“He was not sure that he wanted to see the Countess Olenska again; but ever since he had looked at her from the path above the bay he had wanted, irrationally and indescribably, to see the place she was living in, and to follow the movements of her imagined figure…The longing was with him day and night, an incessant undefinable craving, like the sudden whim of a sick man for food and drink once tasted and long since forgotten. He could not see beyond the craving, or picture what it might lead to…He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of the spot of earth she walked on…the rest of the world might seem less empty” [Edith Wharton, 1920: 191].
“My dear fellow“, said Sherlock Holmes…”life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Adventures), A Case of Identity, 1924/2009 Ed.: 174).
“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably…They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in…You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t…[in them] you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic” (Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things, 1997: 229).
“There was, she thought, so much to be said in favour of a game of cards. One was not compelled to pretend, could be silent without being dull, could frown without people being overtly solicitous about one’s happiness, could triumph over a man and not have to giggle and simper when one did it. One could kill time, obliterate loneliness, have a friendship with strangers one would never see again and live on that sweet, oiled cycle of anticipation, the expectation that something delicious was about to happen” (Peter Carey, 1988: 227).
“Nothing is stranger or more ticklish than a relationship between people who know each other only by sight, who meet and observe each other daily – no hourly – and are nevertheless compelled to keep up the pose of an indifferent stranger, neither greeting nor addressing each other, whether out of etiquette or their own whim. Between them there exists a disquiet, a strained curiosity, the hysteria of an unsatisfied, unnaturally repressed need for recognition and exchange of thoughts – and also, especially, a sort of nervous respect. For one person loves and honours another only as long as he is unable to assess him, and yearning is a result of a lack of knowledge” (Thomas Mann, Death in Venice [1912:41]).
“White he watched her, exotic words drifted across the mirror of his mind as summer clouds drift across the sky…He thought of myrrh and frankincense and potpourri – or was it patchouli? and of nameless mysterious fragrances; of sloes, and of clusters of purple grapes, each richly full of blood-red juices which spilled when you crushed them between your teeth…” (1944: 22, Williams) (Leave Her to Heaven by Ben Ames Williams was published 74 years ago today).
“In man, various faculties of knowledge – sensory perception, the imagination, reason and deep insight – correspond to the tiered arrangement of the macrocosm. The last rung is the direct comprehension of the divine word in meditation. The ladder extends no further, because God himself cannot be comprehended” (R. Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi, Vol. II, Oppenheim, 1619).