forgive myself, first because I find re-reading boring, and second because I have to trust that it was useful in getting me forward. There is no other way to appreciate literature than to keep reading.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I distinctly remember buying my own copy in elementary school. It fueled many romantic ideas. I didn’t take any notes although I did attempt to memorize a poem from the book for a school poetry event. One classmate recited “Tiger, tiger burning bright in the forests of the night…” and I recited what Jo had composed after her sister’s death, hiding a printed copy of it on my folded arm as if no one would guess it was there when I forgot lines.

Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice was by far my favourite book in highschool. I loved Jane Austen’s humour and when I finished reading the book I was so attached that I read a book of critical essays just to stay with the characters longer. I also watched the BBC eight-part series repeatedly. No other novel since has sparked such an obsession.

The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I remember liking these books, but since I read them when I was young, I didn’t take note of my favorite passages. Francine Prose appreciates Fitzgerald’s ability to “write both meticulously and carelessly, sometimes on the same page.” She describes a particular example: “At lazy moments, F. Scott Fitzgerald could resort to strings of clichés, but in the next paragraph he could give a familiar word the sort of new slant that totally reinvents the language. That reinvention occurs, beginning with his use of the word deferential, in the description of the rose-colored grand hotel that opens Tender Is the Night: ‘Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach… Now, many bungalows cluster near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen old villas rotted like water lilies among the massed pines between Gausses Hôtel des Étragers and Cannes, five miles away.’

“Each adjective (flushed, dazzling) strikes us as apt. And the simile ‘rotted like water lilies’ will come to seem increasingly applicable to much of what happens in a novel that is partly about the dissolution and decay of romance and beauty.”

Francine has more to say about both novels, but I’m too lazy to write it all out, so you might as well get her book.

Tangential: In April of 2017, Little Atoms producer Neil Denny interviewed Sarah Churchwell in and they discussed her book Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby. It was a fascinating listen.

Reading list: Two Serious Ladies

How to start: The novel is strange, but so was the life of its author, and understanding that might help to appreciate the work Jane Bowles did. Francine Prose especially admires the narrative voice: “a voice that suggests the vocabulary and cadence of a highly educated, slightly batty, and neurotic child (…)” and later, “Jane Bowles’s touch is so sure, her language so well chosen and controlled, her artifice so dazzling (and so insouciantly ready to acknowledge itself as artificial) that we not only admire but are wholly convinced, or at least beguiled, by a passage of dialogue that we cannot imagine any normal human being speaking.” (From Reading Like a Writer, page 107-8, and 186-7.)

Favourite passage:
“Having a nice time?” the girl asked Miss Goering in a husky voice.
“Well,” said Miss Goering, “it wasn’t exactly in order to have a good time that I came out. I have more or less forced myself to, simply because I despise going out in the night-time alone and prefer not to leave my own house. However, it has come to such a point that I am forcing myself to make these little excursions –”
Miss Goering stopped because she actually did not know how she could go on and explain to this girl what she meant without talking a very long time indeed, and she realized that this would be impossible right at that moment, since the waiter was constantly walking back and forth between the bar and the young people’s booth.
“Anyway,” said Miss Goering, “I certainly think it does no harm to relax a bit and have a lovely time.”

Reading list: Isaac Babel

How to start: Isaac Babel was a multi-talented writer who was executed at 45 during one of Stalin’s great purges. John Updike wrote an excellent synopsis of his life in the New Yorker. In the Wikipedia entry on Babel, George Saunders is quoted as saying: “There’s a Russian writer named Isaac Babel that I love. I can drop in anywhere in his works, read a few pages and go, Oh yeah, language. It’s almost like if you were tuning a guitar and you heard a beautifully tuned one and you say, Yeah, that’s what we want. We want something that perfect. When I read him, it recalibrates my ear. It reminds me of the difference between an OK sentence and a really masterful sentence. Babel does it for me.”

Favourite passage:
“You’re shortsighted, eh?”
“Quite so.”
“Alexander Fyodorovich, you ought to wear glasses.”
Then, bubbling over like a mere boy, I said to him:
“Just think: you’re not merely blind, you’re practically dead! Line, that divine trait, mistress of the world, eternally escapes you. Here we are, you and I, walking about in this magic garden, this Finnish forest that almost baffles description. All our lives we shall never see anything more beautiful. And you can’t see the pink edges of the frozen waterfall, over there by the stream! You are blind to the Japanese chiseling of the weeping willow leaning over the waterfall. The red trunks of the pines are covered by snow in which a thousand sparks are gleaming. The snow, shapeless when it fell, has draped itself along the branches, lying on their surfaces that undulate like a line drawn by Leonardo. In the snow flaming clouds are reflected. And think what you’d have to say about Fröken Kirsti’s silk stockings; about the line of her leg, that lovely line! I beseech you Alexander Fyodorovich, buy a pair of glasses!”
“My child,” he replied, “don’t waste your time. Forty copecks for spectacles are the only forty copecks I’ve no wish to squander. I don’t need your line, vulgar as truth is vulgar. You live your life as though you were a teacher of trigonometry, while I for my part live in a world of miracles, even when I’m only at Klyazma. What do I need to see Fröken Kirsti’s freckles for, if even when I can scarcely make her out I can see in her all I wish to see? What do I need Finnish clouds for, when above my head I see a moving ocean? What do I need line for, when I have color? To me the whole universe is a gigantic theater, and I am the only member of the audience who hasn’t glued opera glasses to his eyes. The orchestra is playing the overture to the third act; the stage is far away, just as in a dream; my heart swells with ecstasy. I see Juliet’s purple velvet, Romeo’s lilac silk, and not a single false beard. And you want me to blind myself with forty-copeck spectacles!”
- from "Line and Color"

Reading list: 3 titles

Rashomon and Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

How to start: Akutagawa died young, committing suicide at 35 and ending a brilliant writing career. Today, a literary prize in Japan bears his name. An article in Japan Times gives further detail about his life and legacy.

Favourite passage: "Goi was a very plain-looking man. His hollow cheeks made his chin seem unusually long. His lips... if we mentioned his every striking feature, there would be no end. He was extremely homely and sloppy in appearance."

Tangential: Rashomon was made into a film in 1950 to great critical acclaim. Roger Ebert had a lot to say about it.

Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme

How to start: Barthelme is a postmodern writer and my appreciation for the genre amounts to the appreciation I have of Jelly Bellys for their transitory shock of flavour. If I don't understand most of his stories, his obituary in the New York Times makes me wish I did.

Favourite passage: "They sit down together. The pork with red cabbage steams before them. They speak quietly about the McKinley Administration, which is being revised by revisionist historians. The story ends. It was written for several reasons. Nine of them are secrets. The tenth is that one should never cease considering human love, which remains as grisly and golden as ever, no matter what is tattooed upon the warm tympanic page."

Mother's Milk by Edward St. Aubyn

How to start: Mother's Milk is the fourth book in a series of five, that collectively form the Patrick Melrose Novels. In 2012 the series was published as a single volume.

Three favourite passages: "He was having (get it off your chest, dear, it'll do you good) a midlife crisis, and yet he wasn't, because a midlife crisis was a cliché, a verbal Tamazepam made to put an experience to sleep, and the experience he was having was still wide awake (...)."

"He struggled so hard to get away from his roles as a father and a husband, only to miss them the moment he succeeded. There was no better antidote to his enormous sense of futility than the enormous sense of purpose which his children brought to the most obviously futile tasks, such as pouring buckets of sea water into holes in the sand. Before he managed to break away from his family, he liked to imagine that once he was alone he would become an open field of attention, or a solitary observer training his binoculars on some rare species of insight usually obscured by the mass of obligations that swayed before him like a swarm of twittering starlings. In reality solitude generated its own roles, not based on duty but on hunger."

"Now she had an hour, perhaps two, in which to answer letters, pay her taxes, keep in touch with her friends, revive her intellect, take some exercise, read a good book, think of a brilliant money-making scheme, take up yoga, see an osteopath, go to the dentist and get some sleep. Sleep, remember sleep? The word had once referred to great haunches of unconsciousness, six, eight, nine-hour slabs; (...)."

Tangential: The New Yorker published an interview with the author in 2014, entitled "The Real Life of Edward St. Aubyn."