“You are a boat”: Favorite Sentences of 2014

Say what you will about e-books versus the real thing; I acquired a Kindle out of necessity because my wife and I simply ran out of apartment space.  Much as the iPod replaced my CD collection, the Kindle replaced my hardcover collection; I still read/listen as much as I ever did, and my apartment is a lot less claustrophobic as a result.

It took me a long time to allow myself to mark up the pages of a book, to underline, to highlight.  Dog-earing a page was as rough as I’d allow myself to be; I’d always prefer to leave scraps of napkins as placeholders.  And this sort of thing, even though it’s one of my favorite things on the internet, would be absolute blasphemy.

Anyway:  I don’t know to what extent other e-readers do this, but Kindle’s highlighting feature is awesome, and I use it all the time, and even though it doesn’t do a terrific job of syncing highlights across my various Kindle-enabled devices*, it does collect everything online, and so I figured this would be as good a reason as any to share my favorite sentences from what I read this year.

In no particular order (although this is roughly in the order in which I read them):

from Lexicon, by Max Barry:

He’d basically fallen in love with her on the spot. Well, no, that wasn’t accurate; that implied a binary state, a shifting from not-love to love, remaining static thereafter, and what he’d done with Brontë was fall and fall, increasingly faster the closer they drew, like planets drawn to each other’s gravitational force. Doomed, he guessed, the same way.

from The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch:

“I know that the only woman with the key to that peculiar heart of yours is a thousand miles away. And I know you’d rather be miserable over her than happy with anyone else.”

– – –

“…the more we do this, the more I learn about what I think Chains was really training us for. And this is it. He wasn’t training us for a calm and orderly world where we could pick and choose when we needed to be clever. He was training us for a situation that was fucked up on all sides. Well, we’re in it, and I say we’re equal to it. I don’t need to be reminded that we’re up to our heads in dark water. I just want you boys to remember that we’re the gods-damned sharks.”

from The Secret Place, by Tana French:

“…People are complicated. When you’re a little kid, you don’t realize, you think people are just one thing; but then you get older, and you realize it’s not that simple. Chris wasn’t that simple. He was cruel and he was kind. And he didn’t like realizing that. It bothered him, that he wasn’t just one thing. I think it made him feel . . .” She drifted for long enough that I wondered if she’d left the sentence behind, but Conway kept waiting. In the end, Selena said, “It made him feel fragile. Like he could break into pieces any time, because he didn’t know how to hold himself together. That was why he did that with those other girls, went with them and kept it secret: so he could try out being different things and see how it felt, and he’d be safe. He could be as lovely as he wanted or as horrible as he wanted, and it wouldn’t count, because no one else would ever know. I thought, at first, maybe I could show him how to hold the different bits together; how he could be OK. But it didn’t work out that way.”

from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, by David Shafer:

There is a club for these people, the people who have waited outside the burning houses knowing that they will not go back in and knowing that the not-going-back-in will ruin them.

– – –

How long do you think a weak-minded addict will stay on the shelf? Because that day you walked in? That day I saw you? I swear, my heart slowed and my breath came easier. All that rabbiting I do—it just stopped. Not stopped by like magic, but stopped with reason. You are as strange and amazing as anything my stupid little brain has ever come up with, and you are from outside of it. You have no idea what great news that is. And I’m going to lift some copy here, but there is a time for everything, that day and night here you were the still point of the turning world, and I knew for sure that I had a place in it. That place is next to you.

I really am quite sure that there is something we’re supposed to do together, that there is more that is supposed to go on between us. Aren’t you? Isn’t there a held breath in your life right now? I’ve missed a few boats already, and I really don’t want to miss this one too. I realize that in that metaphor or analogy or whatever, you are a boat. That doesn’t really quite get what I mean, because I am also a boat. We are both boats and we are both passengers. We should not miss each other.

from Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle:

Grandma stayed on alone in the giant house where my dad and his brothers had grown up. When, eventually, the climb up the stairs got to be too much, she moved downstairs, and the second floor became an accidental museum commemorating the last day anybody’d lived there.

from The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (almost too many to count, really):

I consider how you don’t get to choose whom you’re attracted to, you only get to wonder about it, retrospectively.

– – –

She walks as if distrustful of floors, and sits down as if she’s had some bad experiences with chairs, too.

from Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer:

He wasn’t sure he knew the difference anymore between what he was meant to find and what he’d dug up on his own.

from Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer:

But, in truth, standing there with Lowry, looking out across his domain through a long plate of tinted glass, you feel more as if you’re staring at a movie set: a collection of objects that without the animation of Lowry’s paranoia and fear, his projection of a story upon them, are inert and pathetic. No, not even a movie set, you realize. More like a seaside carnival in the winter, in the off-season, when even the beach is a poem about loneliness.

– – –

Over time your memory of your mother faded, in the way of not knowing if an image or moment was something you’d experienced or seen going through the photographs your dad kept in a shoe box in the closet.

– – –

Writing, for me, is like trying to restart an engine that has rested for years, silent and rusting, in an empty lot—choked with water and dirt, infiltrated by ants and spiders and cockroaches. Vines and weeds shoved into it and sprouting out of it. A kind of coughing splutter, an eruption of leaves and dust, a voice that sounds a little like mine but is not the same as it was before; I use my actual voice rarely enough.

from The Confabulist, by Steven Galloway:

It’s inexplicable what causes a person to love someone. It is a feeling so irrational that it allows you to believe that the person you love has qualities they don’t actually possess. And when someone loves you back, it’s nearly impossible not to feel you must never let them see what you are really like, because you know deep inside that you are not worthy of their love.

– – –

We talked in a roundabout way about nothing in particular: school, people we knew, things we liked and didn’t like. It was the sort of conversation people who haven’t known each other long but understand they will have many more conversations have, uncomplicated and almost lazy but also anticipatory.

– – –

Being a parent is a monumental thing. You shape reality for another person. You cannot be an illusion. You cannot be paralyzed by the fear that you are an illusion. If you have done a bad job, or no job at all, what remains of you is proof that the world is an unfeeling place. If you have done a good job, what remains is the part of you that was magical.

from Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel:

No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.

– – –

He found he was a man who repented almost everything, regrets crowding in around him like moths to a light.

from The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber:

There was a red button on the wall labeled EMERGENCY, but no button labeled BEWILDERMENT.

– – –

He walked with increasing pace, turned corners with increasing resolution, and was met each time with the same rectangular passageways and rows of identical doors. In a place like this, you couldn’t even be sure if you were lost.


* I hate to sound like an Amazon infomercial, but: I just picked up the new Kindle Voyage, and it’s pretty fabulous.  But it didn’t save the highlights I’d saved on my Paperwhite, and the Paperwhite didn’t save anything that I’d featured on my 2nd-gen Kindle, and none of them save anything I might’ve noted on my iPhone or iPad.



Categories: books, year-end recaps

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  1. “It Is Time To Turn In Your Kazoo”: Favorite Sentences of 2015 | Shouts From The Couch

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