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Posted on 10 Feb 2013 11:49:29 GMT
Sombrio says:
An extract from "SONGLINES", by Bruce Chatwin :



On a ferry back from Manly a little old lady heard me talking.

"You're English, aren't you ?" she said, in an English North Country accent. "I can tell you're English."

"I am."

"So am I !"

She was wearing thick, steel-framed spectacles and a nice felt hat with a wisp of blue net above the brim.

"Are you visiting Sydney ?" I asked her.

"Lord, love, no !" she said, "I've lived here since 1946. I came out to live with my son, but a very strange thing happened. By the time the ship got here, he'd died. Imagine ! I'd given up my home in Doncaster, so I thought I might as well stay ! So I asked my second son to come out and live with me. So he came out...emigrated...and do you know what ?"


"He died. He had a heart attack and died."

"That's terrible," I said.

"I had a third son," she went on. "he was my favourite, but he died in the war. Dunkirk, you know ! He was very brave. I had a letter from his officer. Very brave, he was ! He was on the deck...covered in blazing oil...and he threw himself into the sea. Oooh ! He was a sheet of living flame !"

"But that is terrible !"

"But it's a lovely day," she smiled. "Isn't it a lovely day ?"

It was a bright sunny day with high white clouds and a breeze coming in off the ocean. Some yachts were beating out towards The Heads, and other yachts were running under spinnaker. The old ferry ran before the whitecaps, towards the Opera House and the Bridge.

"And it's so lovely out at Manly !" she said. "I loved to go out to Manly with my son...before he died ! But I haven't been for twenty years !"

"But it's so near," I said.

"But I haven't been out of the house for sixteen. I was blind, love ! My eyes was covered with cataracts, and I couldn't see a thing. The eye surgeon said it was hopeless, so I sat there. Think of it ! Sixteen years in the dark ! Then along comes this nice social worker the other week and says, 'We'd better get those cataracts looked at.' "And look at me now !"

I looked through the spectacles at a pair of twinkling - that is the word for them - twinkling blue eyes,

"They took me to hospital," she said. "And they cut out the cataracts ! And isn't it lovely ? I can see !"

"Yes," I said. "It's wonderful !"

"It's my first timeout alone," she confided. "I didn't tell a soul. I said to myself at breakfast, ' It's a lovely day. I'll take the bus to Circular Quay, and go over on the ferry to Manly...just like we did in the old days." I had a fish lunch. Oh, it was lovely !"

She hunched her shoulders mischievously, and giggled.

"How old would you say I was ?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said. "Let me look at you. I'd say you were eighty."

"No. No. No.," she laughed. "I'm ninety-three... and I can see !"

Posted on 8 Feb 2013 20:50:01 GMT
Sombrio says:

Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost.... I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I'm in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in... it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

Posted on 8 Feb 2013 11:23:10 GMT
Fiona Hurley says:
From A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.

It all started with a phone call.

My father's voice, quavery with excitement, crackles down the line. "Good news, Nadezhda. I'm getting married!"

I remember the rush of blood to my head. Please let it be a joke! Oh, he's gone bonkers! Oh, you foolish old man! But I don't say any of those things. "Oh, that's nice, Pappa," I say.

"Yes, yes. She is coming with her son from Ukraina. Ternopil in Ukraina."

Ukraina: he sighs, breathing in the remembered scent of mown hay and cherry blossom. But I catch the distinct synthetic whiff of New Russia.

Her name is Valentina, he tells me. But she is more like Venus. "Botticelli's Venus rising from waves. Golden hair. Charming eyes. Superior breasts. When you see her you will understand."

The grown-up me is indulgent. How sweet - this last late flowering of love. The daughter me is outraged. The traitor! The randy old beast! And our mother barely two years dead. I am angry and curious. I can't wait to see her - this woman who is usurping my mother.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Feb 2013 21:09:16 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Feb 2013 21:10:42 GMT
Sombrio says:
The car gets a flat tyre, out of sheer boredom, I imagine, as it gets driven so seldom. I take it to Chalk Farm Tyres opposite the Roundhouse where a boy runs out, assesses the damage then jacks up the car while a bald Alfred Drayton-like man finds the split and decides it needs a new tyre. This is put on and it is all over and done with in ten minutes. I feel I want to ask them home so that they can take charge of my life.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Alan Bennett

Posted on 6 Feb 2013 18:14:53 GMT
Ethereal says:
My favourite bit from V Woolf's To The Lighthouse, has me in fits of laughter or tears, I never know which (a bit long but I think it's needed to get the full effect):

Mr Ramsay approaches houseguest Lily following his wife's death:

"Heaven could never be sufficiently praised! She heard sounds in the house. James and Cam must be coming. But Mr Ramsay, as if he knew that his time ran short, exerted upon her solitary figure the immense pressure of his concentrated woe; his age; his frailty: his desolation; when suddenly, tossing his head impatiently, in his annoyance - for after all, what woman could resist him? - he noticed that his boot-laces were untied. Remarkable boots they were too, Lily thought, looking down at them: sculptured; colossal; like everything that Mr Ramsay wore, from his frayed tie to his half-buttoned waistcoat, his own indisputably. She could see them walking to his room of their own accord, expressive in his absence of pathos, surliness, ill-temper, charm.

"What beautiful boots!" she exclaimed. She was ashamed of herself. To praise his boots when he asked her to solace his soul; when he had shown her his bleeding hands, his lacerated heart, and asked her to pity them, then to say, cheerfully, "Ah, but what beautiful boots you wear!" deserved, she knew, and she looked up expecting to get it in one of his sudden roars of ill-temper complete annihilation.

Instead, Mr Ramsay smiled. His pall, his draperies, his infirmities fell from him. Ah, yes, he said, holding his foot up for her to look at, they were first-rate boots. There was only one man in England who could make boots like that. Boots are among the chief curses of mankind, he said. "Bootmakers make it their business," he exclaimed, "to cripple and torture the human foot." They are also the most obstinate and perverse of mankind. It had taken him the best part of his youth to get boots made as they should be made. He would have her observe (he lifted his right foot and then his left) that she had never seen boots made quite that shape before. They were made of the finest leather in the world, also. Most leather was mere brown paper and cardboard. He looked complacently at his foot, still held in the air. They had reached, she felt, a sunny island where peace dwelt, sanity reigned and the sun for ever shone, the blessed island of good boots. Her heart warmed to him. "Now let me see if you can tie a knot," he said. He pooh-poohed her feeble system. He showed her his own invention. Once you tied it, it never came undone. Three times he knotted her shoe; three times he unknotted it.

Why, at this completely inappropriate moment, when he was stooping over her shoe, should she be so tormented with sympathy for him that, as she stooped too, the blood rushed to her face, and, thinking of her callousness (she had called him a play-actor) she felt her eyes swell and tingle with tears? Thus occupied he seemed to her a figure of infinite pathos. He tied knots. He bought boots. There was no helping Mr Ramsay on the journey he was going. But now just as she wished to say something, could have said something, perhaps, here they were - Cam and James."

Initial post: 6 Feb 2013 17:52:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Feb 2013 17:55:07 GMT
Sombrio says:
I find many of the suggestions by contributors on this forum to be quite stimulating invitations to try a new book or author that I've never come across before. I guess one thing we all have in common here is a shared love of reading. My feelings are that alongside that attraction, for most of us there's probably also a wish that we could actually write well enough ourself to be able to create one of these literary gems that we admire.

Just yesterday, while I was using Amazon's extremely helpful "Look Inside" feature, I suddenly thought,..."Why not see if contributors on this forum were interested in copying out an extract from their favourite author, that would help give readers here an even better idea of why it is that we're so taken with this author's writing.

It could provide a similar, (but 'much-easier-to-attain') satisfaction, as writing our own original skyrocket.

Anyway, as a test launch, my own favourite author is Kurt Vonnegut. The extract below is from his book, "God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian". It's a bit science-fictiony, the curious premise being that the author has been able to travel back in time to meet a number of famous people from the past and interview them. This is the story of one of Vonnegut's interviews :



Dr Kevorkian has just unstrapped me from the gurney after yet another controlled near-death experience. I was lucky enough on this trip to interview none other than the late Adolph Hitler.

I was gratified to learn that he now feels remorse for any actions of his, however indirectly, which might have had anything to do with the violent deaths suffered by thirty-five million people during World War II. He and his mistress Eva Braun, of course, were among those casualties, along with four million other Germans, six million Jews, eighteen million citizens of the Soviet Union, and so on.

"I paid my dues along with everybody else," he said.

It is his hope that a modest monument, possibly a stone cross, since he was a Christian, will be erected somewhere in his memory, possibly on the grounds of the United Nations headquarters in New York. It should be incised, he said, with his name and dates 1889 - 1945. Underneath should be a two-word sentence in German : "Entschuldigen Sie."

Roughly translated into English, this comes out, "I Beg Your Pardon," or "Excuse Me."
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
Participants:  3
Total posts:  6
Initial post:  6 Feb 2013
Latest post:  10 Feb 2013

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