Deborah Eisenberg Quotes
“Stop that Stuart," Patty said as Stuart struggled with the suitcases, which were too heavy for him, she thought. (Almost everything was way too heavy for Stuart.)" Just put those down. Besides," Patty said, "where will you go? You don't have anyplace to go." But Stuart took her hand and held it for a moment against his closed eyes, and despite the many occasions when Patty had wanted him to go, and the several occasions when she had tried to make him go, despite the fact that he was at his most enragingly pathetic, for once she could think of nothing, nothing at all that he could be trying to shame her into or shame her out of, and so it occurred to her that this he would really leave---that he was simply saying good-bye. All along, Patty had been unaware that time is as adhesive as love, and that the more time you spend with someone the greater the likelihood of finding yourself with a permanent sort of thing to deal with that people casually refer to as "friendship," as if that were the end of the matter,when the truth is that even if "your friend" does something annoying, or if you and "your friend" decided that you hate each other, or if "your friend" moves away and you lose each other's address, you still have a friendship, and although it can change shape, look different in different lights, become an embarrassment or an encumbrance or a sorrow, it can't simply cease to have existed, no matter how far into the past it sinks, so attempts to disavow or destroy it will not merely constitute betrayals of friendship but, more practically, are bound to be fruitless, causing damage only to the humans involved rather than to that gummy jungle(friendship)in which those humans have entrapped themselves, so if sometime in the future you're not going to want to have been a particular person's friend, or if you're not going to want to have had that particular friendship you and that person can make with one another, then don't be friends with that person at all, don't talk to that person, don't go anywhere near that person, because as soon as you start to see something from that person's point of view (which, inevitably, will be as soon as you stand next to that person) common ground is sure to slide under your feet.”
“When one contemplated Portia, when one contemplated Sharon, when one contemplated one's own apparently pointless, utterly trivial being, the questions hung all around one, as urgent as knives at the throat. But the instant one tried to grasp one of them and turn it to one's own purpose and pierce through the murk, it became blunt and useless as a piece of cardboard.”
“When you start writing, your incredulity at the childish, incompetent, graceless thing you've done is shattering. One of the advantages of having experience as a writer - and there aren't many, in face I can't think of any other - is that you know you can make the horrible thing better, then you can make it better again, then you can make it better again. And you may not be able to make it good, but at least it's not going to be what you're looking at now.”
“language . . . what exactly was it, and how did it happen? Celeste shrugged. “Some people think it was just business as usual—mutation, adaptation, selection, mutation, adaptation, selection, a slow continuity kind of thing, for hundreds of thousands of years. But other people think it happened incredibly fast, within about forty thousand years. And that this capacity that made it possible—this built-in capacity for the operation that lets us merge expressible things into other expressible things to make more and more complex expressible things—appeared in an instant! Which makes complete sense, even though it could not be more bizarre. One tiny molecular irregularity in one tiny fetus, in a very small population of humans somewhere in Africa! One instant! A universe-altering mutation!” “But what about . . . ,” he began, but ran aground. “What about the other stuff? The stuff we can’t manage to think?” “Yeah,” he said. “Or . . . well, I mean, yeah.” “Uh-huh, that’s a problem. Actually, Friedlander was pretty interested in that. In his opinion, language developed as a way for us to deceive ourselves into believing that we understand things, so then we can just go ahead and do stuff that’s more ruthless than what any other animal does. According to him, we can formulate like a fraction of what’s inside our heads and that what’s inside our heads is mostly . . . drainage, basically, sloshing around, that doesn’t have too much to do with what’s actually out there . . .” They looked at each other, and vague shapes, like amoebas, rose, morphed, blended, and faded between them. “But at least it’s all ours,” she said. “It’s the main unique thing we’ve got. It’s our gift.”
“I was looking out at cliffs and the sea, all sluiced in delicate pinks and yellows and greens and blues, as if the sun were imparting to the sleeping rock and water dreams of their youth, dreams of the rock’s birth in the earth’s molten core, the water’s ecstatic purity before it was sullied by life—as if the play of soft colors were the sun’s lullaby to the cliffs and the sea, of endurance and transformation.”
“But the real fun of writing, for me at least, is the experience of making a set of givens yield. There’s an incredibly inflexible set of instruments—our vocabulary, our grammar, the abstract symbols on paper, the limitations of your own powers of expression. You write something down and it’s awkward, trivial, artificial, approximate. But with effort you can get it to become a little flexible, a little transparent. You can get it to open up, and expose something lurking there beyond the clumsy thing you first put down. When you add a comma or add or subtract a word, and the thing reacts and changes, it’s so exciting that you forget how absolutely terrible writing feels a lot of the time.”
“Her professors were astonished by her leaps of thought, by the finesse and elegance of her insights. She arrived at hypotheses by sheer intuition and with what eventually one of her mentors described as an almost alarming speed; she was like a dancer, he said, out in the cosmos springing weightlessly from star to star. Drones, merely brilliant, crawled along behind with laborious proofs that supported her assertions.”
“When I was a kid, I used to wonder (I bet everyone did) whether there was somebody somewhere on the earth, or even in the universe, or ever had been in all of time, who had had exactly the same experience that I was having at that moment, and I hoped so badly that there was. But I realized then that could never occur, because every moment is all the things that are going to happen, and every moment is just the way all those things look at one point on their way along a line. And I thought how maybe once there was, say, a princess who lost her mother's ring in a forest, and how in some other galaxy a strange creature might fall, screaming, on the shore of a red lake, and how right at that second there could be a man standing at a window overlooking a busy street, aiming a loaded revolver, but how it was just me, there, after Chris, staring at that turtle in the fourth-grade room and wondering if it would die before I stopped being able to see it.”
“When I was in high school, all my friends said they were going to be writers. And I thought, How come you get to be a writer, and I don’t? I thought WRITER was written on their foreheads and they saw it when they looked in the mirror, and I sure didn’t see it when I looked in the mirror.
I always thought of writing as holy. I still do.”
“I turned with the receiver to the wall as I absorbed the fact of Ivan’s voice, and when I glanced back at the man on my sofa, he seemed like a scrap of paper, or the handle from a broken cup, or a single rubber band—a thing that has become dislodged from its rightful place and intrudes on one’s consciousness two or three or many times before one understands that it is just a thing best thrown away.”
“Beyond the apartment’s walls, in the night sky of his closed eyes, little lights charted the streets and broad avenues, the apartments and clubs of late revelers, the tall towers, where five or six guys he knew, guys only a few years ahead of him, would be toiling, even at this hour, in their big chairs, the vast windows of their offices overlooking the city, overlooking the planet with its mines and wells, its fields and great waterways, as they steered Earth’s course by the graphs and instruments of their predecessors’ devising into the hidden future.”
“Galicia. I contemplate the beautiful name as it unfolds, disclosing delicate, prancing, caparisoned horses and the lovely princesses riding them whose undulating red hair reaches to the carpet of flowers beneath the hooves. “You could always tell the Jews from Galicia by their red hair,” my aunt says dreamily.”
“I’m a bit of an expert on anger, having suffered from it all through my youth, when I was both brunt and font. It’s certainly the most miserable state to be in but it’s also tremendously gratifying, really—rage feels justified. And it’s an excellent substitute for action. Why would you want to sacrifice rage to go about the long, difficult, dreary business of making something more tolerable?”
- Date of birth: November 20, 1945
- Born: in Chicago, The United States.
- Description: Born in Chicago, Eisenberg moved to New York City in the 1960's where she has lived ever since. She also teaches at the University of Virginia. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Yale Review, Vanity Fair, and Tin House. She has won the Rea Award for the Short Story, a Whiting Writer's Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and three O. Henry Awards.