Cognitive behavioral therapy

She brought herself away from the disagreeably clinging thought by her usual method—imagining the sweet sharp sensation of being burned alive—and turned expectantly to her father.

From Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman


Seasons change

As a kid, fall had been his favorite season—he loved returning to school—but as an adult he found it disheartening. It was getting dark earlier now, and the air was crisp; everything was beautiful in that sad kind of way that he absolutely fucking hated.

From Joanna Hershon’s A Dual Inheritance


Thank you, Thomas Edison

Having inherited his father’s inability to be idle, [John Polidori] would rise before dawn and pace his room until the weak city sun provided enough light for him to read by.

From Andrew McConnell Stott’s The Poet and the Vampyure


Finicky faithfulness

[J. M.] Barrie often told me of how Hardy now idealised his first wife, who from all accounts had kept him very unhappy. Barrie’s veneration or his friend did not prevent him from being amused by his foibles, and he often smiled over Hardy’s preoccupation with his plans for his own burial—plans which were perpetually being changed. “One day,” said Barrie, “Hardy took me to see the place where he wants most to be buried, and the next day he took me to see the place where he would like next best to be buried. Usually he says he is to be buried exactly in between his two wives; but sometimes he is to be so many inches nearer to the first, sometimes, so many inches nearer to the second.” I thought Barrie must be exaggerating, but the present Mrs Hardy, a little wearily if unresentfully, told me that her husnabd had one day made her walk six miles to show her the bench on which he used to sit while he was courting her predecessor. I wondered, but did not like to ask, whether he kept her up to date with his changing arrangements for her burial.

From Lady Cynthia Asquith’s “Thomas Hardy at Max Gate,” published in The LIstener, 55, June 7, 1956



There was a limit, he had always found, to the number of times you could chase the same worries round your head. If you let them run, they wore themselves out, and then you could make your choices in the quiet.

—From Nick Harkaway’s Tigerman



The kid had been from some real shithole, signed up half-drunk and was now seeing real bullets and bombs and wishing he hadn’t. So he pretended to be mad.

It was simple enough. He went on patrol in a Mickey Mouse hat he’d got from somewhere, and he carried his gun like a swagger stick. He’d never seen M*A*S*H, so he didn’t realise he was travelling a well-worn path. And after each patrol he’d push it a bit further until they had to take notice. They’d put him in a secure hospital cell indefinitely, and he’d carried on the game for weeks and months and faked a suicide attempt and bitten an orderly and finally he’d broken down and explained that he was faking it, he just wanted so very much to go home. And the doctors told him: “It’s okay. You’re going home, and no one’s going to punish you.” But he deserved to be punished, he said. He’d faked it. “Yeah,” the doctors said. “We always knew you thought you were faking it. But that’s the thing: you never were. It was real, and now you’re better.” Which was about the most disturbing fucking idea the Sergeant had ever heard, until he came here, and it was just life, and then he had the really disturbing idea that everyone in the world was carrying on this way all the time.

—From NIck Harkaway’s Tigerman


Passing judgment

"How about the comments I have heard you make about book burners?"

"They are not relevant to this." He yanked out more pages. "I am a man, not a government or a committee of censors. Having paid forty-seven dollars and fifty cents for this book, and having examined it and found it subversive and intolerably offensive, I am destroying it."

—From Rex Stout’s Gambit. The book in question? Webster’s New International Dictionary.



"You will remember," went on Marlow, "how I feared that Mr. Powell’s want of experience would stand in his way of appreciating the unusual."

—From Joseph Conrad’s Chance

That passage can offer particular entertainment to an Anthony Powell fan: Powell took the title of his four-volume memoir, To Keep the Ball Rolling, from one of Marlow’s speeches earlier in that novel—it’s fun to find Marlow worrying about what was actually one of Anthony Powell’s great strengths!


Books and consequences

She wondered if later on she would wish she hadn’t looked. That was one thing about books: once you read them, they couldn’t be unread.

From Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land

"Whenever things sound easy, it turns out there’s one part you didn’t hear."

Donald E. Westlake (via patrickemclean)

{Though McLean doesn’t give the source for this one, it’s the best Dortmunder book, Drowned Hopes. One of my favorite lines in all of Westlake.}