What You Cannot See

There are few things more humiliating than shopping for clothes as an overweight woman. We hear the statistics about how obesity is a major problem in the United States and still, there are a handful of stores where we can buy clothes. At most of those stores, the clothes are hideous and if you are under fifty, the hideousness increases by a factor of ten. 

I hate clothes shopping and have for years because I know I’m not going to find anything I actually want to wear. I don’t like patterns. I don’t like appliqué. I don’t like bright colors. Fat girl clothes designers never got this memo. 

I have many dreams about the clothes I would like to wear—maxi dresses, tailored slacks, sexy camisoles, whatever. I lack the courage to wear such things. Jeans and dark shirts it is. 

Today I went to a clothing store. I wanted to find a few nice things to wear for someone I want to look nice for when I see them soon. I am caring about my appearance. I am caring about myself, maybe. This is new and I think I like it. It’s embarrassing. Nothing makes sense anymore.  I am blushing. 

I was at this store, looking for things when a young woman came out of the dressing room crying. I won’t get into the details of it because it’s her story but she was so upset and her mother was treating her in quite a humiliating manner and I wanted to sob right there in the store because I am not having the best day and it was just too much to see such a familiar and painful scene. 

I’ve been that girl, too big for the clothes in the store, just trying to find something, anything that fits, while also dealing with the commentary of someone else who means well but can’t help but make pointed, insensitive comments. I cannot even get into the details. It’s too much.

I hate shopping.  

People try all manner of tactics to make us lose weight—tips and “help”, diet and exercise advice, nagging, harassment, shaming. There is this idea that if you shame a fat person enough, you will somehow move them to discipline their body. That is not how it works. What you see is the fat. What you cannot see is so far beyond what you can understand. 

I am not a hugger but I wanted to wrap my arms around this girl. I wanted to protect her from this world that is so unbelievably cruel to overweight people. There was nothing I could really do because I know this world. I live in it too. There’s no shelter or safety or escape from the cruel stares and comments, the too-small seats, the too small everything for your too big body.

But I followed her to the dressing room and I told her she was beautiful. And she was indeed beautiful.  She nodded and tears were streaming down her face. We both went on with our shopping. I wanted to tear her mother’s face off. I wanted to call my person and hear a kind voice. I wanted something to pull me out of the spiral of self-loathing I felt myself tumbling into. I wanted to burn the store down. I wanted to scream. 

When the young woman left the store, she was still crying. I cannot stop picturing her face, that look in her eyes that I know too well, how she was trying to fold in on herself in a body that was so visible. She was trying to disappear and she couldn’t. It is unbearable to want something so little and so much. 

Nearly every day, a friend or acquaintance tags me on Facebook, asking me to share a list of 10 books that have influenced me. Nearly every day, I read such lists from the same circle of friends and acquaintances. I understand the tidy pleasures provided by such an exercise, but in truth, I am not merely influenced by books. I could not limit a list of important books to a number or a neatly organized list. The list, whatever it might look like, would always be changing because I too am always changing. I am not influenced by books. Instead, I am shaped by them. I am made of flesh and bone and blood. I am also made of books.
— Read the rest of this essay The Books That Made Me Who I Am

The Rhetorical Questions of Ina Garten: An Incomplete List

How bad could that be?

How fun is that?

How’s that for easy?

How good does that look?

How good does this look?

Who could turn that down?

Isn’t that great?

Who wouldn’t want that for their birthday?

Who wouldn’t want that for his birthday?

We need a nice cocktail for breakfast, don’t we?

Who wouldn’t like that for breakfast?

How’s that for a fast sauce?

Who wouldn’t want that for dessert?

Isn’t that fantastic?

Why make regular raspberry sauce when you can make triple raspberry sauce?”

Now, who wouldn’t want that for their birthday?

Now, who wouldn’t want to marry you if you made them this?

Who wouldn’t want to eat that?

How fast is that?

Does that look good?

doubledaybooks:

"[O]ne of the most mesmerizing heroines in recent fiction…." Texas Monthly

"Merritt Tierce’s debut novel, Love Me Back, is a gorgeous, dirty razor of prose—sharp and dangerous and breathtaking." —Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State and Bad Feminist

"Tierce’s prose possesses the force, bluntness and surprise of a sucker punch. Love Me Back is an unflinching and galvanic novel full of heart and heartache; one of my favorite books of the last few years." —Carrie Brownstein, co-creator of Portlandia

LOVE ME BACK here.

All Our Sad Stories

My first relationship was my worst relationship. I was desperately young. My first relationship was with the boy who turned me into the girl in the woods. He was a good boy from a good family living in a good neighborhood but he hurt me in the worst ways. People are rarely what they seem. The more I got to know him, the more I realized that he was always showing who he really was and the people in his life either saw through him or closed their eyes. After that boy and his friends raped me, I was broken. I did not stop letting him do things to me and that remains one of my greatest shames.  I wish I knew why. Or I know why. I was dead, so nothing mattered. 

Since then I’ve had many other relationships and none nearly that bad but the damage was done. My course was set. And it’s a shame that the measure is what is not so bad instead of what is thriving and good. I look at some of my worst relationships and think, “at least he or she didn’t hit me.” I work from a place of gratitude for the bare minimum. I’ve never been in a relationship where I’ve had to hide nonconsensual bruises. I’ve never feared for my life. I’ve never been in a situation where I couldn’t walk away. Does this make me a lucky girl? Given the stories I’ve seen women sharing via the hashtags #whyIstayed and #whyIleft, yes. 

This is not how we should measure luck. 

I have had good relationships but it’s hard to trust that because what I consider good sometimes doesn’t feel very good at all. 

Or I am thinking about testimony and how there has been so much over the past day and some—women sharing their truths, daring to use their voices to say, “This is what happened to me. This is how I have been wronged.” I’ve been thinking about how so much testimony is demanded of women and still, there are those who doubt our stories. There are those who think we are all lucky girls because we are still, they narrowly assume, alive. 

I am weary of all our sad stories—not hearing them, but that we have these stories to tell, that there are so many.

I have been thinking about a specific person who is no longer in my life since yesterday. Our relationship was not good but it was “not that bad.” I have been thinking about how sometimes emotional abuse is even worse than physical abuse. I don’t mind getting knocked around. I don’t say that cavalierly. There are simply some things to which I am numb. This person, though, wanted to break me down, which became interesting because I did not realize I could still be broken down further. Who knew? They did, I guess. They smelled it on me. 

There was nothing dramatic or violent between us. It was simply constant criticism. Nothing I ever did was good enough. I was in my twenties and desperately insecure so I thought this was what all relationships were like. I thought this was what I deserved because I was so worthless.

I couldn’t be taken around this person’s colleagues without a rigorous critique of everything wrong with me that I needed to try and improve. Most of the time, as you might imagine, we were not together in public because I was just not good enough. I never looked nice enough. I talked too loud. I breathed too loud. I slept too loud. I was too warm while I slept. I moved too much while I slept. I basically stopped sleeping. I just hugged as small a sliver of the edge of the bed as I could and I stayed awake so my sleeping wouldn’t be such a nuisance. I was always tired. 

I didn’t wash dishes correctly. There is a right way and a wrong way to wash dishes. I know that now. Don’t get water on the floor. Drain the dish rack. Be careful how you organize the dishes in the dish rack. One of my favorite things to do now is to wash dishes any old way. I spill water on the floor and I smile at it because these are my fucking floors and these are my dishes and NO ONE CARES IF THERE IS WATER ON THE FLOOR.

I didn’t eat food correctly. I ate too fast. I chewed too loudly. I chewed ice too much. I didn’t put things away correctly. I didn’t arrange my shoes by the front door correctly. 

I swung my arms while walking. I would be told these things and then have to try and remember all the things I shouldn’t do so I wouldn’t be so upsetting, by just existing. We would be walking, and I would remember, okay, hold your arms at your side. Do not swing your arms. I would spend all my time just reminding myself, don’t swing your arms. And then I might get distracted and forget and accidentally let my arm move an inch or two and I would hear this exasperated sigh so I would redouble my efforts to make myself less upsetting to this person I loved. DON’T SWING YOUR ARMS, ROXANE. Sometimes, I catch myself trying not to swing my arms even now and I get so angry. I get so fucking angry and I want to swing my arms like a windmill. THESE ARE MY ARMS. THIS IS HOW I WALK. 

One day I went to a department store and got my make up done. I thought I looked pretty. I wanted to look pretty for this person. I bought a bunch of make up so I could be a better girl. I went to their house to surprise them and they looked me up and down and told me what else I could do to be more tolerable to them. I stood there on the front porch, wanting my body to collapse in on itself. I had been so excited, so happy I had made myself pretty and it wasn’t good enough. I certainly didn’t try that again. I went home with all my expensive make up and my pretty face and then I cried that make up off. The make up is in a yellow bag in my closet even now. Sometimes, I take it out and look at it but I don’t dare use it. 

I was never going to be good enough but I tried so hard. I tried to make myself better. I tried to make myself acceptable to someone who would never find me acceptable but kept me around for reasons I cannot begin to make sense of. I stayed because they confirmed every terrible thing I already knew about myself. I stayed because I thought no one else would possibly tolerate someone as worthless as me. I stayed through infidelity and disrespect. I stayed until they no longer wanted me around. I would like to think at some point I would have left but we always want to think the best of ourselves, don’t we?

But I am a lucky girl. I think most of my sad stories are behind me. There are things I will no longer tolerate. Being alone sucks but I would rather be alone than be with someone who makes me feel that terrible. I am realizing  I am not worthless. Knowing that feels good. My sad stories will always be there. I am going to keep telling them even though I hate having the stories to tell. These sad stories will always weigh on me, though that burden lessens the more I realize who I am and what I am worth.

Sometimes, a person with bright shining eyes and warm hands tells me how amazing I am. They tell me  they love me exactly as I am. I can hear the truth of these words in their voice. I believe them. It is the greatest gift and that’s why I fight for it. I allow myself this exquisite pleasure. I am a lucky girl. 

I hate writing about the terrible things that happen to women, or I suppose it is more accurate to say I hate how I feel obligated to write about the terrible things that happen to women. I feel this obligation because terrible things have happened to me and because for too long I stayed silent. I was scared and ashamed and humiliated. My silence only amplified these feelings, the self-loathing, the isolation. If speaking about violence against women makes other women feel less alone, I am going to use my voice. And still. I hate writing about the terrible things that happen to women. I hate the inescapable feeling that writing about such issues accomplishes so very little. I hate the exhaustion I feel when I see yet another news story about a woman who has suffered at the hands of a man. I hate the guilt I feel because I am exhausted. Exhaustion is such a luxury.

Q

brokensilence137 asked:

So, I'm a college student on a budget -- not a unique circumstance, I know. Still, as such, my first avenue for reading books is reserving them from the library. About a page into Bad Feminist, I decided that owning your book is something I am willing to splurge for. Thank you for sharing your writing.

A

That is so flattering to hear. E-mail me your name and address at roxane at roxanegay.com and I will send you a copy of Bad Feminist. Save your money. 

Heart First Anyway

I learned today that Bad Feminist is entering its fifth printing. It is gratifying to see the book selling so well. Thank you for reading. Thank you for engaging with my ideas. Thank you for recommending the book to your friends. Thank you.

Lucy McKeon reviewed both An Untamed State and Bad Feminist for The Boston Review. Here I was on MPR’s The Daily Circuit. It was a lively conversation. Lots of people are worried about what feminism will do to menfolk. I was interviewed for Australia’s Daily Life and also xoJane. There are reviews of Bad Feminist also in Brooklyn Rail, Autostraddle, The Miami Herald, and the AP

Finally, I wrote about the latest celebrity nude photo travesty for The Guardian.

I was bored so I decided to bake Ina’s amazing brownies. I was assuming they are amazing because we are talking about Ina Garten here. I don’t really like chocolate so I knew I wouldn’t be tempted to gorge myself on them. 

To kick things off, I pre-heated the oven to 350 and buttered and floured a pan. And then I sifted together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Sifting is really quite relaxing and I love seeing how fine a powder is made. 

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I’ve just finished my second week of teaching at Purdue. The students are wonderful, both undergraduate and graduate—lively, engaged, interesting. I’m making my way around town.

There is no denying, though, that it is lonely here and I have reached my limit for how much loneliness I am willing to tolerate. It’s simply hard to make friends at my age and my travel schedule doesn’t help matters and I also know my heart isn’t this place. Don’t read too much into this. I am simply saying that it has basically been nearly a decade of living like this and I am not sure how much longer I want to or can do it. The weekend is stretching before me right now—four days with nothing to do, with no one to see. It’s partly a nice idea but it’s also four very long days.

In another bowl, I combined six eggs, three tablespoons of instant coffee (which, Ina says, brings out the flavor of chocolate), the sugar, and vanilla. Ina said to stir not beat, so I stirred and stirred. 

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On the stove, I melted a pound of butter (an absolutely ridiculous quantity of butter,) the baking chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips over simmering water. 

Here is an essay I wrote for O Magazine, which you can find in the September 2014 print issue. It’s about trying to make peace with where you are in your life (literally and figuratively), which I am trying to do. I am trying to be grateful for the beauty of the plains and the quiet I am afforded. But in truth, place is not my real problem. Isolation is. And also longing—with all this time to myself, I think way too much about a person. Or maybe not too much, but it’s something.

But I’m in a place where I can begin to address the isolation or at least create a compromise for myself. Next year I think I’m going to split my time between here and another city, one where I know people I am comfortable socializing with. Given what I’m spending on hotels anyway, I might as well rent a small apartment. I have to think through the where and how and also take ALL THE FREELANCE WORK so I have a nice cushion. I just know I can’t sit alone in an apartment in rural Indiana for four days a week for the next decade. I simply cannot do it. Living in Charleston really just broke me down and I am burnt all the way out. I like having a plan rather than just wallowing. 

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After letting the chocolate cool a bit, I added it to the eggsugar and let that cool to room temperature. 

This week I took the stairs in the parking garage and parked on the sixth floor and right now my calves are tender to the touch. Even walking hurts. That will teach me.

I am trying. I am trying. It is so hard. 

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In a small bowl, I went rogue on the recipe, combining a quarter cup of flour, some chopped white chocolate, chocolate chips, and lavender flower walnuts my novel editor Amy Hundley sent me from her vacation to Hawaii. 

I’ve gotten a couple new questions and I will do my best to answer them.  

Hi Roxane,

Perhaps on your blog or in a reply or maybe not at all, I was wondering if you could talk about rejection. I remember when your tagline used to be something like ‘I have become accustomed to rejection.’ How did you find the will to keep trying? How did you realize/understand that rejection does not mean that your writing is shit and that your voice is unnecessary and that you are unworthy?

My previous blog was, indeed, called “I Have Become Accustomed to Rejection.” Writing about submitting my work and being rejected helped me to deal with rejection and make sense of my place in the writing world. In the heat of rejection, I absolutely got down about my writing but I am also an editor, and I know what goes into selecting work for a magazine. Once my sulking passed, I was and still am able to remember that when editors are making decisions, they are usually considering tone, aesthetic fit and the composition of a given issue. There are a lot of people submitting work to magazines and some of those people are submitting equally good or better work. It’s important to understand this.

However. Giving up doesn’t accomplish anything. Working harder, being relentless, putting my work back out there does accomplish something. You have to be persistent. You have to trust and have faith in your writing. That voice you hear telling you that your voice is unnecessary and unworthy is fueled by fear because it is fucking scary to put your work out into the world and have that work rejected. Allow yourself to feel the fear and then dig deep into your stronger self and keep trying and keep writing and keep reaching for what you want. Don’t hide from your ambition. Own that shit.

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When the chocolateegg mixture was cooled, I added the sifted flour to it and stirred it all together. At this point, my arm was like, “Roxane, stop this immediately.” 

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I added the nutchocolate (ha) to the cooled other chocolate situation and stirred it all together. Then I poured the batter into my baking pan and it looked pretty. Then I baked all that for 35 minutes. 

Here’s another question. 

You are amazing. I just wanted to start with that. I read all your posts and you often talk about someone, that you love but you aren’t together. I know this is personal and I understand if you don’t wish to answer this, especially receiving hundreds of asks a day, but… I was wondering if you could talk about romantic love and its meaning. What would you recommend after a bad breakup and when you don’t know what to do or how to move on even when you don’t have the strength to do anything?

Thank you!

I suppose much of my writing here comes off as lovesick because I am asked, quite a lot, about who I am writing about and what the deal is. Awkward I guess! I don’t know what my deal is. I never used to be like this but as of late, I find myself with all my cards on the table. I worry I come off as pathetic  but then I realize I don’t really care. I don’t need to feel shame about how I feel. There is someone I love, yes. I am vague about certain things because some things I keep closest to my heart. I believe our ancestors called this privacy.  

After a bad break up, the most important thing is to take care of yourself and to be kind to yourself. You don’t need to know what to do at first. You don’t need to have the strength to do anything. You just need to breathe and get through one day at a time. If it takes months, it takes months. Don’t let anyone else put a timetable on what it takes for your heart to mend. And then, when you can finally breathe easier, be even kinder to yourself. Start remembering who you were before the break up and before the relationship that ended. Try and get back to that person without abandoning what you have learned between then and now. When you are ready, get back out there. Maybe you won’t really be ready, but don’t close yourself off to someone else. 

On a more realistic note, fuck their shit up, sell all the shit they left behind, burn pictures, cut their faces out of pictures, talk shit with your friends, get sloppy drunk, and behave badly. 

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Romantic love, I have no idea. Right now I feel like a fucking teenager. I am completely out of my depth. My palms are sweaty. I am writing a name on lined notebook paper. I am dreaming. I am drowning.

Maybe romantic love is both selfish and selfless in that I don’t want to be selfless. I want to be selfish and greedy. I want her all to myself because I do not like to share. But. If it was in her best interest, I would try to be the best version of myself. I would try to be selfless even though it would feel like I was cutting the most necessary part of myself out. 

Or.

It’s getting tongue tied when we talk on the phone because the sound of her voice is home. It’s the rush of pure joy when I see her name anywhere. The way my head spins during those first moments each time we see each other and how it feels like electricity is just pulsing through my skin when she is near. Being made to blush at an age when blushing is absurd. It’s the softness of skin and the warmth of lovely hands. It’s my heart pounding when I write to her or read something from her or think of her or breathe the same air as her. It’s the quiet I feel when we’re together, the sense of absolute completeness, where I want for nothing. Understanding greeting cards and feeling no embarrassment about that. It is opening my hands and saying here is the world, if you would let me give it to you.

Or.

Jealousy, white hot jealousy, over both trivial and nontrivial things. Some people have mature and evolved theories about jealousy and what it means and you know, I don’t really care. I am not that woman. I get jealous, possessive, not unhealthily, just enough to remind me of what’s at stake. 

Or.

There is desire and [redacted] and [redacted] and [redacted].

Or

Being unafraid to show the ugliest parts of myself and bear witness to the ugliest parts of someone else and being willing to hold that ugly gently. We. Us. Together. Knowing you can be both strong and fragile. A willingness to tear down the walls you no longer need. Letting someone reach your warm. Reaching for their warm. 

Or

Maybe romantic love is knowing how something is going to end, knowing what is inevitable, and jumping in heart first, rib cage torn apart, blood rushing, anyway. 

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I don’t know how the brownies taste but they look gorgeous. The brownies are, perhaps, a metaphor for wanting what you cannot have. 

cinefamily:

Wifey’s Girl On Girl presents:

September 27: LOVE & BASKETBALL

Writer/professor/blogger Roxane Gay (An Untamed State, Bad Feminist) interviews filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood after the screening!

Amazing Sentences

in my craft of fiction class, we’re looking at sentences and paragraphs this week. These are some I’ve highlighted as favorites from contemporary fiction:

Amazing Sentences

 

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot:

Jane was sufficiently bewildered by what kind of person she was, so it was always arresting when someone, particularly a stranger, summed her up.

Forgotten Country, Catherine Chung

My mother did not want to go to America: this much I knew. I knew it by the way she became distracted and impatient with my sister, by the way she stopped tucking us into bed at night. I knew it from watching her feet, which began to shuffle after my father announced the move, as though they threw down invisible roots that needed to be pulled out with each step

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt:

Mrs. Barbour was from a society family with an old Dutch name, so cool and blonde and monotone that sometimes she seemed partially drained of blood. She was a masterpiece of composure; nothing ever ruffled her or made her upset, and though she was not beautiful her calmness had the magnetic pull of beauty—a stillness so powerful that the molecules realigned themselves around her when she came into a room…

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones:

“Silver” is what I called girls who were natural beauties but who also smoothed on a layer of pretty from a jar. It wasn’t just how they looked, it was how they were. The name came from a song my mother sang sometimes when she was getting dressed to go out somewhere special. She sang along with Aretha Franklin at the end: “Sail on, silver girl… Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way.

 

Zazen, Vanessa Veselka

I tried to map the cultural trends leading up to it but as I did they grew, interconnecting and weaving backwards and sideways out to everything. Next to the megalithic institutionalized shredding of people’s humanity, marked by tombstone malls and scabby hills, the Styrofoam gullets and flag-waving god-chatterers casting their votes for eternal paternity on the lap rapists - next to all of that, the intimacy between a terrorist and his target was almost a beautiful thing but I still couldn’t solve that moment when they did it anyway so I grabbed more paper and widened my field of vision

 

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush:

One thing she knew and Ned did not, was that there is no permanent friendship between men, among men. Something goes wrong, somebody marries the wrong person, somebody advances too fast, somebody converts, somebody refuses good advice or bad advice, it didn’t matter. It went up in a flash, it went up in a flash like magnesium paper set on fire in a magic show. She thought, It’s not always great with women, either, but it can be. Women can have friends, it’s more personal, she thought. Although in the great design of things, women were getting to be more like men. There were more tough cookies around, and liars.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote

It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned.

 

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Besides, humility had always seemed to him a specious thing, invented for the comfort of others; you were praised for humility by people because you did not make them feel any more lacking than they already did.

The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner

People who are harder to love pose a challenge, and the challenge makes them easier to love. You’re driven to love them. People who want their love easy don’t really want love.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

Children don’t know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now: the street is this, the doorway is this, the stairs are this, this is Mamma, this is Papa, this is the day, this the night. I was small and really my doll knew more than I did.

Come Together, Fall Apart, by Cristina Henriquez

Her brand of meanness was of the temperate variety. She threw little punches but they were never the sort to leave bruises.

We The Animals, Justin Torres

This is your heritage,’ he said, as if from this dance we could know about his own childhood, about the flavor and grit of tenement buildings in Spanish Harlem, and projects in Red Hook, and dance halls, and city parks, and about his own Paps, how he beat him, how he taught him to dance, as if we could hear Spanish in his movements, as if Puerto Rico was a man in a bathrobe, grabbing another beer from the fridge and raising it to drink, his head back, still dancing, still steeping and snapping perfectly in time.

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Danielle Evans

When people don’t hide things, it means they don’t care enough to be afraid of losing you.

Savages, Don Winslow

If you let people believe that you are weak, sooner or later you’re going to have to kill them.

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich

Women don’t realize how much store men set on the regularity of their habits. We absorb their comings and goings into our bodies, their rhythms into our bones.

The Lover, Marguerite Duras

Suddenly, all at once, she knows, knows that he doesn’t understand her, that he never will, that he lacks the power to understand such perverseness. And that he can never move fast enough to catch her. It’s up to her to know. And she does. Because of his ignorance she suddenly knows: she was attracted to him already on the ferry. She was attracted to him. It depended on her alone.

Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward

We crawled through time like roaches through the linings of walls, the neglected spaces and hours, foolishly happy that we were still alive even as we did everything to die.”

 

May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Homes

We retreat back to the sofa and watch more television, and I find myself thinking that I now understand what the perfect use for TV is—it gives people who have nothing in common something they can do together and talk about: it gives us familiar territory. I have a new respect for what George used to do, how television binds us as Americans—we are what we watch.

A Sport and a Pastime, James Salter

Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like coins in the pocket of a forgotten suit. Most of the details, though, have long since been transformed or rearranged to bring others of them forward. Some, in fact, are obviously counterfeit; they are no less important. One alters the past to form the future

The Wife, Meg Wolitzer

Everyone needs a wife; even wives need wives. Wives tend, they hover. Their ears are twin sensitive instruments, satellites picking up the slightest scrape of dissatisfaction. Wives bring broth, we bring paper clips, we bring ourselves and our pliant, warm bodies. We know just what to say to the men who for some reason have a great deal of trouble taking consistent care of themselves or anyone else. “Listen,” we say. “Everything will be okay.” And then, as if our lives depend on it, we make sure it is.”

The Brutal Language of Love, Alicia Erian

Love was never easy, she knew. And if it was, it wasn’t love—friendship maybe, but not love. What she felt for Leonard was something limp and slack. It had no charge, no current running through it to hurt her if she wasn’t careful. The reality was, you only knew you were loved if you were left and returned to, if you were ignored and then craved. Occasionally you would be seen for slightly less than the sum of your parts, and that was love, too. Love announced itself with a sting, not a pat. If love was love, it was urgent and ripe and carried with it the faint odor of humiliation, so that there was always something to be made up for later, some apology in the works. Love was never clean, never quiet, never polite. Love rarely did what you asked it to, let alone what you dreamed it might do, and it most certainly did not know that your favorite color was blue.

Dare Me, Megan Abbott

I guess I’d been waiting forever, my palm raised. Waiting for someone to take my girl body and turn it out, steel me from the inside, make things matter for me, like never before.

Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson

I’m sure we were all feeling blessed on this ferryboat among the humps of very green—in the sunlight almost coolly burning, like phosphorus—islands, and the water of inlets winking in the sincere light of day, under a sky as blue and brainless as the love of God, despite the smell, the slight, dreamy suffocation, of some kind of petroleum-based compound used to seal the deck’s seams.” 

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

Then the fight went out of control. It quivered their arms and legs and wrenched their faces into shapes of hatred, it urged them harder and deeper into each other’s weakest points, showing them cunning ways around each other’s strongholds and quick chances to switch tactics, feint, and strike again. In the space of a gasp for breath it sent their memories racing back over the years for old weapons to rip the scabs off old wounds; it went on and on.

Airships, Barry Hannah

Jane truly liked to talk to fat and old guys best of all. She didn’t ever converse much with young men. Her ideal of a conversation was when sex was nowhere near it at all.