Invisible by Paul Auster: “You’re too good for this world, and because of that the world will eventually crush you.”
Invisible by Paul Auster on Cosmic Quotes
All I wanted to do was write – at the time, poems, and prose, too. I guess my ambition was simply to make money however I could to keep myself going in some modest way, and I didn’t need much, I was unmarried at the time, no children.
I guess I wanted to leave America for a while. It wasn’t that I wanted to become an expatriate, or just never come back, I needed some breathing room. I’d already been translating French poetry, I’d been to Paris once before and liked it very much, and so I just went.
Why do you say want? If you’re already doing it, then it’s not about the future. It already exists in the present.
He wonders if words aren’t an essential element of sex, if talking isn’t finally a more subtle form of touching, and if the images dancing in our heads aren’t just as important as the bodies we hold in our arms. Margot tells him that sex is the one thing in life that counts for her, that if she couldn’t have sex she would probably kill herself to escape the boredom and monotony of being trapped inside her own skin. Walker doesn’t say anything, but as he comes into her for the second time, he realizes that he shares her opinion. He is mad for sex. Even in the grip of the most crushing despair, he is mad for sex. Sex is the lord and the redeemer, the only salvation on earth.
This is the kind of room poets are supposed to work in, the kind of room that threatens to break your spirit and forces you into constant battle with yourself.
Pity is such an awful, useless emotion ― you have to bottle it up and keep it to yourself. The moment you try to express it, it only makes things worse.
You both love Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Hawthorne and Melville, Flaubert and Stendahl, but at that stage of your life you cannot stomach Henry James, while Gwyn argues that he is the giant of giants, the colossus who makes all other novelists look like pygmies. You are in complete harmony about the greatness of Kafka and Beckett, but when you tell her that Celine belongs in their company, she laughs at you and calls him a fascist maniac. Wallace Stevens yes, but next in line for you is William Carlos Williams, not T.S. Eliot, whose work Gwyn can recite from memory.
You defend Keaton, she defends Chaplin, and while you both howl at the sight of the Marx Brothers, your much-adored W.C. Fields cannot coax a single smile from her. Truffaut at his best touches you both, but Gwyn finds Godard pretentious and you don’t, and while she lauds Bergman and Antonioni as twin masters of the universe, you reluctantly tell her that you are bored by their films. No conflicts about classical music, with J.S. Bach at the top of the list, but you are becoming increasingly interested in jazz, while Gwyn still clings to the frenzy of rock and roll, which has stopped saying much of anything to you.
She likes to dance, and you don’t. She laughs more than you do and smokes less. She is a freer, happier person than you are, and whenever you are with her, the world seems brighter and more welcoming, a place where your sullen, introverted self can almost begin to feel at home.
Real love… is when you get as much pleasure from giving pleasure as you do from receiving it.
You understood that there was no better thing in the world than to be kissed in the way she was kissing you, that this was without argument the single most important justification for being alive.
Mental telepathy is the best indication of a strong bond between people.
She believes you’re too good for this world, and because of that the world will eventually crush you.
Now that you are living on such intimate terms with her, Gwyn has emerged as a slightly different person… She is both funnier and more salacious than you imagined, more vulgar and idiosyncratic, more passionate, more playful, and you are startled to realize how deeply she exults in filthy language and the bizarre slang of sex…
Common twentieth-century words do not interest her. She shuns the term making love, for example, in favor of older, more hilarious locutions, such as rumpty-rumpty, quaffing, and bonker bang. A good orgasm is referred to as a bone-shaker. Her ass is a rumdadum. Her crotch is a slittie, a quim, a quim-box, a quimsby. Her breasts are boobs and tits, boobies and titties, her twin girls. At one time or another, your penis is a bong, a blade, a slurp, a shaft, a drill, a quencher, a lancelot, a lightning rod, Charles Dickens, Dick Driver, and Adam Junior…
In the grip of approaching orgasm, however, she tends to revert to the contemporary standbys, falling back on the simplest, crudest words in the English lexicon to express her feelings. Cunt, pussy, fuck. Fuck me, Adam. Again and again. Fuck me, Adam. For an entire month you are the captive of that word, the willing prisoner of that word, the embodiment of that word. You dwell in the land of flesh, and your cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life.
Fear is what drives us to take risks and extend ourselves beyond our normal limits, and any writer who feels he is standing on safe ground is unlikely to produce anything of value.
If it feels good, it’s good, Margot said at one point, and that was the gift she gave me over the course of those five nights. She taught me not to be afraid of myself anymore.
Can a single momentary lapse of courage have damaged your belief in yourself so badly that you no longer have faith in your future? Just months ago you were going to set the world on fire with your brilliance, and now you think of yourself as stupid and inept, a moronic masturbation machine trapped in the dead air of an odious job, a nobody. She is the only person you can talk to, the only person who makes you feel alive. And yet, happy as you are to be with her again, you know that you mustn’t overburden her with your troubles, that you can’t expect her to transform herself into the divine surgeon who will cut open your chest and mend your ailing heart. You must help yourself. If something inside you is broken, you must put it back together with your own two hands.
He has consumed the rest of the daylight hours by walking aimlessly around the city, browsing in bookstores, reading on park benches, alive to the world around him but not yet immersed in it, still feeling his way, not unhappy, no, but wilting a little from the constant solitude.
So weak, so little left, time running out. I will be robbed of my old age. I try not to feel bitter about it, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Life is shit, I know, but the only thing I want is more life, more years on this godforsaken earth.
Neither one of you thought twice about going to the other when these miracles occurred. Life-altering events demanded a witness, and what better person to serve that role than one of you?
And she was growing bored with herself. She shrugged when she said that, and when I saw the distant expression on her face, I had the terrible intuition that she already considered herself to be half dead.
You can find yourself drowning in a sea of trouble, and hard work can become the raft that ends up keeing you afloat.
Unbidden, a forgotten verse from Ecclesiastes comes roaring into his consciousness. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly… As he jots down the words in the right-hand margin of his poem, he wonders if this isn’t the truest thing he has written about himself in months. The words might not be his own, but he feels that they belong to him.
All images © Tran Nguyen