“Towards midnight the rain ceased and the clouds drifted away, so that the sky was scattered once more with the incredible lamps of stars. Then the breeze died too and there was no noise save the drip and tickle of water that ran out of clefts and spilled down, leaf by leaf, to the brown earth of the island. The air was cool, moist, and clear; and presently even the sound of the water was still. The beast lay huddled on the pale beach and the stains spread, inch by inch.
The edge of the lagoon became a streak of phosphorescence which advanced minutely, as the great wave of the tide flowed. The clear water mirrored the clear sky and the angular bright constellations. The line of phosphorescence bulged about the sand grains and little pebbles; it held them each in a dimple of tension, then suddenly accepted them with an inaudible syllable and moved on.
Along the shoreward edge of the shallows the advancing clearness was full of strange, moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes. Here and there a larger pebble clung to its own air and was covered with a coat of pearls. The tide swelled in over the rain-pitted sand and smoothed everything with a layer of silver. Now it touched the first of the stains that seeped from the broken body and the creatures made a moving patch of light as they gathered at the edge. The water rose further and dressed Simon's coarse hair with brightness. The line of his cheek silvered and the turn of his shoulder became sculptured marble. The strange, attendant creatures, with their fiery eyes and trailing vapours busied themselves round his head. The body lifted a fraction of an inch from the sand and a bubble of air escaped from the mouth with a wet plop. Then it turned gently in the water.
Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon were pulling; and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging slightly on one side while the solid core turned. The great wave of the tide moved further along the island and the water lifted. Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon's dead body moved out towards the open sea.”
― William Golding, Lord of the Flies
Fri 28 May, 2021 07:23 am
"When on that shivering winter's night, the Pequod thrust her vindictive bows into the cold malicious waves, who should I see standing at her helm but Bulkington! I looked with sympathetic awe and fearfulness upon the man, who in mid-winter just landed from a four years' dangerous voyage, could so unrestingly push off again for still another tempestuous term. The land seemed scorching to his feet. Wonderfullest things are ever the unmentionable; deep memories yield no epitaphs; this six-inch chapter is the stoneless grave of Bulkington. Let me only say that it fared with him as with the storm-tossed ship, that miserably drives along the leeward land. The port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in the port is safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends, all that's kind to our mortalities. But in that gale, the port, the land, is that ship's direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and through. With all her might she crowds all sail off shore; in so doing, fights 'gainst the very winds that fain would blow her homeward; seeks all the lashed sea's landlessness again; for refuge's sake forlornly rushing into peril; her only friend her bitterest foe!"
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Percey B. Shelley
Fri 28 May, 2021 12:50 pm
“You're a hopeless romantic," said Faber. "It would be funny if it were not serious. It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the 'parlor families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios, and televisors, but are not. No,no it's not books at all you're looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type or receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us. Of course you couldn't know this, of course you still can't understand what I mean when i say all this. You are intuitively right, that's what counts.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Fri 28 May, 2021 03:11 pm
Ever since I can remember there have been little stickers of white paper all over the house with neat black-biro writing on them. Attached to the legs of chairs, the edges of rugs, the bottoms of jugs, the aerials of radios, the doors of drawers, the headboards of beds, the screens of televisions, the handles of pots and pans, they give the appropriate measurement for the part of the object they’re stuck to. There are even ones in pencil stuck to the leaves of plants. When I was a child I once went round the house tearing all the stickers off; I was belted and sent to my room for two days. Later my father decided it would be useful and character-forming for me to know all the measurements as well as he did, so I had to sit for hours with the Measurement Book (a huge loose-leaf thing with all the information on the little stickers carefully recorded according to room and category of object), or go round the house with a jotter making my own notes. This was all in addition to the usual lessons my father gave me on mathematics and history and so on.
Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory.
Fri 28 May, 2021 04:11 pm
The Bull Calf by Irving Layton
The thing could barely stand. Yet taken from his mother and the barn smells
he still impressed with his pride,
with the promise of sovereignity in the way his head moved to take us in.
The fierce sunlight tugging the maize from the ground liked at his shapely flanks.
He was too young for all that pride.
I thought of the deposed Richard II.
"No money in bull calves," Freeman had said. The visiting clergyman rubbed the nostrils now snuffing pathetically at the windless day. "A pity," he sighed.
My gaze slipped off his hat toward the empty sky that circled over the black knot of men,
over us and the calf waiting for the first blow.
the bull calf drew in his thin forelegs
as if gathering strength for a mad rush... tottered...raised his darkening eyes to us,
and I saw we were at the far end
of his frightened look, growing smaller and smaller till we were only the ponderous mallet
that flicked his bleeding ear
and pushed him over on his side, stiffly,
like a block of wood.
Below the hill's crest
the river snuffled on the improvised beach.
We dug a deep pit and threw the dead calf into it. It made a wet sound, a sepulchral gurgle,
as the warm sides bulged and flattened.
Settled, the bull calf lay as if asleep,
one foreleg over the other,
bereft of pride and so beautiful now,
without movement, perfectly still in the cool pit, I turned away and wept.
Fri 28 May, 2021 04:21 pm
Excerpt from Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen, one of my favourite authors:
At the stroke of eleven on a cool April night, a woman named Joey Perrone went overboard from a luxury deck of the cruise liner M.V. Sun Duchess. Plunging toward the dark Atlantic, Joey was too dumbfounded to panic.
I married an asshole, she thought, knifing headfirst into the waves.
The impact tore off her silk skirt, blouse, panties, wristwatch and sandals, but Joey remained conscious and alert. Of course she did. She had been co-captain of her college swim team, a biographical nugget that her husband obviously had forgotten.
Bobbing in its fizzy wake, Joey watched the gaily lit Sun Duchess continue steaming away at twenty nautical miles per hour. Evidently only one of the other 2,049 passengers was aware of what had happened, and he wasn’t telling anybody.
Bastard, Joey thought.
She noticed that her bra was down around her waist, and she wriggled free of it. To the west, under a canopy of soft amber light, the coast of Florida was visible. Joey began to swim.
The water of the Gulf Stream was slightly warmer than the air, but a brisk northeasterly wind had kicked up a messy and uncomfortable chop. Joey paced herself. To keep her mind off sharks, she replayed the noteworthy events of the week-long cruise, which had begun almost as unpromisingly as it had ended.
Sat 29 May, 2021 02:42 am
OUTSIDE THE WALLS of the Crimson Cabaret was a world of rain and darkness. At intervals, whenever someone entered or exited through the front door of the club, one could actually see the steady rain and was allowed a brief glimpse of the darkness. Inside it was all amber light,tobacco smoke, and the sound of the raindrops hitting the windows,which were all painted black. On such nights, as I sat at one of the tables in that drab little place, I was always filled with an infernal merriment, as if I were waiting out the apocalypse and could not care less about it. I also liked to imagine that I was in the cabin of an old ship during a really vicious storm at sea or in the club car of a luxury passenger train that was being rocked on its rails by ferocious winds and hammered by a demonic rain. Sometimes, when I was sitting in the Crimson Cabaret on a rainy night, I thought of myself as occupying a waiting room for the abyss (which of course was exactly what I was doing) and between sips from my glass of wine or cup of coffee I smiled sadly and touched the front pocket of my coat where I kept my imaginary ticket to oblivion.However, on that particular rainy November night I was not feeling very well. My stomach was slightly queasy, as if signalling the onset of a virus or even food poisoning. Another source for my malaise, I thought to myself, might well have been my longstanding nervous condition,which fluctuated from day to day but was always with me in some form and manifested itself in a variety of symptoms both physical and psychic.I was in fact experiencing a faint sensation of panic, although this in noway ruled out the possibility that the queasiness of my stomach was due to a strictly physical cause, either viral or toxic. Neither did it rule out a third possibility which I was trying to ignore at that point in the evening.Whatever the etiology of my stomach disorder, I felt the need to be in a public place that night, so that if I should collapse – an eventuality I often feared – there would be people around who might attend to me, or at least shuttle my body off to the hospital. At the same time I was not seeking close contact with any of these people, and I would have been bad company in any case, sitting there in the corner of the club drinking mint tea and smoking mild cigarettes out of respect for my ailing stomach. For all these reasons I had brought my notebook with me that night and had it lying open on the table before me, as if to say that I wanted to be left alone to mull over some literary matters.
–Thomas Ligotti, Gas Station Carnivals
Sat 29 May, 2021 02:57 am
They are playing a game. They are playing at not
playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I
shall break the rules and they will punish me.
I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.
RD Laing, Knots
Sat 29 May, 2021 12:47 pm
Young Gerard was for many years of his life a son apart and he was going into the Church, and the Church could always maintain her children by hook or by crook in those days: no great hopes, because his family had no interest with the great to get him a benefice, and the young man's own habits were frivolous, and, indeed, such as our cloth merchant would not have put up with in any one but a clerk that was to be. His trivialities were reading and penmanship, and he was so wrapped up in them that often he could hardly be got away to his meals. The day was never long enough for him; and he carried ever a tinder-box and brimstone matches, and begged ends of candles of the neighbours, which he lighted at unreasonable hours—ay, even at eight of the clock at night in winter, when the very burgomaster was abed. Endured at home, his practices were encouraged by the monks of a neighbouring convent. They had taught him penmanship, and continued to teach him until one day they discovered, in the middle of a lesson, that he was teaching them. They pointed this out to him in a merry way: he hung his head and blushed: he had suspected as much himself, but mistrusted his judgment in so delicate a matter. “But, my son,” said an elderly monk, “how is it that you, to whom God has given an eye so true, a hand so subtle yet firm, and a heart to love these beautiful crafts, how is it you do not colour as well as write? A scroll looks but barren unless a border of fruit, and leaves, and rich arabesques surround the good words, and charm the sense as those do the soul and understanding; to say nothing of the pictures of holy men and women departed, with which the several chapters should be adorned, and not alone the eye soothed with the brave and sweetly blended colours, but the heart lifted by effigies of the saints in glory. Answer me, my son.”
At this Gerard was confused, and muttered that he had made several trials at illuminating, but had not succeeded well; and thus the matter rested.
- THe Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade
Sat 29 May, 2021 01:01 pm
I’d been alone for so long that I started talking to the radio. At least I assumed that’s where the voices were coming from. In the country that produced Luther, Nietzsche and Adolf Hitler you can never be absolutely sure about these things.
"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. . . the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters . . . . "
Frank Mcourt-Angelas Ashes
Sat 29 May, 2021 11:31 pm
Lieutenant Sandridge turned a beautiful couleur de rose through his ordinary strawberry complexion, tucked the letter in his hip pocket, and chewed off the ends of his gamboge moustache.
The next morning he saddled his horse and rode alone to the Mexican settlement at the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio, twenty miles away.
Six feet two, blond as a Viking, quiet as a deacon, dangerous as a machine gun, Sandridge moved among the Jacales, patiently seeking news of the Cisco Kid.
Far more than the law, the Mexicans dreaded the cold and certain vengeance of the lone rider that the ranger sought. It had been one of the Kid's pastimes to shoot Mexicans "to see them kick": if he demanded from them moribund Terpsichorean feats, simply that he might be entertained, what terrible and extreme penalties would be certain to follow should they anger him! One and all they lounged with upturned palms and shrugging shoulders, filling the air with "quien sabes" and denials of the Kid's acquaintance.
The Caballero's Way, O.Henry
Sun 30 May, 2021 06:36 am
If we had keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.
George Eliot -- Middlemarch
Tue 1 Jun, 2021 02:22 pm
Nat hurried on. Past the little wood, past the old barn, and then across the stile to the remaining
As he jumped the stile he heard the whir of wings. A black-backed gull dived down at him from
the sky, missed, swerved in flight, and rose to dive again. In a moment it was joined by others,
six, seven, a dozen, black-backed and herring mixed. Nat dropped his hoe. The hoe was useless.
Covering his head with his arms, he ran toward the cottage. They kept coming at him from the
air, silent save for the beating wings. The terrible, fluttering wings. He could feel the blood on
his hands, his wrists, his neck. Each stab of a swooping beak tore his flesh. If only he could keep
them from his eyes. Nothing else mattered. He must keep them from his eyes. They had not
learned yet how to cling to a shoulder, how to rip clothing, how to dive in mass upon the head,
upon the body. But with each dive, with each attack, they became bolder. And they had no
thought for themselves. When they dived low and missed, they crashed, bruised and broken, on
the ground. As Nat ran he stumbled, kicking their spent bodies in front of him.
He found the door; he hammered upon it with his bleeding hands. Because of the boarded
windows no light shone. Everything was dark.
“Let me in,” he shouted, “it’s Nat. Let me in.”
He shouted loud to make himself heard above the whir of the gulls’ wings.
Then he saw the gannet, poised for the dive, above him in the sky. The gulls circled, retired,
soared, one after another, against the wind. Only the gannet remained. One single gannet above
him in the sky. The wings folded suddenly to its body. It dropped like a stone. Nat screamed,
THe Birds, Daphne Dumaurier
Thu 3 Jun, 2021 12:56 pm
On Monday Danner hastened home from his classes. During the night he had
had a new idea. And a new idea was a rare thing after fourteen years of
groping investigation. "Alkaline radicals," he murmured as he crossed
his lawn. He considered a group of ultra-microscopic bodies. He had no
name for them. They were the "determinants" of which he had talked. He
locked the laboratory door behind himself and bent over the microscope
he had designed. "Huh!" he said. An hour later, while he stirred a
solution in a beaker, he said: "Huh!" again. He repeated it when his
wife called him to dinner. The room was a maze of test tubes, bottles,
burners, retorts, instruments. During the meal he did not speak.
Afterwards he resumed work. At twelve he prepared six tadpole eggs and
put them to hatch. It would be his three hundred and sixty-first
separate tadpole hatching.
Then, one day in June, Danner crossed the campus with unusual haste.
Birds were singing, a gentle wind eddied over the town from the slopes
of the Rocky Mountains, flowers bloomed. The professor did not heed the
reburgeoning of nature. A strange thing had happened to him that
morning. He had peeped into his workroom before leaving for the college
and had come suddenly upon a phenomenon.
One of the tadpoles had hatched in its aquarium. He observed it eagerly,
first because it embodied his new idea, and second because it swam with
a rare activity. As he looked, the tadpole rushed at the side of its
domicile. There was a tinkle and a splash. It had swum through the plate
glass! For an instant it lay on the floor. Then, with a flick of its
tail, it flew into the air and hit the ceiling of the room.
"Good Lord!" Danner said. Old years of work were at an end. New years of
excitement lay ahead. He snatched the creature and it wriggled from his
grasp. He caught it again. His fist was not sufficiently strong to hold
it. He left it, flopping in eight-foot leaps, and went to class with
considerable suppressed agitation and some reluctance. The determinant
was known. He had made a living creature abnormally strong.
When he reached his house and unlocked the door of the laboratory, he
found that four tadpoles, in all, had hatched. Before they expired in
the unfamiliar element of air, they had demolished a quantity of
Gladiator, Philip Wylie
Fri 4 Jun, 2021 04:37 pm
Therefore, men of Polynesia and Boston and China and Mount Fuji and the barrios of the Philippines, do not come to these islands empty-handed, or craven in spirit, or afraid to starve. There is no food here. In these islands there is no certainty. Bring your own food, your own gods, your own flowers and fruits and concepts. For if you come without resources to these islands you will perish... On these harsh terms the islands waited.
James A. Michener, Hawaii
Fri 4 Jun, 2021 06:16 pm
“There is no sound more peaceful than rain on the roof, if you're safe asleep in someone else's house.”
Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist.
Sat 5 Jun, 2021 09:01 am
Hast thou, then, nothing more to mention?
Com'st ever, thus, with ill intention?
Find'st nothing right on earth, eternally?
No, Lord! I find things, there, still bad as they can be.
Man's misery even to pity moves my nature;
I've scarce the heart to plague the wretched creature.