Incipits






The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn. He cared nothing for boxing, in fact he disliked it, but he learned it painfully and thoroughly to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton. There was a certain inner comfort in knowing he could knock down anybody who was snooty to him, although, being very shy and a thoroughly nice boy, he never fought except in the gym. He was Spider Kelly's star pupil. Spider Kelly taught all his young gentlemen to box like featherweights, no matter whether they weighed one hundred and five or two hundred and five pounds. But it seemed to fit Cohn. He was really very fast. He was so good that Spider promptly overmatched him and got his nose permanently flattened. This increased Cohn's distaste for boxing, but it gave him a certain satisfaction of some strange sort, and it certainly improved his nose. In his last year at Princeton he read too much and took to wearing spectacles. I never met any one of his class who remembered him. They did not even remember that he was middleweight boxing champion.




Mort à Crédit, Céline

Nous voici encore seuls. Tout cela est si lent, si lourd, si triste... Bientôt je serai vieux. Et ce sera enfin fini. Il est venu tant de monde dans ma chambre. Ils ont dit des choses. Ils ne m’ont pas dit grand-chose. Ils sont partis. Ils sont devenus vieux, misérables et lents chacun dans un coin du monde.
     Hier à huit heures Mme Bérenge, la concierge, est morte. Une grande tempête s’élève de la nuit. Tout en haut, où nous sommes, la maison tremble. C’était une douce et gentille fidèle amie. Demain on l’enterre rue des Saules. Elle était vraiment vieille, tout au bout de la vieillesse. Je lui ai dit dès le premier jour quand elle a toussé : « Ne vous allongez pas surtout !... Restez assise dans votre lit ! » Je me méfiais. Et puis voilà... Et puis tant pis




Villa Vortex, Maurice Dantec

Nul n'aurait pu prédire que le siècle commencerait très précisement avec la Fin des Temps. Pas plus moi qu'un autre.
     D'ailleurs, qui prédit encore quelque chose ?
     Pourtant, certains d'entre vous nous avaient eu, durant un bref moment, la vision d'une Apocalypse imminente, alors que les festivités de l'An 2000 illuminaient les fuseaux horaires les uns après les autres, dans la féerie télégénique de la culture globale.
     La peur, à l'époque, venait d'une banale conversion des systèmes informatiques planétaire au changement de date. Un terrible "bogue" menaçait, peut-être, le système circulatoire cybernétique des sociétés de troisième type.
     Les agences de sécurité du monde entier furent mises en alerte, des milliers d'ingénieurs travaillèrent jour et nuit contre le temps désormais cadencé par le quartz des microprocesseurs.
     Mais l'An 2000 passa, et rien ne se produisit.




The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence. Luster came away from the flower tree and we went along the fence and they stopped and we stopped and I looked through the fence while Luster was hunting in the grass.




A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo....
     His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.
     He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt.




Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Caroll

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice “without pictures or conversations?”
     So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
     There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!” (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
     In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.




Commedia (Inferno), Dante

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!

Tant’ è amara che poco è più morte;
ma per trattar del ben ch’i’ vi trovai,
dirò de l’altre cose ch’i’ v’ho scorte.

Io non so ben ridir com’ i’ v’intrai,
tant’ era pien di sonno a quel punto
che la verace via abbandonai.




Heat of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.
     The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.




Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner

From a little after two oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that—a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them. There was a wistaria vine blooming for the second time that summer on a wooden trellis before one window, into which sparrows came now and then in random gusts, making a dry vivid dusty sound before going away: and opposite Quentin, Miss Coldfield in the eternal black which she had worn for forty-three years now, whether for sister, father, or nothusband none knew, sitting so bolt upright in the straight hard chair that was so tall for her that her legs hung straight and rigid as if she had iron shinbones and ankles, clear of the floor with that air of impotent and static rage like children’s feet, and talking in that grim haggard amazed voice until at last listening would renege and hearing-sense self-confound and the long-dead object of her impotent yet indomitable frustration would appear, as though by outraged recapitulation evoked, quiet inattentive and harmless, out of the biding and dreamy and victorious dust.




Voyage au Bout de la Nuit, Céline

Ça a débuté comme ça. Moi, j’avais jamais rien dit. Rien. C’est Arthur Ganate qui m’a fait parler. Arthur, un étudiant, un carabin lui aussi, un camarade. On se rencontre donc place Clichy. C’était après le déjeuner. Il veut me parler. Je l’écoute. « Restons pas dehors ! qu’il me dit. Rentrons ! » Je rentre avec lui. Voilà. «Cette terrasse, qu’il commence, c’est pour les œufs à la coque ! Viens par ici! » Alors, on remarque encore qu’il n’y avait personne dans les rues, à cause de la chaleur; pas de voitures, rien. Quand il fait très froid, non plus, il n’y a personne dans les rues ; c’est lui, même que je m’en souviens, qui m’avait dit à ce propos : «Les gens de Paris ont l’air toujours d’être occupés, mais en fait, ils se promènent du matin au soir; la preuve, c’est que lorsqu’il ne fait pas bon à se promener, trop froid ou trop chaud, on ne les voit plus ; ils sont tous dedans à prendre des cafés crème et des bocks. C’est ainsi! Siècle de vitesse ! qu’ils disent. Où ça ? Grands changements ! qu’ils racontent. Comment ça? Rien n’est changé en vérité. Ils continuent à s’admirer et c’est tout. Et ça n’est pas nouveau non plus. Des mots, et encore pas beaucoup, même parmi les mots, qui sont changés ! Deux ou trois par-ci, par-là, des petits…» Bien fiers alors d’avoir fait sonner ces vérités utiles, on est demeurés là assis, ravis, à regarder les dames du café.




L'Architecture, Marien Defalvard

C'était un hiver incertain. Les nuages passaient comme des draps essorés sur l'anthracite du ciel, sur la harpe du ciel et s'arrachaient sur un pommier, s'accrochaient et saignaient un peu sur la frise d'un pommier, sur un encadrement de fenêtre trop haut placé, ou sur le nichoir, tiens – le vieux nichoir en forme de papillote brûlée, qui pendait entre les trognons et les mouches – les nuages passaient dans la réticule et venaient échouer sur l'angle haut de la fenêtre de la cuisine, aux persiennes de métal roussies : les nuages lait, amidon, plâtre, qui passaient vite, comme des dépêches ou des débâcles. Le froid semblait les sangler sous le ventre, à l'endroit où la buée empèse. Le fond de l'air était d'une mobilité intrépide qui rendait les trémières fanées bizarrement saillantes, menaçantes : glaives sans fleurs. Des ombres lourdes, itinérantes, pleines d'air et d'eau, noires comme de la cendre sèche, glissaient sur les murettes de béton encadrant le jardin hivernal.




Du Temps qu'on Existait, Marien Defalvard

Ça a commencé à Coucy, Coucy-le-château-Auffrique. Dans l’Aisne, aux derniers renseignements, en Picardie. Donc, ça a commencé là-bas, dans la beauté de son écrin. Le ciel n’était pas roux, pas gris, pas noir, mais bleu, un grand bleu de fiançailles. Dix-sept heures, poussivement, venaient au pas ; les guérets, les bocages, la France qui était bien belle allait commencé la mastication du soleil et de la lune, pointe de lumière écaillée, plus fine qu’un ongle, attendait son tour dans un coin, esseulée. J’avais le regard qui partait vers l’est, immobile que je me trouvais sur le chemin de ronde, un peu au-dessus du clocher. Devant moi, le paysage ne bougeait pas du tout ; les champs, les bois, les forêts, les près, les villages, les collines, les plateaux s’empilaient, s’emboîtant et s’éloignant, et au loin, dans une douce pénombre, on devinait à force d’yeux les champs de patates, de betteraves et de haricots.




Cien Años de Soledad, Gabriel García Márquez

Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo. Macondo era entonces una aldea de veinte casas de barro y cañabrava construidas a la orilla de un río de aguas diáfanas que se precipitaban por un lecho de piedras pulidas, blancas y enormes como huevos prehistóricos. El mundo era tan reciente, que muchas cosas carecían de nombre, y para mencionarlas había que señalarías con el dedo. Todos los años, por el mes de marzo, una familia de gitanos desarrapados plantaba su carpa cerca de la aldea, y con un grande alboroto de pitos y timbales daban a conocer los nuevos inventos. Primero llevaron el imán. Un gitano corpulento, de barba montaraz y manos de gorrión, que se presentó con el nombre de Melquíades, hizo una truculenta demostración pública de lo que él mismo llamaba la octava maravilla de los sabios alquimistas de Macedonia. Fue de casa en casa arrastrando dos lingotes metálicos, y todo el mundo se espantó al ver que los calderos, las pailas, las tenazas y los anafes se caían de su sitio, y las maderas crujían por la desesperación de los clavos y los tornillos tratando de desenclavarse, y aun los objetos perdidos desde hacía mucho tiempo aparecían por donde más se les había buscado, y se arrastraban en desbandada turbulenta detrás de los fierros mágicos de Melquíades. «Las cosas, tienen vida propia -pregonaba el gitano con áspero acento-, todo es cuestión de despertarles el ánima.» José Arcadio Buendía, cuya desaforada imaginación iba siempre más lejos que el ingenio de la naturaleza, y aun más allá del milagro y la magia, pensó que era posible servirse de aquella invención inútil para desentrañar el oro de la tierra. Melquíades, que era un hombre honrado, le previno: «Para eso no sirve.» Pero José Arcadio Buendía no creía en aquel tiempo en la honradez de los gitanos, así que cambió su mulo y una partida de chivos por los dos lingotes imantados. Úrsula I guaran, su mujer, que contaba con aquellos animales para ensanchar el desmedrado patrimonio doméstico, no consiguió disuadirlo. «Muy pronto ha de sobrarnos oro para empedrar la casa», replicó su marido. Durante varios meses se empeñó en demostrar el acierto de sus conjeturas. Exploró palmo a palmo la región, inclusive el fondo del río, arrastrando los dos lingotes de hierro y recitando en voz alta el conjuro de Melquíades. Lo único que logró desenterrar fue una armadura del siglo xv con todas sus partes soldadas por un cascote de óxido, cuyo interior tenía la resonancia hueca de un enorme calabazo lleno de piedras. Cuando José Arcadio Buendía y los cuatro hombres de su expedición lograron desarticular la armadura, encontraron dentro un esqueleto calcificado que llevaba colgado en el cuello un relicario de cobre con un rizo de mujer.




A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs. In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly's supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D.H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress. Several of the outfits, Ignatius noticed, were new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency. Possession of anything new or expensive only reflected a person's lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon one's soul.




Les Grands Cimetières Sous la Lune, George Bernanos

«J'ai juré de vous émouvoir, d'amitié ou de colère, qu'importe !» C'est ainsi que je parlais jadis, au temps de la Grande Peur, il y a sept longues années. À présent je ne me soucie plus beaucoup d'émouvoir, du moins de colère. La colère des imbéciles m'a toujours rempli de tristesse, mais aujourd'hui elle m'épouvanterait plutôt. Le monde entier retentit de cette colère. Que voulez-vous ? Ils ne demandaient pas mieux que de ne rien comprendre, et même ils se mettaient à plusieurs pour ça, car la dernière chose dont l'homme soit capable est d'être bête ou méchant tout seul, condition mystérieuse réservée sans doute au damné. Ne comprenant rien ils se rassemblaient d'eux-mêmes, non pas selon leurs affinités particulières, trop faibles, mais d'après la modeste fonction qu'ils tenaient de la naissance ou du hasard et qui absorbait tout entière leur petite vie. Car les classes moyennes sont presque seules à fournir le véritable imbécile, la supérieure s'arrogeant le monopole d'un genre de sottise parfaitement inutilisable, d'une sottise de luxe, et l'inférieure ne réussissant que de grossières et parfois admirables ébauches d'animalité.




Bartleby, the Scrivener, Herman Melville

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.




Le Désespéré, Léon Bloy

Quand vous recevrez cette lettre, mon cher ami, j'aurai achevé de tuer mon père. Le pauvre homme agonise et mourra, dit-on, avant le jour.
     «Il est deux heures du matin. Je suis seul, dans une chambre voisine, la vieille femme qui le garde m'ayant fait entendre qu'il valait mieux que les yeux du moribond ne me rencontrassent pas et qu'on m'avertirait quand il en serait temps.
     «Je ne sens actuellement aucune douleur ni aucune impression morale nettement distincte d'une confuse mélancolie, d'une indécise peur de ce qui va venir. J'ai déjà vu mourir et je sais que, demain, ce sera terrible. Mais, en ce moment, rien; les vagues de mon cœur sont immobiles. J'ai l'anesthésie d'un assommé. Impossible de prier, impossible de pleurer, impossible de lire. Je vous écris donc, puisqu'une âme livrée à son propre néant n'a d'autre ressource que l'imbécile gymnastique littéraire de le formuler.
     «Je suis parricide, pourtant, telle est l'unique vision de mon esprit ! J'entends d'ici l'intolérable hoquet de cette agonie qui est véritablement mon œuvre,—œuvre de damné qui s'est imposée à moi avec le despotisme du destin !
     «Ah ! le couteau eût mieux valu, sans doute, le rudimentaire couteau du chourineur filial ! La mort, du moins, eût été, pour mon père, sans préalables années de tortures, sans le renaissant espoir toujours déçu de mon retour à l'auge à cochons d'une sagesse bourgeoise; je serais fixé sur la nature légalement ignominieuse d'une probable expiation; enfin, je ne resterais pas avec cette hideuse incertitude d'avoir eu raison de passer sur le cœur du malheureux homme pour me jeter aux réprobations et aux avanies démoniaques de la vie d'artiste.




Don Quijote, Cervantes

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor. Una olla de algo más vaca que carnero, salpicón las más noches, duelos y quebrantos los sábados, lentejas los viernes, algún palomino de añadidura los domingos, consumían las tres partes de su hacienda. El resto della concluían sayo de velarte, calzas de velludo para las fiestas con sus pantuflos de lo mismo, los días de entre semana se honraba con su vellori de lo más fino. Tenía en su casa una ama que pasaba de los cuarenta, y una sobrina que no llegaba a los veinte, y un mozo de campo y plaza, que así ensillaba el rocín como tomaba la podadera. Frisaba la edad de nuestro hidalgo con los cincuenta años, era de complexión recia, seco de carnes, enjuto de rostro; gran madrugador y amigo de la caza. Quieren decir que tenía el sobrenombre de Quijada o Quesada (que en esto hay alguna diferencia en los autores que deste caso escriben), aunque por conjeturas verosímiles se deja entender que se llama Quijana; pero esto importa poco a nuestro cuento; basta que en la narración dél no se salga un punto de la verdad.




The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy

When they came south of Grant County Boyd was not much more than a baby and the newly formed county they'd named Hidalgo was itself little older than the child. In the country they'd quit lay the bones of a sister and the bones of his maternal grandmother. The new country was rich and wild. You could ride clear to Mexico and not strike a crossfence. He carried Boyd before him in the bow of the saddle and named to him features of the landscape and birds and animals in both spanish and english. In the new house they slept in the room off the kitchen and he would lie awake at night and listen to his brother's breathing in the dark and he would whisper half aloud to him as he slept his plans for them and the life they should have.
     On a winter's night in that first year he woke to hear wolves in the low hills to the west oof the hoouse and he knew that they would be coming out onto the plain in the snow to run the antelope in the moonlight. He pulled his breeches off the footboard of the bed and got his shirt and his blanketlined duckingcoat and got his boots from under the bed and went out to the kitchen and dressed in the dark by the faint warmth of the stove and held the boots to the windowlight to pair them left and right and pulled them on and rose and went to the kitchen door and stepped out and closed the door behind him.




Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry

Two mountain chains traverse the republic roughly from north to south, forming between them a number of valleys and plateaus. Overlooking one of these valleys, which is dominated by two volcanoes, lies, six thousand feet above sea level, the town of Quauhnahuac. It is situated well south of the Tropic of Cancer, to be exact on the nineteenth parallel, in about the same latitude as the Revillagigedo Islands to the west in the Pacific, or very much further west, the southernmost tip of Hawaii—and as the port of Tzucox to the east on the Atlantic seaboard of Yucatán near the border of British Honduras, or very much further east, the town of Juggernaut, in India, on the Bay of Bengal.
     The walls of the town, which is built on a hill, are high, the streets and lanes tortuous and broken, the roads winding. A fine American-style highway leads in from the north but is lost in its narrow streets and comes out a goat track. Quauhnahuac possesses eighteen churches and fiftyseven cantinas. It also boasts a golf course and no less than four hundred swimming pools, public and private, filled with the water that ceaselessly pours down from the mountains, and many splendid hotels.




Nostromo, Joseph Conrad

In the time of Spanish rule, and for many years afterwards, the town of Sulaco—the luxuriant beauty of the orange gardens bears witness to its antiquity—had never been commercially anything more important than a coasting port with a fairly large local trade in ox-hides and indigo. The clumsy deep-sea galleons of the conquerors that, needing a brisk gale to move at all, would lie becalmed, where your modern ship built on clipper lines forges ahead by the mere flapping of her sails, had been barred out of Sulaco by the prevailing calms of its vast gulf. Some harbours of the earth are made difficult of access by the treachery of sunken rocks and the tempests of their shores. Sulaco had found an inviolable sanctuary from the temptations of a trading world in the solemn hush of the deep Golfo Placido as if within an enormous semi-circular and unroofed temple open to the ocean, with its walls of lofty mountains hung with the mourning draperies of cloud.
    On one side of this broad curve in the straight seaboard of the Republic of Costaguana, the last spur of the coast range forms an insignificant cape whose name is Punta Mala. From the middle of the gulf the point of the land itself is not visible at all; but the shoulder of a steep hill at the back can be made out faintly like a shadow on the sky.




Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This book is about luck disguised and perceived as non-luck (that is, skills) and, more generally, randomness disguised and perceived as non-randomness (that is, determinism). It manifests itself in the shape of the lucky fool, defined as a person who benefited from a disproportionate share of luck but attributes his success to some other, generally very precise, reason. Such confusion crops up in the most unexpected areas, even science, though not un such an accuentuated and obvious manner as it does in the world of business. It is endemic in politics, as it can be encountered in the shape of a country's president discoursing on the jobs that "he" created, "his" recovery, and "his predecessor's" inflation.





All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren

To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new. Or was new, that day we went up it. You look up the highway and it is straight for miles, coming at you, with the black line down the center coming at and at you, black and slick and tarry-shining against the white of the slab, and the heat dazzles up from the white slab so that only the black line is clear, coming at you with the whine of the tires, and if you don't quit staring at that line and don't take a few deep breaths and slap yourself hard on the back of the neck you'll hypnotize yourself and you'll come to just at the moment when the right fron wheel hooks over into the black dirt shoulder off the slab, and you'll try to jerk her back on but you can't because the slab is high like a curb, and maybe you'll try to reach to turn off the ignition just as the starts the dive. But you won't make it, of course. Then a nigger chopping cotton a mile away, he'll look up and see the little column of black smoke standing up above the vitriolic, arsenical green of the cotton rows, and up against the violent, metallic, throbbing blue of the sky, and he'll say, "Lawd God, hit's a-nudder one done done hit!" And the next nigger down the next row, he'll say, "Lawd God," and the first nigger will giggle, and the hoe will lift again and the blade will flash in the sun like a heliograph. Then a few days later the boys from the Highway Department will mark the spot with a little metal square on a metal rod stuck in the black dirt off the shoulder, the metal square painted white and on it in black a skull and crossbones. Later on love vine will climb up it, out of the weeds.





The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins

Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: 'Have they discovered evolution yet?' Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over three thousand million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin. To be fair, others had had inklings of the truth, but it was Darwin who first put together a coherent and tenable account of why we exist. Darwin made it possible for us to give a sensible answer to the curious child whose question heads this chapter. We no longer have to resort to superstition when faced with the deep problems: Is there a meaning to life? What are we for? What is man? After posing the last of these questions, the eminent zoologist G. G. Simpson put it thus: 'The point I want to make now is that all attempts to answer that question before 1859 are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely.'





Othello, William Shakespeare

ACT I

SCENE I. Venice. A street.

Enter RODERIGO and IAGO

RODERIGO
Tush! never tell me; I take it much unkindly
That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse
As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this.

IAGO
'Sblood, but you will not hear me:
If ever I did dream of such a matter, Abhor me.

RODERIGO
Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.

IAGO
Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones of the city,
In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,
I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:
But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,
Evades them, with a bombast circumstance
Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;
And, in conclusion,
Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,
'I have already chose my officer.'
And what was he?
Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;
That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the division of a battle knows
More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,
Wherein the toged consuls can propose
As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,
Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:
And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof
At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds
Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd
By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,
He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,
And I--God bless the mark!--his Moorship's ancient.





Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan

We were wanderers from the beginning. We knew every stand of tree for a hundred miles. When the fruits or nuts were ripe, we were there. We followed the herds in their annual migrations. We rejoiced in fresh meat. through stealth, feint, ambush, and main-force assault, a few of us cooperating accomplished what many of us, each hunting alone, could not. We depended on one another. Making it on our own was as ludicrous to imagine as was settling down.
    Working together, we protected our children from the lions and the hyenas. We taught them the skills they would need. And the tools. Then, as now, technology was the key to our survival.
    When the drought was prolonged, or when an unsettling chill lingered in the summer air, our group moved on—sometimes to unknown lands. We sought a better place. And when we couldn't get on with the others in our little nomadic band, we left to find a more friendly bunch somewhere else. We could always begin again.
    For 99.9 percent of the time since our species came to be, we were hunters and foragers, wanderers on the savannahs and the steppes. There were no border guards then, no customs officials. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the Earth and the ocean and the sky—plus occasional grumpy neighbors.
    When the climate was congenial, though, when the food was plentiful, we were willing to stay put. Unadventurous. Overweight. Careless. In the last ten thousand years—an instant in our long history—we've abandoned the nomadic life. We've domesticated the plants and animals. Why chase the food when you can make it come to you?
    For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled. Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven't forgotten. The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood. We invest far-off places with a certain romance. This appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival. Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game—none of them lasts forever. It is beyond our powers to predict the future. Catastrophic events have a way of sneaking up on us, of catching us unaware. Your own life, or your band's, or even your species' might be owed to a restless few—drawn, by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands and new worlds.
    Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, spoke for wanderers in all epochs and meridians: "I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas..."





Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.





Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy

See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him.
    Night of your birth. Thirty-three. The Leonids they were called. God how the stars did fall. I looked for blackness, holes in the heavens. The Dipper stove.
    The mother dead these fourteen years did incubate in her own bosom the creature who would carry her off. The father never speaks her name, the child does not know it. He has a sister in this world that he will not see again. He watches, pale and unwashed. He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man.





All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twister and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door. He took off his hat and came slowly forward. The floorboard creaked under his boots. In his black suit he stood in the dark glass where the lilies leaned so palely from their waisted cutglass vase. Along the cold hallway behind him hung the portraits of forebears only dimly known to him all framed in glass and dimly lit above the narrow wainscotting. He looked down at the guttered candlestub. He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer. Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed moustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping.





No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville. One and only one. My arrest and my testimony. I went up there and visited with him two or three times. Three times. The last time was the day of his execution. I didnt have to go but I did. I sure didnt wanted to. He'd killed a fourteen year old girl and I can tell you right now I never did have no great desire to visit with him let alone go to his execution but I done it. The papers said it was a crime of passion and he told me there wasnt no passion to it. He'd been datin this girl, young as whe was. he was nineteen. And he told me that he had been plannin to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember. Said that if they turned hum out he'd do it again. Said he knew he was goin to hell. Told it to me out of his own mouth. I dont know what to make of that. I surely dont. I thought I'd never seen a person like that and it got me to wonderin if maybe he was some new kind. I watched them strap him into the seat and shut the door. He might of looked a bit nervous about it but that was about all. I really believe that he knew he was goin to be in hell in fifteen minutes. I believe that. Called me Sheriff. But I didnt know what to say to him. What do you say to a man that by his own admission has no soul? Why would you say anything? I've thought about it a good deal. But he wasnt nothin compared to what was comin down the pike.
    They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I dont know what them eyes was the windows to and I guess I'd as soon not know. But there is another view of the world out there and other eyes to see it and that's where this is goin. It has done brought me to a place in my life I would not of thought I'd of come to. Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I dont want to confront him. I know he's real. I have seen his work. I walked in front of those eyes once. I wont to it again. I wont push my chips forward and stand up and go out to meet him. It aint just bein older. I wish that it was. I cant say that it's even what you are willin to do. Because I always knew that you had to be willin to die to even do this job. That was always true. Not to sound glorious about it or nothin but you do. If you aint they'll know it. They'll see it in your heartbeat. I think it is more like what you are willin to become. And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard. And I wont do that. I think now that maybe I never would.





Blood's a Rover, James Ellroy

Suddenly: The milk truck cut a sharp right turn and grazed the curb. The driver lost the wheel. He panic-popped the brakes. He induced a rear-end skid. A Wells Fargo armored car clipped the milk truck side/head-on.
    Mark it now:
    7:16 a.m. South L.A., 84th and Budlong. Residential darktown. Shit shacks with dirt front yards.
    The jolt stalled out both vehicles. The milk truck driver hit the dash. The driver's side door blew wide. The driver keeled and hit the sidewalk. He was fortyish male Negro.
    The armored car notched some hood dents. Three guards got out and scoped the damage. They were white men in tight khakis. They wore Sam Browne belts with buttoned pistol flaps.
    They knelt beside the milk truck driver. The guy twitched and gasped. The dashboard bound gouged hist forehead. Blood dripped into his eyes.