- 2015-12-25 16:36:45
p.13p.16People in France have a phrase: "Spirit of the Stairway." In French: Esprit d'Escalier. It means that moment when you find the answer but it's too late. The trouble is, even the French don't have a phrase for the stupid things you actually do say under pressure. Those stupid, desperate things you actually think or do. Some deeds are too low to even get a name. Too low to even get talked about.p.19Sticking stuff inside yourself. Sticking yourself inside stuff. A candle in your dick or your head in a noose, we knew it was going to be big trouble.p.60What my folks will find after work is a big naked fetus, curled in on itself. Floating in the cloudy water of their backyard pool. Tethered to the bottom by a thick rope of veins and twisted guts. The opposite of a kid hanging himself to death while he jacks off. This is the baby they brought home from the hospital thirteen years ago. Here's the kid they hoped would snag a football scholarship and get an M.B.A. Who'd care for them in their old age. Here's all their hopes and dreams. Floating here, naked and dead. All around him, big milky pearls of wasted sperm.p.100Really, there is no wrong. Not in our own minds. Our own reality. You can never set off to do the wrong thing. You can never say the wrong thing. In your own mind, you are always right. Every action you take -- what you do or say or how you choose to appear -- is automatically right the moment you act. We're all condemned to be right. About everything we can consider. In this shifting, liquid world where everyone is right and any idea is right the moment you act on it, Mr. Whittier would say, the only sure thing is what you promise.p.102That's why we love conflict, he says. We love to hate. To stop a war, we declare war on it. We must wipe out poverty. We must fight hunger. We campaign and challenge and defeat and destroy. As human beings, our first commandment is: Something needs to happen.p.103Mr. Whittier would say, "In our secret heart's heart, we love to root against the home team." Against humanity. It's us against us. You, the victim of yourself. Being born, it's as if you go inside a building. You lock yourself inside a building with no windows to see out. And after you're inside any building long enough, you forget how the outside looked. Without a mirror, you'd forget your own fate.p.117"You are permanent, but this life is not," Mr. Whittier would say. "You don't expect to visit an amusement park, then stay forever." No, we're only visiting, and Mr. Whittier knows that. And we're born here to suffer. "If you can accept that," he says, "you can accept anything that happens in the world." The irony is, if you can accept that -- you'll never again suffer.p.126The same as the volunteer ladies, we were trapped by a boy in the body of an old man. A thirteen-year-old kid dying of old age. The part about his family abandoning him, that much was true. But Brandon Whittier was no longer dying ignored and alone.p.134What matters, he says, is what the artist leaves behind, the artwork. Not how you paid the rent.p.135Mrs. Clark says, Sometimes it seems that we spend the first half of our lives looking for some disaster. And she looks down at her straight-out chest -- a look made almost impossible by her enhanced lips. As young people, she says, we want something to slow us down and keep us trapped in one place long enough to look below the surface of the world. That disaster is a car crash or a war. To make us sit still. It can be getting cancer or getting pregnant. The important part is how it seems to catch us by surprise. That disaster stops us from living the life we'd planned as children -- a life of constant dashing around. "We still create the drama and pain we need," says Mrs. Clark. "But the first disaster is a vaccination, an inoculation." Your whole life, she says, you're searching for disaster -- you're auditioning disasters -- so you'll be well rehearsed when the ultimate disaster finally arrives. "For when you die," Mrs. Clark says.p.139We have pain and hate and love and joy and war in the world because we want them. And we want all that drama to prepare us for the test of facing death, someday.p.144She says how maybe the best advice is what you can't tell her at all: To preserve yourself as the center of the world, to stay your own best authority on everything, your own expert on all topics, infallible, omniscient. Always, every time of the month, forever: Use birth control.p.145The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. And maybe the reason vampires don't die is because they can never see themselves in photographs or mirrors.p.158In two days with a rented camera, they'd used up their lifetime allowance of interest in each other. Neither of them held any mystery.p.159This is just what human beings do -- turn objects into people, people into objects.p.171Nobody felt how Cora's heart dropped off a cliff at that moment. That long fall from the tip-top of the world's tallest rollercoaster, that feeling left Cora just skin. Just a skin tube with a tight hole at each end. An object.p.220Even if the troopers shoot out her tires. Even then, she'll shoot up their silicone bodies. Cora will blow off their faces. Their nipples and noses. She'll leave them nothing any man would stick his dick into. She'll do the same to Breather Betty.p.222The way the Nightmare Box works, she says, is because the front is angled out on one side. It forces you to put your left eye against the peephole. It has a little glass fish-eye lens, set in a brass fitting, the same kind you'd find in anyone's front door. The way the front of the box is angled, the only way you can look is with your left eye. "This way," Mrs. Clark says, "what you see, you have to perceive with your right brain." Whatever you see inside, it's the intuitive, emotional, instinctual side of you, the right-brain part, that has to witness it. Plus, only one person can look each time. What you suffer, you suffer it alone. What happens inside the Nightmare Box, it only happens to you. There's no one you can share it with. There's no room for someone else.p.233"That," Rand says, "is what's inside the Nightmare Box." It's something that goes beyond life-after-death. What's in the box is proof that what we call life isn't. Our world is a dream. Infinitely fake. A nightmare. One look, Rand says, and your life -- your preening and struggle and worry -- it's all pointless.p.234"What matters," Sister Vigilante says, "is, people need a monster they can believe in." A true and horrible enemy. A demon to define themselves against. Otherwise, it's just us versus us.p.235With the angel of death going door to door, people stayed together. They quit bitching and behaved.p.246No, people didn't want this killer to be another human being. But they wanted people to die. A hero, this messiah, they didn't want. The idiot bastard who saved a life that wasn't their own. What people wanted was a sacrifice every few days, something to throw in the volcano. Our regular offering to random fate.p.281Sure, knock wood, we would all like to make more money for less work. But selling out, turning critic, setting yourself up as a know-it-all, and taking cheap shots at the people still trying to make their living peeling calf tongue... paring away kidney fat... pulling off liver membrane... while those critics sit in their nice clean offices and type their gripes with nice clean fingers -- that's just not right.p.291What you have to consider is, maybe she wanted to get caught. We all need a doctor to yank us out of our perfect womb. We piss and moan, but we appreciate God kicking us out of Eden. We love our trials. Adore our enemies.p.295And, channeling Mr. Whittier, he's saying that human beings need to accept the wild-animal side of their nature. We need some way to exhaust our fight-or-flight reflexes. Those skills we learned over the past thousand generations. If we ignore our need to hurt and get hurt, if we deny that need and let it pile up, that's when we get wars. Serial killers. School shootings.p.320Onstage, the Missing Link says, "Every breath you take is because something has died." Something or someone lived and died so you could have this life. This mountain of dead, they life you into daylight. "How will you show all the creatures of history?" says the Missing Link. How will you show their birth and work and death were worthwhile?p.331"Anything pretty," Claire will tell you, "it's only for sale because no one wants it."p.337Standing center stage, the Baroness Frostbite says, "We should forgive God..." For making us too short. Fat. Poor. We should forgive God our baldness. Our cystic fibrosis. Our juvenile leukemia. We should forgive God's indifference, His leaving us behind: Us, God's forgotten Science Fair project, left to grow mold. God's goldfish, ignored until we're forced to eat our own shit off the bottom. Her hands inside mittens, the Baroness points to her face, saying, "People..." They assume she was once gorgeously beautiful. Because now she looks so--bad. People, they need some sense of justice. A balancing act. They assume cancer, her own fault, something she deserved. A disaster she made happen herself. So she tells them, "Floss. For God's sake, floss before bed every night." And every night the Baroness, she forgives other people. She forgives herself. And she forgives God for those disasters that just seem to happen.p.338Telling some stories, Miss Leroy says, is committing suicide.p.342You can spend your whole life building a wall of facts between you and anything real.p.343When we die, these are the stories still on our lips. The stories we'll only tell strangers, someplace private in the padded cell of midnight. These important stories, we rehearse them for years in our head but never tell. These stories are ghosts, bringing people back from the dead. Just for a moment. For a visit. Every story is a ghost.p.380Every night's scattered with them. These wandering people who can't be saved but won't die. You can hear them at night, screaming out there, up this side of the White River Fault.p.382"Telling a story is how we digest what happens to us," Mr. Whittier says. "It's how we digest our lives. Our experience."p.383We always do this, Mr. Whittier says. For the same reason our children's children's children's children will always have war and famine and disease. Because we love our pain. We love our drama. But we will never, ever admit that.p.389If we can forgive what's been done to us... If we can forgive what we've done to others... If we can leave all of our stories behind. Our being villains or victims. Only then can we maybe rescue the world. But we still sit here, waiting to be saved. While we're still victims, hoping to be discovered while we suffer.p.403All of us, we're meant to be worn smooth by conflict and pain of every kind. To be polished. There was nothing bad about this. This wasn't suffering, it was erosion. It was just another, a basic, an important step in the refining process.p.410The lock, ruined. The knife, ruined. Poor Miss Sneezy, with he red eyes and runny nose, reduced to being a prop in our story. A person made into an object. As if you cut open a rag doll with a silly name, and found inside: Real intestines, real lungs, a beating heart, blood. A lot of hot, sticky blood.This would be a book you wouldn't want to keep next to your bed. A book that would be a trapdoor down into some place dark. A place only you could go, alone, when you opened the cover. Because only books have that power. A motion picture, or music, or television, they have to maintain a certain decorum in order to be broadcast to a vast audience. Other forms of mass media cost too much to produce to risk reaching only a limited audience. Only one person. But a book... A book is cheap to print and bind. A book is as private and consensual as sex. A book takes time and effort to consume -- something that gives a reader every chance to walk away. Actually, so few people make the effort to read that it's difficult to call books a "mass medium." No one really gives a damn about books. No one has bothered to ban a book in decades.
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