believe in yourself

The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete; the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further or box better. Hoppie’s dictum to me: ‘ First with the head and then with heart’ was more than simply mixing brains with guts. It meant thinking well beyond the powers of normal concentration and then daring your courage to follow your thoughts.

outrageously expensive

The city had converted an elevated length of abandoned railway spur into an aerial greenway and the agent and I were walking south along it in the unseasonable warmth after an outrageously expensive celebratory meal in Chelsea that included baby octopuses the chef had literally massaged to death.

just doing their job

Words are small things. No one means any harm by them, they keep saying that. Everyone is just doing their job. The police say it all the time. “I’m just doing my job here.” That’s why no one asks what the boy did; as soon as the girl starts to talk they interrupt her with questions about what she did.

parents always think

That tendency exists in all sports: parents always think their own expertise increases automatically as their child gets better at something. As if the reverse weren’t actually the case.

building a culture

“Culture” is an odd word to use about hockey; everyone says it, but no one can explain what it means. All organizations like to boast that they’re building a culture, but when it comes down to it everyone really only cares about one sort: the culture of winning. Sune is well aware that the same thing applies the world over, but perhaps it’s more noticeable in a small community. We love winners, even though they’re very rarely particularly likeable people. They’re almost always obsessive and selfish and inconsiderate. That doesn’t matter. We forgive them. We like them while they’re winning.

he thinks he’s the

The worst thing is that he thinks he’s the hero of this story, and he’s never, ever going to find out that he’s actually the bad guy.

that same smile

And he gave me that same smile. That same interested smile he gave his TV show, and his patients, and for the first time I realized it was not a  human smile. It was a protective coloration. An adaptation of some sort. He would project it equally at a television, or a son, or a houseplant, but whatever was really inside him was crouched and peering out stealthily. “Let me know,” he said, “if you’d like to talk.”

when you realise

One day he’ll stop adding and subtracting income and expenditures in his head all the time. There’s an obvious difference between the children who live in homes where the money can run out and the ones who don’t. How old you are when you realise that also makes a difference.

She was fat

She said the word “fat” slowly, funneling it back and forward, and thought about all the other things she had learned not to say aloud in America. She was fat. She was not curvy or big-boned; she was fat, it was the only word that felt true. And she had ignored, too, the cement in her soul.

for just so long

He felt that his father had done the right thing in changing jobs, that television sets and refrigerators and box-spring mattresses can speak to you for just so long and then a moment comes when you should jump ship and try something else, and because his father was so fond of tennis, why not earn his living from the game he loved?

new generation of Americans

Then came the newly sworn-in president, and the moment he began to deliver his speech, the notes emanating from that tightly strung rhetorical instrument felt so natural to Ferguson, so comfortably joined to his inner expectations, that he found himself listening to it in the same way he listened to a piece of music. Man holds in his mortal hands. Let the word go forth. Pay any price, bear any burden. The power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. Let every nation know. The torch has been passed. Meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe. A new generation of Americans. That uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war. Now the trumpet summons us again. A call to bear the burdens of a long twilight struggle. But let us begin. Born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace. Let us explore the stars. Ask. Ask not. A struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. A new generation. Ask. ask not. But let us begin.

Yankee fans

One afternoon, during the forty-five minute rest period that followed lunch, which was usually spent reading Superman comic books, writing letters, and studying two-day-old box scores in the New York Post, Dubinsky, whose bed stood to the left of Ferguson’s (Noah’s was to the right), brought up the old question once again, telling Ferguson how staunchly he had argued for Snider over Mantle in a discussion with two Yankee fans that morning, fully expecting Dodger-fan Ferguson to take his side, but Ferguson didn’t do that, for as much as he worshipped the Duke, he said, Mantle was a better player, and on top of that Mays was even better than Mantle, only by a whisker, perhaps, but clearly better, and why would Dubinsky persist in deluding himself about the facts? Ferguson’s answer was so unexpected, so tranquil in its assertions, so thorough in its demolition of Dubinsky’s belief in the power of faith over reason that Dubinsky took offense, violent offense, and a moment later he was standing over Ferguson’s bed and yelling at the top of his voice, calling Ferguson a traitor, an atheist, a communist, and a two-timing fraud, and maybe he should bash him in the gut to teach him a lesson.

in that way

He didn’t like being talked to in that way, and he especially didn’t like it when his uncle swatted him on the back of the head one Saturday afternoon because the sting had hurt so much he had cried, but now that he had overheard his mother say to his father that Uncle Arnold was a dope, Ferguson didn’t really care anymore.

and yet

Her blog was doing well, with thousands of unique visitors each month, and she was earning good speaking fees, and she had a fellowship at Princeton and a relationship with Blaine—“You are the absolute love of my life,” he’d written in her last birthday card—and yet there was cement in her soul.

a family in America

Most of the Co-op members, male and female, from the youngest who was eighteen to the eldest who was in his thirties, complained of home. It was fashionable among the Kilburn College students generally, Marianne noted, to complain of home, family. Her professors made witty jokes about “domestic American rituals”—Thanksgiving, Christmas gift-giving, family summer vacations—in such knowing ways, everyone in class laughed; or almost everyone. Marianne perceived that to be without a family in America is to be deprived not just of that family but of an entire arsenal of allusive material as cohesive as algae covering a pond.

birthday greetings

I can take dictation at the rate of a hundred words a minute. I am willing to work. Will you let me try it? I am looking for a position as a cashier. This is to certify that Mabel Howard has been in my employ for fifteen months. She is a most able and willing worker. Merry Christmas to you and all the family. May each of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the new year be a happy one for you. May your Easter be a bright and happy one. Birthday greetings. You have our heartfelt sympathy. Heartiest congratulations.

he would achieve

His thoughts and the thoughts of others were constantly on what he would achieve, on what he would become, in a pleasantly anticipated future, while the present lay just at hand, all the riches of the world ignored and untouched. It was scarcely Michael’s fault. I could see that his clever childhood had been a grooming, an anticipation, for the future use of his many talents, and he had fallen into the habit of tomorrow which in a man of thirty-three shows a rosy promise beginning to wither and arouses pity rather than admiration.

for every child

This was the march of civilization. First there is barbarism, no schools at all, all learning done at home, chaotically if at all. Then there is civil society, democracy, the right to free schooling for every child. Close on the heels of the right to free education is the right to pull these children out of the free schools and put them in private-schools—we have a right to pay for what is provided for free! And this is followed, inevitably and petulantly, by the right to pull them from school altogether to do it yourself at home, everything coming full circle.

in a hurry

The crime of the ponytail ladies was that they were always in a hurry, in a hurry to exercise, in a hurry to pick up their children from capoeira, in a hurry to examine the scores from the school’s Mandarin-immersion program, in a hurry to buy micro-greens at the new ivy-covered organic grocery, one of a newly dominant national chain begun by a libertarian megalomaniac, a store where the food had been curated, in which the women in their ponytails rushed quickly through, smiling viciously when their carts’ paths were momentarily waylaid.

super disappointed

That was the primary response she provoked in others: disappointment. Her employees were disappointed in their hours and pay, her patients were disappointed in their care, in their cavities, in the fact of their dirty mouths, their soft teeth, in their slippery insurance plans. The suggestion box, the staff’s idea, had been a disaster. Kinda disappointed. Very disappointed. Super disappointed. She put away the box, had a few happy years, then the customer-review websites appeared, jesus, so many aggrieved, all these anonymous patients avenging her every slip, every imperfect moment. Disappointment in her bedside manner. Disappointment in the diagnosis. Disappointed in the magazines in the waiting room. Every disappointment a crime.

spending money

Back home Josie was so tired, so bone-weary of spending money. It crushed the spirit.

a little longer

unite for life in stoic love to the last shrimp and a little longer

something wrong here

He’s a little old man we’re two little old men something wrong here

a help sometimes

It is a help sometimes to get up and pace to and fro between the seats, like a caged beast.


Oh, the pretty little woolly lamb, crying to suck its mother!

I dream of

I dream of other roads, in other lands. Of another  home.

putting one foot

Just concentrate on putting one foot before the next or whatever that expression is.

we are owed

I do think we are owed some explanation, if only to set our minds at rest.

for one another

It is the Protestant thing to do (give me your arm). Pismires do it for one another. I have seen slugs do it. [Miss Fitt proffers her arm].

I start eating

I start eating my doily instead of thin bread and butter.

work to do

Mr Barrell (testily). What is it, Mrs. Rooney, I have my work to do.

what you’ve done

My nice frock! Look what you’ve done to my frock!

Come back and

Come back and unlace me behind the hedge!

What kind of a country

What kind of a country is this where a woman can’t weep her heart out on the highways and byways without being tormented by retired bill-brokers!

arrived in Washington

She knew it had been the fifteenth because she had arrived in Washington on the fifteenth of August and given herself a month to find a house and put Catherine into school and get the raise that meant she was no longer a provisional hire (there again a survivor, there again that single-minded efficiency), and at the moment her father called she had just made a note to ask about the raise.

to think about the game

In the dark he thinks about the game. The game comes rolling over him in a great warm wave of contented sleep. The game was lost and then they won. The game could not be won but they won it and it’s won forever. This is the thing they can never take away. It is the first thing he will think of in the morning and one part of him is already there even as he falls asleep, waking up to think about the game.

famous people

Famous people don’t want to be told that you have a quality in common with them. It makes them think there’s something crawling in their clothes.

it’s only natural

…the way people modelled themselves on someone else, a few people, it’s only natural, mostly mimicking up, repeating a superior’s gestures or expressions.

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