Tag Archives: John Green

The Power of Eloquent Lines of Fiction

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There is no disputing the power of eloquent lines of fiction. Whether they plunge us into forgotten sorrow or lift us up into sweet contemplation—they move us. They resonate. They pull at the emotional strings that allow us to truly seek to see another human being in a light that could rarely happen in another medium. They inspire us to keep reading—to hear the whole story. To continue with a process that allows us to unfold into a slow melting of empathy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of a few phrases. Fiction has never been more important than today. Our world of instant communication via texting and social media, should, in theory, allow us to better heard, seen, acknowledged, understood. Yet, I find, more often than not, I get, or receive, fragmented, misunderstood and quickly judged or dismissed text messages. And social media has become a PR vehicle where pictures convey what we want others to see.  We are rarely understood. Rarely accepted. And often isolated. Today, more than ever, fiction is vital. Why? Because it allows us to dig deeper. To look closer. To care. To connect to a truth in someone, or in some circumstance, that is completely different, yet essentially the same on some level, to our own.

It allows us to truly see the essence of another’s soul. To see their true beauty. Even to see their lack there of. But to see someone’s raw essence and to try to learn more, understand more.

Take Liz Moore’s beautiful novel Heft. I dare anyone to read this book and not fall in love with the chronically obese, homebound Arthur Opp, with a soul as kind and large as his 550 pound body.

So, this post is dedicated to finding those lines of fiction that allow the magic to start. Those lines that truly hook us and gut us. You know what I mean. I might be 100 pages into a new novel, but am just not committed until THAT line.  So let’s go there and share our favorites. Take John Green‘s well-loved phrase from The Fault In Our Stars: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

Or what about this paragraph, that I instantly connected with:
“Okay, maybe I’m not such a shitty writer. But I can’t pull my ideas together, Van Houten. My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”

During a brief conversation with my neighbor, a screen writer, he shared his two favorite lines from Ernest Hemingway‘s The Old Man and The Sea, both metaphors for obsession, competition and the mentality of war:

“Looking at his damaged hand, he reflects that “pain does not matter to a man.”

“The old man thinks that the fish is killing him, and admires him for it, saying, “I do not care who kills who.”

Here are some of my favorites, although I have so many more:

“I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s not just how much you love someone. Maybe what matters is who you are when you’re with them.” – Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist.

“Fear tastes like a rusty knife and do not let her into your house. Courage tastes of blood. Stand up straight. Admire the world. Relish the love of a gentle woman. Trust in the Lord.” – John Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle.

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

“These are the quicksilver moments of my childhood I cannot remember entirely. Irresistible and emblematic, I can recall them only in fragments and shivers of the heart.” ― Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides.

“Rape is a crime against sleep and memory; it’s afterimage imprints itself like an irreversible negative from the camera obscura of dreams.” — Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides.

“You see if you tell yourself the same tale over and over again enough times then the tellings become separate stories and you will generally fool yourself into forgetting you started with one solitary season out of your life.” — Kaye Gibbons, Ellen Foster.

“Again, I feel misplaced, dropped into a life not my own.” — Patti Callahan Henry, The Stories We Tell.

I have TOO many favorite lines…I’m dying to know yours. PLEASE chime in!!! L. xo

Finding the Sweet Space of Between

Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to take a pregnant pause. That, and the reality of the gap between our thoughts and our actions. As a yogi, I’ve been told time and time again to detach and become a nonjudgemental observer of my life, especially as I meditate. Worded like that, it seems like something that must be done, or achieved—like a goal to work toward. But what if there is a literal space in our lives that just can’t be lived, pushed or achieved? What if there is a space that is just felt by sitting still and sensing what is—without doing anything? In this neutral space, one shuts down, surrenders, accepts, during a mini time-out from life.

As a little girl, every summer, (before Interstate 40 was completed) my family would drive through podunk, one stop-light towns in North Carolina, heading East to the beach. These tiny communities fascinated me. I’d hold my breath the whole ride through towns like Spivey’s Corner, the “hollerin’ capital of the universe,” and, of course, the town of ‘Between.’ As a shy little girl, no one in my large family even noticed me in the back seat holding my breath—my cheeks red, my neck strained. I liked the idea of time standing still—of holding my breath and emptying all my thoughts as I entered a space that began with a welcome sign, followed by a stop light and ended with a sign that usually said, “Ya’ll Come Back Now, Ya Hear?”. It was a kick to think that within one breath, one blink, one pregnant pause, I could then exhale and arrive at a new destination, a new town.

I was quite literally in a state of between. No other thoughts entered my mind. I didn’t worry about my big brother and one of my big sisters fighting. I didn’t think about my dad yelling at one of us, or my mom crying out in a nervous voice, “Please…Stop!” Nope. I just sank into a void of silence until I arrived into a new town where I exhaled and entered back into the chaos that was four kids in the back of a station wagon on a road trip.

John Green wrote about this space of between more eloquently in his book “An Abundance of Katherine’s.” The best-selling author of “The Fault in Our Stars” caught my attention in his lesser known book, as it ends with his neurotic protagonist, a prodigy teenager who keeps re-examining past relationships in order to predict future relationships, on an eye-opening road trip. His genius level IQ, married with expectations of grandeur and “mattering,” have Colin obsessed with playing God: predicting the future. He rarely, hangs out. He doesn’t stop working. He is possessed with creating a theorem that will prove he is important. At the end of the novel, Colin finally concedes the future is an unknown destination…one to be explored like a long road trip filled with surprises:

“As the staggered lines rushed past him, he thought about the space between what we remember and what happened, the space between what we predict and what will happen. And in that space, Colin thought, there was room enough to reinvent himself—room enough to make himself—room enough to make himself into something other than a prodigy, to remake his story better and different—room enough to be reborn again and again.”

I believe that to be reborn again and again, it requires more than just an awareness of a state of between. It requires marinating briefly in that space of acceptance to allow a much-needed pause from our lives. The space between, for me, is a mental time out into complete surrender of life as it is now—and of acceptance for me, just as I am, now. It’s a break within the mind between expectations and longings. It mandates that nothing is done, nothing is feared, nothing is forced, nothing is judged.

Who am I today? Who were you yesterday? Can you sit in the here and now and not try to edit the past or force a future outcome? Can you find an exquisite sort of beauty in lingering in a space where there are no answers, but rather a space of just being?

Take a mini vacation from all the chatter and when you arrive back at home in your body, see what comes to you. Who is drawn to you? What do you dream? What do you feel? We all rush around so much with minds struggling to catch up and thoughts that race. I’m guilty of that too…But just think: in one breath, one pause, we might just arrive into a new town, into a new vista, into new insights, into clarity, into knowing who we are and what we want.

I’m starting to feel that we are part of a cosmos that is intricate, yet delicate— powerful, yet tender…but only if we slow down enough to sense it, or sense ourselves within it.

And while I’m new at this, I think the end result is filled with sweet surprises. Surprises like: meeting new friends who feel instantly like family. Coincidences. Serendipitous encounters. Creative insights. Laughter. Lightness. And ultimately, hopefully, a life that flows.

 

As David Ji, my favorite meditation expert, would say: “See you in the Gap.”