I couldn’t sleep last night, so at about daybreak I went for a swim/pipe smoke. Canadian geese flew over head. I had my long-awaited reunion with gray squirrels after having worked out west all summer. Who needs sleep?
NOTICE: Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR
Per G. G., CHIEF OF ORDINANCE
(The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain)
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
“That some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.
“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.
He was older than the days he had seen and the breaths he had drawn. He linked the past with the present, and the eternity behind him throbbed through him in a mighty rhythm to which he swayed as the tides and seasons swayed.
(The Call of the Wild, London)
Here was a gorgeous triumph; they were missed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account; tears were being shed; accusing memories of unkindnesses to these poor lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being indulged: and best of all, the departed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned. This was fine. It was worth being a pirate, after all.
(The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain)
Although there was no enemy or other danger to be perceived, they felt the apprehension and doubt of those who have come unawares upon some awe-inspiring place where they themselves are paltry fellows of no account. When Marco Polo came at last to Cathay, seven hundred years ago, did he not feel — and did his heart not falter as he realized — that this great and splendid capital of an empire had had its being all the years of his life and far longer, and that he had been ignorant of it? That it was in need of nothing from him, from Venice, from Europe? That it was full of wonders beyond his understanding? That his arrival was a matter of no importance whatever? We know that he felt these things, and so has many a traveler in foreign parts who did not know what he was going to find. There is nothing that cuts you down to size like coming to some strange and marvelous place where no one even stops to notice that you stare about you.
(Watership Down, Adams)
Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place… . With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.
(Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck)
In the late night Doc might be working at his old and battered microscope, delicately arranging plankton on a slide, moving them with a thread of glass. And there would be three voices singing in him, all singing together. The top voice of his thinking mind would sing, “What lovely little particles, neither plant nor animal but somehow both—the reservoir of all the life in the world, the base supply of food for everyone. If all of these should die, every other living thing might well die as a consequence.” The lower voice of his feeling mind would be singing, “What are you looking for, little man? Is it yourself you’re trying to identify? Are you looking at little things to avoid big things?” And the third voice, which came from his marrow, would sing, “Lonesome! Lonesome! What good is it? Who benefits? Thought is the evasion of feeling. You’re only walling up the leaking loneliness.”
(Sweet Thursday, Steinbeck)
The ravine was indeed the place where you came to look at the two things of life, the ways of man and the ways of the natural world. The town was, after all, only a large ship filled with constantly moving survivors, bailing out the grass, chipping away the rust. Now and again a lifeboat, a shanty, kin to the mother ship, lost out to the quiet storm of seasons, sank down in silent waves of termite and ant into swallowing ravine to feel the flicker of grasshoppers rattling like dry paper in hot weeds, become soundproofed with spider dust and finally, in avalanche of shingle and tar, collapse like kindling shrines into a bonfire, which thunderstorms ignited with blue lightning, while flash-photographing the triumph of the wilderness.
(Dandelion Wine, Bradbury)
At about this time in California it became the stylish thing for school nurses to visit the classes and to catechize the children on intimate details of their home life. In the fires grade, Alfredo was called to the principal’s office, for it was thought that he looked thin.
The visiting nurse, trained in child psychology, said kindly, “Freddie, do you get enough to eat?”
“Sure,” said Alfredo.
“Well, now. Tell me what you have for breakfast.”
“Tortillas and beans,” said Alfredo.
The nurse nodded her head dismally to the principal. “What do you have when you go home for lunch?”
“I don’t go home.”
“Don’t you eat at noon?”
“Sure, I bring some beans wrapped in a tortilla.”
Actual alarm showed in the nurse’s eyes, but she controlled herself. “At night what do you have to eat?”
“Tortillas and beans.”
Her psychology deserted her. “Do you mean to stand there and tell me you eat nothing but tortillas and beans?”
Alfredo was astonished. “What more do you want?”
(Excerpt from Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck)