... and one day later
He thought about her less, as he became used to living alone. The novel pleasure of independence soon made solitude tolerable. He could now change the hours of his meals, come home or go out without giving reasons and, when he was very tired, stretch his arms and legs out to the sides, in his bed. And so he coddled himself, pampered himself, and accepted the consolations offered him.
- Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Nothing else was mentioned, until two years later he gave that blanket away too, to another homeless drunk, on another freezing night, up by the canal on one of his late-night walks, when he tiptoed down the stairs and went out into the dark. It was a simple equation to him—others needed the blankets more than he, and he was prepared to take the punishment if it came his way. It was my earliest suggestion of what my brother had become, and what I’d later see among the cast-offs of New York—the whores, the hustlers, the hopeless—all of those who were hanging on to him like he was some bright hallelujah in the shitbox of what the world really was.
- Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
I don’t mean for this to sound trite, but I really like life. I enjoy my time here. I always quote Mandelstam on this score: “But we must love this poor earth, for we have not seen another.” And I love engaging with life on the ground.
[Interview with Nathan Englander following text of the novel in Random House paperback]
To reach the wet nurse’s house, one had to turn left, after leaving the street, as though going to the cemetery, and follow a little path, between cottages and yards, bordered by privets. These were in flower, and the speedwell, too, the hawthorns, the nettles, and the slender wild blackberries that arced up out of the thickets. Through holes in the hedges, one could see, in the farmyards, a hog on a dunghill, or cows in their wooden collars, rubbing their horns against the trunks of trees. The two of them walked slowly, side by side, she leaning on him and he slowing his step to match hers; in front of them flitted a swarm of flies, buzzing in the warm air.So yes, along with the flowers are a pig on a dunghill and a swarm of flies, and in the next paragraph there appears “a poor, sickly little boy whose face was covered with scrofulous sores....”
Little else to distract attention from the evening, just a clock, in a time not too distant from the present time, yet a time not too distant from the past.... We stumble on, now, we drain the light from the dark, to make it last.