'Does that cover everything?'
'Checking in?' Hessen asked, putting his attaché case by his side.
'Didn't I mention that? The first of each month, by phone to your company's Brazilian branch – headquarters, of course. Keep it businesslike. You in particular, Hessen; I'm sure nine out of ten phones in the States are tapped.'
Ira Levin, The Boys From Brazil (1976)
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Evil is even, truth is an odd number and death is a full stop. When a dog barks late at night and then retires again to bed, he punctuates and gives majesty to the serial enigma of the dark, laying it more evenly and heavily upon the fabric of the mind. Sweeny in the trees hears the sad baying as he sits listening on the branch, a huddle between the earth and heaven; and he hears also the answering mastiff that is counting the watches in the next parish. Bark answers bark till the call spreads like fire through all Erin. Soon the moon comes forth from behind her curtains riding full tilt across the sky, lightsome and unperturbed in her immemorial calm. The eyes of the mad king upon the branch are upturned, whiter eyeballs in a white face, upturned in fear and supplication. His mind is but a shell.
Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)
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Death by dehydration is turning out to be even more psychologically grueling than I was anticipating on Saturday. Waterlessness stalks me, the indomitable leviathan of the desert drawing in closer every hour. Enforced insomnia compounds my body’s anguish, loosing a fourth-dimensional aberration in my head. I no longer exist in a normal space-time continuum. Minute by minute, my sleep deprivation dismantles yet another brain function.
Aron Ralston, 127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Simon & Schuster, 2004)
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Under the right circumstances, anyone could end up anywhere, doing anything.
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I had surgery when I was nine years old which made it [having children] impossible. And we didn’t find out until the first child I conceived was still-born — was strangled by adhesions. At that time they made a very poor kind of surgery and created adhesions which strangled the child. So nature denied me that. It wasn’t by choice. But I don’t feel that unless you’ve had a child you’re not fulfilled. I don’t feel that I’ve missed anything. Because I transferred that to other relationships. As [D.H.] Lawrence said, we don’t need more children, we need more hope in the world.
Anaïs Nin, A Woman Speaks (1975), edited by Evelyn Hinz
I was learning to accept that I was not crucial to the turning of the world, or the turning of his world, and often not even to my own.
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Storytelling […] sustains your life so that you never succumb to the terrible despair of someone who cannot see beyond today’s happenings.
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A list of words, some of them Yorkshire dialectal, used in Ross Raisin’s novel God’s Own Country:
Collywobbles, hubbleshoo, daffled, trunklements, unsnecked, nithering, snickleway, nazzart, powfagged, aflunters, choiled, glegged, jarped, rigwelted, druft, skiffled, blashy, glishy, grum, mawnging, scraffled, frammled, fratchen, tantled, heart-sluffened, claggy, munk, hagmist, bloach, mardy, shuftied, mafted, bluthering, idleback, sluffened, flackering, crozzled, crammocky, slummery, slubbery, slutherment, dafflement, betwaddled, lugger-buggers, barmpots, gozzle.
Kugel thought specifically about the experience of dying. He thought about the pain, about the fear. Most of all, he thought about what he would say at the final moment; his ultima verba; his last words. They should be wise, he decided, which is not to say morose or obtuse; simply that they should mean something, amount to something. They should reveal, illuminate. He didn’t want to be caught by surprise, speechless, gasping, not knowing at the very last moment what to say.
No, wait, I oof.
I haven’t really given it much splat.
If I could just ka-blammo.
Shalom Auslander, Hope: A Tragedy (2012)
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‘It is now a year since herself was laid to rest. Laid to rest!’ He laughed, a little bitterly. ‘That is what they call it. A week after that again, call it what you like, the graveyard was closed by orders. There are people still to the fore who have their rights under the law; but it is hardly likely that many, if any of them, will try to make good their claim to be buried in Gort na Marbh.’
Gurthnamorrav, the Field of the Dead, that is what those around and about call the lonely patch to this day. Though this generation of them are ‘dull of’ the ancient tongue, such names of native savour, help to keep them one in soul with the proud children of Banbha who are in eternity. Vivid imagery, symbols drawn, in a manner of speaking, from the brown earth, words of strength and beauty that stud like gems of light and grace the common speech hold not merely an abiding charm in themselves. Such heritages of the mind of the Gael evoke through active fancy the fuller life of the race of kings no less surely than those relics of skill and handicraft found by chance in tilth or red bog, the shrine of bell or battle hook, the bronze spear head, the torque of gold.
John Guinan, ‘The Watcher o’ the Dead’, in The Supernatural Omnibus II, edited by Montague Summers
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