we learn nothing-tim kreider (finale)

“I’ve always felt that the guys in America chanting U!S!A! and the guys in the Middle East chanting Death to America! had way more in common with each other than either of them did with me.” (61,When They’re Not Assholes)

“I’m afraid most people choose political parties based on the same question they ask about regular parties: Who else is going to be there?” (70, ibid)

“The smell of hospitals is like small talk at a funeral-you know its function is to cover up something else. There’s a grim camaraderie in the halls and elevators. You don’t have to ask anybody how they’re doing. The fact that they’re there at all means the answer is: Could be better. I notice that no one who works in a hospital, whose responsibilities are matters of life and death, ever seems hurried or frantic, in contrast to all the freelance cartoonists and podcasters I know.” (186, An Insult to the Brain)

“I know that I look like Rachel because friends I haven’t introduced her to yet can easily pick her out of a crowd, but the resemblance must be so obvious that it’s invisible to me, like the off-putting strangeness of your own recorded voice.” (208-9, Sister World)

“I felt like I had to dissemble my demented affection around my half sisters, lest they get the accurate impression that I was wildly overinvested in them way too soon. It was like being on a second date with someone you’ve already made up your mind you’re going to marry. There is no imposition so presumptuous as other people’s love, and it made me wince to imagine how it would seem to a young woman to have some forty-year-old guy suddenly show up out of nowhere all, enamored of you. But does it even make sense to talk about being ‘overinvested’ in someone who shares half of your genes?” (213, ibid)

“Which is, of course, not family at all. Family is all about baggage-feuds and grudges and long-unspoken tensions, having fights and being forced to apologize, enduring each other’s unendearing foibles for decades. They are, like it or not, people who won’t go away.” (216-7, Sister World)

“We’ve all known (or been) people who returned again and again to relationships that seemed to make them miserable. Quite a few soldiers can’t get used to the lowered stakes of civilian life, and reenlist. We want to be hurt, astonished, reminded we’re alive.” (226, Averted Vision)

i love him. i am completely enamoured with his writing and his vision. this is my takeaway from all of this. i am also glad for my tardiness when it comes to getting it together to write about this book, because i inadvertently gave myself the gift of space and reflection to see just how brilliant this man’s thoughts are and how deftly he is able to translate them to the page. i am just as wowed as the first time i read it and pulled the passages.

i love how he seamlessly brings together all aspects of identity to the relationships that ensue and how he makes the connections so effortlessly to the things that seem to confound me the most.

i remember when i was at the annual hotdog eating contest at coney island and the crowd did erupt into U!S!A! and how i did feel scared for a moment, like i feel scared now for them in light of the november election, and also how confused i was because who in the hell would want to take that away from you? is it arrogance or insecurity or some bastard mix of both that leads to this kind of nonsense? i don’t know….

i also love how he strips down the institutions of mythical importance (family, nationality, politics) and presents them in a human light-like the first time you see the beauty of someone’s naked face-no makeup, no problem.


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