Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

Perfume: A Story of a Murder by Patrick Suskind
001.  He despised technical details, because details meant difficulties and difficulties meant ruffling his composure, and he simply would not put up with that.
002.  Man’s misfortune stems from the fact that he does not want to stay in the room where he belongs.
003.  If ever anything in his life had kindled his enthusiasm—granted, not a visible enthusiasm but a hidden one, an excitement burning with a cold flame—then it was this…
004.  Until now he had thought it was the world in general he wanted to squirm away from. But it was not the world, it was the people in it. You could live, so it seemed, in this world devoid of humanity.
005.  … the plan unraveled in freedom, so to speak, as did all his other plans and intentions. Grenouille no longer wanted to go somewhere, but only to go away, away from human beings.
006.  The world molded in lead, where nothing moved but the wind that fell sometimes like a shadow over the gray forests, and where nothing lived but the scent of the naked earth, was the only world he accepted, for it was much like the world of his soul.
007.  He had withdrawn solely for his own personal pleasure, only to be near to himself. No longer distracted by anything external, he basked in his own existence and found it splendid. He lay in his stony crypt like his own corpse, hardly breathing, his heart hardly beating—and yet lived as intensively and dissolutely as ever a rake had lived in the wide world outside.
008. All at once great contentment came over him. Not a drunken one, as in the days when he had celebrated his lonely orgies in the bowels of the mountain, but a very cold and sober contentment, as befits awareness of one’s own power.
009.  Grenouille sat at his ease on his bench in the cathedral of Saint-Pierre and smiled. His mood was not euphoric as he formed his plans to rule humankind. There was no mad flashings of the eye, no lunatic grimace passed over his face. He was not out of his mind, which was so clear and buoyant that he asked himself why he wanted to do it at all. And he said to himself that he wanted to do it because he was evil, thoroughly evil. And he smiled as he said it and was content. He looked quite innocent, like any happy person.
010.  He took part in corporate life—in the regular meetings and processions of the journeymen—only just often enough as to be conspicuous neither by his absence nor by his presence. He had no friends or close acquaintances, but took careful pains not to be considered arrogant or a misfit. He left it to the other journeymen to find his society dull and unprofitable. He was a master in the art of spreading boredom and playing the clumsy fool—though never so egregiously that people might enjoy making fun of him or use him as the butt of some crude practical joke inside the guild. He succeeded in being considered totally uninteresting. People left him alone. And that was all he wanted.
011.  For he had renounced things all his life. But never once had he possessed and lost.
012.  His soul was again dominated as usual by cold night, just what he needed for a frosty and clear conscious mind to be directed to the outside world…

Petropolis by Anya Ulinich
01. The past was pliable. Often the past was the only thing she could control.

The Photograph by Penelope Fitzgerald
001.  He knows enough of the theories of long-term memory to identify his recognition of the mill and the hill fort as the practice of semantic memory—the retention of facts, language, knowledge, without reference to the context of their acquisition. He simply knows these things, along with everything else he knows that makes him a fully operational being—a being considerably more operational than most, in his view. Whereas the vision of Kath sparked by the kestrel is due to episodic memory, which is autobiographical and essential to people’s knowledge of their own identity. Without it we are untethered, we are souls in purgatory. Those glimmering episodes connect us with ourselves; they confirm our passage through life. They tell us who we are.
002.  Once, Polly wanted her to be something else. She wished that Kath was her mother. This is no reflection on Elaine, it did not mean a repudiation of Elaine, it meant simply that Polly wanted to have Kath with her all of the time, in an attentive, available mother role. She remembers this longing and she remembers also an accompanying guilt; she knew she must not voice this need, least of all to Elaine.
003.  This is a woman who is self-sufficient. Which does not imply egotism, or complacency, of indifference to others; just, she is one of those rare and perhaps blessed souls who are able to make their way through life without the need to be shored up by companionship, or dependents, or love.
004.  In youth, Oliver was good at Latin. Occasionally a shred of Virgil or of Caesar can still float into his head. These days, he is haunted by lacrimae rerum—those plangent words. He remembers that the Latin master considered the phrase untranslatable. He would chalk it up on the board, with some suggested renderings; the pity of things, the tears of the world. “Not right, are they?” he would say. “A beautiful expression, the ultimate in poetry—and it has to be left as it is.”

Pinkerton's Sister Pinkerton’s Sister by Peter Rushforth
-01- p45: It was strange what the writing of overambitious poetry could do to you.
-02- p47: Some strangers were named Mr Robertson or Mr Faulconbridge or ‘the man at number seventy-three’, some strangers were named Papa.
-03- p49: Unlike St [Wilgefortis???] , she did not need a miraculous hairy outgrowth and order to repel the unwanted attractions of men. She seemed to manage this effortlessly with no help whatsoever from God. It was one of the many gifts she possessed.
-04- p51: “A special service,’ was the way that the Reverend Goodchild had described today’s planned events, ‘a very special service,’ and something in the way he had stressed ‘special’ (evil cackling held at bay, one felt, solely by the exercise of strict self-control) seemed to suggest—at the very least—that human sacrifice might be involved.
-05- p62: It was time to wander about the house, ignite a few bedcurtains, rend a few wedding-veils, that sort of thing. Another busy day in the life of a madwoman.
-06- p63: She was surely well within the permitted range of strangeness, particularly when she paused to compare herself with some of the people she knew, the acquaintances around her, the neighbours?
-07- p73: Alice seemed to see them at all times, and in all places. The memories were vivid, happening in front of her for the first time. Contrariwise, when real things happened they sometimes felt like something being remembered, a memory of something once read a long time ago, not as if they were happening for the first time then.
-08- p96: There was something unfocused and distant about Albert Comstock’s face, as if his surroundings were not really there.
-09- p99: The group of nuns from The House of the Magdalenes—provocatively gathered together behind Dr [Vaniah???] Odom, who kept glancing nervously around; when he had told Satan to get him behind him, he hadn’t meant it quite so literally–
-10- p101: They’d heard that French was being sung, and they all know what French meant. French meant Filth. French meant licentiousness and poor drains. French meant the complete collapse of all moral standards, and the end of dignity and decorum, accompanied by a strong whiff of garlic. You just know it meant something repugnant. Mrs Albert Comstock had once been to Paris for a week, and was verging on the bilingual. She couldn’t actually speak French– ‘Nong parley [Frogsey???] , me,’ she could announce proudly.
-11- p118: With Miss [???] , Chastity [???] and Sobriety Goodchild and his daughter Serenity amongst its inhabitants, Longfellow Park was positively awash with the misleadingly monikered.
-12- p125: She thought—at various times in her childhood—that she belonged in on of these last two institutions: in The House of the Magdalenes (as one of the nuns, not one of the sinful women), or in the lunatic asylum (this time as one of the inmates, not as a [matron???] ).
-13- p127: [Alice] began a plan by subtle and sophisticated gradations to luring Sobriety to his doom by the employment of dramatic irony. There would be an extra level of satisfaction in destroying an uncouth oaf by the use of a literary technique.

The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl -01- …the place was littered with books, as though a library had collapsed and disbursed itself at will -02- Codes and symmetries are for those who think too much of thinking.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
01. ”I think sex flows more sluggishly in all of us than we care to believe, especially men care to believe. The first adventures are usually nothing but a satisfying of curiosity, and after that one keeps repeating the same actions, trying to find—what?” “What?” Therese asked. “Is there a word? A friend, a companion, or maybe just a sharer. What good are words? i mean, I think people often try to find through sex, things that are much easier to find in other ways.” “What other ways?” “I think that’s for each person to find out.”
02. Therese failed to hear all of what Abby said next, or maybe it was another of the fragmentary sentences that Carol alone understood, but it made Carol straighten up and laugh, suddenly and hard, made her whole face change, and Therese thought with sudden envy, she could not make Carol laugh like that, but Abby could.
03. And she wondered, as she had wondered before, if Richard liked her only because she was more sympathetic with his ambitions than anyone else he happened to know now… Therese got up restlessly and went to the window. She loved the room—because it stayed the same and stayed in the same place—yet today she felt an impulse to burst from it. She was a different person from the one who had stood here three weeks ago. This morning she had awakened in Carol’s house. Carol was like a secret spreading through her, spreading through this house, too, like a light invisible to everyone but her.
04. An inarticulate anxiety, a desire to know , know anything, for certain, had jammed itself in her throat so for a moment she felt she could hardly breathe.
05. Therese answered as she always did, succinctly, and with the involuntary and absolute honesty that always depressed her afterward….Why did she let Mrs Robichek haunt her? And now she had spread it into Carol and could never take it back.

Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
-01- p37: [Sandy is walking along with the Brodie set—thinking of a fictional character she likes.] Alan Breck would arrive in full Highland dress. Supposing that passion struck upon them in the course of the evening and they were swept away into sexual intercourse? She saw the picture of it happening in her mind, and Sandy could not stand for this spoiling. She argued with herself, surely people have time to think, they have to stop to think while they are taking their clothes off, and if they stop to think, how can they be swept away?
…’Sandy, dear, don’t rush. Take my hand,’ said Miss Brodie. ‘…I’m sure Sandy’s mind is not on motor cars, she is paying attention to my conversation like a well-mannered girl.’
… And if people take their clothes off in front of each other, thought Sandy, it is so rude, they are bound to be put off their passion for a moment. And if they are put off just for a single moment, how can they be swept away in the urge?
-02- pp57-58: Rose Stanley believed her, but this was because she was indifferent. She was the least of all the Brodie set to be excited by Miss Brodie’s love affairs, or by anyone else’s sex. And it was always to be the same. Later, when she was famous for sex, her magnificently appealing qualities lay in the fact that she had no curiosity about sex at all, she never reflected upon it.
-03- p60: Sandy was thinking of the next instalment of Jane Eyre, which Miss Brodie usually enlivened this hour by reading. Sandy had done with Alan Breck and had taken up with Mr Rochester, with whom she now sat in the garden.
-04- pp61-2: ‘Perhaps Miss Brodie is having a love affair with Mr Lowther,’ said Sandy to Jenny…
‘But it was Mr Lloyd who kissed her. She must be in love with Mr Lloyd or she wouldn’t have let him kiss her.’
‘Perhaps she’s working it off on Mr Lowther. Mr Lowther isn’t married. ‘ …Jenny whispered, ‘They go to bed. Then he puts out the light. Then their toes touch. And then Miss Brodie… Miss Brodie…’ She broke into giggles.
‘Miss Brodie yawns,’ said Sandy in order to restore decency, now that she suspected it was all true.
‘No, Miss Brodie says, “Darling.” She says–‘
‘Quiet,’ whispered Sandy. ‘Eunice is coming.’
…When she was well out of the way Jenny resumed, ‘Mr Lowther’s legs are shorter than Miss Brodie’s, so I suppose she winds hers round his, and–‘
-05- p64: It was impossible to imagine Miss Brodie sleeping with my Lowther, it was impossible to imagine her in a sexual context at all, and yet it was impossible not to suspect that such things were so.
-06- pp70-1: The question of the policewoman was inexhaustible, and although Sandy never saw her, she quite deserted Alan Breck and Mr Rochester and all the [???] of fiction for the summer term, and fell in love with the unseen policewoman who had questioned Jenny…
-07- p72: Sandy decided to call her Sergeant Anne Grey. Sandy was Anne’s right-hand woman in the Force, and they were dedicated to eliminate sex from Edinburgh and environs.
…Sergeant Anne pressed Sandy’s hand in gratitude; and they looked into each other’s eyes, their natural understanding too deep for words.

Purity by Douglas Clegg
001. …in many ways, we want the irrational and the tragic and the desperate, because they bring meaning and life back into our existences.
002. That’s what had happened when I was twelve and dedicated my soul to the god of dark places. By the time I was seventeen, I was a dedicated servant to the one I worshipped. And the only thing I asked of this divinity was: Give me Jenna.
003. Owen Crites looked to summer for one thing, and one thing only. It would be the arrival of Jenna Montgomery, and that would mean that his misery, his feeling of loneliness would vanish. It was a singular obsession of his. She was purity.

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