Author's Note:

The Long Habit of Living is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Books read in 2012






[The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq]


[English Creek by Ivan Doig]


[The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot]


[Love, Again by Doris Lessing]


[The Bushwhacked Piano by Thomas McGuane]


[Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz]


[The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer]








[The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk]
(my second reading)

[Independence Day by Richard Ford]

[Whatever by Michel Houellebecq]


[Gilead by Marilynne Robinson]

[Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn
by David Hajdu]



[All the Little Live Things by Wallace Stegner]



[Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel]




[Carson McCullers: A Life by Josyane Savigneau]




[Edward Abbey:  Desert Solitaire]




[The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick]



[The Good Companions by J.B. Priestley]


[Neither Here Nor There--Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson]

[Along the Way by Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez]



[The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje]

[High Lonesome by Barry Hannah]

[Boomerang by Barry Hannah]


[Life by Keith Richards]


[The Book of Air & Shadows by Michael Gruber]


[Home by Marilynne Robinson]


[Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler]


[Naturalist by Edward O. Wilson]

[Ataturk by Andrew Mango]


[The Ones You Do by Daniel Woodrell]


[Neuromancer by William Gibson]

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." [From William Gibson's Neuromancer.]

[The Wrong Case by James Crumley]

From THE WRONG CASE--

Her hands had fallen still, and she looked up at me blankly, then said quietly, "You're rather a profane and unhappy man, aren't you?"
"Lady, I'm worse than that," I said as I sat down.

* * * *

"...Men are always so hard on themselves. Morally, I mean. My friend, who recommended you, says you're a good man. Unhappy but good. ...My friend said you knew whenever anybody farted in Meriwether County."
"His opinion is too high," I said.

* * * *

During his more lucid moments, Simon often said that when I grew old enough to become a full-time drunk, he and I would have a worthless contest, and he maintained that I would lose because I lacked the necessary character to forgo the last vestiges of middle-class morality.

[Excerpted from THE WRONG CASE by James Crumley, New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1986.]



[Dancing Bear by James Crumley]

The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker


From THE EYE IN THE DOOR--
She looked past Prior's shoulder, and he turned to follow her gaze. He found himself looking at an elaborately painted eye. The peephole formed the pupil, but around this someone had taken the time and trouble to paint a veined iris, an eyewhite, and a lid. This eye, where no eye shoud have been, was deeply disturbing to Prior. For a moment he was back in France, looking at Towers's eyeball in the palm of his hand. He blinked the image away. "That's horrible," he said, turning back to Beattie. "'S not so bad long as it stays in the door." She tapped the side of her head. "You start worrying when it gets in here."



[The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins]



Think of it this way:  you're in the third wave at Tarawa, and some dolt misread the tide, so your landing craft lodges on the reef; every second Marine in your LST dies during the thousand-yard struggle through the surf; or you're trapped on that black slithering sand at Iwo Jima and some fucking nut in a tank runs over your buddy;  or it's Korea when the powers that be decide that jets can do close infantry work; you put out the purple panels and the smoke of the day, and still the F-86s come slithering through your positions, hammering you with rockets and .50-caliber rounds as big and ugly as your thumb; or your squad had laagered on a ridge in Indochina, eating some shit out of a can left over from a war nobody remembers, and some kid who flunked out of East Jesus State misreads the elevation on the 81mm and everybody you knew on this tour has turned to bloody puddles without ironic final lines.
"I don't mean to be impolite, sir," I said politely, "but I saw more atheists in foxholes than I did Republicans."



[Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel]

"His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England stretching behind him; they drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood-filled gaze." [Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel]





''Zuckerman had lost his subject. His health, his hair, and his subject. Just as well he couldn't find a posture for writing. What he had made his fiction from was gone - his birthplace the burnt-out landscape of a racial war and the people who had been giants to him dead."




"There was a rock that since the creation of the world had been worked upon by the pure essences of Heaven and the fine savours of Earth, the vigour of sunshine and the grace of moonlight, till at last it became magically pregnant and one day split open, giving birth to a stone egg, about as big as a playing ball. Fructified by the wind it developed into a stone monkey, complete with every organ and limb."

[Monkey by Wu Ch'eng-en, translated by Arthur Waley. New York: Grove Press, 1943.]



The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
From THE SWERVE--
Something happened in the Renaissance, something that surged up against the constraints that centuries had constructed around curiosity, desire, individuality, sustained attention to the material world, the claims of the body. The cultural shift is notoriously difficult to define, and its significance has been fiercely contested. But it can be intuited easily enough when you look in Siena at Duccio's painting of the enthroned Virgin, the Maesta, and then in Florence at Botticelli's Primavera.

...The key to the shift lies not only in the intense, deeply informed revival of interest in the pagan deities and the rich meanings that once attached to them. It lies also in the whole vision of a world in motion, a world not rendered insignificant but made ore beautiful by its transience, its erotic energy, and its ceaseless change.
His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. He was called the Cat because his back would never touch the earth.



[From the back cover of Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson]
Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transcience.
Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter, by Steven Rinella, New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2012
 


[Frank Bascombe-isms from Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land]:

"Too much death can happen to you before you know it, and has to be staved off like a bad genie and stuffed back in its bottle."
"When you start looking for reasons for why you feel bad, you need to stand back from the closet door."

"Chances are, with the year I've had, I was headed there anyway....When I asked what it was I had to do before I was sixty, maybe it's just to accept my whole life and my whole self in it--to have that chance before it's too late: to try again to achieve what athletes achieve when their minds are clear, their parts in concert, when they're "feeling it," when the ball's as big as the moon and they hit it a mile beccause that's all they can do.  When nothing else is left.  The Next Level."

"As I said, acceptance is goddamned scary.  I feel its very fearsomeness here in my bed, in my empty house with the storm past and Thanksgiving waiting with the dawn in the east.  Be careful what you accept, is my warning--to me.  I will if I can."




Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler





Orhan Pamuk's Silent House


From Orhan Pamuk's second novel, originally published in 1983 and just this year translated from the Turkish by Robert Finn:

...your grandfather, early in the evenings, he'd say, 'Fatma, let's go for a walk, I'm just stewing in here, we never go anywhere, this encyclopedia is exhausting me, I don't want to be like some Eastern despot saying I don't have any time, I want to make my wife happy, let's at least walk a little in the garden, and we can talk, I'll tell you about what I read today, I think about the necessity of science and how we're so backward because we lack it, I truly understand now our need for a Renaissance, for a scientific awakening, there's an awesome job before me that must be done, and so I'm actually grateful to Talat Pasha for exiling me to this lonely corner, where I can read and think about these things, because if it weren't for this emptiness and all the time in the world, I could never have come to these conclusions, would never have realized the importance of my historic task, Fatma, anyway, all of Rousseau's thoughts were the visions of a solitary wanderer in the countryside, surrounded by nature, but here the two of us are together.'
"Marlboros here, get your Marlboros!"


[Above excerpt from Pamuk, Orhan. Silent House, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012, p. 64.]


Daniel Woodrell's The Outlaw Album
[Excerpts from Daniel Woodrell's book of short stories, The Outlaw Album]:

Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn't seem to quit killing him.  He killed him again whenever he felt unloved or blue or simply had empty hours facing him(The Echo of Neighborly Bones)

  "What kind of woman is that?"
  "She's lookin' like a man out here, so men passin' won't snatch her up and keep her chained in the basement."
  "You sure got a bad thing about men."
  "I got a bad thing about everybody if you pay attention
.
(Dream Spot)

Then Cecil pick up a slice of brick and hardly aims but he smash that light to bits. As soon as it left his hand I seen that his aim for bein' bad was awful accurate.
(Two Things)



Ben Macintyre's Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
"In the summer of 1943, a genteel and soft-spoken intelligence officer wearing tartan trousers and smoking a pipe put the finishing touches to a secret weapon he had been working on for more than three years.  It did not destroy cities, sink U-boats, or pierce the armor of panzers.  It did something far more subtle.  Instead of killing the enemy, it could make the Nazis think what the British wanted them to think, and therefore do what the British wanted them to do."

Operation Fortitude was the "...plan specifically covering the cross-Channel invasion, the pivotal element in the deception...to bottle up German troops in the Pas de Calais and keep them there...."
Agent Garbo
"The military saga of D-Day has been described many times, and the role of Operation Fortitude in that victory, though long shrouded in secrecy, has slowly emerged since the war.  But the story of the five spies who formed the nucleus of the Double Cross system...has never been fully told before." 

MI5 officer with Agent Bronx (r)












"They included a bisexual Peruvian playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot, a mercurial Frenchwoman, a Serbian seducer, and a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming.  ...they delivered all the little lies that made up the big lie." 




"How many millions might a man be willing to spend to raise his ego a quarter mile high? How much to lay claim to the heart and soul of New York City?"
 




[Little Disturbances of Man by Grace Paley]




[Enormous Changes At the Last Minute by Grace Paley]


















James Crumley, and various covers of his book, The Final Country


The Polish Officer by Alan Furst














Center: Pat Barker, with various covers of her book The Ghost Road.
Bottom center: Wilfred Owen


One for the Books by Joe Queenan
[From Joe Queenan's One for the Books] "A friend once told me that the real message Bram Stoker sought to convey in Dracula is that a human being needs to live hundreds and hundreds of years to get all his reading done; that Count Dracula, misunderstood bookworm, was draining blood from the porcelain-like necks of ten thousand hapless virgins not because he was the apotheosis of evil but because it was the only way he could live long enough to polish off his reading list. But I have no way of knowing if this is true, as I have not yet found time in my life to read Dracula."



The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin











[From Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary]

     "They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world.  There is something hungry and rough in them, a brutality boiling in their blood, which I have seen before and can smell as an animal that is being hunted can smell." [p. 1]


     "It is simple.  If water can be changed into wine and the dead can be brought back, then I want time pushed back.  I want to live again before my son's death happened, or before he left me, when he was a baby and his father was alive and there was ease in the world.
     "...I would await my son's shy smile as the door was opened for him by his father and then we would sit in silence waiting for the sun to disappear when we could talk again and eat together and prepare with ease for the peaceful night..., when our love for each other, for God and the world, had deepened and spread.
     "This is over now.   The boy became a man and left home and became a dying figure on a cross.  I want to be able to imagine that what happened to him will not come, it will see us and decide--not now, not them.  And we will be left in peace to grow old." [p. 76]

[Toibin, Colm.  The Testament of Mary, New York: Scribner, 20012]






"I'm willing to say now that guilt has less to do with it than you might think. Rather, the intolerable problem is of everything suddenly being so confused: the clear path back to the past being cluttered and unfollowable; how the person once felt being now completely changed from how he feels today. And time itself: how the hours of the day and night advance so oddly--first fast, then hardly passing at all. Then the future becoming as confused and impenetrable as the past itself. What a person becomes in such a situation is paralyzed--caught in one long, sustained, intolerable present.
"Who wouldn't want to stop that--if he could? Make the present give way to almost any future at all. Who wouldn't admit everything just to gain release from the terrible present? I would. Only a saint wouldn't." [p. 120]


[Above excerpt from Richard Ford's Canada] Ford, Richard. Canada, New York: HarperCollins, 2012.



[From Philip Roth's Letting Go]

Letting Go by Philip Roth
And the fact is that there are few of us who can resist an appeal. After all, you could free the slaves and hang the tyrants by their heels, but as for the rest, the other horrors, what do you do after you've bought your Christmas seals? We feel a debt, I know, hearing of the other fellow's sorrows, but the question I want to raise here is, What good is the bleeding heart? What's to be done with all this pitying? Look, even my mother had it; she pitied my father. Isabel Archer pitied Osmond. I pity you, you may pity me. I don't know if it makes any of us behave better, or wiser. Terrible struggles go on in the heart, to which the heart itself will not admit, when pity is mistaken for love." (p.46)



Jared Diamond, Collapse



That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx
















Blake: A Biography by Peter Ackroyd



[From Blake]:
In the visionary imagination of William Blake there is no birth and no death, no beginning and no end, only the perpetual pilgrimage within time towards eternity. But we cannot follow him into that bright world, not yet, and his story must begin above a hosier's shop in Soho where, at 7:45 on a November evening in 1757, he came crying into the rushlight and candlelight of a London winter.



James Crumley's The Right Madness
Wild by Cheryl Strayed



Low Life by Luc Sante





This is a fascinating book, and I'm only fortysomething pages into it, but here are some snippets:

From some very depressing and staggering descriptions of tenement life in New York City during 19th and early 20th centuries:  The fiction of gentility in the tenement begins in nineteenth century legends of forgotten duchesses and cast-off victims of primogeniture expiring in grimy attics--there being no surer way to the hearts of the middle class than by the revelation of noble blood--and over the decades moves little by little into the domain of commodities, finally culminating in those improbable tenement flats seen in movies of the 1930s--the ones the Bowery Boys might share with their noble elder sisters, for example--that might be the kitchens and parlors of real houses on Main Street, only with a skyscraper visible through the window. To most minds, the slums were a wilderness, as inevitable as forest or desert, in which vice and crime were natural conditions. The task of extracting goodness fell to the liberal--"I like a dirty slum, not because I am naturally unclean...but because I generally find a certain sediment of philosophy precipitated in its gutters."

No one knew when a wall might collapse, having been made of plaster eked out with sawdust in the first place, and then weakened by years of weather, so that the inhabitants of all floors would be exposed like the occupants of an ant farm--in their nightshirts, in their baths, eating, screwing, reading the funnies, coughing blood.



By 1872, there were over 20,000 tenement houses in the City. To give you an idea of the DENSITY of New York City tenement life, in 1890, a block between Canal & Hester & Eldridge & Forsyth Streets, just 75,000 sq. ft., housed 2,628 people.

a block between Stanton, Houston, Attorney and Ridge, just 60,000 sq. ft., housed 2,244. And a smaller block off of Houston Street held 3,000 people.

Even Manila, even Delhi, are less dense than lower Manhattan was during the period 1890-1920. And Manila is the most densely populated city on earth.


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