Jonathan Coe Quotes
“Sometimes I feel that I am destined always to be offstage whenever the main action occurs. That God has made me the victim of some cosmic practical joke, by assigning me little more than a walk-on part in my own life. Or sometimes I feel that my role is simply to be a spectator to other people's stories, and always to wander away at the most important moment, drifiting into the kitchen to make a cup of tea just as the denouement unfolds.”
“We say, ‘Shall we meet for a drink?’, as though drinking were the main end of the appointment, and the matter of company only incidental, we are so shy about admitting our need for one another.
We say, ‘Would you like to come for some coffee?’, as though it were less frightening to acknowledge that we are heavily dependent on mildly stimulating drinks, than to acknowledge that we are at all dependent on the companionship of other people.”
“I was going to say 'my friend Stuart', but I suppose he's not a friend any more. I seem to have lost a number of friends in the last few years. I don't mean that I've fallen out with them, in any dramatic way. We've just decided not to stay in touch. And that's what it's been: a decision, a conscious decision, because it's not difficult to stay in touch with people nowadays, there are so many different ways of doing it. But as you get older, I think that some friendships start to feel increasingly redundant. You just find yourself asking, "What's the point?" And then you stop.”
“As for human contact, I'd lost all appetite for it. Mankind has, as you may have noticed, become very inventive about devising new ways for people to avoid talking to each other and I'd been taking full advantage of the most recent ones. I would always send a text message rather than speak to someone on the phone. Rather than meeting with any of my friends, I would post cheerful, ironically worded status updates on Facebook, to show them all what a busy life I was leading. And presumably people had been enjoying them, because I'd got more than seventy friends on Facebook now, most of them complete strangers. But actual, face-to-face, let's-meet-for-a-coffee-and-catch-up sort of contact? I seemed to have forgotten what that was all about.”
“These pieces, he already realised, were merely stepping stones at the start of a journey towards something - some grand artefact, either musical, or literary, or filmic, or perhaps a combination of all three - towards which he knew he was advancing, slowly but with a steady, inexorable tread. Something which would enshrine his feelings for Cicely, and which she would perhaps hear, or read, or see in ten or twenty years' time, and suddenly realize, on her pulse, that it was created for her, intended for her, and that of all the boys who had swarmed around her like so many drones at school, Benjamin had been, without her having the wit to notice it, by far the purest in heart, by far the most gifted and giving. On that day the awareness of all she had missed, all she had lost, would finally break upon her in an instant, and she would weep; weep for her foolishness, and of the love that might have been between them.
Of course, Benjamin could always just have spoken to her, gone up to her in the bus queue and asked her for a date. But this seemed to him, on the whole, the more satisfactory approach.”
“Your gravity, your grace have turned a tide
In me, no lunar power can reverse;
But in your narcoleptic eyes I spied
A sightlessness tonight: or something worse,
A disregard that made me feel unmanned.
Meanwhile, insomniac, I catch my breath
To think I saw my future traced in sand
One afternoon "as still, as carved, as death,”
And pray for an oblivion so deep
It ends in transformation. Only dawn
Can save me, flood this haunted house of sleep
With light, and drown the thoughts that nightly warn:
Another lifetime is the least you’ll need, to trace
The guarded secrets of her gravity, her grace.”
“He waited in silence for the blindfold to be tied firmly at the back of his head. ‘Right,’ said Wilkins, emphatically. ‘That should do. How many fingers am I holding up?’ ‘Three,’ said Thomas. ‘God damn it to hell, how did you know that? Can you see through the cloth?’ ‘No. It was a guess.’ ‘Well you’re not supposed to guess. For crying out loud, I’m trying to make sure that you can’t see where we’re going. We’re not here to play guessing games. How many fingers am I holding up?’ ‘I’ve no idea. I can’t see a bloody thing.’ ‘Good. It was four, by the way. Not that it matters. Now shut up.”
“They sat and drank their pints. The tables in which their faces were dimly reflected were dark brown, the darkest brown, the colour of Bournville chocolate. The walls were a lighter brown, the colour of Dairy Milk. The carpet was brown, with little hexagons of a slightly different brown, if you looked closely. The ceiling was meant to be off-white, but was in fact brown, browned by the nicotine smoke of a million unfiltered cigarettes. Most of the cars in the car park were brown, as were most of the clothes worn by the patrons. Nobody in the pub really noticed the predominance of brown, or if they did, thought it worth remarking upon. These were brown times.”
“Hey - Duggie! Duggie! Duggie!" He came running up to me, sparkler in hand. I felt like sticking one on him, the cheeky bastard. Nobody called me Duggie.
He held the sparkler up in front of my face and said, "Wait. Wait."
I was already waiting. What else was there to do?
"Here you are," he said. "Look! What's this?"
At that precise moment, his sparkler fizzled out. I didn't say anything, so he supplied the answer himself. "The death of the socialist dream," he said.
He giggled like a little maniac, and stared at me for a second or two before running off, and in that time I saw exactly the same thing I'd seen in Stubbs's eyes the day before. The same triumphalism, the same excitement, not because something new was being created, but because something was being destroyed. I thought about Phillip and his stupid rock symphony and I swear that my eyes pricked with tears. This ludicrous attempt to squeeze the history of the countless millennia into half an hour's worth of crappy riffs and chord changes suddenly seemed no more Quixotic than all the things my dad and his colleagues had been working towards for so long. A national health service, free to everyone who needed it. Redistribution of wealth through taxation. Equality of opportunity. Beautiful ideas, Dad, noble aspirations, just as there was the kernel of something beautiful in Philip's musical hodge-podge. But it was never going to happen. If there had ever been a time when it might have happened, that time was slipping away. The moment had passed. Goodbye to all that.
Easy to be clever with hindsight, I know, but I was right, wasn't I? Look back on that night from the perspective of now, the closing weeks of the closing century of our second millennium - if the calendar of some esoteric and fast-disappearing religious sect counts for anything any more - and you have to admit that I was right. And so was Benjamin's brother, the little bastard, with his sparkler and his horrible grin and that nasty gleam of incipient victory in his twelve-year-old eyes. Goodbye to all that, he was saying. He'd worked it out already. He knew what the future held in store.”
“These days, every politician is a laughing-stock, and the laughter which occasionally used to illuminate the dark corners of the political world with dazzling, unexpected shafts of hilarity has become an unthinking reflex on our part, a tired Pavlovian reaction to situations that are too difficult or too depressing to think about clearly.”
“None of this made any sense to Benjamin, however hard he tried. Roll-Up Reg was talking another language. But then, he was no more persuaded by the things his parents told him, or the teachers at school. It was the world, the world itself that was beyond his reach, this whole absurdly vast, complex, random, measureless construct, this never-ending ebb and flow of human relations, political relations, cultures, histories . . . How could anyone hope to master such things? It was not like music. Music always made sense. The music he heard that night was lucid, knowable, full of intelligence and humour, wistfulness and energy and hope. He would never understand the world, but he would always love this music.”
- Born: in Birmingham, The United Kingdom.
- Description: Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information. Jonathan Coe, born 19 August 1961 in Birmingham, is a British novelist and writer. His work usually has an underlying preoccupation with political issues, although this serious engagement is often expressed comically in the form of satire. For example, What a Carve Up! reworks the plot of an old 1960s spoof horror film of the same name, in the light of the 'carve up' of the UK's resources which some felt was carried out by Margaret Thatcher's right wing Conservative governments of the 1980s. Coe studied at King Edward's School, Birmingham and Trinity College, Cambridge, before teaching at the University of Warwick where he completed a PhD in English Literature. In July 2006 he was given an honorary degree by The University of Birmingham.-Retrieved 10:55, February 2, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan...