"At the sight of her I was paralyzed with happiness; it was her, down to the most minute detail, the very pattern of her freckles, she was smiling at me, more beautiful, and yet not older, black hair and funny upward quirk of her mouth, not a dream but a presence that filled the whole room: a force all her own, a living otherness" (7).
"People die, sure, but it’s so heartbreaking and unnecessary how we lose things. From pure carelessness. Fires, wars. The Parthenon, used as a munitions storehouse. I guess that anything we manage to save from history is a miracle” (28).
"I was fascinated by strangers, wanted to know what food they ate and what dishes they ate from, what movies they watched and what music they listened to, wanted to look under their beds and in their secret drawers and night tables and inside the pockets of their coats. Often I saw interesting-looking people on the street and thought about them relentlessly for days, imagining their lives, making up stories about them on the subway or the crosstown bus" (28).
“Better wasn’t even the word for how I felt. There wasn’t a word for it. It was more that things too small to mention - laughter in the hall at school, a live gecko scurrying in a tank in the science lab - made me feel happy one moment and the next like crying. Sometimes, in the evenings, a damp, gritty wind blew in the windows from Park Avenue, just as the rush hour traffic was thinning and the city was emptying for the night; it was rainy, trees leafing out, spring deepening into summer; and the forlorn cry of horns on the street, the dank smell of wet pavement had a electricity about it, a sense of crowds a static, lonely secretaries and fat guys with bags of carry-out, everywhere the ungainly sadness of creature pushing and struggling to live. For weeks, I’d been frozen, sealed-off; now, in the shower, I would turn up the water as hard as it would go and howl, silently. Everything was raw and painful and confusing and wrong and yet it was as if I’d been dragged from freezing water through a break in the ice, into sun and blazing cold” (149).
"The silence between us was happy and strange, connected by the cord and the icy voices thinly echoing. ‘You don’t have to talk,’ she said. ‘If you don’t feel like it.’ Her eyelids were heavy and her voice was drowsy and like a secret. ‘People always want to talk but I like being quiet’" (156).
"Your descriptions of the desert - that oceanic, endless glare - are terrible, but also very beautiful. Maybe there’s something to be said for the rawness and emptiness of it all. The light of long ago is different from the light of today, and yet here, in this house, I’m reminded of the past at every turn. But when I think of you, it’s as if you’ve gone away to the sea on a ship - out in a foreign brightness where there are no paths, only stars and sky" (281).
"Quickly I slid it out, and almost immediately its glow enveloped me, something almost musical, an internal sweetness that was inexplicable beyond a deep, blood-rocking harmony of rightness, the way your heart beat slow and sure when you were with a person you felt safe with and loved" (317).
"She accepted my hand in hers, without saying anything - all bundled up, she hadn’t let them take her coat. Long sleeves in summer - always swathed in a half dozen scarves, like some sort of cocooned insect wrapped in layers - protective padding for a girl who’d been broken and stitched and bolted back together again” (614).
"Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only - if you care for a thing enough, it take on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things - beautiful things - that they connect you to some larger beauty? Those first images that crack your heart wide open and you spend the rest of your life chasing, or trying to recapture, in one way or another?" (757).
"Because: if our secrets define us, as opposed to the face we show the world: then the painting was the secret that raised me above the surface of life and enabled me to know who I am. And it’s there there in my notebooks, every page, even though it’s not . Dream and magic, magic and delirium. The Unified Field Theory. A secret about a secret" (764).
"Because, here’s the truth: life is a catastrophe. The basic fact of our existence - of walking around to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do - is a catastrophe" (767).
"As much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strike reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic" (770).