White Oleander quotes

I know you are learning to endure. There is nothing to be done. Just make sure nothing is wasted. Take notes. Remember it all, every insult, every tear. Tattoo it on the inside of your mind. In life, knowledge of poisons is essential. I’ve told you, nobody becomes an artist unless they have to. 113


I hated labels anyway. People don’t fit into slots – prostitute, housewife, saint – like sorting the mail. We were so mutable, fluid with fear and desire, ideals and angles, changeable as water. 123


A man’s world. But what did it mean? That men whistled and stared and yelled things at you, and you had to take it, or you could get raped or beat up. A man’s world meant places men could go but not women. It meant they had more money, and didn’t have kids, not the way women did, to look after every second. And it meant that women loved them more than they loved the women, that they could want something with all their hearts, and then not.

But I didn’t know much more about a man’s world. That place where men wore suits and watches and cuff links and went into office buildings, ate in restaurants, drove down the street talking on cell phones. I’d seen them, but their lives were as incomprehensible as the lives of Tibetan Sherpas or Amazonian chiefs. 126-7


The crystalline days of March, the rarest of seasons, came like a benediction, regal and scented with cedar and pine. Needle-cold winds rinsed every impurity from the air, so clear you could see the mountain ranges all the way to the Riverside, crisp and defined as a paint-by-numbers kit, windclouds pluming off their powdered flanks like a PBS show about Everest. The news said snowline was down to four thousand feet. These were ultramarine days, trimmed in ermine, and the nights showed all their ten thousand stars, gleaming overhead like proof, a calculus woven on the warp and weft of certain fundamental truths. 312


Loss. That’s what was in there. Grief, sorrow, wordless and unfathomable. Not what I felt this morning, septic, panicked. This was distilled […] We stood and mourned. I could imagine how Jesus felt, his pity for all humanity, how impossible it was, how admirable. The painting was Casals, a requiem […] How vast was a human being’s capacity for suffering. The only thing you could do was stand in awe of it. It wasn’t a question of survival at all. It was the fullness of it, how much could you hold, how much could you care. 331-2




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