Orthodoxy is the grave of intelligence, no matter what orthodoxy it may be. And in this respect the orthodoxy of the radical is no better than that of the reactionary.
Their casual remarks concerning the advantages of her body with respect to the demands of theirs.
'But you insult people, and their ideas. Even their faiths, The things they love.'
'People don't have to listen.' I sighed. 'But, yes, I do insult things people hold dear. This is what I do.' She was frowning. I put my hands to my cheeks. 'Look, I don't mean I insult people or their beliefs because I want to hurt those people, because I get some sort of sadistic kick out of it, I mean that what I find I need and want to say - and which is what I do, sincerely believe, which is what I think is the truth as exactly as I can tell it - is stuff that happens to hurt other people, Does this make sense?'
'Yes, I think so,' she said in a measured, sceptical tone.
'What I'm trying to say is, I have my own beliefs. I... oh, shit, this is like so not post-ironic or post-modern and so insufficiently cynical for our knowing, you know... cynical... sorry, repetition for cynical... Jeez.' I took a deep breath of the storm's air. 'I believe in truth,' I told her. She was smiling a little now. I was making a complete idiot of myself but I didn't care any more. 'There; I said it. I believe there is something pretty damn close to objective truth more or less all the time and I'm not accepting this shite about everybody having their own truths or respecting somebody's opinions just because they're sincerely held. The Nazis sincerely hated the Jews; they weren't just kidding. I'm not respecting their fucking ideas just because they were deeply held. I believe in science, in the scientific method, in doubt, in questioning, in facing truths, not hiding from them. I don't believe in God but I admit I could be wrong. I don't believe in faith at all because faith is belief without reason, and reason is the only thing we have, the only thing I do believe in. I think people have every right to believe in anything they want, no matter how ridiculous it might be, but I don't accept their right to coerce others into the same views. And I certainly don't accept any right they might think they have not to have their views challenged just because they're going to feel peeved in the process.'
'Liberals. [...] They're my kind of people. Liberals want niceness. What the hell is wrong with that? And, bless them, they do it in the teeth of such adversity! The world, people, are disappointing them all the time, constantly throwing up examples of what total shites human beings can be, but liberals just take it all, they hunker down, they grit their sandals and they keep on going; thinking well of people, reading the Guardian, sending cheques to good causes, turning up at marches, getting politely embarrassed by working-class oafism and just generally getting all hot under the collar when they see people being treated badly. That's the great thing about liberals; they care for people, not institutions, not nations, not religions, not classes, just people. A good liberal doesn't care whether it's their own nation or their own religion or their own class or their own anything that's being beastly to some other bunch of people; it's still wrong and they'll protest about it. I'm telling you, it's a sick, sick nation that turned the world "liberal" into an expletive.'
'You want one way of thinking spread everywhere, throughout the world, replacing all the different ways of thinking that have grown up in all the different places and peoples and cultures. You are a colonist of the mind. You believe in the justified imperialism of Western thought. Pax logica; that is what you believe in. You wish to see the flag of your rationalism planted firmly in every brain on the planet. You say you don't care what people believe in, that you respect their right to worship as they wish, but you don't really respect the people or their beliefs at all. You think that they are fools and what they believe in is worse than useless.'
I flopped onto my back. I let out a deep breath. 'Okay,' I said. 'Do I want people to think the way I do? I suppose I do. But I know it's never going to happen. Do I respect other people's beliefs? Shit, Ceel, I don't know. There's this saying about how you should respect a man's religious beliefs the same way you respect his belief that his wife is the most beautiful woman in the world. Casual - and hopefully non-malicious - sexism aside, I can see that. I do accept I could be wrong. Maybe the... the Abrahamists are right. Maybe their cruel, woman-hating, woman-fearing unholy trinity of megacultism is spot-on after all.
'Maybe, even, some tiny, tiny little strand of it, like, for example, the Wee Frees, who are part of the Presbyterian movement in Scotland, which is in itself part of the Protestant franchise, which is part of the Christian faith, which is part of the Abrahamic belief-set, which is one of the monotheistic religions... maybe they and only they - all few thousand of them - are absolutely bang on the money in what they believe and how they worship, and everybody else has been wrong-diddly-wrong-wrong all these centuries. Or maybe the One True Way has only ever been revealed to one-man cult within the outer fringes of Guatemalan Highland Sufism, reformed. All I can say is, I've tried to prepare myself for being wrong, for waking up after I've died and finding that - uh-oh - my atheism was actually, like, a Really Big Mistake.'
I got up on one elbow again. 'And do I think reason should replace irrationality? Well, yes. Yes, I do. Guilty as charged. And, bless it, society really is to blame. Society and education and enquiry and doubt and argument and disputation and progress; all the schools and libraries and universities, all the scholars and monks and alchemists and teachers and scientists. Faith is fine for poetry, for images and metaphors and art and for telling us who we are, who we've been. But when faith tries to describe the world, describe the universe, it just plain gets it wrong. Which wouldn't matter if it admitted it was wrong, but it can't, because all it's got is its unwavering certainty in its own infallibility; the rest is smoke and mirrors, and admitting imperfection brings the whole lot tumbling down. There are no crystal spheres, and the planets are not the result of some sky god's wet dream. If that is supposed to be taken literally, then it's a lie, plain and simple. If it's a metaphor, then it has bugger all to do with the way things really work. Reason works, the scientific method works. Technology works.
'If people want to respect their environment by believing that the fish they eat might have been an ancestor, or learn to lower toilet seats because their chi is leaking out, I'm happy to accept and even honour the results even if I think the root of their behaviour is basically barmy. I can live with that, and with them. I hope they can live with me.'
'You don't know what it feels like. You just have no idea. All you've got is your theory, just your precious one-man-party line, as usual. You have no concept of what it's like. You haven't been there. You haven't felt the atmosphere. We're surrounded by people who hate us.'
'Ah, excuse me? This is me you're talking to here. I'm all too well acquainted with the tell-tale tingle on the temple that indicates the cross-hairs of antipathy have locked on to me once more. But just... just back up a bit, there; who's this "we"? When the hell did you become a Daughter of the Zionist Revolution?'
'When I realised it was them or us, Ken.'
'Oh, fuck, you mean you really are? Jeez, I just-'
'They all hate us. Every nation on our borders would like to see us destroyed. Our only way out's the sea, and that's where they want us. Ken, just look at the map! We're tiny! And then, inside our own nation, these people murder and bomb and shoot us, inside our own borders, on our own streets, in the shops, on the buses, in our homes! We've got to stop them; we have no choice. And you, you have the gall to claim that we've become the Nazis, and can't see you've become just another bloody anti-Semite.'
'Oh, fuck, Jude, look, I know you feel really deeply about this-'
'No you don't! That's what I'm saying. You can't!'
'Well, I'm trying to! Look... please, please don't put words into my mouth or beliefs into my mind that aren't there.'
'They are there, Ken, you just won't accept it.'
'I am not anti-Semitic. Look, I like the Jews, I admire the Jews, I'm positively pro-Semitic for fuck's sake. I've told you this! Well, some of it! I've been this way since I was a kid, since I heard about the Holocaust and since I realised that the Scots and the Jews were so alike. The Scots are smart, but we get accused of being mean. Same with the Jews. It's culture, not race, but we've both punched way above our weight for civilisation; the Jews are the only people I ever put ahead of the Scots in terms of their influence on the world given the size of their population pool.'
'This is so bullshit.'
'I'm serious. I loved you guys from when I was a kid! So much I was embarrassed to tell you how much!'
'Don't bullshit me.'
'It's true. You were just so fearsomely far to the left I never dared.'
'I'm serious. I used to love Israel.'
(This was true. When I was thirteen I'd fallen deeply in love with a girl called Hannah Gold. Her parents lived in Giffnock, one of the more leafy parts of Glasgow's suburban southern hinterland. They took a dim view of our friendship and my obvious infatuation with their daughter. But I charmed them, plus I did my research. Within six months Mr G was expressing his pleased surprise at how much I knew about Israel and the Jews. The Golds moved to London shortly after Hannah's fourteenth birthday and we were pen pals for a while, but then they moved again and we lost touch. I'd been heartbroken when they left, but I recovered and went on, going from desolation to something shamingly close to indifference in about three weeks.
My new interest in Israel proved rather longer lasting. And at the time I didn't see how anybody could not love Israel. It was the world's most charismatic, brave, buccaneering nation, defying all these bullies around it, The Six Day War, Dayan and his eye-patch, a woman prime minister, the kibbutzim; when I was a kid I was so proud it was British-built tanks that had gone sailing across the Sinai with the Star of David flying from the ship aerials. I used to get books out of the library about Israel. Great Jewish Generals; can you believe Trotsky was in there? I even knew that the Israeli army had improved their Centurions by putting petrol engines in place of the British diesels; I knew all that adolescent, war-geek stuff, I loved it. Yom Kippur; triumphing against the odds, nicking their own boats from under the noses of the French, the raid on Entebbe; it was breath-taking, cinematic! How could anyone not admire all that?)
'But that was before the invasion of Lebanon, before Sabra and Shatila-'
'That was done by Christian militias,' Jude protested.
'Oh, come on! It was Ariel Sharon who let them off the leash, and you know it. But that was the start; I began to wake up to what had happened to the Palestinians, to all the UN resolutions that Israel had just ignored, that it was uniquely allowed to ignore, then to the history - "The bride is beautiful, but she is already wed" - and to the illegal settlements, and the secret nukes. I heard what Rabbi Kehane believed, what his followers still believe, I saw the bodies lying bleeding in the mosque, and I felt sick. And now civilians are just killed without any legal process whatsoever, and I've heard Israelis as good as talk about a final solution for the Palestinian problem. I've listened to a cabinet minister say without irony that if they can just round up all the terrorists and get rid of them, there won't be any left, and I can't believe I'm hearing an educated person suggest anything as monumentally stupid, as psychologically obtuse as that.
'Look; I don't want anyone hurt. I don't believe in suicide bombings or attacking any civilians and of course you've every right to defend yourselves, but, oh, God, look, can we just agree on this? That the Holocaust wasn't evil and horrific and the single most obscene and concentrated act of human barbarism ever recorded because is happened to the Jews, it was all that because it happened to anybody, to any group, to any people. Because it did happen to the Jews, and there had been nowhere for them to escape to, I thought, Yes, of course, they did deserve a homeland. It was the least that could be done. The world felt that. Partly guilt, but at least it was there.
'But it wasn't a moral blank cheque. For fuck's sake, if any people should have known what it was to be demonised, victimised and oppressed and suffer under and arrogant, militaristic occupying regime, and possess the wit to see what was happening to them and what they were doing to others, they should have.
'So when Palestinian youths use sling-shots against tanks and the tanks put high explosives into tents where mothers are nursing, when every Arab village has its orchards razed, its houses dynamited and roads dug up - I mean can't you see what you're doing there? Those are ghettos you're creating! When the Israeli Army seriously claims that Mohammed Al-Durrah and his father were shot by Palestinian gunmen, as though this isn't the same shit in microcosm as claiming the death camps were built by the Allies after the War... I'm, I'm, I'm tearing my fucking hair out here, Jude! And then letters appear in the papers talking about appeasing the Palestinians and comparing Israel to Czechoslovakia just before the Second World War, and that's just absurd! Czechoslovakia was not the best-armed state in Europe at the time, it was one of the weakest; it was not the regional superpower with a monopoly on weapons of mass destruction, it was not the tooled-up victor of three earlier wars sitting on the occupied territories of others.'
'But they kill us! Step on a bus, go for a pizza, drive back from worship, walk down the wrong path in your own city-'
'And you've both got to stop! I know that! But you have the most control in this! You're the ones coming from a position of strength! It's always the one with the most power who has to give up the most, who has to exercise the most restraint, who has to take the final few blows before all the blows stop!'
Jude was shaking her tear-stained face at me. 'You are full of shit. You'll never understand. You'll just never understand. So we're not perfect. Who is? We're fighting for our lives. All you do and all you say just gives succour to those who'd drive us into the waves. You're with the enemy, you're with the exterminators. We haven't become the Nazis; you have.'
I buried my face in my hands and when I surfaced, looking at Jude's angry, reddened face, all I could say was, 'I never said you had. And there is an Israeli Peace Movement, Jude. There are people, Jews, in Israel who oppose Sharon and what's been done, what's being done to the Palestinians. Who want peace. Peace for land if that's what it takes, but peace. Reservists who are refusing to fight in the Occupied territories. That's who I'm with. That's who I respect these days. I've escaped my adolescent crush on Israel but I'll never stop respecting, loving the Jewish people for all they've done... it's just that I can't stand to see what's being perpetrated in their name now by that fat, white-haired, war-criminal bastard.'
'Fuck you. Sharon was democratically elected. He's said he will trade land for peace. So fuck you. Fuck you!'
'No! Goodbye, Ken. I won't bother to say I'll see you, because I hope I don't. And don't bother to call. In fact, don't ever bother again. Not ever.'
'...I'm ashamed I ever let you so much as touch me.'
And with that, my ex-wife threw her drink over me, turned on her heel and walked off.
[The leisure class'] strange obligation is the ostentatious spending of money. Thus they live in a certain neighborhood because that neighborhood is famous for being the most expensive. Liebermann or Picasso charge huge sums, not because they are greedy, but rather so as not to disappoint the buyers, whose intention is to demonstrate that they are able to pay for a canvas that bears the painter's signature.
In the first lines of [Schopenhauer's] book Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung [...] he formulates the following declaration, which makes him a creditor as regards the sum total of imperishable human perplexity: "The world is my representation. The man who confesses this truth clearly understands that he does not know a sun nor an earth, but only some eyes which see a sun and a hand which feels the earth."
This world was only the first rude essay of some infant deity who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance; it is the work only of some dependent, inferior deity, and is the object of derision to his superiors; it is the production of old age and dotage in some superannuated deity, and ever since his death has run on...
[M]etaphor is a revocation of emphasis, a tradition of lies, a dumb thing no one takes seriously. (And yet we cannot do without it: the "plain style" prescribed to us by Manuel Gálvez is doubly metaphoric, because "style" means, etymologically, a pointed instrument, and "plain" is akin to a flat plain, smooth, without cracks. A plain style, a pointed instrument similar to the pampas. Who can understand that?)
What always happens, when one studies a language, happened. Each one of the words stood out as though it had been carved, as though it were a talisman. For that reason the poems of a foreign language have a prestige they do not enjoy in their own language, for one hears, one sees, each one of the words individually. We think of the beauty, of the power, or simply of the strangeness of them.
I [...] have always known that my destiny was, above all, a literary destiny—that bad things and some good things would happen to me, but that, in the long run, all of it would be converted into words. Particularly the bad things, since happiness does not need to be transformed: happiness is its own end.
Begin here third account of operative me, agent number 67, on arrival religion propaganda distribution outlet of city XXXXXXX. Outpost community XXXXXXXX. Date XXXXXXXX. For official record, if become bankrupt old retail distribution centers—labeled supermega, so-enlarged foodstuff market—later reincarnate to become worship shrine. First sell foodstuff, next then same structure sell battered furnitures, next now born as gymnasium club, next broker flea markets, only at final end of life...sell religions.
Example here, pig dog brother inform, location where former time heads multiple cabbage mounted to build pyramid pile for marketing display, current now location occupy with fake statue plaster dead male, fake torture dead on two crossed stick, fake blood painted red hand and foot. Worship shrine offer haircut parlor, franchise designer ice creams, Internet computers lab. Feature vast black macadam sea of parking automobile.
Location former chew gum, chocolate snack, salted chips of potato, current now occupy with cylinder white paraffin encase burning string, many tiny single fire. Location former bright-color breakfast objects boasting most taste, most little price, recent best vitamins, current now feature bunches severed genitals of rose plants, vagina and penis of daisy and carnation plants, flaunted color and scent of many inviting plant life sex organs.
Location former alcohol products provided behind refrigerator glass, only distribute with aged identification, current now instrument of keyboard sounding random notes generated gas forced through bellows, control using hand and foot of venerate living skeleton. Same esteemed madam soon rotting corpse encounter at magic door Wal-Mart.
Host vast breathing cow father, make small parade to where living corpse seated to control noise keyboard. Host father say, "Mrs. Lilly?" Say, "I'd like to introduce our new foster son." Say, "We call him 'Pygmy.'"
As custom, feet of operative me step to nearby. Hand extend to accept hand of acclaimed wrinkle cadaver. Mouth wish pleasant passing to become again useful soil.
Most respected dying rot mummy rest clouded eye upon this agent. Split red wax of face lips so reveal white prosthetic teeth nested behind, say, "We've already met..."
Next now, this agent charged by advancing male, brandishing with open hand, fingers engaging those of operative me. Man, viper, crushing fingers as coiled around goat for kill and swallow. Shaking arm as dog breaks backbone of rat. Predator male, slaughter arm of this agent, say, "Pleased to meet you, Pygmy." Say, "I'm Reverend Tony."
Mouths of operative me say, "Happy to engage you, crafty stooge of superstition."
Mouths of operative me say, "How is your health, puppet of Satan?"
Worship leader fashion forehead to lift single hair brow arching above eye. Devil Tony preserve smile. Say, "This little young 'un needs to practice his English."
Hand of operative me begin compact fingers of worship leader, to grind, bones collapse, skin muscle press so wring of moisture, squeeze as fabric soaked in blood. Could be, with pointed knee, sock-block, explode worship leader rib cage. Could be, crash head into reverend head, butt-bang, contusion brain. Instead, merely this agent say, "Meet repeat soon, please, licking viper of evil."
Worship leader snatch retreat crushed hand, cradle in other own hand. Crushed hand wrung white, leader say, "If you'll excuse me, we have a new lamb to welcome into our flock this morning." Cast eye upon this agent, Devil Tony say, "If I'm not mistaken, little Pygmy, our new lamb comes from your own colorful native land..."
Leonard took satisfaction in dancing in a way his parents and their friends did not, and could not, and in liking music they would hate, and in feeling at home in a city where they would never come. He was free.
Maria started laughing, horrible fall-about laughing, full of fear. [...] In films, when women laughed like that you were supposed to slap them hard round the face. Then they were silent as they grasped the truth, then they started crying and you comforted them. But he was too tired. She might complain or tell him off or hit him back. Anything might happen.
What is more important to solve: the "outer" problem (space, time, matter, the unknown without) or the "inner" one (life, thought, love, the unknown within) or again their point of contact (death)?
Think only of the essentials: the physics of the gyroscope, the flux of photons, the architecture of very large structures.
[T]he best jokes are always a new low.
Every time a porno star opens a megastore, or advertises a line of perfume, or does a walk-on in a TV show, porno people start saying that porno is "mainstream," that porno is hip, that porno is cool. Is masturbation hip? It doesn't feel hip. And it doesn't look hip either: you don't see anyone doing it.
Finally, she settles down with a grunt and thrusts her fists into her skimpy plush muff. At the juicy smack of their driver's lips the horses strain their quarters, shift hooves, strain again; and then Mademoiselle gives a backward jerk of her torso [...]
The lovely thing about humanity is that at times one may be unaware of doing right, but one is always aware of doing wrong.
And then our naked bodies twined together and everything seemed liquid, as though we were snails, our moist bodies oozing out of our shells and into each other's embrace, and Lise shuddered and trembled violently, and I knew for the first time that I was both in love and loved in return, and it was so different from anything before.
Afterward, when she had crawled her tongue up my belly, leaving a trail of saliva behind her like a snail, she kissed me, and her mouth was full of semen and spruce needles, and she didn't think of it as unclean but rather as a consummation, as part of the Mass: This is my body and this is my blood and this is my saliva and these are your fluids and my fluids and this has joined us and will join us forever.
We looked at each other as though we were both naked, and again that white film came over her eyes, the kind of look women get when they are ready to cast aside the last shred of inhibition and let themselves be treated any way that seems right at the moment, when a different world opens up, a world of love games and wantonness.
The evolution of sense is, in a sense, the evolution of nonsense.
Some people—and I am one of them—hate happy ends. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam. The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically.
[S]uddenly one day I felt beautiful and holy for having had the courage to hold on to my sanity after all I'd seen and been through, body and soul, in too loud a solitude [...]
"[I]t is not for you [...] to justify your crimes by the incomprehensible laws of nature."
Those who are fond of cheap paradoxes took note long ago of the sentimentality of executioners [...]
[N]ow I have before me not merely a weak solution of evil, such as can be obtained from any man, but a most highly concentrated, undiluted evil, in a huge vessel filled to the neck and sealed.
[S]he kissed me thrice with more mouth than meaning [...]
All my life I have been a poor go-to-sleeper. People in trains, who lay their newspaper aside, fold their silly arms, and immediately, with an offensive familiarity of demeanor, start snoring, amaze me as much as the uninhibited chap who cozily defecates in the presence of a chatty tubber, or participates in huge demonstrations, or joins some union in order to dissolve in it. Sleep is the most moronic fraternity in the world, with the heaviest dues and the crudest rituals. It is a mental torture I find debasing. The strain and drain of composition often force me, alas, to swallow a strong pill that gives me an hour or two of frightful nightmares or even to accept the comic relief of a midday snooze, the way a senile rake might totter to the nearest euthanasium; but I simply cannot get used to the nightly betrayal of reason, humanity, genius. No matter how great my weariness, the wrench of parting with consciousness is unspeakably repulsive to me. I loathe Somnus, that black-masked headsman binding me to the block; and if in the course of years, with the approach of a far more thorough and still more risible disintegration, which nowanights, I confess, detracts much from the routine horrors of sleep, I have grown so accustomed to my bedtime ordeal as almost to swagger while the familiar ax is coming out of its great velvet-lined double-base case, initially I had no such comfort or defense: I had nothing—except one token light in the potentially refulgent chandelier of Mademoiselle's bedroom, whose door, by our family doctor's decree (I salute you, Dr. Sokolov!), remained slightly ajar. Its vertical line of lambency (which a child's tears could transform into dazzling rays of compassion) was something I could cling to, since in absolute darkness my head would swim and my mind melt in a travesty of the death struggle.
In spite of everything you were beautiful, impenetrably beautiful, and so adorable that I could cry, ignoring your myopic soul, and the triviality of your opinions, and a thousand minor betrayals [...]
Did it occur to me that I might be seeing him for the last time?
Of course it did. That is exactly what occurred to me: yes, I am seeing you for the last time; this, in fact is what I think, about everything, about everyone. My life is a perpetual good-bye to objects and people, that often do not pay the least attention to my bitter, brief, insane salutation.
Given sweat, vomit, defecation and urination, sexual emission and the menstrual flow of women, the human body is not a clean machine, and when people are crowded together in an enclosed space, its effluents can create a degree of unpleasantness raised to the extreme.
"[W]hen you love someone in your fifties, don't you believe it when people tell you you don't feel like you do at 20. It's worse, you're more vulnerable, you're more desperate, you know it's the last throw."
[W]hen one confesses to an act, one ceases to be an actor in it and becomes its witness, becomes a man that observes and narrates it and no longer the man that performed it.
[T]he regular executioner [...] always patted the condemned man on the back and told him: "Buck up, friend; women suffer more than this when they have a baby."
Things happen to a man, [...] and a man only understands them as the years go by.
Forgiveness purifies the offended party, not the offender, who is virtually untouched by it.
So witless did these ideas strike me as being, so sweeping and pompous the way they were expressed, that I associated them immediately with literature.
[E]very straight line was the arc of an infinite circle.
[H]e condemned as illiterate and vain all desire to innovate.
[I]f the purpose of the poem were to astound, its life would not be measured in centuries but in days, or hours, or perhaps even minutes.
Let heaven exist, though our place be in hell.
[A]ll inadvertence is deliberate, every casual encounter is an engagement made beforehand, every humiliation is an act of penitence, every failure a mysterious victory, every death a suicide.
I must do this, B, even though it has no apparent purpose, beauty or meaning, because it comes between A and C.
You fall in love by suddenly knowing what past love hadn't.
I have a small vice, I am rather fond of watching association football matches on television. Quite what I derive from this vacuous pursuit beyond the intellectual's sense of superiority at the sight of so much mindless energy devoted to the modern equivalent of the Roman circus, I am not sure.
It wasn't that one didn't still find [one's wife] desirable [...] just that one was tempted. One might, if one wasn't what one was; and if it were offered—that is, it was a safe impossibility and a very remote probability away.
"Lovely, isn't it? If the world weren't such a beautiful place, we might all turn into cynics."
It is a lost world. And it strikes him to realize that it will be lost forever. The boy will forget everything that has happened to him so far. There will be nothing left but a kind of after-glow, and perhaps not even that. All the thousands of hours that A. has spent with him during the first three years of his life, all the millions of words he has spoken to him, the books he has read to him, the meals he has made for him, the tears he has wiped for him—all these things will vanish from the boy's memory forever.
One night, for no particular reason, he went out to wander around the lifeless neighborhood of the West Fifties and walked into a topless bar. As he sat there at his table drinking a beer, he suddenly found himself sitting next to a voluptuously naked young woman. She sidled up to him and began to describe all the lewd things she would do to him if he paid her to go to "the back room." There was something so openly humorous and matter-of-fact about her approach, that he finally agreed to her proposition. The best thing, they decided, would be for her to suck his penis, since she claimed an extraordinary talent for this activity. And indeed, she threw herself into it with an enthusiasm that fairly astonished him.
'No, Neil... try to think what the sanctuary was really for. Why did we come to Saint-Esprit? It wasn't the birds—there's no shortage of albatross in the world.'
'You said they were threatened.'
'So they are, but they'll survive. Whether a few albatross or laboratory rats and beagles die isn't here or there. It's we who are threatened—Monique and myself, Mrs Saito, Inger and Trudi, even poor old Mrs Anderson, playing batman to the Major... I'm surprised he hasn't taught her to salute.'
'Monique and Mrs Saito? You mean the women?'
'Yes! We women!' Dr Barbara gazed triumphantly at the roof of the cave, as if welcoming a convert. 'Saint-Esprit isn't a sanctuary for the albatross, it's a sanctuary for women—or could be. We're the most endangered species of all. We came here to save the albatross and what did we do? We turned Saint-Esprit into just another cosy suburb, where we do all the work, and all the carrying, all the planning and worrying.'
'Kimo works. So does David.' Neil tossed the drumstick into the ashes, uneasy with Dr Barbara's self-hating tone. 'And Professor Saito. He's catalogued thousands of rare plants.'
'They're boys, Neil, and they play their boys' games. They hunt and fish and collect their stamps while Inger and Trudi haul the water and Monique bakes the bread. By God, if I see her bake another baguette I'll... burst!'
'She likes baking bread. Mrs Saito likes washing clothes. Inger and Trudi like looking after Gubby.'
'Of course they did. Who were the first domesticated animals? Women! We domesticated ourselves. But I know women are made of fiercer stuff. We have spirit, passion, fire, or used to. We can be cruel and violent, even more than men. We can be killers, Neil. Be wary of us, very wary...'
'And what about the men?'
'Men?' Dr Barbara hesitated, as if confronting a small oversight. 'There are too many men, Neil. We simply don't need so many men today. The biggest problem the world faces is not that there are too few whales or pandas, but too many men.'
'So what happens to them?'
'Who knows? Or cares? Their time has passed, they belong with the dugong and the manatee. Science and reason have had their day, their place is in the museum. Perhaps the future belongs to magic, and it's we women who control magic. We'll always need a few men, but very few, and I'm only concerned with the women. I want Saint-Esprit to be a sanctuary for all their threatened strengths, their fire and rage and cruelty...'
A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction.
He pressed his elbows against the restraining sheet, thinking of Renata's bloodied body, with its strangely resistant anatomy that he had tried to arrange into a happier and more meaningful geometry.
They had watched the murder with an almost dreamlike calm, as if Heller's deranged cruelty revealed the secret formulas of a new logic, a conceptualized violence that would transform the air disaster and the car crash into events of loving gentleness.