Favorite passages from M Train by Patti Smith

Love the turn of of phrase here:

Without noticing, I slip into a light yet lingering malaise. Not a depression, more like a fascination for melancholia, which I turn in my hand as if it were a small planet, streaked in shadow, impossibly blue.

On Smith’s father’s “mathematical curiosity” — his own system for handicapping race horses. It’s the image of the book that I love. (His personal obsession and treasure wrapped in jeweller’s cloth.)

A journal wrapped in jeweller’s cloth, noting wins and losses from imaginary bets, kept in the left-hand drawer. He never spoke about his system but he laboured over it religiously. He was neither a betting manor had the resources to bet. He was a factory man with a mathematical curiosity, handicapping heaven, searching for patterns, and a portal of probability opening up onto the meaning of life.

The found compass:

If I got lost along the way I had a compass that I had found embedded in a pile of wet leaves I was kicking my way through. The compass was old and rusted but it still worked, connecting the earth and stars. It told me where I was standing and which way was west but not where I was going and nothing of my worth.

Leaves are vowels:

A sudden gust of wind shakes the branches of trees scattering a swirl of leaves that shimmer eerily in the bright filtered light. Leaves as vowels, whispers of words like a breath of net. Leaves are vowels. I sweep them up trying to find the combinations I am looking for.

Favorite passages from The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

On Regina Weese:

…for she was a flimsy, gutless creature, bland as egg custard, caring with martyred devotion for an ungrateful fox-voiced mother year in and year out.

On peonies:

In summer the cemetery was rich and thick as syrup with the funeral-parlour perfume of the planted peonies, dark crimson and wallpaper pink, the pompous blossoms hanging leadenly, too heavy for their light stems, bowed down with the weight of themselves and the weight of the rain, infested with upstart ants that sauntered through the plush petals as though to the manner born.

On lilacs:

The lilacs grew with no care given them, and in the early summer they hung like bunches of mild mauve grapes from branches with leaves like dark green hearts, and the scent of them was so bold and sweet you could smell nothing else, a seasonal mercy.

I read The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence over the holidays. Over 50 years post-publication, it’s still a fantastic read.

Cycles, patterns, repetition

The Goddess of Earth looked at me then, and suddenly I understood. Sieh, Deka, and I; Nahadoth, Yeine, and Itempas. Nature is cycles, patterns, repetition. Whether by chance or some unknowable design, Deka and I had begun Sieh’s transition to adulthood — and perhaps, when the chrysalis of his mortal life had finally split to reveal the new being, he would not have transformed alone.

The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin

Such a beautiful line: “…and perhaps, when the chrysalis of his mortal life had finally split to reveal the new being, he would not have transformed alone.

Sieh describes Nsana

Hi did nothing like mortals if he could help it. So he had chosen skin like fine fabric, unbleached damask in swirling raised patterns, with hair like the darkest of red wine frozen in midsplash. His irises were the banded amber of polished, petrified wood — beautiful, but unnerving, like the eyes of a serpent.

The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin

The description is so vivid here, I can imagine Nsana standing before me.

Light dependent

This means, in a way, that true light is dependent on the presence of of other lights. Take the others away and darkness results. Yet the reverse is not true: take away darkness and there is only more darkness. Darkness can exist by itself. Light cannot

— The Broken Kingdoms, book II of The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Isaac makes a song of DNA

…he had set himself the task of memorizing every base pair in human DNA, having assigned a musical note to represent each of the four bases–adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. He would listen to the monotonous four-note sequences for hours.

“Sipaj, Isaac,” she’d asked when this jag started, “what are you doing?”

“Remembering,” he said…

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell