According to the year in books thing that Goodreads does, I started and finished twenty-nine books in 2015. Twenty-four of those books were fiction, seven of them had an LGBTQ bent, five were books that I'd read before, two were memoirs and one, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, was a graphic novel, my first. I also counted one play, The Laramie Project, as part of the total, as well as one very short children's book, Rosie Revere, Engineer, which I read to my one-year-old nephew.
Because I'm the type of reader who marks particularly meaningful passages, usually by snapping a pic of it with my iPhone, and because I had nearly eight thousand pages of words to choose from, I've amassed a pretty sizable stash of quotes from the past year, so I've decided to put together a list of my faves. I should note that quite a few of the quotes that made the list are from books written by Jonathan Tropper because, well, I read a lot of books written by Jonathan Tropper in 2015 and also because, well, Jonathan Tropper is quite good at writing books containing words that I want to keep handy. The list itself makes its way through the books I read in the order in which I read them beginning with Breakfast with Scot (I finished it in January) and ending with Postcards from the Edge (I'm reading it now). Also, I lied a few sentences ago, there are more than ten quotes. Oh, and a bunch of them are about death and grief and loss. Sorry. Anyway, without further ado, here are my favorite book quotes from 2015.
Breakfast with Scot
Sam put his elbows on his knees and held his face in his hands. He looked at Scot as if he'd known him forever. "I thought about you all day long, Scot. Since you came to live with Ed and me, I think about you all the time. So does Ed." He closed his eyes and smiled. And when he opened his eyes, he said, "It's so great you live here with us. When I'm on my way home, I can't wait to talk to you about school and how you're feeling and what's for dinner." Then Sam shook his head apologetically. "But there's something incredibly important I keep forgetting to tell you." Here, he inserted a very long pause.
Scot and I both wanted to scream, What? What did you forget? But we held our cool.
Sam said, "You’re going to change. In the next few years, you're going to change a lot, Scot. You'll get taller and your feet will grow, and your arms and legs and shoulders will be amazingly different. It's happening every day, and you're so used to it that you won't even notice all the changes. But I will. Every day of your life, I will notice you. I will memorize you every morning, and you will be a picture on my heart wherever I go."
Scot bowed his head, and then he went farther and rested his forehead on the table. He was sobbing.
The fiddle players rosined their bows, and the piano player lightly touched the keys, and the bass player made his big fat string talk in a deep, low voice, and then they exploded—and the music they played was like a giant bucket of water poured over a great tree, fully leaved, the notes dividing and dispersing themselves down, gradually growing smaller and smaller, joyously running, bouncing, flowing down, down, down from leaf to leaf as if racing one another. A one-child family suddenly multiplied a thousand, a million times over, each rivulet, each bead, each tear, a drop of sunlight and glee.
Maybe the Moon
I've been stricken with what Mom used to call "the mauves"—something vaguer than the blues but just as debilitating. If I knew what the problem was, I could fix it, or at least bitch about it, but I can't nail down my emotions long enough to give them names. I feel empty and adrift, I guess, devoid of purpose. The simplest rituals of existence, like shaving my legs or replacing the trash can liner, leave me racked with the futility of it all. I long for serendipity, but there is simply none to be had. And that hateful, familiar voice in the back of my head reminds me that I've probably already done all I was meant to do—and ten years ago, at that. I am a husk of a person, nothing more, a burned-out organism tumbling toward oblivion.
We sat there quietly for a while watching the lake, growing ever so slightly older together.
One Last Thing Before I Go
Isn't that what love is, anyway? The sum of a million intangibles that all come together in just the right way at just the right time? Like conception. Or the universe.
The Sky is Everywhere
How will I survive the missing? How do others do it? People die all the time. Every day. Every hour. There are families all over the world staring at beds that are no longer slept in, shoes that are no longer worn. Families that no longer have to buy a particular cereal, a kind of shampoo. There are people everywhere standing in line at the movies, buying curtains, walking dogs, while inside, their hearts are ripping to shreds. For years. For their whole lives. I don't believe time heals. I don't want it to. If I heal, doesn't that mean I've accepted the world without her?
The Sky is Everywhere
It's such a colossal effort not to be haunted by what's lost, but to be enchanted by what was.
A Separate Peace
"There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream."
The Beginning of Everything
"There's a word for it," she told me, "in French, for when you have a lingering impression of something having passed by. Sillage. I always think of it when a firework explodes and lights up the smoke from the ones before it."
"That's a terrible word," I teased. "It's like an excuse for holding onto the past."
"Well, I think it's beautiful. A word for remembering small moments destined to be lost."
People brush past us on the street in endless waves, leaving somewhere, headed somewhere else, laughing, smoking, speaking into cell phones, completely oblivious to the holocaust of an entire world casually imploding in their midst.
How to Talk to a Widower
People want their lives to make sense, want to sit back like cosmic detectives and examine what's happened to them so far, identifying the key turning points that shaped them and retroactively imbuing these moments with a mystical aura, like the celestial forces of the universe are a team of writers on the serialized television show of your life, charged with concocting outrageously convoluted plotlines designed to achieve resolution by the end of the season. No one wants to believe that it's all completely random, that the direction of our lives is nothing more than a complex series of accidents, little nuclear mushroom clouds, and we're just living in the fallout.
How to Talk to a Widower
"...people become possessive of their grief, almost proud of it. They want to believe it's like no one else's. But it is. It's exactly like everybody else's. Grief is like a shark. It's been around forever, and in that time there's been just about no evolution. You know why?"
"Because it's perfect just the way it is."
Hopefully I have another forty to fifty years of living ahead of me before I pass from this earth either in my sleep or during a daring rescue caught on tape. Ideally my penultimate day would be spent attending a giant beach party thrown in my honor. Everyone would gather around me at sunset, and the golden light would make my skin and hair beautiful as I told hilarious stories and gave away my extensive collection of moon art to my ex-lovers. I and all of my still-alive friends (which, let's face it, will mostly be women) would sing and dance late into the night. My sons would be grown and happy. I would be frail but adorable. I would still have my own teeth, and I would be tended to by handsome and kind gay men who pruned me like a bonsai tree. Once the party ended, everyone would fall asleep except for me. I would spend the rest of the night watching the stars under a nice blanket my granddaughter made with her Knit-Bot 5000. As the sun began to rise, an unexpected guest would wake and put the coffee on. My last words would be something banal and beautiful. "Are you warm enough?" my guest would ask. "Just right," I would answer. My funeral would be huge but incredibly intimate. I would instruct people to throw firecrackers on my funeral pyre and play Purple Rain on a loop.
I lay in bed and thought about time and pain, and how many different people live under the same big, beautiful moon.
Postcards from the Edge
I think that's what maturity is: a stoic response to endless reality.
I would also like to include a bonus quote which only sort of counts because it's from Ernest Hemingway's World War I novel A Farewell to Arms which I didn't read this year, but it appeared as the epigraph in Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places, which I did read. Anyway, it's wonderful.
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.